Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sine Waves of Mercy

This, my friends, is f(x)=sin(x)

If you are unfamiliar with what that means...well, it won't really matter, there are explanatory diagrams. But throwing that out there before I begin rambling my train of thought makes me happy, like seeing an old friend :) Hello there, sine wave!

Anyway. Back to what I was going to write about.

So as I believe I've mentioned before, I struggle with the idea of self-worth a great deal. In my conversations with Matthew last night, he framed it into the ideas of extrinsic self-worth (I'm valuable and appreciated for what I can do and accomplish) and intrinsic self-worth (I'm inherently valuable and loved as a child of God). We talked about how that intrinsic value is always constant (God will love me if I accomplish nothing, and God will love me if I accomplish tons), even though it's hard to remember that. On the other hand, extrinsic value is really tangible, obvious, and well-noticed (thank you, American culture), and so it's really easy to get caught up in, for better or for worse...on top of which, it is unstable - one day you're amazing, and the next day finds you staring at piles of dirty laundry, dirty dishes, and a mile-long to-do list.

With me so far?

Ok. So. Let intrinsic value be represented by the function f(x)=0, a constant, kind of like the love of God for his child. (Note that this is not a comment on how important it is, it's just easier since you can see the flat line in the x-axis [the horizantal one] above, and it makes the functions easier to write out.) Furthermore, let extrinsic value be represented by the function f(x)=sin(x), a sine wave, which rises and falls infinitely. If you're curious, the f(x)- or y-axis could probably be best understood as self-worth or personal value, and the functions are over time (x).

I have a tendency to ride the sine wave. When I'm doing great, I'm feeling great about who I am and what I have to offer the world, and I'm ready to fly off into the sky (tangent to the curve just before x=π/2). But then when something goes wrong, I feel wayyy inadequate, not good enough, and self-destructive inner dialogs occur. I say this in a blunt fashion only because I'm convinced I'm not the only one...so know that my heart and soul are out here, being discussed.

Yet while I ride the sine wave, and continuously drive myself crazy with negative messages (get it?), there's this constant love, this value that is there no matter what. God's love for me is constant, unfailing, and will always always always remain that way. What a beautiful thing...

When something goes wrong, I forget to draw worth from God's unconditional love for me, and I begin to see myself as less than I was meant to be. When I'm riding a wave of success, I forget the constant love beneath me, because things seem to be going well. Maybe forgetting the basics of God's love was what Jesus was talking about in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector?

I'd like to be able to stay positive. I'd like to be able to ride the sine wave of success and worldly achievements when things are going well, and then come down to rest on the constant love of Christ when things aren't going so well. I don't have a way to graph that off the top of my head, but I think it would look a little like this:

This sounds like the best of both worlds. I get to be happy about my achievements, and then not be bummed out by my mistakes, because...drumroll please...God loves me anyway! Yay! Welcome to "Christianity Fixes Everything" World!

Heh...I hope you know me well enough to know that that's not exactly...er...where I'm satisfied. If you'll direct your attention to the second image, you may notice that it wouldn't exactly make the most comfortable roller coaster ride. To my eye, it looks (actually) like a flight path for an excited fish, who jumps out of the water, dives out of sight, jumps out of the water...you get the idea. It'd be really cool to live a life where I was so effortlessly in control of my emotions and perspectives and so on that I could do this, and not feel the bumps in transitioning from the downward slope to the horizontal path. Knowing myself, though, I find it far more likely that I would continue to drop below zero, and pretend that I depending on the constant. In retrospect, I've probably spent a large part of my life there.

Rather than riding the wave, I want to always stand on the shore of God's unfailing love, as the waters rise and fall around me. When I have a wave of success, let it splash over me...and I'll praise God for the blessing of water, of refreshment, of grace.

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