There is a self-centeredness to ourselves, a turned/curved inwardness, incurvatus in se, but there is one that shows how to break the gravity, the pull of the curve.
There is a pull on me all the time.
It’s in the lyrics of the eighties pop hit.
What about me, it isn’t fair
I’ve had enough now I want my share
Can’t you see I wanna live
But you just take more than you give. Garry Frost and Frances Swan
There is a demand for others to meet my needs. They should know that my life is the most important thing in the universe. It’s all about me.
Meet my needs; then, I might move on to listening to yours.
There is a curve, and all our thoughts run into it. When we run into others’ curves, their demands for a better life, then there is a clash.
There is a fancy theological term for this gravitational pull. It’s ‘Incurvatus in se’
Incurvatus in se
‘Incurvatus in se’ is Latin for “turned/curved inward on oneself.” It’s like a gravitational pull affecting everything I do.
I love others, but deeply I wonder ‘what’s in it for me.’ I give to others but wonder if I will receive back.
I am an empty vessel, and I demand you fill me.
Tell me pleasant things, nice things, affirm me. Fill me with water. I am hungry so feed me.
I am determined to see my pain relieved, and I will do whatever it takes to meet that need.
Some may give it a diagnosis such as Narcissism, but it’s in all of us. This inward curving towards ourselves. For some, you can easily see their curve, but with most, it’s more hidden, subtle, and manipulative.
Of course, no one can ever completely meet the need of the curve. Because, well, they are also under the gravitational pull of the curve too.
Perhaps sometimes, they offer a few drops of presence that somewhat alleviates the pain. But for the most part, we are so thirsty and determined for pain relief that it becomes automatic to reach for the chocolate bar, bottle, online shopping, or porn site. We have a curve that takes us to a cistern.
Where does your curve take you?
God is compassionate about curves.
Are you feeling somewhat down now?
I may well have woken you up to the reality of something of yourself that you may not like. But isn’t an awareness of the battle better than living in a foggy dream world?
We need someone who fully knows the power of the gravitational pull to self-centredness to somehow push against the trend.
I read this recently.
Jesus never slipped down that slippery slope of ‘Incurvatus in se.’ Fully human, fully divine, there was always the option to shift his focus, but he never did.
Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction.
Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Oh, to have the Christ focus that says ‘Father forgive their ‘curved in on themselves gravitational pull’ for they don’t know what they are doing.
Going against the curve
I’m sure you’ve run into the curve of others. Maybe you can see the ‘Incurvatus in se’ pull in your life.
What is it that you are truly after? Is it love? What about affirmation and value? Worth and acknowledgment?
Deep needs are only satisfied by deep springs.
Having nice words said to me is good, but it soon leaks away. Like a water tank with holes in it, I need to keep having it filled.
I want a spring and not a cistern.
There is a difference.
A spring is this gush of water coming up out of the ground from who knows where and is out of my control. It’s always there, and it’s fresh, new, sparkling, and full of energized particles. There is movement, and there is life.
A cistern is a storage container. It’s a tank, a jug, a dam that I have made. It’s in my control. Accessible on my terms. I’m in control. Water is flat, stale, unmoving, and a potential place for ugly stuff to grow in.
God comes to speak to us through the mouth of a man under the power of the curve.
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13
In other words, God is saying.
I’ve provided a spring; it’s good, pure, and thoroughly refreshing. But instead, you have decided to make a tank to collect and control. It’s a tank that leaks like a sieve. You have to keep filling it up and plugging the holes. And the water is stale, still, with no life or energy. But hey, your water, you’re in control, and that’s what you like.
If you want to go against the curve and to handle the curves of others, then you need to learn how to sip at the spring and stop swimming in a cistern.
Breaking the pull of gravity
Can I point you towards the spring?
I love to take people who are used to the stale waters of a cistern and let them experience the sparkling freshness of the spring.
It’s up the hill. We have to defy gravity and push against every natural instinct to retreat to the ease of a cistern, but it’s up there, and we can swim and splash.
Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Larry Crabb
I’ve seen people discover it. It’s always through prayer, quietness, being still, and noticing the whispers of God.
Jesus broke the power of gravity.
There was no ‘Incurvatus in se’ dragging him away from his one focus – the Father and I are one John 10:38.
A woman with pain comes to a well. Jesus, in typical Jesus style, creates a learning story.
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:13, 14
There is a taste
I loved it the other day when I was talking to someone, and I could sense the pull of the curve. Then, as we quietened ourselves, there was the unmistakable sound of a spring bubbling nearby.
We set out in prayer to find the source. When we found it, we sat and gave thanks. We dipped our toes in and then jumped wholeheartedly into the bubbles.
Have you got a taste for something better?
Tired of stale water?
Here are some little steps to find the spring.
- Acknowledge your ‘Incurvatus in se.’
We all have this pull. Even the most generous of souls has a curve to it.
- Ask where does it take you?
What is the need you are hoping to fulfill
- Long for the spring.
I think of David hiding in a cave, longing for a sip of water from the well in Bethlehem. 2 Samuel 23:15. It wasn’t so much for the physical taste. It was more for the times of presence and spiritual refreshment
- Listen quietly for the trickle.
Quieten yourself, meditate on scripture, discover stillness, solitude, silence. Then when you discover a droplet of Spirit’s presence, savor it.
- Keep coming back.
When you have a taste, then keep coming back for more. Build it into your daily rhythm.
- Look through the curves of others.
Others are curved in on themselves. They, too, need a spring and not a cistern. Yes, they hurt you in their ‘Incurvatus in se,’ but forgiveness flows when we see the power of the curve they are probably unconsciously engaged with.
To be in community is to have a few others who will guide you to a spring and not a cistern. Safe others who know their ‘Incurvatus in se.’
Quotes to Consider
- Change from the inside out is rare. Very few people are willing to deeply embrace their disappointment. And even fewer, when they’ve faced their disappointment and are filled with excruciating pain and sadness, are willing to firmly say, “My pain is not the problem. The problem is my determination to relieve my pain any way I can.” Larry Crabb Inside Out
- Pain is the rent we pay for being human, it seems, but suffering is usually optional. Richard Rohr
- Redeemed pain is more impressive to me than removed pain Phillip Yancey
- When relieving pain becomes our priority, we have left the path of pursuing God. The experience of pain has the power to either harden us in our self-protective style or drive us to deeper trust in God. Larry Crabb Inside Out
- An aching soul is evidence not of neurosis or spiritual immaturity but of realism. The experience of groaning, however, is precisely what modern Christianity so often tries to help us escape. The gospel of health and wealth appeals to our legitimate longing for relief by skipping over the call to endure suffering. Faith becomes the means not to learning contentment regardless of circumstances but rather to rearranging one’s circumstances to provide more comfort. Larry Crabb Inside Out
Questions to answer
- When we talk about being curved in on one’s self, what comes to mind for you?
- What is a cistern for you?
- Where have you tasted the sweet waters of a living spring of water?