Does God want less of you? Or more of you?
I said last time that God wants you to exist: That he wants you to “take up space” in this world.
I’m reminded of this when I hear some worship songs: Like the song “You” by Hillsong Music, which contains these words:
“Steal all that is within me / Cause all I want in this world is more of you / And the less of me it is you / Increasing as I fade away / Your light for all the world to see”
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love Hillsong Church, and their worship music has deeply impacted my life and my love for God through the last 13 years! But I think these lyrics (in an otherwise incredible song!) are a misstep. They communicate that God wants to “steal all that is within me”, and that God is more glorified when I fade away, when there is less of me in the world. *(see footnote)
I would argue instead that God is incarnated in the lives of his people, and he is glorified more and more the more fully “ourselves” we become. I much prefer the beautiful words of the Relient K song, “I Am Understood”, which says:
“Through the times I’ve faded and you’ve outlined me again”
These words, I think, capture much more accurately the heart of Scripture on this subject: My waywardness, foolishness, and sinfulness causes the “true” me to fade away, and God is relentlessly determined to restore His Image within me.
All our talk about selflessness can lead us to mistakenly believe that we are “all bad and only bad”. The truth is something more beautiful and complex: Yes, you are a sinner. But you were first made in God’s image! Everything you do and everything you are is touched by both your dignity and your depravity. This means that there is something holy and wonderful hidden inside of nearly everything you’ve ever done. There is even a seed of his glory hidden in your sins. As C.S. Lewis says, “Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on [to heaven] as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death.” (The Great Divorce) Or, as G.K. Chesterton said, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”
Some Christians say, “God loves you despite who you are”. I think that this is going too far. True, God loves you despite what you’ve done. But he loves you because of who you are: You are His creation, a bearer of His Image.
If you believe the Bible teaches that you have always been scum and scum is all you will ever be, and that even in eternity you’ll just be scum saved by God’s grace, you will hate yourself. You will harm yourself. And ultimately you will give yourself what you think you deserve.
If, on the other hand, you believe that you are fundamentally a bearer of God’s Image, deserving of Hell but destined for Glory, you will love yourself. You will understand that God values your joy, and even rejoices with you! God delights in loving you, in having you as a burden, because he is love.
Relient K: “I Am Understood”
** Yes, I know the lyrics to “You” are an oblique reference to John the Baptist’s words in John 3:30—”He must become greater; I must become less”; but I think the verse is being used in the wrong way. John the Baptist was referencing his willingness for Jesus’ fame and ministry to become greater than his own; he was not diminishing his own identity and selfhood as the lyrics to this song seem (to me) to do.