on narcissism: Gal. 6

read Gal. 6.  One of my favorite things to do is read about extreme personality disorders. I always find helpful tips for the rest of us from acute cases. So watching shows on hoarders – you know, those people who can’t get to their front door because of all the stuff they’ve amassed – helped me bag up clothes we never wear for Goodwill. And guess what? Giving away stuff we didn’t need seems to have sapped my desire to shop. What an unexpected bonus!  Why buy stuff if you know that in a few months you will have to bag it, label it, add up its (unbelievably diminished) price, and drop it off at the Goodwill store?  It’s fantastic. Thank you, hoarders. You helped me stop being what I think I kind of sort of maybe was….

So recently I’ve been reading about narcissism. It’s a personality disorder that only 1% of the population actually suffers from. The rest of us are just selfish. 🙂 Actually, here’s the fascinating thing about narcissism. It stems from being deeply shamed as a child. The person was told that because they did something bad, they were bad. That kind of shame is too much for any human to handle, and so the narcissist put up a wall. On one side of the wall is the reality of who they are, warts and all. On the other side of the wall is an inflated image of themselves as perfect and therefore far superior to the rest of the human race.

Here are some more hallmarks of the narcissist. They are highly sensitive and flare up at the slightest insult. They belittle and put down anyone who has the misfortune to work for them. Waiters, cleaners, cooks, drivers, spouses – all get ripped apart. Everyone who tries to help them is an “idiot.” They feel entitled to the point of ridiculousness. They expect other people to serve them and literally cannot understand why they shouldn’t. They expect automatic compliance with their every wish. They have zero empathy for other people. They are highly manipulative and will try everything they can to get what they want. They have terrible interpersonal boundaries and feel entitled to ask highly personal questions and to walk into others’ homes, read their mail, and take their belongings and sometimes even their spouses. Their compulsive need for validation causes them to drone on about all the things they’ve done, even though they’re normal things the rest of us do all the time. They’re green with envy, but they have to deny it or claim others are jealous of them, because to admit their envy would be to suggest they were somehow lacking. They’re obsessed with getting ahead and achieving and fantasize constantly about anything they think proves their superiority, whether it’s power, success, beauty or being with someone who has those attributes.

The narcissist can be helped, but unfortunately one of the hallmarks of the disorder is such self-involvement that they don’t realize they’re self-involved. They think everything is everyone else’s fault. See e.g. Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptons at Psychcentral.com.

When dealing with a narcissist it helps to understand the cause of these very off-putting behaviors. Instead of humility in the face of their imperfections, they feel a deep and intolerable sense of shame. The problem is that the narcissist has a monster behind the wall, waiting to emerge, and they have to feed everything they can into its maw to prevent it from devouring them. They don’t have any brain space for the viewpoints of others. They must see the other as rotten, so they can feed that to the insatiable monster within. But really, they’re feeding the monster their own flaws when they condemn and belittle others. It’s what’s known as projection, or “bypassed shame.”

So we can’t expect a narcissist to remember we told them we are busy. We can’t expect them to understand when we say no to them. We can’t expect them to stay calm. We can’t expect them to see reason. We can only set boundaries and keep them set. We must be kind but firm. And we must have empathy but not enable. The narcissist is a professional at sniffing out people whose boundaries were trampled on as a child, and they will walk on those same trespassed areas. To handle a narcissist requires learning that relationships are reciprocal, and that boundaries are good. It requires us to grow up. It requires us to stop being cowards. We must stop being addicted to the approval of others. The narcissist will never approve of us, so they are wonderful training ground in learning to love others as ourselves, not more than ourselves.

There are two kinds of narcissist: the grandiose and the vulnerable. The grandiose is the person who discusses themselves in epic terms completely divorced from any actual achievements. The vulnerable is the one who puts down everyone else. Both kinds tend to retreat into enclaves. They cannot survive in the real world, so they surround themselves with sycophants. Anyone who tells them the truth about themselves is banished, along with anyone who disappoints them. Many of them end up having to retreat into the four walls of their homes. Only there can they maintain the lie that they are superior to all others.

