I’ve been making peace with myself in various ways these past few years. I’ve been letting go of roles and strengths that I thought I should characterize my life (and that I tried by costly efforts and pretense to live out or display). I looked at my life in retrospect and noticed patterns that I had always pushed to one side, as though they were second rate, like my creativity, artistic nature, and love for the outdoors. And I realized these might be “first rate” for me: what God designed and intended for me. Then I started exploring my passions and diving into my disappointments. Engaging with the highs and lows (and bringing them to Jesus) rather than finding “strength” in detachment. I’ve found myself walking my own journey rather than seeing myself on a stage performing for others, reciting lines, and taking cues for each step from the crowd.
The further I go this way, the less I want to turn back. What I’m describing may seem like self-centered soul gazing, but I think it’s been all about surrender to God’s love and grace, seeing Jesus, and finding freedom to act outwardly with passion and joy. Because these things are, in fact, what I’m made for (to be and then do).
These past couple of days I’ve been reading in Brennan Manning’s book, Abba’s Child. He has a chapter called “The Imposter.” When I first started reading, I was tempted to skim. I get it, I thought: “The imposter — yeah, that’s the false self I pretend to be because I think it’s more significant than who I really am.” Well, true. The imposter, Manning seems to say, manipulates, pretends, seeks credit, feigns humility, and relentlessly pursues significance. The imposter doesn’t know that I’ll never be any more significant than I am right this moment, because I am loved by God to the extent that he incarnated himself into this world and died for me. What could ever increase my significance? Nothing.
So kill the imposter! Make him burn! Toss him out!
Wrong, I realized, as I slowed down and kept reading. You see, the imposter (that lying and manipulated son of a gun) is me. If I scream at the imposter, aim bolts of hatred his direction every time he appears, and relentlessly punish and drive him away then it’s all aimed at myself. And all that anger and frustration (because I can never drive myself away) will doubtless spill out on my wife, kids, or anyone else nearby who reminds me of — welll, me. I attack the weaknesses and falsehoods I “sense” in others because I’m reminded of that part of me I want to change or destroy.
I’ve tended to employ the strategies above and gotten the expected results.
What’s the prescription? I’ve been learning to embrace passions and dive into disappointments because engaging with them points me to Jesus. Now Manning adds this advice to embrace the imposter — myself — and “bring him to Jesus.” What’s that mean? I think it means to be real with Jesus in an unexpected way. It means seeking and coming to Jesus as the pretender and manipulator that I am (not in some holy or humble guise appropriate for the occasion).
This also goes back to my view of Jesus: as a living, interacting person in reality or an object of my faith (one that I “believe in” but don’t expect to literally interact with). In the first case, I’m in awe that I am interacting with the living God. In the second case, it’s more like play acting. In short, I think pretending about myself and pretending about Jesus go hand in hand. The less I pretend; the more reality I can know; and vice versa.
Manning adds that the imposter “shrinks” (has less of a say in my life) the more that I spend time “with him — not hiding him” in the presence of Jesus.