Romans 8:15- For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Does the name Stuart Smalley mean anything to you? If you are…of a certain age…it likely rings a bell. Stuart Smalley was the name of a satirical character on Saturday Night Live who had overemphasized confidence in the power of positive thinking. He would look at himself in the mirror and repeat to himself his famous catchphrase: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
The joke in the sketches (in addition to poking fun at the self-esteem movement) was that Stuart had some deep-seeded doubt, despite his attempts at convincing himself otherwise. So too did his guests, who were in reality successful (like NBA player Michael Jordan) but came on the show to learn about Stuart’s self-motivation technique. Good satire always opens our eyes to a truth about reality that may be difficult to expose in any other way.
Stuart and his personal affirmation came to mind recently as I considered my own life. I was doing some self-reflection and realized that in some ways the spirit of fear is more present in my life today than it was twenty years ago, despite the fact that twenty years ago I really had nothing to show for my own confidence. I was probably confident for the same reason that Stuart was: I looked in a mirror and told myself I should be. Twenty years later, after wins, losses, and everything in between, maybe I’m just a bit more realistic. Or maybe I’ve just been using the wrong metric.
The metric Paul gives us in Romans 8 has nothing to do with our own successes, failures, or whether we can convince ourselves that we have what it takes. Our reason for confidence and courage and self-esteem is that the God of the universe has adopted us and allowed us to call him Dad.
If we find ourselves slipping back into a spirit of fear, we don’t need to tell ourselves how great we are. We need to remind ourselves how great God is, and that he has allowed us to be his children. It’s not something that needs to be repeated; instead, it’s a truth statement that remains with us, no matter what we think, feel, or accomplish. And, doggone it, that’s really good news.