A friend of mine is fond of saying, “God loves you just the way you are; and he loves you too much to leave you that way.” This paradox of grace and growth is that our brokenness becomes part of the structure of our personality, and only pain or prayer moves us out of ourselves and into God.

The May-June issue of UTNE Reader in 2011 focused on narcissism, and our growing obsession with ourselves. In “Narcissus Regards a Novel” Mark Edmondson asks “Who is the common reader now,” and then spends a page reflecting on changing reading habits in a culture that is focused on self-improvement. He writes,

“Those who attempt to create art are never truly finished. The rest of us are never truly finished either. What Narcissus wanted was completion, wholeness; he wanted to be that image in the water and have done with is. There would be no more time, no more change, no more revision. To be willing to be influenced, even up to the last, is tantamount to declaring that we’ll never be perfect, never see as gods see — even that we don’t know who are what we are, or why (if for any reason) we are here.

“The desire to be influenced is always bound up with some measure of self-dislike, or at least with a dose of discontent. While the culture tells us to love ourselves as we are — or as we will be after we’ve acquired the proper products and services — true readers do not find themselves adequate at all. They look in the mirror of their own consciousness, and they are anything but pleased. That is not what he had in mind at all. That is not what she was dreaming of…”

Calvin and Hobbes is one of my long time favorites, so much so that it eventually displaced the Peanuts cartoons I used to love. Rich and reflective, funny and often poignant, this story of a precocious six year old and his stuffed Tiger friend is loaded with life. I had lost one of the two collections I had and located it while packing boxes a few days ago.