On my last birthday, my prayer circle (called life group in my local church) gave me for a gift a poster made of selfie collage—my selfies. Each picture portrays different pose, different emotion, mostly with my “signature smirk,” and all among my “best shots.” Across the poster are birthday wishes. I was so touched with the gift that it still hung to this day at our bedroom wall.
Everytime I am in our room it is impossible not to see the poster, and the familiarity of the face—my face— makes it easy to take for granted that person. The same way that we spend too many times in our lives looking at our reflection in front of the mirror, and is confronted by the same face that looks back—to me, with an oversized forehead, small nose, growing moles, thin lips and odd eyes.
Yet as I looked earnestly at the portrait, it slowly dawns that the face could be anyone else’s. Our outward appearance does not necessarily represents the person inside us. Our body is still a stranger to that innermost, knitted person that does the thinking, taste the frustration, savor the inspiration, and pain the loss. The outward looks, no matter how distorted these are as our expressions conform to emotions, do not give justice to the turbulence of emotions nor to the peaceful solitude that we are. Notice that these are not feelings but the fiber of the living person—the soul—, which is beyond what is seen. Yet rarely we spend a moment to take a deeper look at that invisible, living, eternal person inside the temporal, decaying flesh.
For most, the chaos between physical desires and inner peace is par below man’s understanding. Mostly happiness is equated with the fulfillment of man’s goals and dreams, with the pressing belief that as one comes close to these dreams, the dark pit within him will eventually be filled, and self-actualization is tantamount to inner peace.
It is of no surprise then that the world is made up of broken people. Materialism corrupts our views and has become the central purpose of our existence. We are born to succeed. Children wake up to attend school. Parents work to afford life. Commercialism provides ways to alter anything in our body that we are not comfortable or happy with. As man fails to achieve in satisfactory amount these things that has become the gauge of success, he enslaves again his flesh to toil further, in order to gratify the desires of the same flesh. Yet, as the body is quenched bit by bit of its demands, also the inner person shrinks back little by little until it has become a total stranger to self and engulf in one’s personal black hole.
These are the stories of people who, even at the verge of their success, commit suicide. These are the lives of people we meet and laugh with everyday without giving any hint that there is a thick cloud of depression over their head, making them mere walking time bombs.
The people we meet everyday, the celebrities we idolize and envy, the antagonizers we learn to detest, and even the vilest politician we vowed never to trust again, are people more than what meets the eye, battling inner turmoil probably more than we do. And as we perceive more the physical form, wrong judgment comes easy, bringing more distance between souls, and making one feeling more alone.
In Luke Chapter 9 verse 25 (NKJV) of the Bible, Jesus made a clear illustration of how the welfare of the inner person is separate from the success and achievements of the physical form: “ For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” In a different translation it says, “For what profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”
Isaiah Chapter 58 verse 11 (ISV) speaks of nourishment of the inner man that only through recognizing the true source of our life can give: “And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in parched places, and they will strengthen your bones; and you’ll be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.”
Not recognizing that as human beings, we are more than this molded clay, limits our goals, dreams and aspirations to the shallow purpose of life. Further, it burns us out to the point of resignation or indifference to life’s struggles, which, in the first place, are meaningless, and without essence if indeed nothing is more than the life we see. Only through recognizing a bigger source of strength and purpose—of One Super Power that provides life and eternal purpose—do we receive extraordinary kind of life that strengthens the inner man.
For the weary, Jesus, the very Son of God offers this timeless invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”