The ‘Super Self’ operates as a kind of personal armour, designed to protect the contemporary individual from the stress and horror of living in a meaningless universe. Like a tortoise, it’s shell is a place to retreat into when the going gets tough. Its skin is designed to repeal the fears that the contemporary person feels about the world. Fears that involve rejection, pain, betrayal, mockery and ultimately death.
In some ways this super self is not that new it is simply the newest incarnation of idolatry, however this time it is not things of stone and wood which are worshipped but rather the individual. It is in the light of this protective self worship, we realize that its polar opposite is the cross. When we hold up to the ‘super self’ up to the story of Jesus’ death, we begin to see the stark genius and truth God’s plan.
Unlike the ‘Super Self’ which runs from its fear, we find Christ running headlong into everything that we fear. During his passion, Jesus is subjected to every primal fear that we as humans harbour. For example;
FEAR OF ANXIETY
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death
FEAR OF PAIN
Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
FEAR OF BEING ALONE
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?
FEAR OF BEING MOCKED
31In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
FEAR OF BETRAYAL
66While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.”You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. 68But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.69When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.“
By taking on these terrors, he transforms them, taking away their power. The fear of death is defeated by dying. It is no wonder that Jesus tells his followers ‘ I have overcome the world’. Through his suffering both leading up to and during his crucifixion. Jesus sets his followers an example that could not be more starkly different to the one that the world offers us. He calls us to walk a different path, not the path of self actualization, but a path of submission, of walking into ones fears, of the giving up of ones life in order to gain it. A path which ultimately leads to transformation not only of self but one but also of culture.
As I think of the kind of living which flows from this submission of self, and the type of discipleship that emanates from truly taking up your cross and walking towards your deepest fears, I cannot but help think of Martin Luther King’s final sermon, given the night before his murder.