Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: October 2014

The Humiliating Gap

David Brooks, an editorial writer for the New York Times, can be spiritually stimulating at times.  In a recent speech he made refers to a book entitled “Lonely Man of Faith.”  The author, Joseph Soloveitchik, describes  Adam One and Adam Two, correlating both to the creation story.  Adam One is external, career-oriented, and ambitious.  Adam Two is the internal Adam.  “Adam two wants to embody certain moral qualities to have a serene, inner character, a quiet but solid sense of right and wrong, not only to do good but to be good, to sacrifice to others, to be obedient to a transcendent truth, to have an inner soul that honors God, creation and our possibilities.”  I would categorize this as the cry of our shy soul saying, “pay attention to what is most important.”

Brooks points out that our secular world nurtures Adam One, while leaving Adam Two inarticulate.  The competitive and assertive lifestyle of many men hinders the ability to hear the “quieter sounds that emanate from our depths.”  It is difficult for men to develop the humility to pay attention to the river of spiritual longing within.  When men become aware of  these inner murmurings they are often at a lose as to know how to respond.  They don’t have the categories and vocabulary to deal with the gap.  Men need to learn to articulate the language of the soul.

Listen to how Brooks describes the inner life. “You live with unconscious boredom, not really loving, not really attached to a moral purpose that gives life meaning.  You settle into a sort of self-satisfying moral mediocrity.  You grade yourself on a forgiving curve.  You follow your desires wherever they take you.  You approve of yourself as long as people seem to like you.  And you end up slowly turning the core piece of yourself into something less desirable than what you wanted.  And you notice this humiliating gap between your actual self and your desired self.”

Men, I want to ask if you feel that humiliating gap in your life?  The gap between the driven, achieving, success oriented self and the cry of your inner man, wanting your attention so that you might nurture and care for your soul. It is all too easy for us to go through our days on “auto-pilot,” living on the surface of life and never paying attention to our depths.  While we each need to be faithful and disciplined  to live as Adam One, we must not neglect the cry of Adam Two.  The Psalmist understand this as he prayed, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.  O Lord, hear my voice.  Let your ear be attentive to my cry for mercy.” (Ps. 130:1)

This comes again as a “soul alert.” Think of Adam One and Adam Two as two  completing tendencies in your walk with Christ.  As a man rescued from your old ways, you are called to become more like Jesus in your daily affairs.  The alert is to not neglect Adam Two as you give attention to the demands of Adam One.  My advice: learn to schedule times of quiet –  listen to your soul, and learn to articulate what you are hearing. Remember the sobering words of Jesus. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

shadowboxing

Men, we all have a shadow side to our personality.  Our shadow is what we refuse to acknowledge  about ourselves.  There are disowned aspects that we simply reject and sent into an inner exile, as we try to manufacture an image of self that is acceptable to ourselves and others.   We need to be compassionate with the shadow side that is lurking inside each of us.  Rather than denying our shadow we need to  be hospitable, welcoming it into the light of consciousness

Richard Rohr refers to this process of welcoming  as “Shadowboxing”  “It is our attempt to face, awaken and transform the self that we have denied or disguised.” He refers to  Jesus words in Matt 5:12-15 , “Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you.  Don’t lose a minute.  Make the first move; make things right with him.  After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail.  If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.” (Message).  The old enemy is “a description of what we allow our inner story lines to do to us.”  We create stories of blame, anger and hurt toward ourselves and others. We need to befriend this old enemy or we will be jailed, that is, emotional entrapped within. The result will be a shadow lurking within, that manifests itself in unexpected, harmful ways.

Shadowboxing is not an easy practice, but necessary, if we are to be authentic persons.   It means we have to face  our inner contradictions and inconsistencies, while embracing our mistakes and failures.  Its humbling work, as we patiently learn to grieve, and repent of all that we have buried.  Finally seeing our shadow and its tactics begins to free us from its power to influence us.  There is less to be anxious about, because there is less fear of exposure to self and others.  We will find that we are more relaxed,while being more  authentic, and open to the story of others.  Why?  We have less to hide.  We are not worried about what others will discern regarding our character and actions.  We will be free to accept others for who there are.

Here are a few tips as you learn to shadowbox.  First, don’t be afraid of the light.  “But if we walk in the light , as he is in to light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from our sins.” (I John 1:7)  The light of the gospel is greater than the darkness within. Living in the light of Jesus’ love, helps you to befriend aspect of yourself that have been sent into exile. Secondly, accept who you are as created uniquely in God’s image, even as a “ruined soul” (Willard).  Make friends with your dark side, which produces guilt and shame, along with sadness and anger.  Thirdly, take your darkness to the cross.  Surrender it to Jesus.  See it going into his body, so that you might be healed.  Fourthly, realize that your shadow self will humble you.  It will make you more dependent on the grace and mercy of God.  Finally, find a “truth teller,” someone who you can be honest with when it comes to the inconsistencies and distortions of your inner life.  We all need to have someone help us to be objective about our “fallen condition.”

