Off-Center

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There are days when I know I’m “off-center.” Something seems to be amiss. My attitude is unstable; ranging from moody to ultra-happy. My speech is more inarticulate than normal. Everything I say seems to be just a little off from what I want to express. I find myself repeating tasks, forgetting things, making extra trips. My relational skills lack tact and sensitivity. On such days, I often want to be left alone. But at the same time, I’m lonely and restless. As a result, I am more prone to make bad choices on days like these.

While those days are (thankfully) few and far between, I’m learning that my being “off-center” is actually the default. It’s not an exception. It’s the rule. The only difference between the days when I feel like I’m totally “on” versus the days that I just described above is my ability to mask my “off-centeredness.” When I’m doing well, I’m actually compensating. It means my “false self” is doing a great job. When I have “bad days,” it’s only because my false self is losing its grip on the façade. It’s on those days that my “off-centeredness” is being revealed for what it truly is.

You see, the insidious truth is that my best “Dr. Jekyll” is really “Mr. Hyde” with a good make-up job. I’m actually “Mr. Hyde” all the time. I constantly live in a state of being “off-centered.”

The cause of “off-centeredness,” according to Scripture, is sin. Many of you probably know that the Greek word for sin, harmartia, is an archery term. It simply means, “missed the mark,” “missed the bulls-eye,” or “off-center.” In its essence, sin is more about the wrongness of “being” than the wrongness of “doing.” We do wrong things because there is not something right about us; something in us is off-center.

So it makes sense that our human nature is fallen: not just because we do bad things, but because we operate from the wrong Center. Instead of having God as our Center, our new center is our ego. Hence, sarx or “false self.”

The ego, itself, is not bad. God created our ego. It is what makes us self-aware, which enables us to be “God-aware” (making worship possible) and “other aware” (which allows the possibility for love and community). Ego is what makes each of us unique in our personality, wiring, and expression. However, the ego was never meant to be the center of our being; that place where reality is defined and decisions are made. The ego works best on the fringe, where our God-directed life emerges from our souls through the ego into the world and in relationship with others. This is our true self. (see figure #1)

But, unfortunately, as human beings we choose to be on the throne of our lives. So ego becomes the center, creating a false self that caters to the immediate environment of the world and others. Without God on the throne, our false self not only serves itself (self-centeredness, self-preservation), it also shapes itself to the ways that are acceptable to the environment (conformity to the world, codependency to other people). The false self uses and manipulates the outer world so that the ego can survive and thrive. (See figure #2)

However, this being of existence is not only fake, it is a trap. As it uses and manipulates the world around it, it can also be used and manipulated by the world’s culture and other people’s false selves. When goals of the ego are blocked, the false self resorts to deeper forms of falseness to get its way: deception, power plays (including passive aggression), and violence. When hardships and trials come, the false self has little to stand on. As Jesus taught, it is like a house built on sand; difficulties cause the false self to collapse.

The only remedy to the false, ego-centered self is the pursuit of Christ-centeredness. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes such a pursuit possible. This is the beginning of the salvation life. However, it is the continuation towards the true self (the Image of God restored in us) that involves the process of transformation into an abundant life of freedom, love and righteousness. So we leave behind Mr. Hyde and the fake Dr. Jekylls to the truest version of ourselves, by the power of Christ.

This is the endgame of Whole Life Worship.

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