So what can we all learn from this “personality disorder”? Well, read these words, and then read them again, from Sandy Hotchkiss’s excellent book Why Is It Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism: “It is healthy narcissism that allows us to laugh at ourselves and our imperfections, to dig deep within ourselves to create something uniquely ours, and to leave a positive personal stamp on the world… [It] is the capacity to feel a full range of emotions and to share in the emotional life of others, the wisdom to separate truth from fantasy while still being able to dream, and the ability to assertively pursue and enjoy our own accomplishments without crippling self-doubt.”

I don’t know about you, but when I read those words about being able to laugh at myself and my imperfections, I embrace them. Great, I think. Handling my imperfections is the hallmark of a healthy person? Ha, ha! See me laugh???

But nervous laughter aside, how do we learn to have a healthy relationship with our faults? Because M. Scott Peck (remember him? Author of The Road Less Travelled?) says the same thing in his fascinating book People of the Lie. He claims that truly evil people are those who can’t see or admit their sins, faults and mistakes. St. Paul says here in Galatians 6 that every one of us must learn to carry the burden of our own imperfections: “For every person will have to bear (be equal to understanding and calmly receive) his own [little] load of oppressive faults.” Gal. 6:5.

Well then. Bring it on. Faults, we embrace you!  But how do we do that? How do we “calmly receive” our faults? How do we stop projecting our faults onto other people (the narcissist’s trick of ‘bypassed shame’)? How do we own our sins? How do we see our imperfections as the terrible, horrible, no good things they are, and yet not be crushed by the weight of them? How, in short, do we see our bad and yet not experience the narcissist’s crippling shame?

The first thing to note is that our imperfections and moral faults are called a burden here in Galatians 6. My husband was the one who called my attention to that. We were looking at this chapter in light of our discussion about how to be healthy, and I said, “but we don’t want to just shrug our faults off like they’re okay.”

He said, “look. They’re called ‘oppressive.'” I looked. He was right. It says we are supposed to carry the “burdens and troublesome moral faults” of other people but to “bear” the “load” of our own “oppressive” faults. I realized that the hallmark of a healthy person is to make peace with the fact that you have faults, not make peace with the faults themselves. Because in terms of our sins, oppressive is really the pivotal word here. The first thing to note is that we just feel awful when we do wrong. We are all made in God’s image. That means that no matter how much we tell ourselves that “everything is awesome” (to echo the Lego movie’s deeply sarcastic song) when we do wrong, we know deep down it’s not awesome. Sin is a burden. It weighs us down. It’s heavy.

And we know that instead of being weighted down, we were created for flight.

But how can we fly when we sin? How can we soar when we are burdened? Our load of oppressive faults causes us all constant anxiety, all day long. I really think that. I am starting to believe that we all live in a constant state of fear because every time we do a tiny thing wrong we feel vulnerable, naked and ashamed. We think that what is wrong with us is a whole host of other things, but these passages suggest that what’s really wrong with us is that we need saving from ourselves. We don’t want anyone to know the ways we fall short of perfect. We are all tempted to be like the narcissist and build a wall between ourselves and our behavior. We all want to stay on the sunny side of the wall and pretend there’s nothing behind it. “Oh that huge wall looming behind me? Ha, ha! That’s nothing. Don’t look there, please. That awful smell? Cough, cough. Must be my throat lozenge. Would you like one? Walk this way, please. No, not that way. No, no nooooo.”  Whatever is behind our wall of hypocrisy will always reveal itself. We’re all Oz, hiding behind a curtain, pretending to be the great and terrible.

