I was an odd child. I used to get in moods where I really wanted to be reassured that my parents really loved me. The way I went about it was a little strange. Shortly after they had put me to bed, I would get out of the bed and lay on the floor. I knew that eventually my mother would come check on me and find me. Each time this happened, she responded in exactly the way I hoped. “Honey, what is wrong?”, she would ask in her most compassionate voice. “I am not good enough to sleep in my bed,” I would reply. This was always followed by profuse hugging and assurances about how precious I was to her. But one time when she came to the door, I told her again that I wasn’t deserving of even a bed in which to lay my head. To my astonishment, she said something like “Well, if you think so,” and then she closed the door and left. I laid there on the floor stunned. I realized she was on to me. That left me with a decision to make. Either persist in my pity party and spend the night on the hard floor or learn my lesson and get back in my warm, comfortable bed. I quietly got in my bed and this sort of episode was never repeated again. Oddly enough, this last encounter actually served better than the others to confirm to me my own worth.
I am much older now and much more “mature.” I don’t lay on the floor in order to get attention (to my wife’s relief). But I have seen that in many ways we grown ups are just more skilled and sophisticated players of the same basic games we played as children. I may stay in my bed, but I can still be found fishing around for reassurance and using my own self villification as bait.
During the course of the sermon this Sunday, our pastor was making a passing remark that really hit home with me. He said that self hatred was not the goal of the gospel. Despising ourselves may feel more spiritual, but it really isn’t. It is still a form of self centeredness. God is not trying to move us from self adoration to self hatred. God wants to move us out of self-consciousness altogether. God want us to realize that it really isn’t about us at all and to live like it.
I continue to have two voices in my head. One tells me secretly how great I am. I like that one. The other tells me how rotten I am. I actually have a twisted affection for that one, too. Though polar opposites in one sense, they both spring from the same basic lie — that ultimately this is my story, not his. They are both enslaving because they both make it all about me.
There is a third voice, often barely audible over the noise of the other two. This voice speaks words that have a different tone. This voice speaks like a father to a son. This voice really doesn’t judge me either way. It neither tells me how great I am or how awful I am. It simply addresses me as “Son” and leaves it at that. This is the gracious voice of God. It calls me to simply love him without asking him again what he thinks of me. He encourages me to just stay in the warm bed he has provided and sleep snugly and soundly in the knowledge of his rich love for his children.