A sphinx-like, arbitrary force bearing down on us with implacable hostility

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A sphinx-like, arbitrary force bearing down on us with implacable hostility

Brandon Booth
Brandon Booth
July 2, 2024

As Liv and I are rapidly completing our new book, I’m back this week with another excerpt from my previous book: Changing the Conversation, How to dance instead of fight in everyday conversation.


The greatest barrier to good conversation is my own sinful ego. So the first step toward better conversation is identifying my problem and addressing it….

Like God’s people in the Old Testament, we are all guilty of a double evil. We “have abandoned [God], the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for [ourselves]—cracked cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13 ESV).

In other words, we do not trust that God is the true source of value, security, and approval. We do not trust that he is the fountain of living water, and instead we seek life from the cracked cisterns of performance, money, power, glamor, sexual prowess, recognition, status, or whatever. These, however, do not hold water and cannot sustain our life….

[And] our egoistic selves try to paint God in our own self-centered images. We make God into a tyrant. He becomes a “sphinx-like and arbitrary force bearing down upon us with implacable hostility” He tells us what we have always been telling ourselves: try harder, do more, secure yourself. If this is how we conceive of God, it’s no wonder we run from him rather than seek intimacy with him.

This is not what it means to accept Christ. True acceptance means changing my mind about who God is. God is the great gift giver, not the great gift requirer. God does not insist on my self-sacrifice; my imperial ego insists on doing something in order to make God love me. God wants me to receive his current presence and activity, not win it. God does not require me to take charge of my own transformation. God himself is the agent of change….

He loves me first. He has been working, works now, and will always work for my good in every situation, every event, every action—even the “bad” ones. As difficult as it may be to believe, God is for me in all things. All things are God’s gift to me.  

The only self-sacrifice God requires is the sacrifice of my egotistical self. He asks me to stop thinking I have to act first. God is not waiting for me to act because he is always already acting. He is always already showering me with gifts. This is his will for me! Thomas Merton says it beautifully:

"My Chief care should not be to find pleasure or success, health or life, or money or rest or even things like virtue and wisdom—still less their opposites, pain, failure, sickness, death. But in all that happens, my one desire and my one joy should be to know: "Here is the thing that God has willed for me. In this His love is found, and in accepting this I can give back His love to Him and give myself with it to Him. For in giving myself I shall find Him and He is life everlasting" (Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. New Directions Book, 2007. 15).

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