When I was a little girl, I was afraid of everything. The dark. Mirrors. Bugs. Illness. Dogs. Storms. Roller coasters. Water. All dads except my own. Loud noises. Being kidnapped. Getting lost. Choking on candy. My dolls. My closet.
It got to a point where my parents were constantly dealing with my crazy fears, reassuring me, getting frustrated with me, I’m sure, and teaching me, one baby step at a time, how to be brave. As I got older I realized that what was really happening was that I was completely self-obsessed, thinking only about how any given situation might affect me.
I started reading scripture about laying down your life for your friends, about suffering for the sake of the gospel, about dying to self. And, I read about my own Savior, Jesus, who submitted to the Father’s will in all things, despite the fact that it made for an incredibly difficult and frightening human experience. He still faced the cross and, even more, the unfathomable burden of the sins of the world, all because He was brave enough to glorify God. He was courageous enough to give Himself up for mankind.
According to the Christian worldview, real bravery has nothing at all to do with self, and everything to do with glorifying Him and loving our fellow man. And, just to be clear, any courage inside of us to do either of those things comes only from God. Truth be told, there is no real bravery or selflessness or goodness inside of us except what comes straight down from the throne of God Himself.
So, as I grew, I found myself giving Jesus the place that I had earlier reserved for myself. I stopped thinking only about my wants, fears, worries, and wishes, and started thinking more about His will. About ways that He was calling me to be brave, for His glory and for the good of others.
This is the essence of the Christian life. And, it is a daily, hour by hour, minute by minute struggle against the selfishness that plagues us as human beings. The selfishness that caused Adam and Eve to want to know what God knows. The selfishness that placed Bruce Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair this week.
He is being hailed as courageous. He is literally receiving awards for being brave. Somehow, through the past many years human society has determined that being brave means that you put yourself first. You are strong and courageous when you leave your husband so you can be happy. You are brave when you abandon your children to chase your dreams. You are a role model when you tell off a store clerk or stiff a waitress or write a passive aggressive status about someone on Facebook. Whatever you do that tells the world you don’t have the least amount of concern as to what anyone thinks, that is brave.
You see, it isn’t Bruce Jenner’s fault. Not really. He has been fed a gigantic, silicone-filled pack of lies that convinced him that whatever he wants is the bravest thing to do. Just sit still for a minute and listen to all of the ways that our culture shouts that this is truth. When you get what you want, however you can, then you have shown great courage, and we adore you,the world whispers smooth in our ears. We can almost feel the flicking serpent’s tongue: Nothing matters more than your happiness. Keep grabbing for everything you see, and don’t worry about anyone else. The hero of this hour in history is anyone who proves the utmost depths of self-obsession.
And, the ultimate irony is that self-obsession is rooted in nothing more than plain old fear. What a world, that will take one of the most terrified and panicked among us and hold him up as an example of bravery.
The Bruce Jenners of the world will keep trying in their desperate, frightened ways to find honor in self-obsession. And, this world will continue to honor them.
But, we are not of this world.
One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. The days of self-obsession will be gone forever. May we have the God-given courage to live for Him each day until then, even in a world that tells us to live only for ourselves. Be brave: Love God and love people.