Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 NLT
One of the great crises in our contemporary culture is the struggle to find oneself. This is, of course, the tragic result of our abandonment of the Biblical doctrine of creation. In that context, it is the Creator who defines our identity and who gives us the grace to make of that identity all that it might possibly become. But we now, thinking that all things are the result of mindless chance, must somehow, by force of will, choose what will be written on the blank page of our life. When we bring into that cauldron, the Biblical thought that we must surrender our self to our Creator, the contemporary person runs away screaming.
But think of this illustration: you and I are clear glasses. Perhaps you are a crystal goblet and I am a rather shapeless juice glass. We are both filled with a clear gas that is heavier than air and is corrosive to glass. If that gas, call it self-centeredness, remains in you and me, it will one day eat its way through us and destroy us. Since it is clear and we are clear, it is very difficult to discern our actual shape from any distance. (Have you noticed how boringly similar self-centered people are?)
Let us suppose that for some reason we cannot be picked up and turned over so that the gas could flow out and away. And anyway, we each think that gas is me. Without it I would be nothing. Yet it is steadily destroying us. What is to be done? Suppose a golden elixir could be poured into us. As it slowly rises, the corrosive gas is displaced. Then, wonder of wonders, as that golden liquid fills us, conforming to our shape, that unique shape can be seen for all that it truly is, you as a goblet, me as a juice glass, but in each case who we are really meant to be.
You see what I am saying: when the golden Spirit of Jesus fills us, erasing our self-centeredness, it is then that our true, God-given self can be seen. He does not wish to erase our self, but rather that self-centeredness that is killing us, making the self he created for the first time fully seen.