Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Three MEs.


There are three types of people we can potentially be. We can either be our “ideal self”[1] which is the person we would like to be; the person we can see ourselves becoming at our full potential. This is the person you aspire to be. for some it’s a successful well respected business man, for some it’s a kind and supportive husband, a loving parent, a positive role model, a brilliant educator, a savvy investor, a connoisseur of one thing or another, etc. We can se this person in us and we are desperately trying to portray ourselves in his or her light. We want everyone to see this person in us so sometimes we fake it. We paint a false picture for the world to see when in reality we have real issues, we do bad things, there is another person in us that we hide and fear. Our “feared self… the person [we] imagine it is possible to become but [we] dread becoming.”[2] This person seems to leap out of us and it destroys the “ideal” picture we’ve painted for the world. This is the person inside of us that we see in us but we suppress it and hide it from the world. We are so afraid of becoming this person that he/she seems to haunt us. This is, for some, an alcoholic; for others, a murderer; for others he/she’s lazy, or stupid, or uninteresting. He/she might be abusive of people or drugs, condescending, inarticulate, angry over little things, over reactive. He/she might even be a rapist or a pedophile. Whatever it may be it lives inside of us and every once in a while we’re reminded that it’s there, usually in a very harsh or surprising way.

I’ve written before and will address for many years in the future that there is great significance in the way Genesis 2 describes the creation of Adam. We’re told that God gathered dust from the ground and breathed life into it and it miraculously came to life. Man is dust and breath. Now we can get caught up into dualism through this illustration, saying that the breath is what we’re supposed to be and the dust is evil. In this we avoid and flee from the dust in our lives and cling to the breath. God never meant for us to be breath or dust He meant for us to be breath and dust. We, therefore embrace our dust. We Strive not to be someone we aren’t, a picture perfect person with no problems; the “ideal self.” We strive to be who we are.

A third person we can be emerges from amidst our fears and our ambition. This person is the identity God created in you. It is your true identity. “Deepest identity is the ‘you’ God has created you to be.”[3] This true Identity doesn’t divide itself. We don’t run from parts of ourselves and cling to false images of ourselves if we want to be the people God created. When we create a deceiving picture of ourselves in order to suppress our “feared self” we are creating and God isn’t; we’re taking away an essential role of God in our lives. What we find is that our created self can never really push out the God created self. In other words we are created in His image. “Deep authentic identity is created, called out, and shaped by the living God.”[4]

What has to happen is if we’re consumed by the “feared self” we need to embrace our “ideal self.” If our lives are being overthrown by sin and fear what we must strive with discipline to be more, to embrace our God given identity. If, on the other hand, we are consumed by the “ideal self,” creating a false picture of ourselves, suppressing this in us that need to be addressed, expecting ourselves to be perfect in action, we must do the hard stuff. We have to face up to ourselves and look him/her right in the face as scary as that face may be, and remind him/her of their place. We are dust and breath. We are both/and not either/or. You see the goal is not to be perfect… it is to be whole, wholly who you are, a holy creation of God.

So tell your “feared self” about your “ideal self” and your “ideal self” about your “feared self.” If they don’t inform each other they will always battle for control over you. What you’ll realize is that you’re a good creation and that you are not perfect. You are by n means good at everything but there are amazing qualities in you. No, you’re not always patient, or sensitive, or successful, or humble.

There are things in me that I am terrified with and there are things in me that are valuable. I am not always strong, or compassionate, or wise, or patient, or merciful. “But I am not defined by what I am not. And understanding this truth is a huge part of becoming whole.”[5] I have this thing inside me that tells me I have to be perfect. We all have it don’t we? We feel like because we’re not doing all the right things all the time we must not be working hard enough. Where did this distorted idea come from? It may come from a well intentioned desire to “be holy as I am holy.”[6] But “a common and popular error is to link ‘being holy’ with our good behaviors. To correct this deadly error we must see the marvelous and liberating truth that our identity is the Wellspring of authentic, Christ like holiness.”[7] So to be ourselves is true holiness. This idea that I have to live up to this perfect version of Wes is deadly… it’ll ultimately deny me of myself and deny God the Wes He created for His glory. In the end it’ll kill me. So, in the words of Rob Bell “the only way not to be killed by it is to shoot first. Yes, that is what I meant to write. You have to kill your superwhatever. And you have to do it right now. Because your superwhatever will rob you of today and tomorrow and the next day until you take it out back and end its life.”[8] We need to put to death the idea that we have to be perfect without losing our ambition. What we’ll find when we’re being ourselves and when we’re living it out in the context of Christ is that ambition will no longer be about us but about others and about God. So we don’t have to be afraid of killing our “superwhatever,” the “ideal self” that takes control. He can go ahead and die...

The third person, the God created person, in us emerges from embracing the first two and living a whole kind of life, undivided. There is a word for this kind of wholeness. It is “Shalom” which we usually translate peace. When our identity shines through our fears and our dreams, everything falls into place and we have peace. We’re no longer tormented by fear of who we may become or pressure to be perfect. The parts of us that once tormented us so are dead and we are renewed to our true identity.




[1] Jeffrey Jensen Arnett , Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: a Cultural Approach (Upper Saddle River,
New Jersey, Pearson Education, Inc. 2004) 165.
[2] Arnett, Adolescence 165.
[3] John Frye, Jesus the Pastor (Grand Rapids, Mi. Zondervan publishing 2000) 56.

[4] Frye, Jesus the Pastor, 56.
[5] Rob Bell Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan Publishing 2005) 115.

[6] 1 Peter 1:16, The Bible
[7] Frye, Jesus the Pastor 62.
[8] Bell Velvet Elvis 116.

3 comments:

John Frye said...

Wes,
This is quite an amazing post. I can tell you put a lot of thought into it. Thanks, too, for the quotes from JTP.

WES ELLIS said...

Thanks John. I'm finding that as I blog more and more I am forced to think more and more and read more and more in order to post something worth writing. Thanks!

Ashley said...

Great post Wes. You talked about something I think most tend to ignore or not even notice. Thanks for your great thoughts!