Don’t nobody drop realer truths or more major keys than me, alone, in my room.
The wit. The humor. The accuracy. I am in awe of my private running commentary on life.
But that’s just the problem. In reality, my thoughts aren’t all that great. Sometimes I think the dumbest things. Sometimes I say them out loud. Yet my opinion of myself doesn’t falter. How come? Is this okay?
It might have been a little harder to maintain any delusions about how great I am if I lived in the time of the Israelites. Deuteronomy 23 makes this clear when it takes some time to dive into the rules about uncleanness and serving in God’s temple.
The chapter starts with a list of people with certain ailments and even of certain nationalities who can’t serve in the temple. That sounds unfair.
It then goes on to slam the Israelites for the uncleanness of really normal body functions, like wet dreams (“nocturnal emission”, verse 10) and moving one’s bowels.
The Israelites have to be careful about all of these things, Moses explains, because God is moving through their camp, and they don’t want Him to “see among you anything indecent and turn away from you” (verse 14).
Is that a real threat?
I mean, we all know that the Lord, the Creator of the universe, the Architect of our world, isn’t offended by our bodies working the way He made them to work.
Still, these first few verses of the chapter sting. It’s rejection after rejection after rejection, and it doesn’t feel right. We don’t deserve this kind of treatment, our hearts cry. God’s lucky to have us.
But isn’t that the problem? We think the world of ourselves. We pat ourselves on the back for reading the Bible, especially if we pause a little bit to reflect on the words. We are inspired by our own church attendance and we smile with pride at our daily prayers.
Even if we don’t do those things, we’re proud of ourselves for being individuals. We think we’re pretty great for connecting with God in our own way. We wish we could tell more people about how we’ve found something that works, or about our discovery that we’re imperfect, and that’s beautiful.
We think we’re awesome.
But this chapter swiftly pulls us back down to earth: we’re not.
The smallest things, the most basic things about ourselves are still unclean to God. Not because He’s grossed out by us, but because He is so much better than us.
That’s an understatement. He’s so much higher than us. That’s an understatement, too; what I mean is that He is the definition, the origin of Perfection, and we are so full of Imperfection that it’s insane that He even thinks of us.
And even that is an understatement.
We’re not supposed to think things like this. We’re supposed to shun guilt and shame and remind ourselves that we are, in reality, royalty.
And while it’s true that God loves us wildly and that guilt and shame and self-hate are not what He wants for us, at the same time it’s true that we don’t deserve Him.
We are not good people. We are evil and wicked and unclean. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can realize and accept our need for God. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we will cling to God and never let go. And the sooner we realize that, the sooner we’ll realize that this world is not our home.
After all, this world is filled to the brim with other evil, wicked, unclean and not good people. They’ve done horrible things in the past. They’re doing horrible things right now. They’re planning on doing horrible things in the future.
Yet our opinion of this world doesn’t falter much. We want Jesus to come back, but not too soon. We anchor our greatest joys, hopes and dreams on the entertainment, the careers, the opportunities that exist here on earth. Deep down, we don’t even think people really need Jesus because they’re doing fine on their own.
We have to fall out of love with ourselves, with this earth, with what we know. We have to see ourselves for who we really are – doomed and broken and in desperate need of salvation.
If God has to surprise us, to make us uncomfortable in order to help us do that? So be it!
He’s doing it to save our souls.
“You are nothing without me.”
That’s hard. It feels weird. Everywhere else, we’re being taught that our worth shouldn’t come from anywhere but within. How are we supposed to accept God’s words?
The problem with all the talk of loving yourself and inner worth is that it ignores all the wrong that we have done. We are the people who hurt the ones we’re supposed to love. We are the people who self-destruct. We are the people who enslaved Africans for hundreds of years. We are the people who think less of a person because of their gender or the color of their skin. We are the people who rounded up Jewish people and tortured them to death. We are the people who hate and kill and abuse and destroy every single day.
No, you may not have done all of these things personally, but the point is that we did it. Humanity did it. But we can’t accept this until we fall out of love with ourselves. We can’t start fighting for salvation, for freedom from ourselves, until we fall out of love with ourselves.
And into love with Someone new. Someone who is so much better, so much higher, so unendingly perfect that we will soon realize that He is all we need.
So what are we waiting for? Break up with yourself. Let’s try a new love on for size.