Read Time: About 4 mins.
My beautiful wife Laura and I have an evening rhythm of cooking dinner together. What usually happens is that she will prepare the stuff we have “on the side” while I prepare the main course. Something that God knows about me is that I am a craftsman. I am often so laser-focussed on the complete craft of my preparation, that if she didn’t happily make a salad, we wouldn’t be eating anything other than what was in my pan! I love to hone and refine, to get things “just so”. He loves that I am that way. The dark side of this however can be that, from time to time, I can be really hard on myself.
One evening, after draining some pasta, I accidentally left far too much water at the bottom of the pot before adding it to my lovingly prepared bolognese sauce, turning it instantly into something resembling a “pasta soup”. Hot frustration surged to my fist, and I slammed it hard on the counter, causing Laura to jump. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
“I ruined the pasta. Just RUINED it. Too much water.”
“Let me try it. *SLURP*. “It still tastes fine! My love, you’re far too upset about this.”
“It’s destroyed. The consistency is all wrong.”
“Well, I’m still going to eat it. It tastes really good. Love, you just made a mistake. It still tastes good.”
In response to her Jesus-like encouragement, I proceeded to huff and puff and pace around the house before begrudgingly serving myself some “bolognese soup” and consuming it with a half-scowl on my face.
There is an old expression for situations when negative emotions flare, things thought or spoken, or when choices are made that one knows are uncharacteristic of their nature and values: “I wasn’t myself”. Wherever this turn of phrase came from, it is a beautifully simple way of acknowledging two hugely important things. First, that what you just expressed didn’t align with how God knows the real you to be, and second, because what He knows about you is the truth, where that behaviour was expressed from was, in fact, not the real you!
One of the most incredible things about the Gospel of Jesus is that it doesn’t just reveal God’s nature as infinitely good, it also reveals the very same about our true nature! Let’s apply some joyful logic here: If God is Very Good, and you are His image, then the truth about you is that you are “very good” (His words - Genesis 1:26-31)! What’s more, you have been made one with Christ (Colossians 3:3), unified with a God that is an endless ocean of tangible love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). So how do we live a life in the experience of, and influenced by this wonderful union with God? Well, it starts with knowing what is really you, as what is not.
For a long time, I believed that behavior like “Paul the Pasta Primadonna” was an expression of the real me. I had been taught through experience and circumstance that I was a mixture, a yin and yang of good and bad. When I expressed good behavior, I was good. When I expressed bad behaviour, I was bad. The problem with this was that I was identifying myself with my behaviour. What I did or didn’t do determined who I affirmed myself to be. A subtle but hugely important shift happens when I identify myself with my behaviour. I begin intrinsically trying to manage it. I try to control my messy thoughts, words and actions and keep myself from doing them. Unfortunately in doing so, I become responsible for my own righteousness, which Jesus made clear doesn’t ultimately work well for us.
There is another way. When I “forget myself” and express other than how Jesus would express Himself, I still of course acknowledge and make amends for how my behaviour has affected myself and others, but then allow Holy Spirit to remind me that I am good and righteous. I then jump in the flow of resulting thankfulness to re-identify myself with Jesus! It works like this: if I consider myself a bad boy, I will inevitably be a bad boy. If I consider myself good because of Jesus, I will be good. Instead of slipping into an endless shame-fueled spiral of behaviour modification, I “put off the old man - (Ephesians 4:22-24)” not by trying to fight against something that has already died with Christ, but by simply re-acknowledging the righteousness in Jesus I already had in the first place. The beautiful thing is that as Holy Spirit continues his faithful work of fully convincing me of my righteousness in Christ and making me increasingly aware of the experience of His constant Presence, “Paul the Pasta Primadonna” is rearing his head far less frequently!
Next time, we’ll discover together some of the amazing and practical ways that Holy Spirit convinces us of, and engages us in our identity in Christ!
This Blog’s Recipe
Next time you do or say something that is “not yourself”, allow Holy Spirit to remind you of your goodness in Jesus. Use it as an opportunity to slip into thankfulness and acknowledgement of what God knows about you!