9:16 AM

   Go ahead and do yourselves a huge favor and throw this book into your Amazon cart.  It's only $4.69 and if you have Prime you can get it in two days and it will change your life.  Thank me later.

   It has been a very long time that I've read this short of a book (a booklet, really) with this big of an impact.  And why make it longer?  Timothy Keller said in 44 pages what some haven't been able to say in 400.  This DIRECTLY addresses some painful issues I have been wading through lately.  Slogging through.  Trudging through.  Seeming to never quite find my footing or any solid ground to stand firm on.  The battle just drags on, and on, and on.

   The gist of the book is: WE'VE GOT IT ALL WRONG.  Everything in our culture today shouts "We need better self-esteem".  That somehow, magically, everything wrong in our lives would just disappear if we could just think more highly of ourselves.  But not only is that wrong, but it is actually causing the problem.  He kicks things off with stating that thinking highly of ourselves "is the reason we cannot get along, the reason there is no peace in the world, and the reason we cannot live at peace with one another." OUCH.

   He uses the example of Paul to give us an example of how this all works.  First of all, Paul knew a thing or two about the human ego.  Think about HIS backstory.  That is one overinflated, painful ego. But God works a glorious redemptive work in His life, and that painful history becomes something beautiful, and a personal theme of Paul's in Corinthians.

T. K. says our ego is four things.
1. Empty
2. Painful
3. Busy
4. Fragile

   Soren Kierkegaard says that "the normal human ego is built on something besides God.  It searches for something that will give it a sense of worth, a sense of specialness and a sense of purpose and builds itself on that." Hold the phone.

  Go ahead and read that over.  Can you even believe how SPOT ON that is?! I am freaking out a little.  I can not even begin to relay how true this has been in my life, sadly.  How, (for practically as long as I can remember now) there has been a little part of me frantically grasping and striving and reaching and straining and SEARCHING for things that will give me a sense of worth.  Specialness.  Purpose.  Identity.

   And that's because our ego is empty.  So we search around for these things to fill it, and put them in there one by one, and they rattle around and of course never even coming close to filling it because it is a GOD-shaped hole. It's like eating a single Cheerio and wondering why you feel hungry all the time.

  Secondly, it's painful.  T. K. points out that we never think about a part of our bodies until there is something wrong with it.  Have you thought about your forehead today?  Probably not.  But I'll bet if you have a migraine you've thought about it quite a bit.  In the same way, our ego hurts us all of the time because there is something WRONG WITH IT ALL OF THE TIME.  We may think people hurt our feelings, but they don't.  Our feelings are fine.  Our EGO gets hurt.

   And so, that brings us to his 3rd point...our ego is busy.  Busy, busy, little bee.  It is maxed out trying to fill up that emptiness.  And how, in particular?  By COMPARING and BOASTING.  In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis points out that "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next person."  And it's so true.  Have you ever found yourself delighted with something, only to realize that someone else has it, and now you need something better?  Universal battle, people. The struggle is real.

   And last but not least, (and certainly NOT a shocker) our ego is fragile.  T.K. says it doesn't even matter if we have a superiority complex or an inferiority complex---feeling inferior just means our overinflated ego is deflated.  But that means it was overinflated to begin with.  So in danger of being deflated or deflated already----it's the same thing.  And it makes the ego incredibly fragile.

   "My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre.  That is always pushing me.  I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else.  Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody.  My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will."  --Madonna

   So we realize we have a problem. What do we do now?  Paul's secret--his self-worth and identity was in NO WAY tied to what people thought of him.  But there's more to it than also wasn't tied to what HE thought of himself.  Our culture would tell us to remedy this ego-issue by "thinking highly of ourselves" or "decide who you want to be, and be it" or "it only matters what you think of yourself".

But it's a trap.

   It can't deliver.  Why?  Because even if we aren't letting others judge us, we are still judging ourselves.  Paul refuses to do that.  He says he KNOWS he is a sinner, but he doesn't connect it to his identity.  When we think of ourselves as a bad person, or a worthless person, and have no confidence, it is because we are judging ourselves, and the verdict is that we are not good enough.  And that's what all of humanity is searching for----the ultimate verdict that we are good enough.  Worth something.

But Paul refuses to do that because the ultimate verdict is already in.  

  Paul removes himself from the courtroom because the trial is over.  It is the Lord only who judges him.  His opinion alone, is the one that counts.  "And the problem with self-esteem whether high of low---is that, every single day, we are in the courtroom.  Every single day, we are on trial."

But how do we get there?  How do we get out of the courtroom we're trapped in??

   Humility.  But it's not what you think it is.  C.S. Lewis says that if we were to meet a truly humble person, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble.  They would not be telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually self-obsessed).  The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us.  Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of less of myself, but thinking of myself LESS.

And I will leave you with perhaps my favorite quote from the book:

 "A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person OR a self-loving person, but a self-FORGETFUL person".  
And that, my friends, is freedom.

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