I have an earworm. “Be Yourself” by Audioslave has been weaving its way through my ears for days now, and it’s because I’ve been thinking about offerings.
The song places two scenarios side by side, one light and happy, the other sad and broken, followed by the refrain that “to be yourself is all that you can do”. Here’s one example: “Someone gets excited / In a chapel yard / Catches a bouquet / Another lays a dozen / White roses on a grave / To be yourself is all that you can do.”
That’s a profound truth to come from a rock lyric, isn’t it? But then, if we’re paying attention, God uses any means to speak to us – even the voice of Chris Cornell. What is the lesson to be unpacked from this song? I believe it is that if you’re happy or disappointed, be happy or disappointed; tell the truth of who you are. (There is wiggle room for good manners and charity, of course. This isn’t carte blanche to let all your uglies hang out!)
Our mental and emotional health is diminished by denial and pretense. Naturally the lighter, happier stuff is easier to live with, but – for example – if we’re experiencing deep grief there is little hope for healing if we deny it. The truth is there even if we hide from it, and it must be dealt with eventually, probably causing greater damage the longer it’s kept lurking in dark and dusty corners.
To ‘be yourself’ isn’t only about feelings, but also personality and character and ability. This is especially relevant in our spiritual life because who knows us more truly or more deeply than God does? If I approach God in prayer pretending that all my ducks are in a row, that my struggles are in check, that I haven’t any doubts or worries or fears… how can I ask Him for help? How can I receive the healing, the grace, or the consolation He has for me? Can I go to Him with my whole heart if I pretend to be of a placid disposition when instead I am rather hot-headed? If I do, my relationship with Him gradually becomes superficial and I have nothing of substance left to give Him.
This is where the offering comes in. I had been thinking about how poor my gift to God is when He has given me so much. I realized that all I have to give God, really, is myself; I cannot give Him what is not mine to give. I can’t give Him your talent or your time or your heart… it has to be mine, it has to come from me. If I’m angry, I have to give Him angry me; if I’m tired, it has to be tired me. To pretend to be an idealized version of myself is to offer false coin.
There is an element of trust here. I have to believe that scripture is true when it tells me that God knit me in my mother’s womb, that He knows every hair on my head, that He holds me in the palm of His hand. He sees me, He knows me, and still He loves me. And if He loves me, why try to be someone else? Why try to give Him someone else?
Audioslave has it right: to be yourself is all that you can do.