“I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.”
– Clyde Kilby
Growing up in church, I heard a lot about what I shouldn’t do and what I should do. I heard a lot about who I shouldn’t be and who I should be. This only breeds an inward monster. . . constant assessment of personal performance. Anxiety. Worry and fear of “slipping up.” This isn’t health. This is sickness. Sickness of soul. This sickness so quickly spreads to our mind and bodies. It is no accident that the quote above is listed as #8 in Kilbys, “10 Resolutions for MENTAL health.”
Over time. Through pain. Through prayer. Through silence, it hit me . . . Jesus, (the very reason I even go to this thing called “church” in the first place) saved me from all this crap. Jesus was perfect so I don’t have to be. Because, truth be told, I’m not ever going to be perfect on this side of things. I can’t be perfect and He doesn’t expect me to be. People might expect me to be (even if they don’t say it outrightly) but I don’t live for other people. I live for Jesus. I might expect myself to be perfect but I don’t live for myself. I live for Jesus. Breathe.
By default, our eyes gaze inward, do they not? Our outfit. Our performance. Our weight. Our diet. Our messy cars and unmade beds. What the neighbors think. What our boss thinks. Our income. Our talents. Our purpose. We are constantly boring into ourselves, sizing up ourselves and evaluating our performance. This leads to both the high rolling jerk and the self deprecating hermit. The girl who finds self worth in her status, money, body, food, etc and the man who feels worthless given his low status, insufficient funds, sluggish body etc. It’s the same pendulum, it just swings to a different end.
Not only do we end up boring into ourselves, we end up losing ourselves. Our “uniqueness” is lost in the race to be better and the hopes of trying harder. We lose ourselves in the trying to be someone or something we simply are not.”by the envy of others.”
Enter GRACE. Jesus breaks the pendulum. He breaks all the rules. Jesus is probably the least conventional of us all. Why? Because He provides us a way out . . . a way out of ourselves, through Himself. Freedom from the hubris and freedom from the self-hatred. Freedom to be our unique selves.
When we forget about ourselves, when we lose ourselves in making art, soaking up the sun, running in the grass or absorbing the sunset’s splatter, we experience true freedom. Freedom from ourselves AND freedom to be ourselves. He offers a way to forget about ourselves and live for something outside of ourselves. He offers us big thoughts. He offers us real life. Something bigger and better than these passing shadows.
We can experience mental clarity, mental vitality when our souls are no longer clouded by the fascination with self. Instead, we can enjoy the peace, freedom and (quite simply) mental health found in forgetting ourselves and simply being ourselves. Imagine getting dressed without wondering how people are going to perceive your outfit of choice. If I wear my sweats will they think I’m athletic? Will they think I’m lazy? Imagine just being. Just resting in Someone Else. Someone Who frees you to “forget out (myself) and do my work.”
I don’t have grey hair but I can tell you, as a church kid who hates church, that Jesus can give you new eyes because He can give you a new heart.
Featured art // Jenny Vorwaller