“When we start by being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers. That means we are not only in the world, but also of the world. Then we become what the world makes us. We are intelligent because someone gives us a high grade. We are helpful because someone says thanks. We are likable because someone likes us. And we are important because someone considers us indispensable. In short, we are worthwhile because we have successes. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life.” Henri Nouwen, Show Me the Way.
Identity can be elusive. One day we are convinced we know who we are and the next we might be spinning in confusion. We are confident in one moment and completely unsure the next. We wait to hear what people will say to us and about us. We perform and measure. We watch others perform and we re-measure. This form of self-identification is consistently shifty and notoriously erroneous. The internal scoreboard that we run in our own minds and heart gives us a false boost as quickly as it can send us plummeting into the pits.
In a culture that demands more and more of our time, energies and affections, our internal scoreboards are constantly shifting if they are based on anything other than grace. This grace is only possible because of Christ. In Christ we given grace and this grounds and sustains us. When we base our worth and identity on our abilities, our function and our production then we will constantly swing between thinking we have everything to offer and thinking we have nothing to offer.
This self-focused posture is in radical opposition to the truth of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us grace. We need grace to become Christians and to live as Christians. We need to be reminded of the gospel again and again and again. We need to be reminded again and again that we stand on grace. The gospel gives us grace and we continue to learn to stand on it rather than on our own work. Remember grace. Receive grace. Stand on grace.