Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The True Self

It seems more clear all the time that who I really am has been encrusted over the years by layers and layers of self-protection. This is what the contemplatives call the artificial self or the false self.  What also seems just as clear is that openness to realism and honesty about who I've become is the only path to finding rest in God.

Thomas Merton said, " The first step toward finding God, Who is Truth, is to discover the truth about myself: and if I have been in error, this first step to truth is the discovery of my error."

OK, but how am I to find the truth about myself? I was taught that the path to this revelation is the Scriptures -- they will guide me to the core. And in part this is true. But, what I am beginning to discover is that the Word can take me only so far, and what is actually needed is some sort of revealing and healing from the Spirit of the living Christ. 

Said another way, I weary of carrying this body of death around on my back. I weary of always protecting my ideas and programs and ego. But, how to let it go? I cannot seem to do so on my own.

In my experience, the only way of healing is the sustained silence of contemplative prayer. Whatever personal healing and the resultant spirituality I have in my life, I have experienced through the gift of silence in this "letting go" prayer. What this practice has succeeded in showing me is just how destitute I am spiritually, and just how wounded I am as a person, which I believe is the first, but painful, step to healing. Quoting Merton again, "Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." Humility is the first step, and honesty about oneself will humble us every time, but most of the time the truth of who we really are is much too painful. That is, we must have help to gaze on it.

What is also interesting is something I discovered without looking for it. I have found something I have talked about for others but never expected for myself. I have found hints of God's love waiting for me in the silence and the self-darkness. It seems I still flinch at the my ugliness, but God does not have the same problem. I am finding that he can look at me as I really am.