I can still remember walking into the gym during our Freshman dance, where the college newbies met for an icebreaker the second day of the first semester. I had this cocky attitude trolling for the best-looking girl in the room. Me and a couple buddies of mine. Not that I knew what the plan was. But I sure knew I wanted to get noticed. It was kinda like John Travolta strolling onto the dance floor in his white suit ready to impress. (Saturday Night Fever) I think Stayin’ Alive (the movies theme song) was rolling around in my head while I was setting the pace to the music with each step I took. Remember that opening scene? Oh boy. What the heck was that all about?
I do know this. I wasn’t alone in carrying this image of someone I wanted to be or at least wanted to be perceived as. My “act” together at the ripe old age of 18. Someone that was going places. Never mind I didn’t even know where the bathroom was. I got this life figured out and I’m gonna look like something special, even if I look like an idiot doing it.
That my friends was the image of my false-self. The one that I created absent knowing what life was really about. You see, I was carrying around that age-old question without an answer. Do I have what it takes? What it takes to make my mark on this world, to be significant, to be noticed, to be special, and for people to like me. My definition of success was everything the world thought was important. Prestige, money, power. All opposite of what Jesus modeled in His life and leadership style. The first will be last and last will be first. I was already dreaming of strolling into the board room with the same level of swag and impressiveness as I exhibited strolling into that dance. To the beat of Stayin’ Alive, minus the brown platform shoes, two slices of pizza in my left hand and a gallon of paint in my right, swaying in perfect harmony to each beat of the music.
What followed was decades of uncertainty around my true-identity. The true-self that God created me to be. I chased dream after dream looking for the answer to something that was right in front of me. I am so thankful today that God thwarted every effort to get my needs met in the stuff never intended for that purpose. Stuff accumulated during the rise and fall of a consulting business grounded in self-centered motives. My ’85 Lincoln Town Car lost in a flash flood, my condo in Antigua that had to be sold to survive a financial crisis along with an oceanfront property in North Carolina, my boat on the Chesapeake which sunk then burned (long story), travel all over the country and in foreign lands that ended abruptly after a failed business. All as a result of working for the wrong reasons. Working to create this false narrative of who I really was. This imposter of sorts. God thwarted me to save me from myself and the wiles of the enemy. The one that would destroy who God created me to be.
You see the devil would love for us to believe that God is against us. He’s angry or disappointed in us. Then, like in the garden of Eden, he temps us back toward control. To build or recover our false self. I wasn’t the biggest fan of God or Satan during my late 80’s collapse, so taking the helm alone made a bunch of sense. How’d that work out for me?
The story has a happy ending, as I hope yours will. Don’t hold onto the very thing that God is removing from your life. That thing that has turned into an idol and replaced Him and His rightful place on the throne of your heart. If you are His child, He will correct you. He will thwart your efforts for independence.
“My child, don’t underestimate the value of the discipline and training of the Lord God, or get depressed when he has to correct you. For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of his faithful love. And when he draws you to himself, it proves you are his delightful child.” Hebrews 12: 5-6 (TPT)
I look back on those early days in college and career thanking God for steering me back to health. Steering me back to my true-self – away from the pursuit of my false-self. Experiencing my brokenness allowed me to put perspective to the truth of who I really am. Alive and well, grounded in love, and pursuing life in Christ. Now that’s what I was created for and so were you.