But don’t worry. We are all great. And we’re also all terrible. It’s okay. It’s really okay.  Our God is so good and so loving and so generous, that He came down and lived a great life for us. He really was awesome. Jesus was the only perfect human who ever walked the earth. He lived the life on the sunny side of our walls. He really was that person we all try to pretend to be. But He died the death deserved by people who live the life of the dark side of our walls. Jesus experienced all the punishment for all our terribleness. He paid the price, lovingly, because He wanted to restore us to Himself and to ourselves. The cross can topple our every wall. The nails that were hammered into Christ’s hands were the very nails holding up our facades. Christ pulls the nails out of the walls that we erect to hide our sins from ourselves and others. He wants those walls to come tumbling down.

Christ wants us to be able to admit who we truly are – terrible, terrible sinners. We are selfish, self-centered, lazy, angry, impatient, ridiculous, prideful people. Christ wants us to own it. Because in addition to all that, we are also lovable, loved and worthwhile. We are God’s poem. We are adored. We are Christ’s masterpiece. We are wonderful.

How can this be? How can we stand the shame of having our walls toppled? How can we look our sins squarely in the face and be gentle and humble instead of terrified? The answer is, like the answer to every anxiety that haunts our days, the cross, the cross, and nothing but the cross. Jesus died to restore us to himself. When God looks at us, if we cling to the cross, God “sees” us as holy. He sees us covered in Christ’s perfection like a blanket. Only with that covering can we be a whole person. Only with the restoration of the cross, can we embrace the burden of our sins and faults, and yet feel embraced and loved and wonderful.

The moment we begin to grasp this, whether it’s the first time or the fiftieth, it’s the sort of thing that makes us want to leap in the air and click our heels together and sing our hearts out.  Really. You mean, um, are you saying, is it possible, you mean like,… a very poor Jewish man who died a long time ago already paid the price for my sin? Because He was God?  Yes! It’s possible. It’s more than possible. It happened. You are completely covered. It’s too good to be true, isn’t it? Hallelujah.

Exposing our sin to the glory of the cross enables us to be the kind of people God calls us to be here in Galatians 6. He wants us to “restore” other people who are doing wrong; not condemn, hate and criticize them but to bring them back. He wants us to be “gentle” with them. He wants us to do so without any sense of “superiority.” He wants us to stop thinking we’re too important to “shoulder another’s load.” He wants us to help others back on the right track, without getting tempted ourselves. But how? It’s so easy to look behind other people’s walls and condemn them. It’s so easy to forget what’s lurking on the other side of our own walls. We shake a finger at them, and that same finger points back at ourselves. It’s the finger of shame, and it’s our enemy.

Only when we understand the depth of our terribleness, can we truly be great. How did you feel when you were reading about the narcissist above? Did you feel superior? Don’t. You probably also felt uncomfortable, because you noticed a few of your own traits. So laugh at yourself. Instead of looking down at others, flip it: shake our heads at our natural tendency to look down at others. Instead of comparing ourselves to others to puff ourselves up, we can enjoy doing our own work.

If we focus on being the best we can be, we will have the “satisfaction” and “joy” of a job well done, without any need to compare ourselves to others. The Bible gives the best advice ever on this: “But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work. He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable [in itself alone] without [resorting to] boastful comparison with his neighbor. Gal. 6:4. This is the pathway to that healthy living Hotchkiss alludes to in her book on narcissism. We can fly with our own dreams by not comparing ourselves to others.

It’s all the cross and nothing but the cross that enables us to be the healthy person we all want to be. It’s the cross that enables us to laugh at ourselves. It’s the cross that enables us to open up and admit our faults. It’s the cross that allows us to be vulnerable to others in a way that will heal them. I don’t mean put ourselves down and talk about how awful we are. People do that sort of thing from false humility, and it’s a sick, inverted form of pride. I mean true humility – the kind that has to talk slowly, and haltingly, about something we just did that really, truly embarrasses us. We all have those things. And we all tend to hide them. But how do we know that that isn’t the very thing our neighbor has just done and is slowly and secretly bleeding to death internally from, because they thought they were alone in their shame. Our vulnerability can break the walls of their loneliness. Our shame is what unites us all.

