Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love—outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin. Thomas Merton
The imposter (the false self) is the classic codependent. To gain acceptance and approval, the false self suppresses or camouflages feelings, making emotional honesty impossible…The false self buys into outside experiences to furnish a personal source of meaning. The pursuit of money, power, glamor, sexual prowess, recognition, and status enhances one’s self-importance and creates the illusion of success. The imposter is what he (or she) does. For many years, I hid from my true self through my performance in ministry. I constructed an identity through sermons, books, and storytelling. I rationalized that if the majority of Christians thought well of me, there was nothing wrong with me. The more I invested in ministerial success, the more real the imposter came…The imposter demands to be noticed. His craving for compliments energizes his futile quest for carnal satisfaction. Appearances are everything. Brennan Manning, Chapter Two
This is where Brennan Manning’s words start to go for the jugular.
I can’t speak for other pastors, but I will say that in my own life, the ‘Imposter’ Manning speaks of here has been alive and well in me for nearly all my 30-plus years in pastoral ministry.
It’s only recently, as so many of my ministry dreams have collapsed into dust, that God finally has me ready enough to hear these powerful words written nearly 20 years ago by a ragamuffin pastor/priest/evangelist who started out on the road to ministry as Snow White, but over the years, readily confessed that he drifted.
I guess I just can’t believe that a pastor can read this chapter, The Imposter, and not be able to identify with this sad picture of the codependent, insecure leader who looks for outward success but, so very often, comes up empty-handed. For me, it’s been my pursuit of success of the 3-B’s; working diligently for increased (B)uilding size, more (B)ucks in the offering, and a greater number of (B)utts in the seats. How many of us in our churches live with that inner striving to find acceptance and approval from those evil taskmasters I call the 3-B’s?
Truthfully, now, guys and gals, am I really the only one?
When Brennan Manning talks about his years in public ministry where he worked day and night to construct an ‘identity’ for himself, I’m guessing many of us can truly bear witness to that story. Oh, how I‘ve strived to be that vibrant pastoral leader who truly displays the essence of Christ. The well-liked pastor/teacher who must succeed at all aspects of public ministry just so at the end of the day, my daily quota for compliments and applause can be met. And as Manning states here, if you and I can be ‘successful’ at these pastoral calls in our lives, then certainly there is nothing wrong with us! Right?
A crack in our mortar is showing. The man behind the curtain is being revealed. The Great Oz is not a wizard after all! He is actually an imposter. The pastor on the stage that looks as though he has his life in full control is actually a fraud! A mirage. A figment of our imagination. A shadow of our real self.
And once the facade starts to crumble, there is just no stopping the way God will dismantle this self-focused mirage in order to get us off our 3-B exercise machine and on the track to His real purpose in our lives.
It’s time to call ‘em as I seez ‘em, folks.
As I see it, the ‘Imposter’ Brennan Manning brings to the light here in Abba’s Child, lives and thrives in Americanized Christianity, and I’m glad one from among our midst had the guts to call it out. But, friends, this book was written back in 1994. Here we are twenty years later and the book’s author has now gone home to rest with His loving Abba. A much-loved ragamuffin has run his assigned race. Thank you, Brennan. Job well done.
So who, today, will pick up Brennan’s baton and lead this call to expose The Imposter in the American church? Will you? Will I?
Seems to me this message of exposing The Imposter is pregnant with possibilities. Anybody wanna go low enough with the Lord in order to let these words ring out again?
My prayer: Father, I’ve let an imposter into my life. An inner self that demands his own way, striving for approval, driving for acceptance. I choose to call out this imposter when he arises in me, knowing that he is not the person You see me to be. I choose to believe for something better. Someone more Christ-centered. A man who is, at my core, Your beloved son. Fully accepted and loved. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Where has The Imposter been most visible in my life and work? What parts of my life are most susceptible to his self-driven activity? Are there portions of my life that are being set free as I’m growing more aware of this false-self within me?
So what is God speaking to you today as you live as Abba’s child in the midst of His Gospel of Grace?
Over an eleven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at God’s Gospel of Grace; Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance. We are using Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging as our guide. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Gospel of Grace home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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