The “Real you.”
It’s the agenda for a thousand self-help columns. The quest for authenticity, for genuineness and self-acceptance.
I read such a column just now. It started with this quote from Kurt Cobain: “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
It’s a great quote, full of pith and punch, and instantly memorable. The columnist neglected to add that Kurt committed suicide. He was addicted to heroin, devastated by depression, and unable to cope with the pressures of his life. He was 27, married with a two year-old daughter.
The thing is, the “real you” might not be admirable or wonderful at all. It might be damaged and broken and needing repair. It’s daft to think that you can just strip away the layers until you come to this genuine true self, honest and clean.
That’s why the Bible so astonishes me with its message of hope. God is introduced in Psalm 103, as one who “forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed...”
And a thousand years after that was written came one who exemplified it, who enacted it. He forgave sin with a scandalous freedom, not in a theoretical kind of way, but revelling in it, taking meals with the “sinners” and outraging public decency in the process. He said “I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” And this abundance was demonstrated in the healing of the sick, the raising of the dead and through a teaching that liberated and through a life that sang.
And in the following years, Paul said “In Jesus Christ, I am a new creation; the old has passed away and all things are become new.”
It’s not a hope or an aspiration. It’s a fact of the new life in Christ.You have begun again with a clean slate.
And that means your inner self too.
Of course, this has to be worked out, bit by bit.In Romans 12, Paul explains the re-learning process that has to go on, as you learn to live in this new Jesus-oriented way.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
And it doesn’t stop there. Paul takes things to their logical, glorious conclusion: “One day, Christ, the secret centre of our lives, will show himself openly, and you will all share in that magnificent denouement.” (Col 3:4)
This is J.B.Phillips’ paraphrase of Colossians 3:4. It has two exactly opposite halves: the “secret centre” and the “magnificent denouement.” It’s a somewhat parallel thought to Col 1:27 “Christ in you (the secret centre) the hope of glory (the magnficent denouement.)”
The real you, the inside you is now “Christ in you.” It’s the Superman reality within the Clark Kent persona. “We have this treasure in jars of clay.”
Paul is astonishingly Christ-centred, isn’t he? He goes further than we often dare. We have a humanistic trait that would see the reality of “Christ in you” as something of an alien presence, but Paul would see it as the truest thing about you, the real you. I’m hidden with Christ, baptised into Christ… In fact, I myself no longer live; and the life I live by the power of God.
Also I’m “crucified with Christ.” (I need to ponder that one, for sure.)
So, yes, there is no greater comfort than settling into who you really are. And, yes, it is absolutely true, in Kurt Cobain ‘s words, that: “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
But my real self, my secret self, is Christ. So how do I live out of that new centre?