We no longer have to pretend. Christ has set us free from the walls we erect to hide ourselves from our shame. Shame is Satan’s game. Freedom in the cross is what enables us to shoulder our burdens and soldier on. We can slowly free ourselves from the need to look good outwardly. We can know God. We can have a real relationship with the most loving presence we’ve ever met. We can experience the joy of knowing that God will bring good out of our every pain. We can forgive the people who shamed us, including, perhaps most of all, ourselves. We can stop beating ourselves up for messing up.

Instead, we have the gift of confession.  We can state our sins out loud to God, and to a safe Christian friend or counselor. We can look at the horror of our sins by looking at what Christ had to suffer for them. We can regret what Tim Keller called in his sermon on Sunday the “sin” of “sin.” As Tim so rightly pointed out, we won’t be changed if we just feel sorry we got caught, or sorry we’re embarrassed, or sorry for the consequences. What changes our hearts is regretting the iniquity of our sin. Telling ourselves that bad stuff isn’t “that bad” or that “everyone does it” will not help.

For as Paul says here, to do bad things is to “sow” seeds that will reap “decay and ruin and destruction.” We tend to hide from ourselves not just our sins, but the consequences of those sins. The truth is that bad stuff is really bad. It’s far worse than we want to admit. But I don’t think scare tactics work as well with ourselves as “joy tactics.” Paul goes on to say that God instead wants us to “sow” to the Spirit, and from the Spirit reap “eternal life.” For God has a law that we just can’t get around: “Whatever a man sows that and that only is what he will reap.” Gal. 6:7-8. Hiding inside our homes, erecting walls between ourselves and our sin – none of that will protect us from the consequences of our actions. Nothing can protect us from the sin of sin.

Instead, we can swallow our pride, the part of us that wants to punish ourselves to pay for our sins, and accept that we could never atone for ourselves. Instead, we become willing to look to our savior and say to him the most beautiful, healthy words a human can say:

I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I mess up all the time. I hate my sin. But I’m so glad you love me. Thank you for forgiving me. I may not deserve it, but I sure do appreciate it. And I love you, too. Amen.

And then, glory opens.. We stop beating ourselves and other people up. We become more gentle. We turn into the people God created us to be, slowly, piece by piece, not by trying harder, but by being honest about who we are in Christ. We are sinners saved by grace alone. We are set free from anxiety by God’s forgiveness.

In addition to admitting the burden of sin and to confessing our sins, this chapter also makes clear that there are times when we all need to actively seek help in order to overcome our sins. There are times when we’re vulnerable and fall prey to addictions, bad choices, bad relationships or just plain evil. In those times, we are not supposed to shoulder our burdens alone. If we’re having an affair, embezzling, screaming at our kids – whatever it is, we know it when it strikes us. We’re supposed to humble ourselves enough to seek help and lots of it. We’re supposed to carry our own load, and get help when it’s too heavy.

And there’s one more really helpful piece of advice in this beautiful chapter. Paul reminds us not to “lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.” Gal. 6:9. God knows we’re all tempted to lose heart in trying to do good. So we have to keep going back to the cross, and seeing how God brings life out of death. No matter what happens, no matter what we do, our glorious God can bring good out of it. That’s why Paul says here that the world has been “crucified” to him, and him to the world. Gal. 6:14. I think he means we no longer have to prove ourselves to any human, or even ourselves. The only person who has any right to judge us has set us free. He makes us a new creation in Him. He gives us a new birth, and a “new nature in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 6:15.

So just like we can thank hoarders, we can thank narcissists. We have met the enemy and he is us. A narcissist lurks inside all of us. We can glance over our shoulders at those silly walls we’ve erected and shake our heads and roll our eyes. We can wander over, rip them down, wince, confess, and receive the glory. And when we see those walls rising up again in our deluded brains tomorrow, we can shake our heads and go back to our Bibles and prayerfully rip the walls down all over again.

