Lectio THEN Psalm 11 (June 11, 2009) New Jerusalem Bible
the honest will ever see his face
I almost missed it – I thought at first that my phrase for this lectio would be “In Yahweh I have found refuge,” because that’s been such a prominent image for the past few days. When I am most honest with myself, I can see God’s face, unobscured by the clouds of deceit. But then I start swirling around in a whirlpool of self-deceit, and I find myself in that place where I allow myself no grace, and no excuses.
I think about areas of my life where I feel like I’ve been a failure, like I could have and should have tried harder. And then I tell myself that there’s been an awful lot going on, several huge life changes, and it’s just been really hard. And I come back with “don’t be such a wimp. You’re supposed to sacrifice for God”, and stuff like that. And I know I shouldn’t do that but I can’t stop, and everything gets so cloudy and murky and I get so dizzy I can’t see or think straight.
And then I remembered something about false humility, and how it is really another form of pride – and I wonder how what I do is like that. I think I start with the premise that I’m supposed to do everything and do it perfectly – like God. But I don’t allow for what my gifts are and aren’t, who I am as a unique creation. I tell myself I have to get out of my “comfort zone.” Maybe. But maybe comfort zone is different than area of giftedness.
Along with that premise is also that I have to do it alone. Which leaves no room for God, and that’s clearly not okay. And so I have to relinquish that fatally independent attitude. And I have to be still and accept grace. And when I am still, those murky, scary dark waters settle down, and there’s God’s face – she’s always there, but I guess I can’t see her when I’ve got everything all churned up.
Be still – and steep deeply in God’s grace.
Lectio NOW Psalm 11 (November 7, 2010) NJB
the honest will ever see his face
What does it mean for me to be honest? I suspect it’s more than just not telling lies. I have a hunch that for me the answer lies more in the order of living authentically. And I wonder about ways in which I am not doing that very well, ways that I’m living as a false version of myself.
A lot of writing on contemplative spirituality talks about the “true self”. Thomas Keating, in Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer defines the true self as: “The image of God in which every human being is created; our participation in the divine life manifested in our uniqueness.” (196)
By contrast, Keating defines the false self thusly: “The self developed in our own likeness rather than the likeness of God; the self-image developed to cope with the emotional trauma of early childhood. It seeks happiness in satisfying the instinctual needs of survival/security, affection/esteem, and power/control, and bases its self-worth on cultural or group identification.” (192)
In the writings of Thomas Keating, the false self is an attempt to create an image of myself in order to avoid or deal with pain. This false self tells lies about what I must do or be to be accepted and loved. Before long, I have created me in the image of myself, and my true self lies imprisoned.
As a sensitive child, the image I created was that of a tomboy, a tough girl who was a force to be reckoned with. If someone hurt my feelings, I would get angry. Because I was sensitive and compassionate, I didn’t really want to physically hurt someone, so I would make a good show of threatening them so I didn’t have to.
Over time, this image of me solidified itself not only in my own sense of self, but in others’ impressions and understandings of me, and especially in the way they interacted with me. This dynamic continued to escalate until the sense of dissonance between how I truly felt inside and how I was forced (by my own doing) act became too much to bear. And so began the “dismantling of the false self.” This is just one example of how one emotion affected one facet of my being. Of course, there is an array of emotions within each of us, leading to very complex versions of our false selves.
When I think about what it means to be honest, it means that I need to look carefully at how the affective emotions (i.e., anger, fear, and discouragement) are at work within me, and what they’re trying to protect. By looking carefully at these motivations, and finding ways to act against these emotional programs for happiness, I recover and uncover more and more of my true self. That true self, without all the muck clouding my vision, is most clearly able to see God.
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