From the place of our woundedness, we construct a false self.
We find a few gifts that work for us, and we try to live off them. “When I was eight,” confesses Brennan Manning, “the impostor, or false self, was born as a defense against pain. The impostor within whispered: ‘Brennan, don’t ever be your real self anymore because nobody likes you as you are. Invent a new self that everybody will admire and nobody will know.’” Notice the key phrase: “as a defense against pain,” as a way of saving himself. The impostor is our plan for salvation.
So God must take it all away. This often happens at the start of our initiation journey. He thwarts our plan for salvation; he shatters the false self. Our plan for redemption is hard to let go of; it clings to our hearts like an octopus.
God has taken all that away, stripped me of all the things I used to earn people’s admiration. I knew what he was up to. He put me in a place where my heart’s deepest wounds and arrows—and sin—came out. As I was weeping all these pictures of what I want to belong to came up — and it was as if Jesus asked me to give them up. What came from my heart was surprising—incredible fear. And then the image of never getting them. A sentence arose in my heart: “You want me to die! If I give those up then I’ll never belong and be somebody. You are asking me to die.”
It has been my hope of salvation.
Why would God do something so cruel?
Why would he do something so terrible as to wound us in the place of our deepest wound?
Jesus warned us that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it” (Luke 9:24).
Christ is not using the word bios here; he is not talking about our physical life.
The passage is not about trying to save your skin by ducking martyrdom or something like that. The word Christ uses for “life” is the word psyche — the word for our soul, our inner self, our heart. He says that the things we do to save our psyche, our self, those plans to save and protect our inner life — those are the things that will actually destroy us. “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death” says Proverbs 16:25. The false self, our plan for redemption, seems so right to us. It shields us from pain and secures us a little love and admiration. But the false self is a lie; the whole plan is built on pretense. It is a deadly trap. God loves us too much to leave us there. So he thwarts us, in many, many different ways.
In order to take me into my wound, so that I can heal it and begin the release of my true self, God will thwart the false self. He will take away all that I have leaned upon to bring me life.
In the movie The Natural, Robert Redford is a baseball player named Roy Hobbs, perhaps the most gifted baseball player ever. He is a high school wonder boy, a natural who gets a shot at the big leagues. But his dreams of a professional career are cut short when Hobbs is wrongly sentenced to prison for murder. Years later, an aging Hobbs gets a second chance. He is signed by the New York Knights — the worst team in the league. But through his incredible gift, untarnished by the years, Hobbs leads the Knights from ignominy to the play-off game for the National League pennant. He rallies the team, becomes the center of their hopes and dreams.
The climax of the film is the game for the championship. It is the bottom of the ninth; the score is Pittsburgh 2, Knights 0. The Knights have 2 outs; there is a man on first and third when Hobbs steps up to the plate. He is their only chance; this is his moment. Now, there is something you must know, something absolutely crucial to the story. Ever since his high school days, Hobbs has played with a bat he made himself from the heart of a tree felled by lightning in his front yard. Burned into the bat is a lightning bolt and the words “wonder boy”. That bat is the symbol of his greatness, his giftedness.
He has never, ever played with another. Clutching “wonder boy”, Hobbs steps to the plate. His first swing is a miss; his second is a foul ball high and behind. His third is a solid hit along the first-base line; it looks like it is a home run, but it also lands foul. As Hobbs returns to the plate, he sees his bat lying there . . . in pieces. It shattered on that last swing.
This is the critical moment in a man’s life, when all he has counted on comes crashing down, when his golden bat breaks into pieces. His investments fail; his company lets him go; the church fires him; he is leveled by an illness; his wife walks out; his daughter turns up pregnant. What is he to do? Will he stay in the game? Will he shrink back to the dugout? Will he scramble to try to put things back together, as so many men do?
The true test of a man, the beginning of his redemption, actually starts when he can no longer rely on what he is used all his life. The real journey begins when the false self fails. A moment that seems like an eternity passes as Hobbs stands there, holding the broken pieces, surveying the damage. The bat is beyond repair.
Then he says to the bat boy: “Go pick me out a winner, Bobby.” He stays in the game and hits a home run to win the series.
God will take away our “bat” as well.
He will do something to thwart the false self.
Our loss does not necessarily have to be something so dramatic. A man may simply awaken one day to find himself lost, lost as Dante described himself: “In the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in a dark wood, where the true way was wholly lost.”
That was the turning point in my life.
I am disappearing for a while.
If you are reading this now, I have already disappeared.
Call it a hiatus of sorts or a radical sabbatical.
I am going deeper into the unknown with Abba.
I am being taught how to die to self so I can die to live.
I am learning to breathe.
Be back whenever Spirit leads.
LIFE IS SHORT. LIVE IT WELL.