“We become absorbed in the world of our own experiences, thoughts, feelings, and opinions… We curve in on ourselves.” David Powlison, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
We curve in on ourselves.
When I read this statement, it resonated. It struck a chord in my mind. I got it. I agreed that curving in on yourself is a danger presented in life—but especially in grief. I’ve experienced the temptation to curve inward.
But so have you. Or so will you. Ready yourselves and stand firm.
“But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘ Where are you?’ And he said, ‘ I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’” Genesis 3:9-10
By virtue of the Fall, we’re a self-centered lot. All of us. Regardless of our station in life. Regardless of our race, gender, age or political views. Doesn’t matter. We tend to curve in on ourselves. Adam sinned and immediately he shrunk into himself and hid from God. The older I get the more I understand the power of any tendency. Habits are strong. Defaulting to known tendencies is a reflex. It’s subtle but strong.
Add the prospect of grief brought on by loss, and the magnetic draw of self-preoccupation is an even stronger tendency. Left to our own feelings, we curve in on ourselves. We begin to interpret everything through a self-centered lens. It’s not the kind of self-centeredness causing you to be identified by others as prideful or arrogant. Not that kind of self-centeredness. Not hubris. It’s more self-pity or feeling sorry for yourself. Abandoned. We might say, “My problems are worse than your problems.” Our grief has colored the lens through which we see everything. Everything.
Martin Luther popularized the Latin phrase ‘homo incurvatus in se.’ Basically, this phrase means humankind is curved in upon itself. Luther was picking up on a description of sin written about earlier by Augustine. The basic idea is we tend toward curving or turning inward or toward ourselves, away from God.
Like Adam, we hide ourselves. It began with original sin. Paul explains it:
“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” Romans 7:22-23
Earlier Paul speaks of sin as doing what one doesn’t want to do and not doing what one knows to do. Curving in on yourself. Away from God. As A. W. Tozer said in The Pursuit of God, “Sin has twisted our vision inward and made it self-regarding. Unbelief has put self where God should be…”
Any tendency to turn in on and trust ourselves is misplaced trust, right?
The idea of turning in on oneself comes into crystal clarity during loss. There is a tendency to curve away from God. Draw inward. You’ll even curve away from supportive fellow-journeyers if you’re not careful. You might say, “I just don’t want to be around anyone.” Or “I need to be alone.” This is not to be confused with the healthy need for solitude. This curving is toward isolation and self-dependency. It’s seeking to be an island. Alone.
“…our hearts are bent in the wrong direction, away from what gives life. …it’s effortless to be mindful of self…work to be mindful of God.” Matt Smethurst, Before You Open Your Bible
You need to fight the tendency to curve in on yourself.
When grief is driven deep into your heart, it acts as a centripetal force. Everything is curving in toward the center—curvitas in se. This is one of those times, among many others, when we need to listen to Paul and stand against this tendency to curve in on ourself by fastening the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Christ’s righteousness.
“Faith looks out instead of in and the whole life falls into line.” A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Curve toward Jesus.
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…” Ephesians 6:14
“…some have swerved from the faith…” 1 Timothy 6:21