Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
There was once a False Ethan. He was vanquished and buried a few years back, but pulled a Napolean and returned with a vengance to rule for a time, before being overthrown again and buried.
False Ethan isn’t just a past truth, however. He fights me for control every single day, and sometimes he even wins and gains control for a few hours. But he usually gets quickly buried again.
I am Ethan; he is not. He never was. He was never anything but a creation, a lie. He was the information that was carefully scrutinized before being posted on Facebook. He was the specially chosen profile pictures. You see what I’m getting at?
There’s a you that isn’t you. There’s a you that you present to the world, and then there’s the you that’s real. I’m rather of the mindset that you can’t help this until you’ve experienced this crisis of duality and overcome it. I, of course, am partial to the thought that overcoming it requires the help of the Holy God.
This idea of the False Self hit me much, much harder than many I know. This False Self, this False Ethan, is infinitely more dangerous to me because of my past, because of my personality, because of everything about me. As of this writing, I tend to think that the False Ethan is more dangerous to me than anything else in the totality of existence that I can think of.
This Ethan that I tried to show the rest of the world wasn’t me, and I knew it, but I spent so much time and effort attempting to maintain this false self that I bought my own lie.
I don’t have a Facebook anymore, because don’t trust myself to accurately be me on it. A Facebook account, with my name on it, would be better if the username and passwords were held by my friends and family, and all pictures, information, updates, etc. left to them. That would be a Facebook profile that would truly belong to Ethan Thomas.
You see, I only posted profile pictures that I liked. Ones in which I thought I looked good; showed my physical appearance in the best possible light. I posted updates about things that I wanted others to think I was interested in. I altered my favorites tabs to include things that I thought would catch the attention of whatever cute guy I was trying to impress at the time. Or, if there wasn’t a guy to impress, whatever group of people I thought it would be most beneficial to give a favorable impression of myself to. The Ethan that would take form there wasn’t really real.
That’s because I’ve spent my life attempting to be anything other than what or who I am. What and who I am was never good enough, so I decided that authenticity needed to be more fluid. If I could change who Ethan Thomas was at will, then I could become whatever those around me needed or wanted me to be. Or at least what I thought they needed or wanted me to be.
That, by the way, is a terrible idea. Do not follow that example. Ever.
From the time I was a very, very small boy I had practiced this. You get good at what you practice. So you see, by the time I was old enough to have a Facebook profile – in my later college years, when Facebook was brand new – I was already a pathological liar. There really wasn’t ever much hope for my Facebook profile to be real, was there?
Because how can the electronic Ethan be authentic, when the flesh-and-blood Ethan was trapped and dominated by my Napoleanic False Ethan? False Ethan ruled with an iron fist, and almost never encountered resistance. In the manner of the French Revolution, False Ethan would casually delete all of history and rewrite it as he wished it to be. The truth of who I was, where I was from, and what I was like was subject to whomever I was talking to and what I felt like that particular day.
See what I mean? More deadly than the most potent poisons.
And the lies were so alarmingly, expertly crafted. After two decades of practice, I had become a sort of professional. All that I had ever thought was required of a human being to be something, to be important, to be valued, loved, cherished, and esteemed was summed up in my constant falsehoods.
In other words, the lies were necessary to me, because from where I was standing, I could never be what I thought I needed to be without them. There was a me that should be, and the only way to be that was to fake it.
Okay, all that to say this:
Paul writes in Philippians about this False Self. Not mine; he’s talking about his, of course. It’s right here:
If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
Paul’s False Self was, of course, everything he thought important to ever be anyone. The only difference between myself and Paul was that he lived his out. Mine could never be lived out because there was never any substance to it. Paul’s false self would have sustained a background check, and mine would have crumbled hopelessly.
But that doesn’t really matter at all, because Paul goes on to say that all of it, real or not, really isn’t real at all. Not to God. Not before God. Anything we think we need to be something or someone is not at all what God says is valuable or worthwhile. Therefore, anything we strive towards to make ourselves succeed is feeding a False Self. To drop all of that – anything that we ever thought was ever even a tiny bit important – and to listen only to what God speaks to us. To listen to God’s definition of important, of value, and of who exactly we’re supposed to be.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection, and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
I really, really like this part of Philippians. I read it for years and years and never got these ideas out of it. [My thanks to Pastor Trey Hall of Urban Village Church in Chicago!] It brings new meaning to the power of resurrection, to living life. It reinforces the gospel, it shows us that the gospel is good for much, much more than good news for someday, when we die. It’s good for today, for our authenticity with our Creator today. The power of Christ’s resurrection acts today as well.
Today, the power of Christ’s resurrection resurrects the Real Ethan, and establishes him as the Living God’s viceroy over this body, this soul, this spirit. It vanquishes yet again the False Ethan, and binds him and banishes him. As the Viceroy of the Living God over my existence, I choose to step into that post. I choose to look to the Throne, from whence my authority comes, for direction, for life, for worth. The only things that matter come from my King. All else is, as Paul so eloquently puts, garbage.
That’s rubbish. (That one’s for you, Shawn.)
In the Greek, the word is much less polite. It’s shit.
The old life? What I was once about? It’s shit.
Today I reinforce that, I make that commitment to the Living God again.
And I’ll have to do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
Slowly the Spirit of the Living God continues to transform me from the inside out, and on the Last Day I hope that Papa will tell me that we did well, we made it through, and he carried me along in spectacular fashion.
Thank you, Almighty and Everlasting God.