Self-help to God-help
October 19, 2012
Philippians 2:12, 13
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
This scripture appears to point to the need for both self-help and God-help.
Introduction: I am addicted to bookstores. I wander around pondering the titles as a kind of contemplative practice. But this is no mindless exercise, for I am looking for something: I am looking for that next book that will save the day; that will save me from myself. I always start in the Religion section and then move on to the Self-Help section. I have lots of books from both sections. Both have been instrumental in my life and continue to be so.
I have, however, noticed a pattern:
- When I purchase a self-help book I begin to devour it immediately, underlining and taking notes.
- I think, “This one is really just what I need at this moment.”
- I believe that the Holy Spirit leads me to just the right book I need at this moment.
- I believe that Truth is of God—no matter if it comes from a self-help book or from a book on Zen or from a murder mystery I’m reading at bedtime. I also find truth in the many movies I watch.
Groundhog Day: The Movie
Bill Murray, narcissistic weatherman covering Groundhog Day for the Philadelphia TV station he works for, slips into hell: each morning precisely at 6 AM his alarm wakes him up to the same awful Sonny and Cher song and to the exact same day with encounters with the same high school classmate wanting to sell him insurance, the same kid falling out of a tree, the same old ladies with a flat tire, the same over and over again, amen. This is hell—many times he tries to commit suicide in order to escape. In one scene he drives his truck off a cliff to certain death, but then he’s back in bed and the same day starts over again.
Most people live exactly this way: they are run by the program of thinking in their heads, which they inherited from nature and nurture, and then added to themselves. If they do not examine this program they will not be aware that it is both running and ruining their lives.
A good self-help book will tell you this truth: “Identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions, that blocks all true relationship. It comes between you and yourself, between you and your fellow man and women, between you and nature, between you and God.” The Power of Now page 15
III. My Problem with Self-Help
The good self-help books mention God or a Higher Power and talk about how important it is to step out of the thinking of the ego into the larger frame of God, or the Now, or the Unmanifested.
- They often give a practice like meditation in which you go from being your thoughts to watching the thoughts run their movies without getting caught up in them. Being able to witness their antics from a place of non-reactivity.
- HOWEVER—Left to itself the ego will turn that practice into something it can use to continue running the programs of your life, thus guaranteeing that tomorrow will be exactly the same as today—and therefore seeking help will have been in vain, because you haven’t left the screen of thought.
IV. ”It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,[a]who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
I do not believe we are able to help ourselves until we surrender to the help of God.
- I do not believe we are able to escape the tyranny of our thinking, which is mostly negative and self-judging on our own—therefore, our only hope is to cry out to Christ, to trust Christ, to trust in his love and forgiveness in spite of what our thinking is telling us.
- Worship is the way we turn from the ego, the little me, and turn to God and rest in Christ where our True Self is to be found:
- “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3
A Few Self-help Books I’ve enjoyed
At Home in the Muddy Water by Ezra Bayda
The Story of You by Steven Chandler –get it on audio at Chelmsford Public Library and hear him read it–very funny man.
Loving What Is by Byron Katie
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle