The Vertical Self
The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in An Age of Self Obsession
March 2, 2010
224 pp., $13.49
When I was growing up, if someone used the word sexy, they were almost always describing a person. I now read about sexy football plays, sexy economic policies, sexy art galleries. It became truly bizarre when a U.S. military general described a bombing raid on the Taliban as "sexy stuff," and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said an intelligence report needed to be "sexed up." A pastor friend once told me his ministry needed to be sexier!
Cultural critic Ariel Levy writes [that], "for something to be noteworthy it must be 'sexy.' Sexiness is no longer just about being arousing or alluring; it's about being worthwhile." Banks, herb gardens, and universities can all wear the public mask of "sexiness." It is the perfect outerwear in the age of the horizontal self.
The 14th-century English mystic Walter Hilton wrote clearly of the choice between accepting our true selves, which he described as being branded in the image of the Trinity of God, and accepting our unredeemed selves, or being branded in the image of "the wretched trinity"—"a state of forgetfulness of God, ignorance of him, and an animal lust for [one]self."
Hilton points out that when we embrace the false self as Adam did, we lose our honor and dignity. We bring upon ourselves a kind of self-judgment in which we fall into a forgetfulness of God, an ignorance of the fact that God is the source of all life. Cut off from this source, we find our behavior becoming less human and more animalistic. We give ourselves over to what Paul describes as "the flesh," or the Greek word sarx.
The path of holiness is about ridding ourselves of sarx, that is, anything in life—attitudes, relationships, actions, desires, or worldviews—that carries with it the spirit of death and corruption, that moves against God's intention for the world. Imagine Paul's plea to rid ourselves of our flesh as a plea to rid ourselves of that which is not our true selves.
When we take on the false self, when we create a self based solely on surface image and publicity [and sexiness], we bring the spirit of sarx upon our lives. We choose to walk away from our true selves and head in the opposite direction.
Adapted by permission of Thomas Nelson. © 2010. All rights reserved.
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