Christ must free us from our reflected selves

Narcissus-Caravaggio_(1594-96)_editedOne of the foundational points that I make in my new book, Sonshift, is that discipleship is about discovery. It’s about us discovering God as He truly is, and then discovering who we truly are in Him.

In fact, I will add here that true discipleship starts here. But we’ve made discipleship about studying the Bible rather than having the Bible study us–accumulating information and learning how to behave like a “good Christian.”

God wants to “look under our hood,” so to speak (or “bonnet” for you Brits),  so that we can discover what’s going on inside of us, but we would rather have Him look under everybody else’s hood. The reason for this excursion into the deepest part of our soul is that God doesn’t want to make you a “good Christian,” He wants to reveal His life in you. For He has put you in His Son and intends to transform you from the inside-out so that you see everything, and everyone, through His eyes.

The problem is, up until we start this cooperative process with God, we only really see Him (and everyone else) according to our own reflection. And if we never move beyond this place, we will never experience the life that God meant for us. Instead, we will become religious. It will be about self-preservation rather than incarnation.  And when it’s all about us, it can never be truly be about Him…or anyone else. Even our most sincere altruistic attempts at serving and loving others will still really be about us.

I spend a whole chapter on this point, and share practical pointers to help you successfully navigate this process with God. Here is an excerpt from the opening section in chapter three (Disciple Shift):

Sonshift_Cover_Flat“She looks at herself instead of looking at you, and so doesn’t know you. During the two or three little outbursts of passion she has allowed herself in your favor, she has, by a great effort of imagination, seen in you the hero of her dreams, and not yourself as you really are.”  Prince Karasoff (Stendhal, Le Rouge et le Noir, p. 401, 1953 Penguin Edition, trans. Margaret R.B. Shaw).

When we first come to God, we don’t see Him as He truly is. We see Him as we think He should be.

We’re really only looking at an image of ourselves. We see Him as the God of our dreams who has come to rescue us, but not as He really is. Like Narcissus of Greek mythology, our heart is steadfastly fixed on our own reflection that defines everything we do and everything we think God should be in our lives. We are powerless to break this self-absorbed gaze by ourselves.

Only Christ can free us from our reflected selves.

It’s not that we haven’t truly come to Christ in this state, we have. But the only image we can see of Him is according to what we need Him to be for us. This is not intentional on our part; it’s the way we’ve seen everything in our life up to this point.

And God is very kind and patient on His part to meet us here in this place.

This is the same interpretative lens by which we’ve learned to evaluate all of our relationships. We may dream of finding “true love,” which means someone who will be exactly the way we want and expect them to be.

In other words, they should be…us.

They should think like we think and respond the way we would respond. And when they’re not us, there’s a problem. This reflective lens—let’s call it our “acceptable”—is at the bottom of most marital arguments. And when God, or anyone else in our life, deviates from our expectations of what they should or shouldn’t be, we respond with a whole host of negative emotions, which then creates varying degrees of anxiety. All of our conversations with God, and with others, are really about us—what we feel, how we are treated and whether or not people accept us.

Because our existential universe revolves around us, we define God and all our other relationships through this narcissistic lens. God is good if He does what we think is the right thing to do. We are at the center of our universe, the star by which God and all our other relationships must orbit.

Some of us are better at hiding these attitudes than others…at least for a while. While most of us begin to realize eventually, at least in small part, that this is a dysfunctional way to live, some more rare, willful, and stubborn souls can actually keep this up their entire empty lives, leaving a trail of relational brokenness in their wake.

Our Disciple Shift, then, is about no longer relating to our own reflection, and calling it God, to beginning to see Him as He really is. It’s putting an end to the transactional arrangement we think we’ve made with Him and allowing Him to walk right into the middle of our deepest pain, sadness, and alienation.

It’s allowing Him to help us progressively muddle through our darkness and confusion and into His glorious light already residing in us.

Sonshift: Everything Changes in the Father’s Embrace (p.65-67)
© Copyright 2015—Mel Wild

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
This entry was posted in Identity, Quotes, The Shift and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Christ must free us from our reflected selves

  1. The Isaiah 53:5 Project says:

    Sounds like a good read. I have been doing a lot of self-reflection in light of Scripture lately and it’s pretty sobering. Necessary but sobering.

    Great post

  2. Lydia Thomas says:

    “God doesn’t want to make you a ‘good Christian,’ He wants to reveal His life in you.” Good stuff as always, Mel. I have a mountainous to-read pile, but I look forward to getting around to Sonshift.

  3. I’ll have to get the book, brother for you make some grand points. I sincerely concur with you also for in your article I can almost see my journey in Christ as you spell it out!. I’m 63 now and surrendered (or thought I did) at 16 years of age and it has been a wild adventure. But when I chose to let HIM by His Spirit show me who He is and let HIM transform me and not try to transform myself, my life in Christ Jesus truly took off! Great article! Been away for a couple of months so need to catch up on reading. Will be back later as I have always loved your insight! God bless, brother and many blessings on the new book!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thank you, Roland. Your comments much appreciated. I wrote the book because my story is like so many others who have discovered something wonderful like I did. First, that the traditional approach to evangelical, performance-based Christianity is broken. But in that brokenness, God met us, and we have discovered the life of Christ in the Father’s embrace that DOES work! It’s the life He lives in us. And in that life we find increasing joy and fulfillment and rest.
      Glad you’re back in the blogosphere. 🙂 Look forward to talking to you in the future. Blessings.

  4. Cindy Powell says:

    “It’s allowing Him to help us progressively muddle through our darkness and confusion and into His glorious light already residing in us.” Sums it up perfectly (as usual). Such good stuff! I haven’t had nearly as much time to read while I’ve been away as I thought I might (which is usually the case – you’d think I’d learn!) but did a least start your book on the plane and I am enjoying it immensely. I’ll have quite a lot of time sitting in the airport on the way back in a few days so I’m hoping to read more then! Thanks as always for your encouragement and insight for the body 😃 Blessing and shalom to you!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Reading a book when you’re in Israel? I don’t think so! So I totally understand. I hope you’re having a amazing time with many God encounters there. Blessings and shalom to you, too!

  5. dawnlizjones says:

    “The problem is, up until we start this cooperative process with God, we only really see Him (and everyone else) according to our own reflection….Even our most sincere altruistic attempts at serving and loving others will still really be about us.” I may have forgotten, but I don’t recall the last part of that quote being in the third chapter. It’s truly, truly excellent, and something my husband has touched on before. A real eye-opener.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Dawn. I don’t know if that’s exactly how it’s written in the book. I don’t remember either! This post was not a direct quote and was written before the book was released. I was only describing the chapter, so I may have added that thought here, although the same idea is in the book.

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