"Cor meum tibi offerō, Domine, promptē et sincerē."
I have lived half a century (plus a couple of ticks). I became a Christian 36 years ago. I had a problem then, and I still have it. My honesty and my sincerity obviously diverge. I often shake hands with my narcissism while I "do what is right" or "seek to love" someone. Repugnance comes up when I'm trying to adjust and compensate in the most ordinary moments.
When I was a child and throughout adolescence, I did horrible things that parsed as sensible to my desires and ambitions. I regretted getting caught, and I regretted that getting caught alienated me from people. By horrible I mean both crimes and scandals. I really don't want to narrate them-- obscure, atrocious and ugly. People were reasonable if they did not trust me, wise if they protected themselves from me. I was petty and lacked more motive than pursuit of pleasure, so it generally looked like nickels and dimes-- except for occasions. Then it looked bizarre. But not to me.
I had an advantage. My parent was a clinical psychologist, and by experience knew the profound need that only psychotherapy could address. I went to therapy (twice a week for five years) because that was the way to please/appease/avoid/flank a parent whose love I craved. Most of the time in therapy I narrated what I did each day. I did on occasion spin lies-- especially about dreams. I went to bed stoned most nights, so I didn't really have a hold on many dreams; but, dreams were important to my shrink. I never went to therapy stoned, and I don't know if he had me pegged for 4 times a day stoner. One thing did happen over these years: I slowly discovered some kind of moral ambition. I wanted truth, and virtue and love. I knew about these from my family, from the discussions of race and relationships and how people should act. Our parents were enlightened southerners in the 70's, far past religion and no more than observant of customs. Honesty-- in some factual and obligated and responsible fashion-- is not the same as sincerity.
Recently, one of my adult children asked me: "why did you choose a way of believing completely different from how you grew up? Why did you stick with it?" Good eye, that. It was very obvious way back in the then of doing it, but not in a long while had I thought on the stark and white-knuckled nature of that trajectory. I knew fairly well adjusted versions of our tribal ways. I had learned to generally constrain and aim myself between the guardrails of decency. I remember deciding not to commit a rape during my senior year of high school. It didn't actually require integrity, just some waxing maturity. Decency left all sorts of leeway, and I was about to enter the freedoms of college. A few months later, another girl I was sniffing up on replied, "Because it's true."
Running after romance and sex and more-than-youth, I took interest in a girl home from her freshman year at Bob Jones University. I was into mythology, religio-ethical systems and alternate realities. Colin Turnbull and Carlos Castaneda were my multiple reads. I was smitten. I had been hearing Christian gospel talk for about a year or so from a converted brother. I engaged anthropologically and fairly rudely-- taking him seriously without a whit of respect. I was less rude with the rising sophomore, but honesty is not sincerity. I have no idea why her reply grabbed me. I subsequently spent a long time on that claim, "because it's true."
Why that sounded like a true note in the clear sky that night, I don't know. Why it rang true after being scrutinized for two years and after scouring me miserable for two years (and then some decades too!), I know like a tune sung over and over. I discovered that the universe is love all the way down, and that it was truthful all the way through. The one was fairy tale, and the other was unavoidable. The people who parodied both to me had made them adversaries. This is sort of a youngest brother's ripple of Vietnam, Watergate, valium-for-mother convinced us all that the old world was a lie. But the hippie's youngest brother saw that love was a lie too. Everybody was a liar; but Jesus proves the universe is love from the bottom up and truthful all the time. What that has to do with incarnation and revelation and justification-- same tale but not this story. This is the story of how I took an entirely different life while still having that same problem.
Jesus could be love and still hate you. His love made me hate what I did to her in sixth grade. His love made me hate my utilitarian posture toward my parents. He made me hate my tight little loop of anything to feel good, noble, ready, my own. His love made me hate my entire haphazard project— my me. That honesty did not establish my sincerity. It never has. Most commonly, my honesty gets it’s flash-in-the-sunlight from contradicting my sincerity. There is the universe, and I’m a problem; or tell me that love is not real—or that love is the problem.
No, I have a problem.