August 24, 2014

He and I Share The Same Reflection III: Imago Dei

So if the condition of narcissism is supposedly not fixable, what am I to do? Perhaps it is the narcissist in me or maybe the work of the Spirit but I refuse to accept this burden of sin in defeat. I have resolved to resist and fight it. The truth is, I don’t believe this is a lost cause. No, I believe this is going to be a imposing effort but it will not be completely hopeless. 

Where there is God there is hope. Where there is Jesus there is salvation. Where there is the Gospel there is new life and resurrection from the dead. Dozens of knowledgeable people have agreed that I have been called to the ministry. The question is now an issue of how and when. Having been saddled with this affliction of being a self-centered fool I have my work cut out for me and so does God. But…“Through God all things are possible.” For now though true ministry is limited to my myself. I am not even in a good position to lead my home properly.

I suspect this all happened for God’s plans because God is Sovereign. Part of being a person that speaks effectively in front of a crowd when preaching requires a good chunk of narcissism or self-assurance. Like everything else in our lives, all these characteristic traits lie on a continuum. Everyone is narcissistic to a point. The Bible has even acknowledged this fact (Ephesians 5:28). It doesn't necessarily condone it but it acknowledges that it exists. It becomes a serious problem when someone falls on the upper extreme side of things. This is the minefield in which I currently stand. 

I left the old sin-saddled life of a non-believer behind and began to run towards God. I quickly found that the sin life that I left behind…I didn’t leave behind. It followed me and planted mines all around me as I ran towards God. So here I stand halfway between the old me and the ministry that I’ve been called to. I am a new creation but I have not fully put on the new man by divesting myself of the old. I now need to tread through this narcissistic minefield to get to the service God is calling me to. The question is how?

Like I said, I believe it is all part of God’s plan, even though many would say that me thinking this is an exact symptom of my narcissism. I suggest differently for only one reason. The difference I believe is intent. Do I now pursue the ministry because I wish to self-aggrandize or am I doing it for God and through God? Intent and motivation are pivotal in figuring this out. Is what I am doing Scriptural and have I prayed fervently on it? Yes.

I have systematically had nearly all of my former life removed from me to learn all of these basic things. God took (or nearly took) everything in my life away…even the stuff I held dear. First I lost a job that would’ve had me set for life at Mack Trucks. I then lost my chances at ministry as they appeared to have dried up (at least temporarily they have been removed from me). I have left the church temporary due to this. I am now slowly returning. It appears some opportunities are opening up as I repent and try to continue to align to God’s will but they are slow in coming, just like healing from this sin. It is not coincidence that the opportunities are in direct correlation to my repentance and turning to God for help in prayer. 

The most recent stripping-way has also been the most devastating emotionally for all involved. I have nearly lost my marriage and family due to the side-effects of narcissism. God has systematically cut me down to save me. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it will bear much fruit. It seems I have been systematically pulled away from everything to force me to reassess my entire life and how I interact with everyone around me. I have been forced to rebuild from the ground up. The original foundation I had built my life upon had been compromised. 

I realize that to a lesser extent all have narcissism (more specifically an egotism) in them. It is needed to some extent in the balance of what it means to be human. Low level self-need only trips the line into sin when it is overdone or misappropriated. In other words: It stems from our intent. An example of this is self-absorption in survival situations but is not expected in many other situations. It therefore stands to reason that if what I deal with is sin…it can be eradicated through the Gospel and Jesus’ work on the Cross and the Bible. Again, God can do all things.

The Bible teaches about intent on Romans 6. If I give myself to sin I create an open invitation for sin to enter my life and therefore the spirit of this world also. I need to become a slave to righteousness and God, not a slave to the world and sin.

Romans 6:16 ~ “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”

God seems to be using this ordeal in my life to disenchant me about who and what I am. The discomfort is slowly clearing my vision to see the mirror clearly. It is becoming easier to see just how much I have relied on the endorsement of others to make me feel like I matter. Somehow in narcissistic behavior I've turned personal validation into the primary source of meaning and value in my life. So much so that without affirmation from others I become totally miserable. 

Somewhere understanding of spiritual life has become terribly narcissistic. I became completely preoccupied with how I was doing or how I was feeling. Instead I should've been learning everything I could during this brutal time. I ended up too consumed with gauging my spiritual health and everyone else fell by the wayside. Due to this I ruminated even deeper on my failures and doing so I lost sight of God’s grace completely. Too much time centered on the self instead of centering on Christ and the Cross. The more I focused on myself the more the problems became exacerbated. It turned into neurosis. I had become a slave of the idol of my own making instead of becoming a slave to Christ.

[Concluded In Part IV]

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