When faced with a challenge, we may have received advice, “just be yourself”. But if we’re anxious, frightened and insecure, maybe we don’t want to be ourself– or that version of ourself. The desire to find “our true self” stands at the root of much within our contemporary culture. Identity is fiercely defended. We demand the right to live out our chosen identity, whatever that may be right now.
Into this debate, Screwtape’s 13th letter provides some insights from the depths of hell. Chapter 13 can be downloaded here:
The flip of Screwtape’s advice (for that is the filter we employ when reading his letters) seems to be that we are most truly ‘ourself’ when we give up self-will and find our identity in relationship with God and his people. Still enjoying all the good that we uniquely value– (even county cricket and coco!)– we are never emptied of personality or sensibility or verve. Rather, we are absolutely secure, at rest, and satisfied when we know ourself to be loved by God.
Further, we might meditate on what God says of us in scripture.
1 LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. 2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!Psalm 8
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.Romans 8:15-17