Because the one who made us sees everything about us and He adores us already. And I for one think that sounds amazing. Covered by Him, everything is awesome, even our worst. In Him, we are made whole. The good and bad, the lion and the lamb, can lie down together in peace.

posted by Caroline Coleman in A Chapter a Day on February 24, 2015


the 8 things we’ve always wanted: Galatians 5


Gal. 5.  My husband told me on our second date, “you know, when you really empathize with someone, it’s an out of body experience.”

I loved that.  I loved him.  Not that I told him I loved at the time, of course. But I loved that he got how rare it is to truly empathize and also how wonderful it feels when we do. I also loved the idea of there being a supernatural element to empathy.

Maybe empathy truly is a divine encounter. I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately, because a lack of empathy is one of those scary things it’s so easy to see in others and so hard to see in ourselves. I also am trying to learn how you empathize without enabling. How do you make sure you don’t become the evil you hate?

In thinking about empathy, I remembered the first time I ever really “got” God’s point of view.  I was talking to my Dad on a pay phone in boarding school about predestination – a normal 16 year old conversation, right?  And I said, “that’s not fair!  Why would only some people go to heaven and not others?”

Dad said, “from God’s point of view, no one deserves to go to heaven. You’re looking at it backwards.”

All of a sudden-boom-I got it. “Oh,” I said. Time stood still.  I remember now exactly where I was sitting; how the sun was coming in the window; and what the phone felt like in my hand.

The moment of understanding a perspective totally different than our own – in this case God’s – is indeed an “out of body” experience. It teaches us that our “normal” viewpoint is inexorably our own. But who wants to be selfish? So when unhappiness and restlessness struck me like the plague in college a few years later, I knew enough to know that I needed not a new toy but a whole new perspective. I needed a new heart. I needed God’s heart. So I asked for faith, and to my surprise He gave it to me. And since that moment, it’s been a wild, exciting, joyful ride.

One of the coolest things God does once we invite Him in (or is it once He finds us?) is this two-fold way He shows us: (1) how completely lacking in certain things we are; and at the very same time (2) how completely loved we are by Him. His love is the buffer that enables us to empathize with Him – especially about the places in our hearts that are hard, the way the Central Park reservoir in my picture above is half frozen, half liquid right now. God wants to melt more and more of our heart, so He can give us dvine encounters with Himself and others. Even more, when He melts our hearts Into something so liquid we can hear Him, He gives us everything we’ve ever wanted – and more.

Which brings us to one the most helpful stunning epistles in the New Testament. If I had to pick just one chapter of the Bible to recommend, Galatians 5 might be it… Yet that’s exactly the kind of rule bound legalism this chapter so vigorously opposes. This chapter presents two ways to live. One stems from a hard heart and one from a soft one.  One is to be trapped, and the other is total freedom. One is selfish, and the other is merciful. One is dead, the other is alive. One is cruel and the other is kind.  One is ill tempered, and the other is even tempered. One is full of jealousy and strife, and the other is filled with peace and joy. One is harsh and the other is gentle. One is to be blocked from being the person we’ve always wanted, and the other is to grow into our true selves. All of the good ways are natural outgrowths of allowing God to be in the driver’s seat, of walking with God, of listening to Him, of opening ourselves up to be vulnerable to Him. And none of the good ways have to do with rules.

That’s why It’s such a shame that Christianity gets seen as all about “rules.”  According to this chapter, Christianity is actually the “opposite” of rules. Yes, you read that right. Paul says here that the “obvious” and bad stuff in us that we all have and all despise – like anger, jealousy and hate – come from the Law. The good stuff we long for – like peace, joy and kindness – come from God’s Spirit. Gal. 5:17-18. It’s no wonder people turn away from Christianity if they think it’s about rules. Rules are hard, harsh, sharp and unyielding. But don’t we have to be good?  Aren’t we supposed to earn God’s love?  Aren’t we supposed to try harder to be good people?


