The False Self
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 - speaker, counselor, in a group - and it was as if Jesus asked me to give them up. What came from my heart was a 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's 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 a little love and admiration. But he false self is a lie; the whole plan is built on pretense. It's a deadly trap. God loves us too much to leave us there. So he thwarts us, many , many different ways.
In order to take a man into his wound, so that he can heal it and begin the release of the true self, God will thwart the false self. He will take away all that you've leaned upon to bring you life."
How many helps thou giv'st to those would learn!
To some sore pain, to others a sinking heart;
To some a weariness worse than any smart;
To some a haunting, fearing, blind concern;
Madness to some; to some the shaking dart
Of hideous death still following as they turn;
To some a hunger that will not depart.
To some thou giv'st a deep unrest--a scorn
Of all they are or see upon the earth;
A gaze, at dusky night and clearing morn,
As on a land of emptiness and dearth;
To some a bitter sorrow; to some the sting
Of love misprized--of sick abandoning;
To some a frozen heart, oh, worse than anything!
To some a mocking demon, that doth set
The poor foiled will to scoff at the ideal,
But loathsome makes to them their life of jar.
The messengers of Satan think to mar,
But make--driving the soul from false to feal--
To thee, the reconciler, the one real,
In whom alone the would be and the is are met.
(George Macdonald, Diary of an Old Soul)
This is a very dangerous moment, when God seems set against everything that has meant life to us. Satan spies his opportunity, and leaps to accuse God in our hearts. You see, he says God is angry with you. He's disappointed in you. If he loved you he would make things smoother. He's not out for your best you know. The enemy always tempts us back toward control, to recover and rebuild the false self. We must remember that it is out of love that God thwarts our impostor. As Hebrews reminds us, it is the son whom God disciplines, therefore do not lose heart (12:5-6).
Losing the false self is painful; though it is a mask, it's one we've worn for years and losing it can feel like losing a close friend. Underneath the mask is all the hurt and fear we've been running from, hiding from. To let it come to the surface can shake us like an earthquake.
Or you may feel like Andy Gullahorn, who wrote the song "Steel Bars" ...
So this is how it feels at the rock bottom of despair
When the house I built comes crashing down
And this is how it feels when I know the man that I say I am
Is not the man that I am when no one's around
But this is not the end of the road; it's the trailhead. What you are journeying toward is freedom, healing and authenticity.
Listen to the next part of Andy's song:
This is how it feels to come alive again
And start fighting back to gain control
And this is how it feels to let freedom in
And break the chains that enslave my soul.
Extracts taken from the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.