Ego ego everywhere and not a drop to drink

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock… All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
– 1 Peter 5:2-3,5-7
Ego. God has been really challenging me (Matt) about ego recently and opening my eyes to see just how much of it exists within me and the world around me, and how much it is corrupting our views of God, church, and this Christian life we are called to.
We are fairly familiar with the extreme forms of this: perhaps most embodied by those partaking in The Apprentice and their ludicrous, edging delusional, self-claims of wonder and grandeur. However, despite thinking I could do a half-decent job managing some of those tasks, I have no desire to be on that sort of stage or carry that level of swagger. No, for us, I think, the challenge of ego runs in a more hidden, accepted, and slightly insidious way through our lives and culture.
There are three main areas I have seen this ego recently, and have been challenged about, that I want to briefly address: the way we drive towards leadership, our belief that our relationship with God is extraordinary, and our distaste for any season of life that is difficult.
It seems like everywhere you go in Christianity, there is a drive to be a leader. We think it is the aim of discipleship, we encourages our youth to aspire it, and we turn those who are “successful” leaders into celebrities. But does the Bible truly elevate leadership like this? Paul does tell Timothy that¬†aspiring to be an elder is a good thing, but in Paul’s culture an elder was a man who led from a place of age & experience, you became an elder by surviving life, not by achievement. The real drive behind the Bible is not to be a leader, but to be a servant (and not to be a servant-hearted leader, just a servant). Our egotistical drive to “make a difference” and to find our value in what we accomplish has led to the church no longer fully embracing the real calling of Christianity, to lay down our lives.
St. John of the cross famously called it “the dark night of the soul,” so how do we deal with the seasons of life where God seems quiet? In my experience, not very well – but with resentment, doubt, self-loathing, anger, and fear. Our egos lead us to believe that we are meant to be the heroes of our stories, and so when we read the stories of the unique people that God called to special purposes (Is 6:8) throughout history, we assume that we are no different. Warriors, prophets, kings, miracle-workers; we imagine walking in all of their shoes. But do we? We are taught the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, when Paul actually taught that our bodies collectively form one temple, not many (original text 1 Cor 6:19). The thought of each of us harnessing God’s power is way more attractive than God dwelling in our communities, but lacks truth. Maybe we’d handle the “dark nights” better if we held a more realistic view of our place.
Finally, we live in a society plagued with a compulsive obsession to run away from anything even close to being painful, uncomfortable, or inconvenient. Our ego drives us to think we deserve better, that we have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – and yet so many of the deepest joys of life are found when the storms are raging. It is in the soil saturated in blood, sweat, and tears that God’s kingdom bursts forth in new life and growth; it is here that the leaves of healing for the nations are harvested.
Where do you see ego in your life and theology?

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