If you’ve followed my blog or my reflection series in past years, or if you’ve sat down and had even a brief discussion on faith and theology with me, you’ve probably heard me talk about “Christian Personality.” It’s the term Guardini uses to indicate the fullness of our being as human beings, or rather the fulfillment of our individual selves, as persons. We’ve even touched around the edges of it in the past few days as we read about the Holy Spirit. But now we come to where Guardini focuses on “The New Man,” the Christian man, the one reborn in water and spirit who dwells in Christ and Christ in him.
The essential fact is that each and every one of us are individuals, and seek to assert our individuality. We develop our own mannerisms, hobbies, habits, pet peeves, circles of friends, favorite foods, favorite Backstreet Boy, and everything that comes with being a person. These things change over time, naturally and usually without us even noticing it happening. But the change is there, nonetheless, constantly. There’s something about man which is constantly shifting as if he is searching for this ultimate fulfillment, self-realization, to finally understand who he is as a person.
But here’s the thing, man is not autonomous. Nothing exists apart from God, and nothing came into being except by the Son. Our endeavor and desire for self-realization will always fail, if we try to do it independently. God created us, each and every one. And to each and every one of us, he looks upon us and says “You” (or “Thou,” if you recall the other day when we looked at the “I-Thou-We” relationship). It is only God’s word to us, “You,” which realizes our personhood. Only God exists independently; only God is able to be a completely self-contained “I.” We only become an “I,” that is, an individual person, in reference to God, when He acknowledges us as a “You.”
Thus the supreme importance of Christ within us! Our self-realization comes only through God. You can think of it as a road, and as you walk along that road toward God you literally become more real—you become more “you.” Only in the “Thou” will we find our true “I.” It is Christ within us who leads us along that road, the spoken Word who leads us to the Speaker, the Father. Christian Personality is precisely this: our self-realization, our becoming of who we truly are as individual persons, through Christ.
The road metaphor I just used here is important, and perhaps the image of rebirth is even more appropriate. This does not happen overnight. It is not as if the day of our conversion or the day of our baptism we suddenly become our full selves (though that would be a glorious miracle indeed!). We are born again, by water and Spirit in Christ, and just as a child is born from the natural womb and must grow and learn and develop and discover his or her own personality over time, so too we must. We will fall, as a child does when she takes her first steps, but Christ will be there to help us up so that we can try again. As we continue to walk this Christian life with Jesus our Shepherd, we become who we were meant to be. We realize our full Christian Personality.
Every day of Lent, I am writing a reflection piece on two chapters of "The Lord" by Romano Guardini. If you'd like to read or follow along, you can find the full calendar of where we're at below, or Click Here for the main landing page.