Pruning False Images of Ourselves

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Yesterday, I started with this wisdom from CS Lewis: “There are three images in my mind which I must continually forsake and replace by better ones: the false image of God, the false image of my neighbors, and the false image of myself.

I encouraged us to think about our false images of God. Today, I want to go slightly out of order and consider our false images of ourselves.

As we’ve been exploring on Sunday mornings, the Bible tells us that we are distorted. This distortion includes our very own self-image. It makes sense … if we’re distorted, our perception of ourselves is also prone to distortion.

If we’re not careful, we’ll think too much of ourselves. — If I wasn’t here, nothing good would happen. … I’m the only one that can care for ________. … The rest of these people are so stupid.

Or even more likely, we will think too little of ourselves. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we make assumptions about our status — I have nothing to offer. … There’s no hope I could ever change. … I’m beyond the reach of God. … I’m unworthy of love & belonging. … I cannot possibly let people see the real me.

In both cases—thinking too highly of ourselves or thinking too lowly—the list could go on and on. When we have these false, distorted images of ourselves, it leads to all sorts of negative consequences. We see that right away with the story of Cain and Abel. Cain is not just mad at God and Abel, he also is telling himself an inaccurate story about himself and God’s view of him.

Because we have so many false images of ourselves, we find the apostle Paul spending inordinate amounts of time helping people know who they really are. For instance, in the first section of Ephesians, chapter 1, he emphasizes that those who are in Christ are chosen, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven. Likewise, in Romans 8, we are told that we are not condemned, but that we are loved by a love from which nothing separate from us, not even death itself.

Paul is constantly informing us about the real story about ourselves: we are citizens of heaven, ministers of reconciliation, ambassadors for Christ. We see the same thing in Peter — you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. It’s all about identity. Much of the Bible seems dedicated to straightening out our misperceptions. After all, who told you?who told you that you were needing to hide? … nothing special? … unloved? … beyond repair? … etc etc ?

In a similar fashion, we see Jesus, throughout the Gospels, seeking to help people tell a different story about themselves. Whether it’s the woman at the well, the demoniac, Martha, or Peter, Jesus is consistently trying to straighten out misperception and false images.

TODAY’s REFLECTION: What false image of yourself might God want to prune in you today? Perhaps it is something specific mentioned in this devotional. Perhaps it is something prompted by this even though it wasn’t specifically mentioned. Perhaps it is something God is going to show you as you go about your day today.

By the way, if you have trouble envisioning the image you should have of yourself, consider Psalm 8 (link). This psalm not only says that God is mindful of us, but that we have been ‘crowned with glory and honor’ — that’s the language of a royal coronation. It implies that you can consider yourself as a sort of prince or princess—and not in the fairytale sort of way—but in sense that you truly hold a royal office … a calling as God’s representative and agent in the world. Some of you have a self-image that places you just above pond scum.  But what if it’s true that you are royalty in a Kingdom that is coming? Sure, you were created from the dust, and it’s important to remember that. But it’s also true that once God breathed in you, you became much more than dust. God makes beautiful things out of the dust.

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