A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“It is only the Christians who have any idea of how human souls can be taken into the life of God and yet remain themselves – in fact, be very much more themselves than they were before (p. 161).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
So here is the question, “When I become a Christian and surrender to Christ as Lord of my life, do I (a) increasingly lose my sense of individuality as I increasingly take on the character of Christ, or (b) increasingly find my true identity as I become the person God always intended me to be?”
Before I seek to answer this question in light of Lewis’ quote, I will acknowledge the bias in option B. By saying “the person God always intended me to be,” I am assuming a creative design in our personality, interests, and destiny.
However, I believe this assumption is fair. Personality and aptitude are observable before we have a “sense of self.” Infants, even within the same family, can have starkly different temperaments. These remain relatively stable apart from traumatic events.
What Lewis is proposing is that only Christianity allows us to answer “yes” to both option A (we become increasingly like the “ideal” which is contrary to our nature) and option B (we become more like the person our personality and interests move us towards.”
Psalm 37:4 captures both of these elements, “Delight your self in the Lord (option A), and he will give you the desires of your heart (option B).”
The question now mutates to, “Is this really possible? Can we really have it both ways? Is this theology that is so detached from personal experience that it rivals a fairy tale?”
Your satisfaction with my answer (which I hope is consistent with Scripture) will be determined by your comfort with the statement that we were made for a purpose (Eph. 2:10). If you believe that every person is a divine craftsmanship made for a distinct role in the Grand Redemptive Narrative of history, then it is no problem to see option A and option B as two sides of the same coin.
One way to understand how Christianity differs from current popular thought is that the Bible teaches that “self-actualization” is a return to God’s world-changing design for your life through repentance and faith in Christ. The culture teaches that “self-actualization is an exploration to find something that can make you eternally happy in a temporal world through self-help and personal insight.
Ultimately, this debate comes down to the question, “Who is the author of your life? Are you the one writing your own story? Did you decide what you would like (or did you discover it)? Did you decide what you would be good at (or did you learn where your aptitudes were by trial and error)?”
When I accept that happiness will be found when I fulfill things I did not choose, then there is no problem accepting that I could become most myself when I lose myself in the will of my Maker. My appetite for things I call “good” and find pleasure in was given to me by Him.