This is a blog in the Loving Freely series by Dan Crain, REMERGE Pastor, Trainer and Connector.
Recently a friend said to me about the false self, “If you’re not working on it, it’s working on you.”
This phrase has been sticking with me every since she said it. Robert Mulholland, a seminary professor that spent his entire life studying the difference between the false self and the true self in Christ says this in his book, The Deeper Journey; “The reality of this pervasive, deeply entrenched, self-reference structure of being as the primary context of our spiritual journey is one of the hardest things for us to acknowledge.”
Paul describes it in Romans 7 as, “another law at work in me,”.
Pete Scazzero says regularly; “Jesus may be in your heart, but grandpa’s in your bones.”
What does this pervasive, deeply entrenched, another law at work in me actually do?
It tries to control people and life.
It never slows down and takes breaks because it believes that it’s not worth being served or taking breaks.
It becomes attached to people, things and ministries falsely believing that those things will give it the peace it so greatly longs for.
It feeds off of the yes of ministry and needs people to change to feel better about itself.
It leaks out all the time with people, programs or anything God has allows me to have influence over.
It’s constantly looking to be affirmed and approved of.
So much of the thing that is at work in me is rooted in the Father wound I carry from my past. This other thing at work in me never believes I am good enough and a failure and constantly feels like I need to impress people.
So, what do we do? How do we actually live into the true self in Christ that has already been established in us?
I used to always think that if I could just gain victory over my false self, or if I could just get to a point that I won’t struggle with this, then I will truly be free.
Then a few years ago I visited an alcoholic anonymous club. The level of honesty and humility in this space is so refreshing. To be clear, I don’t have a narcotics issue, I have a codependent issue with my false self. I love the first step in the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. “We admit we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
I am finding as I continue to journey to being the beloved child of God and loving freely from the Island of Peace in my soul that I must admit that I am powerless to this addiction of the false self. I cannot save myself and that I need Jesus daily and most of the time, moment by moment.
In the Apostle Paul’s words he says it like this in I Corinthians 15; “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”
Paul sees this false self and old man of sin so destructive and powerful in his life that he sees the need to die to it daily. We have to be honest about the daily struggle. Dr. Anthony Gordon of Desire Street Ministries says it like this, “It’s going to be a daily struggle as we claw inch by inch to gain victory over the false self to live into the freedom we have in Christ.”
This is why I love the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Daily Office of slowing your life down to be with Christ. It’s in this space that I can hear from Christ and His word, examine why I do what I do, refocus and be the person God calls me to be. This silence with Christ allows me to, “check yourself, before you wreck yourself.”
It’s in the silence that I sense the Spirit looking back to my family of origin and name what is driving me.
Here’s a specific set of questions that I ask myself when I am alone with Christ:
What did my false self want in that moment when I was led to serve?
Was it longing for approval or affirmation from someone?
Was it longing to be in control?
Was I lashing out for safety or security?
Was I trying to separate and be my own God?
Being able to name what “it” wants and bring it to Christ begins the process for me to be able to love freely.
And we can only name “it” when we are in deep relationships with people. In order to break free we must ask for help and as a good friend and mentor, Pastor Felicia Smith says, “Everyone needs to be sitting on a couch.” We all have issues and need to either connect with a trusted Christian counselor or a few close friends that are also on the journey to freedom with Christ.
The good news is that Christ sets us free to slow down and be aware of His presence. This allows us to love others freely, particularly the vulnerable with no agenda, no attachments, and truly seeking their interests above our own.
What is “it” for you? If you’re not checking it, it will work on you and ultimately destroy you.