As my Dad explained to me when I was 16, that’s exactly where we go wrong.  Paul here says that we have to guard against that kind of thinking as vigorously as if our very lives depend upon it.  Gal. 5: 4, 25.  Because they do.  This chapter is talking about life, real life, the kind of life we all long for.  It tells us how to get it.  Lean in.  Lean in hard.  Because this chapter holds the key to life.

The key is that salvation is through grace alone, not by anything we do. One of the reasons this chapter is so compelling is that Paul lists here how to get the 8 Things We’ve All Always Wanted.  We may think we want other things – like jobs, looks, careers, relationships, money, success, power, fame – but if we think about it for more than a nanosecond, we’ll realize that none of those things will do us any good if we don’t have the 8 things Paul here lists, things he calls the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit.

For instance, what good is money if we have no self-control? We’ll spend our money in an hour like a kid with a credit card in FAO Schwarz.  Or what good is looks if we have no peace?  We’ll go under the knife for plastic surgery in search of better looks – and become caricatures of ourselves.  What good are relationships if we have no love?  We’ll bounce from one person to the other, always wondering what’s wrong with other people.  We will be like Carrie in one of my favorite Sex in the City episodes complaining to a therapist about all the men she’s dated, and the therapist asks, “well, Carrie, what do all these men have in common?”

Carries says, “they’re all jerks?”

“No, Carrie,” the therapist responds.  “The answer is you. They all have you in common.”

Oh.  Right.  Maybe it isn’t them that’s ruining all our relationships, maybe it’s something in us, that lies in all of us, that we’re letting have the upper hand.  Or how can success help us if we lack joy?  We will feel spectacularly unsuccessful without joy, so we’ll keep trying to gain more success, only to wear ourselves out with the trying. If we have no patience, we’ll throw our success, relationships or anything else away in a fit of pique.  The 8 qualities here listed are what underpin the good in our lives, and they are, deep down, the things we’ve all always wanted.  In short, this chapter tells us how to get:

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

If we allowed God to give us those 8 things, we would be allowing Him to give us the lives of excitement, contentment and joy we’ve all longed for.  We could be in a place to bless others instead of sucking them dry.  We could empathize without enabling. We could be the person we’ve always wanted and live the lives we’ve always wanted.  In short, this chapter provides the key to everything we’ve ever wanted.

Great, we think again.  What do we do??

Again, that’s where the trouble starts.  It’s the question we humans always ask when offered God’s way, and it’s the wrong question.  What we’re asking for when we ask that question is RULES.  That, I think, is one of the reason Christianity gets associated with rules.  We humans are addicted to them.  We pile them on ourselves like kids burying ourselves in sand at the beach.  Paul here is shocked.  He’s like, HOLD IT FOLKS I JUST TOLD YOU YOU’RE FREE IN CHRIST, AND SAVED BY GRACE ALONE, NOT ANYTHING YOU DO, SO WHY THE HECK ARE YOU PILING RULES ONTO YOURSELVES?

Paul begins this chapter sternly by discussing one big rule that Christians at the time were piling on themselves – circumcision – but it’s a metaphor for all the rules we use to try to prove to God and others that we’re “good people”, or that we “deserve” heaven.  Paul explains here that if we want to get to heaven by obeying the rules, we literally can’t.  We’d have to obey all of them. Gal. 5:3.  Paul doesn’t mince words. He says that if we think we can be in right standing with God by obeying rules, we’ve “separated” ourselves from Christ. He says we’ve “fallen away from grace” – from “God’s gracious favor and unmerited blessing.” Paul reiterates that if we’ve in Christ, the only thing that matters is “faith activated… through love.”  Gal. 5:6.  He says that if we can be in a right relationship with God by obeying rules, we would have removed the offense of the cross.  We would have made the cross “meaningless.”  Gal. 5:11.

