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Lead Me On: I Love Me, I Love Me Not

What we think about ourselves matters

Former NBC anchor Brian Williams has had a rough 2015, and last month it got worse.

His viewing audience was informed earlier this year that Williams lied about certain experiences he claimed happened to him during his time reporting in war-torn Afghanistan, and after several months of suspension it looks as if he will not return to the anchor chair.

Pundits say Williams lied because he felt insecure about colleagues with more substantial war and journalism experience. Maybe so, but surely a prime spot in our culture’s coveted television news anchor chair could boost his self-talk into a feel-good-about-himself status?


At the end of the day, that did not fuel a confidence in him that was, well, confident.

As believers, we can sigh in pious relief because we know how to turn to God for our assurance, strength, and sense of self-worth.

Except at the end of the day, that regularly does not fuel a confidence that is, well, confident. For many of us, at our core is still a resistance to confidently do what is ours to do, and, in turn, leave to God what is God’s to do.

Why? Because we pretty much doubt that he will. A lot of the time, we don’t even know what that means.

Which leaves us in a position not unlike Williams’. If I am out to sea here, I had better start crafting my own lifeboat. And that is going to require some exaggerations, because I know that what I have to offer is not going to cover me all the way.

Case in point: Abraham.

A few pages after Abraham set out to a new land and a new life with the one true God, Abraham pawned his wife off as his sister to get in good with an ungodly Pharaoh.

This was not a God-is-my-shield-my-very-great-reward kind of thing to do. This looked more like an I’m-alone-in-this-and-I’d-better-handle-it-myself kind of thing to do.

Handle it myself, meaning: lie. I get it that the Pharaoh might have otherwise killed him, but still.

Bible readers might hope this behavior was a rarity.

Except that it showed up as early as page 10.

And Abraham did it twice.

The second time Abraham did this, he had already experienced an incalculable, game-changing berith, or covenant, that differentiates the God of this Bible from any god before or since.

In other words, Abraham knew God. He had every intention of counting on God all his livelong days. A lot of the time, he did.

And then? He did not.

Even stalwarts with an indefatigable faith become…fatigued. This place is exhausting. Earth, at its heart, is fatigable.

In those fatiguing hours, you’d better know who you are.

Abraham’s story reads like a character who sometimes lost his sense of self.

Don’t we all?

When Abraham feared he could not ensure the outcome with these kings, he drew on what he thought would do just that, counterfeit an answer though it was.

That strategy did not work for Brian Williams. It didn’t work for Abraham either, and in fact it messed up a lot of things for the people around him.

Too much of ourselves makes unreachable the parts God wishes to occupy. Too little of ourselves makes unreachable the people and tasks God wishes to use our hands and feet to accomplish.

Who are we? We are people who are incapable of ensuring an outcome. We can do a lot, but the proverbial chips will fall where they may, largely directed by influences outside of our control.

Our job? Fight like a dog with a bone anyway.

This goes against our human condition, which is colored by a pendulum-swing effect between an “I can and must do at all costs” self-drive and an “I can’t and must acquiesce to that fact” apathy.

This either-or is a most subtle lie. Most of life is more accurately spent walking a tightrope of a radical other thing altogether, otherwise known as walking boldly forward, with a loyalty to what guides rather than what results.

We are all guided by something. As believers, we have the distinct privilege of being guided by an enormously involved parent.

Who is that parent? A lot of things, but in the face of personal identity crisis, Abraham found this parent is especially personal.

He works through the least likely characters, who drive a point home in so personal a manner that we cannot mistake the persistent voice of our father, who will love us, rescue us, rework us, but will not placate a lesser version of us.

This is why the good shepherd in the “lost sheep” parable went off to look for the one lost sheep out of the herd­—because try as we might, none of us is the 99.

God knows this and is ready to be God in light of it. Are you ready to be you?

To be a friend. To be a leader. To believe. To follow God’s calling. You are going to have to step out in the flawed but usable package known as you. Anything less will surreptitiously avoid spiritual pruning, which then undermines spiritual growth, which further debilitates our skills to apply biblical understanding.

That would be sad, because God went to so much bother over you, what with all the “knitting together” and “wonderfully made” business. And that wasn’t even the half of it.

If ever there was a good example that the culture and its glitz alone will not buy one a good self-esteem, the Williams situation would have to rank pretty high.

The question, then, is for us. If we believe in way more than the glitz of culture, all the way over to a full-on confidence in God, will we let that translate into believing in ourselves in such a way that activates our hands and feet according to his promptings?

He wishes we would.

Janelle Alberts’ writing shines a lighthearted spotlight on Bible character plotlines and trending pop culture train wrecks. Prophets and prime time could not look further apart, until things get personal, in which case, we all have a lot more in common than we thought. Alberts tackles this concept for parenting and faith publications, and can be found at www.janellealberts.wordpress.com.

July02, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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