The Real Me

Recently beleaguered Illinois Senator Roland Burris defended himself from accusations of impropriety by stating, "Stop the rush to judgment. You know the real Roland. I have done nothing wrong and I have absolutely nothing to hide." Whether or not Senator Burris has anything to hide—something to be decided by officials and not bloggers—his defense reveals a common view of our human nature – that we have a “real me.” We use this idea to express our impression that we have been misunderstood in some way and especially when we feel the need to defend ourselves against accusation. Like Roland Burris we nearly always use the term to allude to a better self, a more pure center.

Christians have a unique perspective on our real selves, something to the contrary of Burrisesque center of stainlessness. Tobias Wolff tells of his discovery of an altogether less-than-pure real self. Wolff, one of America's finest writers, describes the moment when he had such an experience. He was waiting to visit a priest for confession attempting to think of some single sin to confess when,

“I thought about what to confess, but could not break my sense of being at fault down to its components. Trying to get a particular sin out of it was like fishing a swamp, where you feel the tug of something that at first seems promising and then resistant and finally hopeless as you realize that you’ve snagged the bottom, that you have the whole planet on the other end of your line” (This Boy's Life).

That sense of hopelessness is the mark of a self-realization which is the more honest appreciation of our real selves than the type of self we allude to in defensive moments. We do not peer inside ourselves and find a solid pool ball of goodness which, when seen by others, reveals our true and pure selves to the onlooking world. Rather, we see our rich supply of self justification, propensity for dishonesty and outright selfishness.

We are not without hope, however, as Good Friday reminds us. This annual memorial to the death of the savior is often glossed over in favor of the feast of Easter, but should be lingered in a little longer. The feasting marking the resurrection day on Sunday is only celebratory if Good Friday is understood. For it is reflection on the crucifixion which brings about a knowledge of our true self. As the late Richard John Neuhaus writes,

“Every human life, conceived from eternity and destined to eternity, here finds its story truly told. In this killing that some call senseless we are brought to our senses. Here we find out who we most truly are, because here is the One who is what we are called to be. The derelict cries, “Come follow me.” Follow Him there? We recoil. We close our eyes. We hurry on to Easter. But we will not know what to do with Easter's light if we shun the friendship of the darkness that is wisdom's way to light” (Death on a Friday Afternoon).

Wisdom's way to light leads to a road of self-discovery which does not provide for us comfortable self assurance. Rather it leaves us with the knowledge of our lack, and consequently our need for a new “real me.” Can the old one be patched up? Not really, it is a little beyond repair. What is needed is a whole new engine, a heart transplant, a do-over, a rebirth. And a re-birth is what the dying savior offers. Through trusting in His death and resurrection, we are given a new life. Or, as Paul calls it, a new creation, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (1 Corinthians 5:17)

"Roland Burris: 'Stop the rush to judgment' Clout Street - local political coverage." The Swamp - Chicago Tribune - Blogs. 09 Mar. 2009 .

Neuhaus, Richard John. Death on a Friday Afternoon Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. New York: Basic Books, 2001.

Wolff, Tobias. This Boy's Life A Memoir. New York: Grove P, 2000.


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