Friday, August 31, 2012

Do you know who you are?

We have all read in scientific books, and indeed in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is.

This quote from G. K. Chesterton opens the first chapter of Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places by Chuck DeGroat. I started it this morning, and several points have already hit me -- hard. I think this is going to be a wild ride!

Instead of adding my own commentary, I'll simply let them find their own target:
  • "Identity erodes as ordinary people lose themselves in their personal Egypts. If you stick around Egypt, you lose your true story, and sooner or later, you'll come to believe you are a design flaw" (DeGroat, page 22).
  • "Are we not all slaves?. . . As free as we might imagine ourselves, each of us continues to wrestle with the 'old self' (Colossians 3:9), parts of us that have never left the slavery of Egypt for the flourishing we are made for" (DeGroat, page 15).
  • Another quote from Henri Nouwen followed Chesterton's: "But now I realize that the real sin is to deny God's first love for me, to ignore my original goodness. Because without claiming that first love and that original goodness for myself, I lose touch with my true self and embark on a destructive search among the wrong people and in the wrong places for what can only be found in the house of my Father."
  • DeGroat went on to explain this quote in light of Calvin's "total depravity" doctrine. We are all a mess. "But Calvinists also believe that God made the world --and us-- good, in fact very good (Genesis 1:31). We can only grasp the doctrine of original sin if we first grasp original goodness" (page 20).
  • He explains Nouwen's quote: "Sin's real devastation is in it's strange capacity to erase our memories, to cause us to forget our noble origins" (page 20).
I can definitely relate to those "desert times,"  which is one thing that drew me to this book. And I'm also fully aware that those desert times have brought me closest to God. I've come to understand myself and God better. But the big a-ha, and what I think might be a theme in the reading of this book is that I don't really have to understand myself better. God already knows.

As I was reading this morning, this song from Jason Gray sprung to mind. Doesn't it fit perfectly with the thoughts from this first chapter?


Trish said...

Pretty powerful stuff! The very first quote at the top of the post made me think of the verse in James 1 about walking away from a mirror and immediately forgetting what you look like:

"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."

(I wrote this before listening to the song and then realized he references the same verse in his opening lines - very cool!)

Carrie said...

Sooounds goooood!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Hmmm... The book definitely sounds intriguing. I'll have to keep my eye on this one. And the song is a new one to me. Good stuff!