I’m not really a task oriented person and shun the standard listicles of how you can have a better life. Our world today gravitates towards simplified pragmatism for improvement and living a Christian life is no exception.
However, I might just break that disposition . . . maybe. There is one principle I’ve learned in all my years of Christian living. It’s the one thing that successes and failures and trials and disappointments and uncertainty and bad church experiences have brought me to time and time again. What is this one principle, you ask?
Get over yourself.
Yep, that’s it. Everything rests on that. Yes, but what accepting Jesus? Well, it starts with that. First, I had to get over myself to even be a Christian. It’s when you realize there is no way that any goodness on your part makes you acceptable to the Father, that your best efforts fall way short and it is only through faith in Christ. It means wholeheartedly accepting his life, death and resurrection and what that means.
Then, I had to try to understand who this God is. Though I spent some years following all kinds of distorted roads, over time, I came to realize that he spoke to us through his written word that testifies to the Incarnate word through whom we come to God in the first place. I came across hard passages, stories that made me cringe, divine actions that made me question, and I ask questions. Lots of questions.
However, in all my years of Bible reading, I’ve recognized the importance of getting over myself. Because you see, I could read hard things, troubling things and then set myself up as judge and jury over God’s actions to determine what I would find acceptable or not. I could shape my own version of Christianity based on my level of comfort and acceptability. But that would make me full of myself.
Rather, getting over myself means when coming accepting God on his terms, according to his own law, will and plan, even when it causes discomfort. It means wrestling through hard passages without indicting the character of God. It means realizing that I don’t see everything clearly or perfectly because God has already told us he keeps secrets (Deut. 29:29). It means accepting that God has a plan from Genesis to Revelation, from beginning to end. I don’t know it all I may not understand it all. I may get it wrong. It may raise a plethora of questions. But getting over myself means, I’m at least committed to learning and recognizing that I have experiences, personality and history that I bring to the text that cannot govern how I think it really reads.
Through the many years of being a Christian, I still, to this day, must confess that I am a rebel and want my own way. Yes, it’s true that regeneration has opened my eyes to the beauty of Christ. But that beauty has been blurred time and time again by my own stubborn willfullness to want what I want and follow my own reasoning and desires. Repentance sometimes comes quick, but often times very slow. But when God pursues me, the Holy Spirit convicts and the completed work of Christ beckons me, the only thing standing in the way is me. Because Jesus said, “If anyone comes after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). My life is not my own.
The same goes for commitment to local fellowship. I have had bad experiences, de-humanizing treatment, soul crushing disappointment, isolation, frustration, domination, and victimization. I’ve experienced a range of pastoral involvement, from cult-like, legalistic control to laissez-faire, come and go as you please. I’ve sat under twisted doctrine, legalistic demanding, experiential prioritizing, and burdensome teaching.
I can use that as an excuse to disengage, spurn the local church, indict “institutionalism” as many do. But throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testament, I see the same God that gathers people to himself, also require them to gather together to worship him, and learn of him . . . together. Despite the abuses of leadership, not only that I’ve experienced but observe pepper the evangelical landscape, I cannot escape the fact that God indeed calls some to lead his people as shepherds and teachers. And I need to get over all the other stuff that happened. Basically I need to get over me.
Love of God and neighbor does not come easy. I can hold on to my ideas of how I think I should love God and care for my neighbor. But he has already told us and showed us. I may not like extending forgiveness to some or want grace compartmentalized for my own definitions. I have to get over my own boundaries.
When life doesn’t turn out as planned, prayers are not answered, failures happen and I feel abandoned by God, I could question God’s love and care. And I have. I can persist in expecting that he be who I want him to be and do what I want him to do so I can be happy and comfortable. But I’ve learned, the anchor that holds my life is not dependent upon my demands and expectations. Through trials, disappointments and apathy, I have learned the secret to success is not soothing myself but turning to him, who gave himself for me. this Christ who said, “come unto me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” The same Christ who one day will return to set everything right. In the meantime, I need to get over this need to understand everything God is doing in the affairs of his universe to be acceptable . . . to me. I need to get over the fact that his justice might not jive with my sense of fairness and his plan is certainly not contingent upon my acceptance.
And here’s what else I’ve learned, I will never reach the point where I have successfully gotten over myself. Because I think the moment I’m convinced of it, is the moment that I haven’t. It is a life-long endeavor, by every moment, every step, every decision, every day, every year. Truth is, I don’t know if I’m living a successful Christian life because it depends on how you find success. This often gets conflated with how society defines. But in Jesus’ upside-down, life giving paradigm, I do believe that the whole counsel of Scripture and the historic witness says success looks a whole lot like faithfulness. That’s my goal but it requires one thing – to get over myself.