“There’s something wrong with me.”
“I am a failure.”
“I don’t matter / I am worthless.”
Have you ever had thoughts like this? I have. I have not only thought these words, but there was a time in my life when I deeply believed them, and allowed them to inform the way I was showing up in my relationships.
There is an ongoing conflict within each of our hearts, which Thomas Merton named “the false self vs the true self.” Merton defines the conflict like this: who we think we are based on others’ perceptions and expectations and who we’ve been told we are from an early age (false self) VS who we are as God sees us (true self).
The false self is the self that feels compelled by social compulsions. If society says that being busy is a good thing, then I must be busy. If having money is a sign of status and freedom, then I must have money and more of it. If knowing many people proves my importance, I will have to broaden my circle, increase my contacts.
There’s this lurking fear of failure which is underpinned by the lie that who I am is connected to what I do; my achievements, my productivity. Within this lie, my identity is bound up in what I have, what I do, and how others feel about me. Within this lie, my very identity becomes conditional, it could change. Today I might feel valuable or be perceived as important, but maybe not tomorrow.
This unconscious thought process sets us up for anxiety, self-criticism, depression, helplessness, striving and never feeling like enough, even self-hatred.
Well it’s a good thing that my feelings and my thoughts do not change God’s truth. And I am thankful that He provides us a way out of this relentless cycle. Actually, He IS the way out. My true self — my true identity — is revealed only through God, only in God. And all He desires of me is to be wholly the one He created me to be.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8; emphasis mine)
Merton espoused that to live the truth of our own existence is to be a saint.
A tree is holy simply by being a tree; flowers are saints gazing up into the face of God. We humans are no less called to be ourselves and in being ourselves to radiate the glory of God.
God does not desire for me to become anything other than the true self which He has loved from all eternity! What if we made our life’s journey about discovering the truth of ourselves in God? I love this idea! It fills my heart with anticipation and hope and I sense that very deep, very real peace is at my fingertips.
So how do we go about discovering our true selves in God? If we looked at the process on the exterior, it appears that there is very little to be done, meaning in a physical sense, I must literally do nothing: no labor, nothing to strive for, no tasks to complete. I am to simply be still, open-hearted, and awake to the Lord’s Presence. Ummm, for me, that often requires much interior “work!”
During a retreat many years ago, I did an exercise where I imagined myself standing atop a mountain, all alone. And as I envisioned myself there, I was to imagine myself free of all my roles. For that moment, I was not to see myself as Marc’s wife or Abigail’s mother or Larry’s daughter … just me, Denise, Child of God. At first this was very scary and I resisted: “But, who am I, if not mother, wife, daughter, friend? Who am I if not producer, nurturer, helper? How will I know myself?“
The Lord answered me: You will know you by knowing Me. You were mine long before you belonged to anyone on this Earth. Look to Me and let Me lavish My Love into your heart. For My Love is who you are. You are my love.
Yes! That Truth liberates my heart, lifts my mind! I am the Love of God and so are you. We are made by Love, in the image of Love, to be loved by Love! Let’s let that thought soak in awhile …
A Closing Prayer: O Jesus, be our Guide as we seek to discover the great mystery of God in our very selves. Thank You for coming and revealing the Father’s Love for us, to us, and in us. May we make this our life’s purpose: to fix our eyes on You and thus discover the Father’s Love. It is in His Love that we will begin to understand the holiness of our lives and be truly free. We pray in Your most Holy Name, Amen.
Copyright 2019 De Yarrison