Thursday, April 12, 2007

What blinds the eyes?

How does one find happiness and fulfillment in life? How does the call to authentic leadership factor into this search? Why do I want to lead? Jesus addressed this human, existential cry for meaning with a paradoxical approach: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." (Luke 9:23-24, NIV).

The self-denial that Jesus is speaking about is the denial of the false, illusion-driven self that shadow us, self created in our quest to be the source of our lives. Thomas Merton in his great book, "The New Seeds of Contemplation" gives a great description of the nature of the false self and how it is the origin of dysfunctional, sin behavior: “All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge, and love to cloth this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to my self and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.”

Who do we struggle to focus on the inner presence of Jesus as the source of our lives? For me, one of the better descriptions of this often misdirected focus on that which is outward and external, is found in the lyrics of Sam Phillips' great song, "Five Colors" (from Fan Dance - 2001). Even though Phillips is obviously speaking about her own struggle within the music industry, the lyrics do speak poetically about the futility of following the "false self" and the promise of the "small, forgotten road":
I don't mind if I am getting nowhere
Circling the seed of light
I've been greedy for some destination
I can't get to where are you?
Turning reverie to perfect solids
Bone and shells to hide ourselves
I tried but can't find refuge in the angle
I'll walk the mystery of the curve

Five colors blinds the eyes
See the world inside
Amazed alone

Opening my hands
closing wounds I made myself
Raise the dead and bury all my fears
Listen to the rain
And the bells that ring in my dreams
Turning time to break it's line from here
To the small, forgotten road
Where we see the concrete world disintegrating

Authentic Christian Leadership starts with the denial of the "false self" and the acceptance of the "true self" created in the Image of God through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul gives us clear directions: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. " (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)