I entertain my ego in subtle ways, at least in my head.
I occasionally imagine how great it would be to write a Facebook post saying that I ran a Boston Qualifier, and how everyone will think “I didn’t know David was a legitimate runner!”
I imagine the same thing about presenting at a tech conference and getting to change my profile picture to be one of me on a stage, pointing at a giant out-of-focus slide and looking somewhat authoritative/important.
Whenever I post anything on social media, I’ll find myself checking Facebook and Twitter incessantly, hoping to see a stream of likes and comments that never comes as steadily as I’d like. I’ve even come up with a conspiracy theory that Facebook’s news feed algorithm realizes that people don’t read my content and consequently limits its visibility.
What I’m getting at is that I sense a need to prove that I’m somebody. I feel that way towards Suzi, my parents, my friends, and towards complete strangers. I even feel that way towards myself. Sometimes the need is to be highly regarded, but sometimes, the need is actually to be more highly regarded than other people. Sometimes it’s a competition to me, that’s how I know I’m truly special and not making something up in my head (you know - arbitrary standards, personal bias).
I don’t think this is something unique to me, or something that a certain demographic feels because of sociology. I do think this is a universal feeling - and not just a feeling, but a problem.
My solution to this problem was to accomplish stuff, more stuff and better stuff than everyone else. That’s why, for much of my life, the college I went to, the company I worked for, how fast I ran, and basically everything else was so important to me. They were bragging rights to the rest of the world and anytime one of those things was threatened, I took it personally, because it was all personal.
This brings me to what I mean when I talk about trusting God.
When I talk about trusting God, I primarily mean that we have this need to know that we matter, and that the only way this ever happens is by asking God to fill that need. I trust God will fulfill me rather than my reputation or my resume or another human being, which are fragile means to an impossible end. I say impossible because this ability to justify cannot be fulfilled by anything else other than God, because we were designed by God to be fulfilled by Him alone.
I don’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard and pursue excellence in all things or that if we are the victim of some wrongdoing that we shouldn’t seek justice. But the impetus would be entirely different.
We should still work hard, but our motivation is no longer because we are working to “make a name for ourselves.” Instead, that people may see our hard work and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16).
I also mean that if you end up being the victim of some wrongdoing, or are exposed as the perpetrator of some wrongdoing and people are disappointed by you, or you don’t get into the college or company that you really wanted to get into, or some sort of tragedy occurs, you are able to handle it. Not because you have particularly high self-esteem. But because you don’t need those things to feel like you matter (rather, you know you matter because you are uniquely known and loved by God).
One might think that this sort of paradigm would result in complacent and boring people, but I think the opposite is more accurate. Those who seek self-justification are slowly suffocating themselves by their work. Those who are freed from self-justification are able to work without being consumed by results, while still being compelled to work with excellence as their Justifier works with excellence.
I think trusting God means believing that God alone is enough for you, when things go well and when things go terribly. Plenty of things in your life would change if you move from distrust to trust, and plenty of your actions would stay the same. But the way you interact with everything would be different, because your life would shift from “I need justification” to “God has justified me.” This is what I talk about when I talk about trusting God.