I almost didn’t take the book off the shelf.
To read Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness would affirm, I was certain, the fact that I am a human being consumed with myself and my own affairs.
A truth I did not desire to face.
For I knew the truth would hurt me, wounding my pride and shattering my fragile ego, this nagging creature that is constantly drawing attention to itself.
Yet, I declared the war on my flesh, as I must each day, and reached for the book collecting dust. And I’m glad I did, for it eased the pressure of my pride, swelling to a size so unsustainable that it was painful and sensitive to the touch.
This is the thing of pride, as Keller explores. We are so tempted to give in to our ego, craving attention by puffing ourselves up empty with worthless accolades or by sitting in the shallow pool of self-hatred and defeat. We’re either agonizingly swollen or deflated and starving.
Both empty. Both unsatisfied.
Yet, what else do we expect when our purpose and peace are determined by our performance?
We are a people constantly putting ourselves on trial. Constantly twirling, twirling, twirling before an audience, begging to be seen. Constantly nailing ourselves to the cross that Jesus already bore in our stead. How it must break His heart to watch his children push past closed doors to return to the stand, exhaust ourselves from the endless dance that only copper coins seem to validate, and senselessly hammer nails through our weakened flesh to a tree that won’t save us.
Our performance fixes our eyes inward.
But Christ’s performance calls us to shift our gaze upward.
His evidence closed our case.
His performance deemed us worthy.
His cross declared our salvation.
Do you know what happens to the tumor of our pride when we rehearse this Gospel story? It shrinks.
Because the story, my dear ones, is not about us.
It is, and always has been, about Him.
When we proclaim His goodness over our wretchedness, it shrinks.
When we declare His righteousness over our feeble attempts at good works, it shrinks.
When we rejoice in His victory over our defeat, it shrinks.
We do not realize, that in its shrinking, we find true, unwavering confidence.
For we thought our pride was good. But it demanded our every breath.
Huffing and puffing it up so large that it became a spectacle.
Ego’s ultimate desire.
What we failed to notice was how ugly it was. We only drew attention to something hideous. We were distracted by the empty praises of others to recognize how painful it was. We were only masking the infection.
We begin to find that our ego, this massive growth, this parasite, is making home outside of us and is stealing all peace that is within, until both are empty and longing.
What is the cure?
Getting lost in God’s truth, about Himself and about His children.
Put down the gavel.
Put down the hammer.
Let us trade the futile attempt at puffing ourselves up for the lasting assurance of being filled by Jesus.
And do you know what we’ll find when we do?
The empty cravings of puffing up our pride will fall short in comparison to the joy of being wholly filled, mind, body, and soul, by Jesus.
This is our peace. Our confidence.
To be less concerned about what others speak of us.
To be even less concerned about what we think of ourselves.
But to be so saturated in the truth of the Gospel that we lose ourselves in Christ’s goodness.
It is there, when we are utterly lost in Him, that who we truly are will be found and secured in Him as well.
Let us not fret over others. Let us not fret over self.
We’re already affirmed. Our identity is secure. Our name is chosen.
So, let us go. Forget ourselves for a while. And get lost.
Wade in the depths of His grace. Wander through the caverns of His lovingkindness. Lay beneath the canopy of His marvelous glory.
And we’ll find the cravings of self aren’t nearly as sweet as the goodness of the Lord and His abundant love for us.
This is the freedom of self-forgetfulness.