Freedom from My Tyrannical Self

Our family has been watching Lakepointe DVDs for church on Sunday. We’re a little behind, so we’re currently listening to Steve Stroope speak about humility, his May and June series. It’s been a great reminder about what humility is and what it isn’t.

Something he said really struck me. I guess I’ve always thought of being overly self-examining is a true mark of humility. Somehow, I felt if I was super hard on myself, God would smile down upon me. “Good girl,” I thought He would say. “You know you are made from dust. I’m so glad you are beating yourself up! Way to go on your trek to being humble.”

How wrong I was.

Pastor Steve reminded me of this very important verse:

Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

Jesus says He is humble. And I resonate with that. After all, He left the glory of heaven to walk the dusty streets of earth. For one moment of excruciating time, He stepped out of the dance of the Trinity so He could be humbly obedient and spare us God the Father’s wrath. He sacrificed comfort and relationship so we could have God’s comfort and relationship. All because He was humble.

The wrench thrown in my errant theology was this: Jesus was sinless. He didn’t spend time beating Himself up about His sin because He didn’t have any. And yet, He is the picture of humility. To me, that means humility is not about beating myself up, it’s about understanding the amazing nature of Jesus. It’s a shift in thinking for me, from being defensive to becoming offensive. From stopping retaliation against myself in order to become more like Jesus: obedient and rejoicing.

So, it’s about me hanging with Jesus, about being with Him to discover what humility is and isn’t. It’s about understanding what freedom really means. His promise in the Matthew verse is if I do that, if I lean into Jesus and His notions of humility, I will find rest for my soul. I used to think that rest had to do with a general feeling of peace, but now as I read that verse, I see that rest for me is feeling like it’s OK to live in my own skin. It’s peace with my tyrannical, perfectionistic self. And Jesus is the one who frees me from my over-critical self.

In that, I can resonate even more with Paul’s words:

“But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).

and

“The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Romans 14:22).

WOW! It’s not my job to relentlessly examine myself. It’s my job to learn from Jesus, to hear His words sung over my life. He is the One who examines. I want to be “happy” as Paul said, and the key to that is being strong in my own personal convictions, but not so much that I can’t exercise them without fear of what others will think or what my critical heart will think.

The Lord spoke two phrases over me this year. One was “truth in love;” the other was “joy in rest.” I’ve been meditating and thinking about the rest part lately. I’ve studied about Sabbath and what that might mean for me and for our family. But, as I am discovering, rest has to do also with my heart being at peace with God and myself and others. For so long, I’ve been in charge of my own spirituality, examining my motives, trying to change, berating myself for failure. Perhaps rest for me is letting God be in charge of our relationship. I have this funny feeling that if He is in charge, I’ll have to give up making fun of myself. I’ll have to hear His words of life and encouragement. I’ll have to silence the voices of antagonism to hear His voice of winsome cheerleading.

And that’s a bit scary to me.

Because I’ve lived this way, in what I thought was humility, for a long time. It’s comfortable to beat myself up. It’s a rutted pattern. It’s familiar. It’s scarier to stop the cycle and dare to listen to Jesus and learn His ways.

I’m tired of myself this way.

I long to be free. Alive. Dancing.

Today, I am taking the hand of the One who leads the dance of freedom and rest, forsaking my own words against myself, and grasping rest for my soul.

Won’t you join me?

,