If being grafted into Jesus reduces my stress, helps to release me from the entanglement of pride, and brings me rest, what gets in the way of my arriving there tucked in with all the other branches to the vine? I know my identity is first and foremost to come from Him, but there’s the rub. Even though I know that somewhere in that theological construct in my head, do I live as though that is the case?
A long time back in Sunday School I learned the chorus about the wise man building his house upon the rock and the foolish man building his house upon the sand. It provided the foundational principle that all that I am is to be built on Jesus, the rock of my salvation. If that has shaped my identity then rest should not elude me and yet it often did.
Any of us can show ourselves to be sand builders when we compare ourselves to one another or when we try to prove ourselves as somehow more valuable or important as someone else.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man…It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.”
We betray what is happening within us when we care so deeply about what others think of us, how they measure us. I am not sure how any if us develops the habit of comparing ourselves, but I am persuaded that it begins very early before we even have words.
As infants we are compared to a chart of height, weight, and other characteristics that suggests whether we are developing in a healthy fashion or are somehow “less than.” In childhood play it is not uncommon to hear one child say to another, “I’m stronger than you” or “my bike is faster than yours.” The competition and comparison sounds innocent enough, but reveals we even come into the world stained with such traits in our genetic heritage born in the Garden of Eden when we unwittingly sought to raise ourselves up to be equal with God. The wily serpent struck us where he knew we could not resist.
Putting that character flaw on the cross for good is not easy even when we try. Another place comparison shows up in our adult conversation is when someone says, “I can’t identify with her (or him, or that).” In that moment we demonstrate something about empathy, but we have also made a comparison putting ourselves above or beneath what we have used as the standard of comparison. We have made an arbitrary judgment ranking ourselves somewhere on some obscure set of guidelines.
G. K. Chesterton brings us all up short with these words:
“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure.”
We can be so susceptible to focusing on ourselves. Some of us have missed it because we thought so little of our physical well being that we run ourselves ragged trying to be what we believe we need to be to gain acceptance, love, or appreciation. It might “look” like we aren’t thinking of ourselves at all, but a closer look underneath often reveals the source of our busy activity. We have defined our identity in something other than Jesus. We are building our resumes and want to be sure ours looks as if we are worth consideration.
But you see, He, Son of God, Jesus, soon coming King of Kings, loved us so much that He pursued us when we were far from Him. He knew we were dust. He knew what He was getting and that even after we turned and accepted His unspeakable gift of grace that we would fall again. Even so, we were worth His consideration because of who He is. And if we are grafted into Him, that settles it, but can we keep our focus on Him?
Hannah Anderson’s words in Humble Roots confirm that:
“When we are consumed with God’s glory, we forget to worry about our own. When our eyes are fixed on Him as the source of all goodness and truth and beauty, we accept that we are not. When we are enamored by His worth and majesty, we can stop being so enamored with ourselves. And fascinatingly, when we seek God’s glory, we’ll be able to appreciate it in people around us. Instead of seeing them as threats to our glory, we will see them as beautiful reflections of His.”
That brings us rest.