Here’s an interesting thought. What if I don’t love myself? What if I don’t value myself as a person, but instead only see myself as a tool to help people I love? I’m not sure if that makes sense or if that’s true. It’s just a thought. I tend to ignore my own needs. I neglect myself. I’m far more concerned with helping other people than dealing with my own problems. Look at Matthew 7. Maybe I’ve been super obsessed with specks in my brothers’ eyes while entirely ignoring the plank in my own. Frequently this verse is interpreted in a way that portrays the person with a plank as a nit-picky jerk. The plank-eyed one is always seen as a snarky, judgmental, self righteous bastard who points out others’ faults because it lets him think he’s better than everyone else. I don’t think that’s a good exegesis. If the plank-eyed person were such a prick, why would he attempt to remove the speck? It’d seem more appropriate for someone of that character to point out his brothers’ specks and taunt them for it, offering no assistance at all. Jesus clearly states that this person wants to take the speck out of his brother’s eye in verse 5.
The problem is not that the plank-eyed man is a jerk. The real problem is that he cannot help his brother because he himself is hindered. The man cares. He has good intentions: beautiful intentions—righteous, redemptive, even Christ-like intentions. Alas, he is not Christ. He cannot redeem. He is not righteous. He is ugly and bad. I feel like the prophet Nathan is standing behind me, pointing and saying to me “You are the man!” What do I say in response? “Yeah, I guess so.” I know, the response should be “I have sinned against the Lord,” and certainly I have. I wish I could be as moved as David, for I have been rightly accused of a great sin. My inappropriate response serves as in indicator to the enormity of the plank in my eye.
What is my plank? How might I remove it? How have I managed to ignore it for so long? Many questions. I wonder if I can respond to them. Let me first back up. Am I really the plank-eyed man? Yes. I am he. A fresh examination of my heart and my past proves it. For as long as I can remember, I have longed to play the role of physician. I want to mend broken hearts. I want to restore relationships. I want to make people feel good. I want to alleviate pain. Whenever I find a suffering friend, I send advice and prayers. The source of greatest distress in my life is when I learn of a begrieved loved one I can do nothing for. I hate the fact that I cannot be helpful. It makes me feel useless. I don’t just sympathize with my loved one. I wail over my own inability to fix the situation.
What, then, is my plank? It is not the desire to help my friends. That is a noble, godly desire. What is not godly is my failure to accept that I am not Christ. I want to be Him. I want to be the One who redeems. I want to be the Great Physician. My sin is in fact the first sin: I want to be like God, and I despise knowing that I am not. My intentions might be good; even then, I have paved the road to hell.
What good does this revelation do me? I have accurately identified the plank in my eye (or at least, one of the planks—I have many). Now I find myself in an absurd situation. My plank is the desire to remove planks while being unable to do so. To be able to remove specks, my speck must first be removed. Yet as I am, I can never remove my own plank. So my question, “how might I remove my plank?” seems to have a clear answer. I can’t.
“The answer is Jesus!!” I hear you shout. For all intents and purposes, I see you as one of my well-churched sixth-grade Wildlifers at a campaigners. You are excited to give the Sunday school answer because you know it is right and you believe it in your simple, beautiful, twelve-year-old faith. And indeed, you are right. I agree with you. I believe it, too. Yet I am still anxious because I can’t explain how Jesus actually will remove my plank from my eye. I don’t understand how Jesus is going to change my heart and my habit of trying to fix people who are likely less broken than myself. Is He going to give me a book to read? Is He going to visit me in a dream and, by some miracle, completely change the way I think? How long does plank-removing typically take? Are we talking a quick, half an hour procedure I can pencil in for this next weekend? What if God takes His sweet time in changing my heart? The truth is, I’m frustrated. I know the problem now. Why can’t it be fixed now?
Knowledge does not produce reform. Understanding has no influence on reconciliation. And I’m not happy about it. Here I am throwing another temper tantrum over not being God. If I were Him, I’d always bring healing the moment someone figured out what was wrong with them. Maybe I’ve watched too much House in my life. Though I rarely watched the show, I always enjoyed it. Doctors spent nearly the whole episode trying to figure out what was wrong with their patient, only diagnosing the illness minutes before the credits rolled. I can’t remember a single episode where there was a gap between the discovery of the diagnosis and the patient fully recovering. Why can’t my life be an episode of House? The cure has been found, God, so what are you waiting for? Cure me!
My demand is to no avail. It, too, is a product of my plank. Romans 9 rings aloud: “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” Once again, I am the man. I know God’s sovereignty. I’ve led three-hour-long bible studies on God’s sovereignty. God’s timing and will are not subject to anything or anyone other than Himself. He can remove my planks me whenever He wants, whether that be this very instant or the day I stand before Him in heaven. I get that, just like I get that He is the only one who can remove my plank in the first place. But I’m not happy about this, either.
Oh fickle heart! Your madness is maddening! I bitterly demand for God to remove my bitterness. I truly am absurd! Do you, reader, see why I find it so hard to love myself? I am an idiot! I am a brilliant, overeducated imbecile! I know too much, and what good is my knowledge if I can’t trust or accept it? I’d rather have the simple, beautiful faith of one of my middle schoolers. God, I don’t want to learn how you work in my studies. I want to know your love by trusting in you. King David was never a Pre Seminary major. He never read Paul. Yet his poetic wisdom is far richer and far more desirable than my objective dissection of truth. Lord, save me from my studies.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.