Do you notice how easily our eyes turn inward on ourselves?
Another’s tragedy quickly becomes our relief, “I don’t know what I would do if that happened to me.” Another’s gain easily feels like our loss, “I never get lucky like that.” Even someone else’s pain gets turned back on self, “I don’t know how to help.”
The Garden of Eden may be lost, but its preoccupation with self has found a home in each of us.
Even in our seeking for God our inward focus jumps on stage and steals the mic. You don’t need me to tell you how easy it is for books, blogs, sermons and ministries to become just another tired avenue to talk about self. It is said that angels have wings to shield their eyes from the magnitude of God’s glory. Humans have mirrors.
What we see in the mirror rarely delights us. Instead, we face our inadequacies, fears, failures, and depravity. Self tells one lie: “You are good. Better than the average bear.” And one sobering truth: “Your good isn’t enough. You didn’t measure up.” On either account, self is teller of sad tales.
We are all in need of a story outside of ‘self.’
The Scriptures tell a story (Nehemiah 8 ) of a time in ancient Palestine when Nehemiah and Ezra discover the lost Law of Moses. The people, having been exiles in foreign lands for so long, had lost touch with their identity. They had become merely captives, rather than the Captivated Ones of the Most High. Stories of self by nature are locked behind the window and bars of our hearts—captive, stuck. Stories from outside that prison place are captivating; freeing.
It happened upon the reading of the law that day that the people in their hearing mourned and wept and grieved. Their thoughts turned in on self. How they had forgotten. How they had not observed. How they had missed out on so much for so long.
Nehemiah, seeing the people paralyzed and preoccupied with self and missing the majesty of God, cajoles them, “Look out your window. The sadness inside your cell will overtake you. Look outside yourself!” Yes, the people had forgotten, they had not observed, they had missed out on so much for so long, but why go on forgetting and missing out. God’s presence was present; they could be a part of a holy moment. But they would need to know that this was about His holiness, not their own.
“Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Think about your Lord. Turn from the mirror to the window. Turn from the self, captive and stuck. Turn to the Lord, captivating and freeing. There you will find joy. There you will find strength to not forget who He says you are. Delight in Him and His goodness. He tells you no lies, only truth. “I don’t require you to be good. I require good worship. Remember my goodness. Take note of my holiness. Don’t let a minute go by where you miss out on what I have done and am doing for you.”
For us, we might buy the lie of living the good life; living out those little stories we tell ourselves in the mirror. Doing good. Being good. Yet missing the joy, the delight, and the good pleasure of the Lord.
But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities…Shout for joy, O barren one, you have borne no child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman, says the Lord. ~Isaiah 53:10-11, 54:1
Where is your joy? What is your strength? You’ll never find it in the mirror. It is Jesus. Look on Him today. The joy of the Lord is your strength!
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Refrain: Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting He passed,
and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
(Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Helen H. Lemmel, 1922)
This post is a part of Word Filled Wednesday at Internet Cafe Devotions. You can hop on over there for more encouragement.