Here’s the part that confuses us and twists us up in knots.  It’s because it’s so very different than the way we think.  Paul says that even just a “little” bit of rule based thinking will trip us up, the way just a tiny bit of yeast will make flour puff right up.  Gal. 5:9. We have to somehow get it into our prideful brains that we don’t have to do anything.  God did it for us. We have to soften our hearts down to putty.  We have to take in the fact that our freedom lies in dependence. It’s so liberating to accept we need help from God and others in our work, play, marriages, parenting, relationships, philanthropies and our hobbies. We need God in everything. We need God for everything. We are utterly dependent on Him. He made us that way. We fight Him on this every day, like babies trying to spit out our milk bottles. But once we accept who we are and what that means for us, we can let Him in.

The fruit of the Spirit, like all fruit, grows naturally on a tree planted in the right soil, exposed to the right amount of sun, and watered with the right liquid. We can’t force ourselves to be more patient or kind. It doesn’t work. Instead, when we accept we need help, we break. When we see how hard our hearts are, we melt. When we look to the cross and see the way God died for us to set us free, our pride withers.

And that’s when God’s Spirit can grow good things in us. He gives us productive lives of contentment and joy. We can become who we were created to be. We can be the people we’ve always longed to be.

For grace is what my father was talking about when he was explaining how anyone gets into heaven. Grace is how we’re saved. And grace is the secret to joy, to becoming people who can forgive without agreeing that what we’re forgiving is okay.

It’s radical stuff.

And we can’t have it both ways.  If we give up the lie that we’re good, we get to join the party. And what a party it is.  Paul here says that if we accept God’s grace and His freedom, we will finally be free to serve each other through love. He will have melted us. This chapter is where Paul says that the whole law concerning human relationships can be summed up as: “You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.”  Not that we should love our neighbor more than ourselves – or less – but as.  Gal. 5:14.  None of us can do this on our own.  We have to let God come in and change our hearts.

And that, I suppose, is what we can do.  We can give up our pride – that hard unyielding, dare I say, unfriendly, thing in all of us that can’t ask for help – from God or man.  That beast in us called pride wakes up ravenous.  Every day we must choose to starve it. The answer lies in surrender.  The only way to win this battle in enemy occupied territory known as planet earth is to surrender completely to our seemingly absent king.  Once we do that, we discover Him everywhere. We hear Him everywhere. He grows us in peace, joy and love. He opens our ears to hear Him, more and more, because He speaks with love. We learn to listen for the sound of his voice, like sheep listening for their shepherd.

And best of all, we start to have those out of body experiences all the time.  We discover the ‘radical listening’ that counselors and self-help books are always touting become fun rather than threatening. We can listen, truly listen, to the pain and outpourings of others without being afraid we’ll get swallowed up in it, because we keep going back to the source. We keep being renewed. We keep asking for God to melt all the frozen places in our hearts and fill us with His Holy Spirit instead. God will grow these good things inside of us not because of anything He does, but because He loves us too much to allow us to wallow around in anger and pride.

All we “do” is lean in and listen. We’ll hear God whispering that we can relax. Everything is going to be okay. Really. God has done the hard impossible work – even the impossible work of helping us do nothing.

In our nothing is His everything. And in Him, we find what we’ve always wanted. He gives us a new heart that can love Him and others and ourselves. For love is the biggest out of body experience of all.

posted by Caroline Coleman on January 31, 2015

p.s. my take on predestination is the cautionary one shared by Milton, who described the demons in Paradise Lost “wandering in mazes lost” discussing predestination. Like God, I hope and pray every person goes to heaven. (“God “does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Peter 3:9; God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”; 1 Tim. 2:4).  I know God can offer salvation through Christ even to humans in the death throes of being hit by a bus. (see, e.g. Jesus’ parable of the workers in the field, where people who just arrived are “paid” the same as those who’ve been there all day; Matt. 20:1-16). And beyond that, I just trust God to do the right thing for every human because only He knows our hearts and only He knows best and only He loves us more than we can ask or imagine.