Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Self-Acceptance and why it’s so Difficult to Attain

Self-acceptance represents peace among our inner warring factions, but it requires ruthless honesty. While one part is determined to convince us of our goodness or worthiness, the other part vehemently protests against this fabrication. How can we then make peace? We have to acknowledge all of our failings.

After a long struggle, the King and Psalmist David confessed that:

  • Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. (Psalm 51:6)
Indeed, God did teach David truth and wisdom, but this was only after enduring a long period of suffering. Looking back upon his travail, David reflected:

  • When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. (Psalm 32:3)
David had committed adultery, murder, and even implicated others in his wrongdoing. He then tried to bury the entire matter, even as he was “groaning all day long.”

How was David able to come to terms with his sin?  Truly, there can be no self-acceptance until we do this. Without the confession of sin, denial - the internal struggle to suppress sin - reigns. However, what is suppressed always threatens to resurface in the form of guilt and shame.

David was aware of his “groaning,” but he might have suppressed awareness of his warring factions. How then can we acknowledge what is unseen? Often, it is just too painful to acknowledge. It contradicts our carefully manicured self-image as a “good person.” This acknowledgement is simply too destabilizing. We have become addicted to the darkness and delusions of image-making (John 3:19-21).

In order to break this addiction, our Lord must lovingly take us by the hand and confront us with what we have long denied. He sent a prophet to David to expose his suppressed sin. He does this also with us, but He replaces our addiction to the lie with another – one that we are designed to imbibe. He assures us that our worth, identity and self-definition have now been transferred to Him – the source of all glory and goodness:

  • I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
  • Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Knowing that it’s no longer about us but about our Savior – and He is covering us in every way – is entirely liberating. It’s no longer about me, my performance and my righteousness, but about His! This means that I no never have to bear the weight of my failings. What I am and what I do is entirely in His hands. He owns me, and I no longer have to prove myself. The hammer needs not worry if it is driving in the nails correctly. This responsibility lies with the one wielding the hammer.

This may sound like a renunciation of our responsibility, but not according to Paul:

  • But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Cor. 15:10).
God takes responsibility for our lives and gets all the credit! Does this mean that I can shirk my responsibilities? No! However, I now understand that as I move forward to do the right thing, I know that I can only do so with His guidance and enablement.

As we grow in the understanding that it’s all about my Savior, we can be transparent and joke about our failings. After all, they are now peripheral to our essential identity. Similarly, it is easy to joke about peeing on our babysitter when we were one. That one-year-old is so distant from who we are today, that it is now laughable. However, peeing down your pants as you deliver a lecture is harder to joke about.

Christ has separated us from our sins and all of those things about which we are ashamed. It is only because He accepts us entirely that we can begin to accept ourselves. This divine acceptance has enabled us to confront our sins and even mourn over them for a season (Matthew 5:4), knowing that, in due time, we shall be comforted. As we humble ourselves in confession of sin, He exalts us.

Self-acceptance is the freedom to face ourselves; it is the freedom from the compulsion to hide and deny. Self-acceptance takes full responsibility. David learned this lesson:

  • For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:4-5)
Self-acceptance basks in the light of truth. It has nothing to hide, because nothing can threaten it.

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