Standing in the gap

Recently my wife and I had an argument.  I did not like the way I handled it.  I went into my cave and started stewing.  It took me almost a day to admit that I was angry.   I was a cauldron of unhealthy emotions.  I certainly did not want to talk with my wife about the stew I had created in my soul.  So I kept quiet and pouted. I was helping to create a gap. I could say with the Psalmist, “For my soul is in trouble.” (Ps 88:3).  If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I was acting very immaturely, like a misunderstood boy.

But I am becoming more responsible in my responses to my wife.  I don’t know about you men, but when I am dealing with the mess of my emotions, knowing I have to face my wife with emotional honesty, I do not want to stand in the gap between us.  I want to flee from “WOMAN”.  Somehow I always feel the scales are tipped in my wife’s favor.  But I learning to come out, stand in the gap, and be honest with my emotions. It has nothing to do with being right or wrong, but rather with being emotionally honest.   The Psalmist prays in Ps 130:1-2, “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord.  Lord, hear my voice, let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”  It occurred to me that the Lord would hear my honest cry for help in wanting to be emotionally honest.

On a prayer walk I was asking the Lord for help with my emotional responses to my wife.  I felt like the Lord was saying to me, “Al, you carry the burden”  What was the burden?  It was the gap that our argument had created.  I know it was affecting my wife, but I was more focused on me. I was running away. Someone had to stand in the gap (Ezk. 22:30).  That was to be me.   We read in Gal 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  I was also reminded that I am to love my wife the way Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25).  In loving me, Jesus took the burden of my sin upon himself (I Peter 2:24).  What this meant for me was this: irregardless of who was right or wrong for the gap that had developed, I was to move into the gap and carry  the emotional burden.

So, men this is my challenge.  It will not be easy.  You will want to justify, excuse and run away.  But you need to come forth humbly,  accept the burden of the conflict, stand in the gap, and lovingly give yourself to your wife, in wanting to meet her emotional needs.  It does not matter what she thinks, does and says.  Someone has to carry the consequences of the conflict.  That needs to be the “MAN.”  That, men, is real leadership.  It takes courage and spiritual strength, to stand in “the gap” between you and your wife, and take the heat.  I’m warning you, you will need mercy and grace to love your wife the way Jesus loved the church. “”They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back.  He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. (I Peter 2:23 – Message).  You might have to suffering in silence.

Drinking from your cistern

Sexual assaults on college campuses has been in the news lately.  One out of five female students experience rape or sexual assault while they are in college.  Camille Paglia, writing in Time magazine puts it very bluntly, “young women today do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.”  She points out that the real problem, “resides in human nature,……. as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.”  She chides young women for assuming, “that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread or twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.”

Wow!  In my opinion, Ms. Paglia is nailing the issue of young male sexuality accurately.  I used to warn confirmation girls (12-14) to be on the look out for the “wolf” in young men.  Simply put, the sexual drive in a young man, left unchecked can violate a girl.  Male sexual energy like water needs to be channeled.  This is true no matter what our age  In Prov 5:15-18  we read,  “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from our own well.  Should your spring overflow in the streets, your stream of water in the public squares?  Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.  May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”

The references to cistern, running water, spring, and streams of water refer to the relationship of men to their wives.   Drinking from your own cistern encourages men to be faithful in their marriage and to enjoy sexual relationships with their  wives.  Rather than expending sexual energy on other  women, a men should cultivate a healthy sexual relationship with their wives.  Wells and cisterns were privately owned and of great value.  The sexual drive given to men is meant to be satisfied within private confines of marriage.  Here we find the joys of sexuality.   Until that time, young men need the grace of God to suffer the “in-between” time till marriage.  As a note in the NLT puts it, “In contrast to much of what we read, see, and hear today, this passage urges couples to look to each other for lifelong satisfaction and companionship.”

So here are a few “take-aways” for men from this passage.  First, celebrate the fact that you have sexual passions.  Come to peace regarding your passions; they are normal.  It is how you channel your passions that matters.   Secondly, we read in Prov 5: “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.”  Treasure your wife as the greatest gift God has given you, other than salvation.  Thirdly, follow the example of Job.  “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” (Job 31:1)  The Message puts it more bluntly, “never to undress a girl with my eyes.”  Men, the struggle with our fantasy life will be a continual battle.  As one man said, “It doesn’t take much for the horse to get out of the barn.”  One more take away.  Be vigilant in your behavior around other women.  Don’t be sending out signals or looking. You can look at the menu, but don’t go ordering  Your wife is watching.  Make her secure in knowing that you are a “one woman man.”

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