The other day I saw a Facebook post that told me I need to “be true to yourself.” To be honest, that scares me to death. I’m stumped by our culture’s bent on believing that people are, at the core, inherently good. I’m not sure I’m even tempted to go down that slippery slope much anymore as all I need to do to be convinced otherwise is to look within and without. To be honest, the look within offers plenty of evidence of depravity. And just when I might be convinced that I’ve got it beat, I realize that the well of my own depravity is deep, full, and strong in flow. If I were to be true to myself. . . well. . . I shudder to think. . .
The look without does the same. Did you read the paper this morning? Did you watch the news last night? Have you listened to the kids you know and love tell stories about the brokenness in their lives?
Understanding and “embracing” the reality of depravity has been a battle. I remember one of my high school teachers instructing us to dwell on the good things in life, avoid thinking about the bad, and to always embrace what’s come to be known as “the power of positive thinking.” I know the intent was good, but I think this type of message can actually do more harm in the long run. If we only focus on the good, we somehow become convinced that we are good. In that kind of world, Christ’s redemption is no longer necessary.
The reality is that our world and everything in it is broken. The Psalmist reminds us that all have “become corrupt” and that “there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14). The framers of the Heidelberg Catechism remind me that “by nature I am prone to hate God and my neighbor.” Consequently, what I read in my paper and see in my own heart each and every day isn’t at all surprising.
While I don’t like what I see, I’ve been realizing more and more that I need to keep looking. I read these words in William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour: “If you never experienced the mighty power of Satan arrayed against you, you could not know the almighty power of God displayed for you.” For me, the look within at my own dark heart is a great exercise in understanding the light of God’s greatness more deeply. Then, with the Psalmist, I begin to understand “how awesome is the Lord most high” (Psalm 47).
To get practical, here’s a little exercise you can engage in to process all things in your life. . . . experiences, news, film, books, etc. It begins with questioning everything, or perhaps more accurately, processing everything you see through these questions: What does this tell me about me and the rest of humanity? What does this tell me about God? What does this tell me about what God has done for humanity through Christ? And finally, what personal response does what I see require?
We all need accurate and truthful perspective. With God’s help and realistic thinking, I trust we’ll gain it. If not, who needs God?