“There is no reason to supposed that self-consciousness, the recognition of a creature by itself as a “self”, can exist except in contrast with an environment of other selves, that the awareness of Myself stands out. ” -CS Lewis, Problem of Pain
How often do we talk about self-consciousness as if it’s a problem with ourselves? We focus inward and compare and say things about how we aren’t good enough or how we don’t measure up. But what are we comparing to? What are we measuring it by? Why do we even do this at all?
Have we ever asked the question of what it would be like if the problem of ‘self-consciousness’ didn’t exist? What fuels its existence? I think Lewis explain it perfectly when he says that we wouldn’t compare, or find the need to compare, ourselves if there wasn’t something with which to compare ourselves to.
Most would say, ‘Yes. Which is why we compare ourselves to each other.’ But I have a slightly different theory. As Christians, we were once sinners. But after having been rescued from that despairing way of living, we still lament over our supposed nature of ‘fallen one’. And I wonder if in the Glory of God’s nature, we feel self-conscious in our image of Him. We, who are made in His image, and find ourselves so often failing and being inconsistent, hypocritical if you will, of His very character that has been instilled in us. We’re embarrassed and are constantly comparing ourselves to a higher standard, a measure of which to be.
We hide and live in shame of our choices and pasts. The thing is, those aren’t the present. Past implies things long ago, things gone, things no longer a part of who we are. And I can’t help but think of how incredibly unhealthy that is! Who, after overcoming an enormous struggle in their lives, enjoys looking back and focusing on the horridness of what they used to be? Are we masochists, that we want to inflict the painful shame on ourselves, like a whip, lashing the memories as if it’s some deserved punishment for what we were?
We are called to leave the past behind and ‘be a new creation’, ‘all things made new’… In the Message translation, it explains it a little differently, perhaps more clearly:
“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you… And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. . It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better…. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good…You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. … From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. ” Colossians 3:3-14
Don’t you see? Why are we comparing ourselves to something obtained already? We no longer are defined by a past that labels and compares. By a culture that contrasts and judges. We have already a way of being, a way of living, that is intrinsic in who He is. How can we compare ourselves, our image, to the one by whom our image is reflected?
I believe that a lot of time we get caught up in who we should be or who we were, that we forget who we are. We are not defined by our pasts. We are defined by Christ. We reflect an image, we do not distort it, because a reflection is constant, unchangeable due to the steadfastness of the object it mirrors.
God is constant. Unchangeable. Steadfast. And in light of His saving grace, so are we before Him.