Last week, on our family vacation in Mineral Point, our oldest granddaughter Emily and I were on a walk when she spotted a large totem pole down a side street. We detoured off our path to investigate. I’m always open to “the road less traveled.” Many times I have found treasures there. Many times God has spoken to me on that road.
Well, this was no exception. In addition to a totem pole, turtle, and various other wildlife carved out of a tree in the front yard of this residence, there was a life size carving of a bear in a Chicago Bears uniform undeniably overpowering a wimpy opponent wearing green and gold. Rendering him totally ineffective. (I have to admit I had mixed emotions being that I grew up in Chicago.) At first glance, I wasn’t sure what point God was trying to make on this detour.
But I soon realized there really was a treasure on this road less traveled. In the front yard there was also one of those Free Library book-sharing boxes. Emily is an avid reader and I felt she needed a distraction from the creepy statues so of course we opened the box and that was when I found the treasure.
There were only a few books to choose from but the one staring back at me was titled Growing in the Virtues of Jesus by Rev. Quentin Hakenewerth SM and published by The North American Center for Marianist Studies. It is meant to be used as a group study. (Or good material for a series of blogs!)
The opening paragraphs of Chapter One read:
Every one of us is born with all the potential we need to become a happy, mature person. We have what is necessary to learn to deal effectively with the situations of our everyday life. The makings are there, but they do need to be developed.
This image of our true self contains all the outlines of the very best that we can be. In fact, it reflects the very qualities of God: love, knowledge, creativity, wisdom, strength, goodness, kindness. From our beginning these qualities of God are like seeds in us.
That is what it means to be made in the image of God (GN 1:27).
We are born with an inner capacity and disposition to become more and more like God. These inner tendencies are something like the genes of our physical body. At conception there are already patterns present which determine how we will grow and what we will look like- the color of our eyes, the pigment of our skin, our sex, and so on. Our genes orient our development in a certain direction.
So it is with the true image of ourselves as a person. God created us in this image and it forms the foundation and orientation towards the best we can possibly become.
Ponder that. Just as the seeds of our physical uniqueness were planted in us at conception, the seeds of our best self, our true self have been planted in us also, by the Creator. We have all we need to develop that true self to maturity! The person God created us to be is already there, we just have to develop it.
It goes on to say:
Jesus is the pattern for our own development into full maturity in complete inner freedom and self-worth. Our endeavor, then, is to take on the virtues and attitudes of Jesus, which build up our true self: a vibrant, engaging personality filled with a sense of self-worth.
Ponder that. Who doesn’t want complete inner freedom, self-worth and a vibrant, engaging personality?? We just need to pattern our lives after Jesus. We have been given the blueprint for all of that in the virtues of Jesus.
So what is stopping you and I from developing to maturity and living out our lives as our true self?
The opening paragraph of Chapter Two reads:
When we try to live out of our true self by the virtues of Jesus, we find there is already a false self established and operating. We call it our ego.
Ponder that. Early on our ego was established. We started early building an image of who we are and what makes us worthwhile. Then we began the arduous task of feeding our ego. Our ego has deeply ingrained in us the false notion that our sense of self-worth comes through achievement, credit, or merit. That follows us throughout our lives until we open our eyes and become aware of the truth. But that is a topic for next week’s blog! Stay tuned.
So we have to contend with our ego if we are going to model our lives after Jesus. And what a formidable opponent it is. What a powerful force has been at work in us for a very long time, trying to tackle our true self and render it ineffective, wimpy.
Hmm….You think maybe God does use creepy carvings to make a point?