It was great that John the Baptist made a point of identifying himself as “not God”. I think that is more important than I fully realize. On a typical day, I doubt many people assume themselves to be God, yet I think I for one share Adam and Eve’s pull to be my own god, determining for myself (and others) what is right in my own eyes. It is why I am so skilled at critiquing how others make their decisions, use their words and where they devote their energy, money and talents. I like to think I have enough knowledge and experience to judge properly what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong.
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:12 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Is. 55:8-9 Ever since the serpent posed the tempting questions in the Garden, there has been enormous pressure to identify ourselves apart from God. “Sure, sure, I know I’m not God, but here is how you should know I am God-like…” We then proceed to let people know who we know so that we can be elevated in their eyes by our associations. We choose clothes, furniture fabric and fixtures to make it clear that we in “in the know” and not excluded from such style omniscience. And our insiders knowledge grants us authority to both judge and stand in superiority to others who seem to be lacking such awareness. We stay as up to date on the happenings in the news and in the neighborhood to also prove our omniscience rather than ignorance. We volunteer to be the one to get something accomplished to demonstrate our omnipotence. “No, No, I am not God, but compared to you, I am closer.” Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— Matt. 20:25-27 What?! NO! That is my honest response. The first will be last and the last will be first does not make sense. The first will be first and I want to be first. “Not so” Jesus reminds me gently. He “made Himself nothing” to do this. Make myself nothing? That makes even less sense. I can aim for last place but what does it look like to aim for nothingness? I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:20 It means I stop worrying about convincing others of my God-likeness and and am content to find my identity in Him alone. What would that kind of “glory self” look like? It might mean when people come to “see” my house, I feel less naked before them because I am clothed in Jesus and not my house’s appeal. It might mean that being grouped with the “cool” kids has less significance because I begin to see all the groups as they stand before Jesus in His Kingdom and not as we stand in arbitrary judgment of one another now. This means I can be naked and unashamed (hopefully not literally!) when asked about who I know, where my kids go to school, what I do or what my husband does because I would be free from needing to prove any god-like identity apart from God. So what is the point of being nothing if we’ve been given breath, life, talents and passions for being something? I have been made to image the One who is the Creator, Redeemer, Lover, Sustainer and Life-Giver of His whole creation. This is the same One who did His work by considering Himself nothing, laying down His right to be worshiped and glorified to get down and dirty at work, to be misunderstood, to be mocked and even physically beaten. The “nothing” has to do with my own rights and desire to be worshiped and glorified. The “something” is to pick up and share His cross to bring life and value to the others who He created, serving as His image before them. And here is where grace comes in: I am not “nothing” to God, nor am I invisible to Him. He has rescued my soul from decay, my heart from hardening, my mind from numbness and my life from the pit! He has breathed life into dry bones, offers constant Living Water to my otherwise dry and weary body, restores my strength and gives light to my eyes. When I sing about the Lord as the one who “gives and takes away”, it should be clear that He takes away the curse of death and replaces it with abundant life. I can’t always see that the prescription for “abundant life” that my culture offers is actually like arsenic to my soul, because that fruit from the tree looks so mouth watering. But He gives me more grace! May my own heart one day soon be able to answer the question, “Who am I?” with the words of Paul to Timothy: one who takes “hold of the life that is truly life” and freely and joyfully lets all else go.