Clothes for Christmas. It happens every year. I’m not opposed to receiving clothes for Christmas (though I will candidly confess that I generally prefer Nerf products), however clothing often arouses a vain pestering pressure to become preoccupied with self-image. Cosmetic commodities and considerations can quickly devolve into fretful seasons of superficiality and self-absorption. For instance, I get a couple of new dress shirts for Christmas and within moments of receiving these items I’m trying them on in front of a mirror – internally agonizing over whether or not I will find personal fulfillment and satisfaction in the wearing of these garments …not to mention the nagging question of whether or not I will feel socially secure when donning these duds in public!? What’s the deal with this absurd narcissistic torment we put ourselves through? Why are we so obsessed with self-image?
We all harbor these wretchedly wrong assumptions that ‘If only I had the proper attire; if only I were taller; if only I were more attractive; if only I were in better shape; if only I were extra athletic; if only I had a snazzy haircut; if only I were more creative, etc., etc., etc. …THEN I would be SECURE and CONFIDENT and CONTENT!’ But are these notions correct? In addition to my recent acquisition of Joseph A. Bank dress shirts, I also recently received a dose of curious contemplation and self-examination via the early narratives of an outwardly attractive man named Saul. In terms of outward appearance Saul was second to none – he ranks amongst the most handsome of all time, and he was literally a whole head taller than everyone else in his community – and yet he was never able to overcome unbridled self-loathing. The masses lusted for Saul, but he perpetually wallowed in fear of failure. He more than looked the part when it came to exterior emblems of majesty and vogue-mania, and yet Saul cowered and quaked at the thought of being publicly proclaimed king. Saul personally felt himself to be monstrously deficient and inadequate, and yet even the thought of others acknowledging his deficiencies and failures incensed and enraged him! Looking back on Saul’s life, it is abundantly evident that he ranks amongst the most insecure of all time.
So what if we were granted our “if onlys” …Would we be cured of our insecurities? Would we actually feel better about ourselves? Upon a merely cursory inspection, self-manufactured identity turns out to be a treacherous mirage. Self-justification is a lie. Self-esteemism (self-assigned worth and respect) turns out to be mere phantasmagoria. In contrast with this intrinsic delusion – is the choice and craftsmanship of God …He is the Author and Perfecter of our justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification, identity, worth, and liberty! Perhaps the most jarring juxtaposition exists between our fretful and frustrating schemes of self-esteemism – and God’s mysterious and infinitely exquisite work of sanctification. Our Maker has deliberately deposited servings of revelation that speak definitively to His Authoring and Perfecting workmanship (see Deut. 32:6; Ps. 100:3; Matt. 10:20; Jn. 3:3; Rom. 6:4; 1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 2:8-10; Phil. 1:6; 2:13; Col. 1:29; Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 1:5; 2 Cor. 3:5; Rev. 21:5).
I don’t know how greatly George Müeller struggled with self-esteemism (I have a hunch that – being a real human being – he battled mightily with it), but I find his words to be robustly relevant to the theme of this brief commentary on self-esteemism vs. sanctification – – – >
“The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord. According to my judgement the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord’s work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance, but now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.”