Thomas Merton warns us when he states, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with reality.” I have found that facing the reality of my sinful nature has been the most difficult part of the spiritual journey To finally come to the place of accepting the good, bad and ugly found in my heart has not been easy. I have lived most of my life with an illusion of self rather then reality of self. Instead of accepting who I really am, I have denied my real self, trying to present an image of a “spiritual” man who has it together. That practice robbed me of authenticity, that is, living with others as I really am. I did not have freedom to be me and live in the joy of the present moment. My focus more often then not was on my image of self rather then who I truly was in God.
Men, we can in confidence and humility come to know and accept all the parts of our inner life, especially those parts that are most shameful and fearful. Why? Because God know all about who we are and yet loves us in our stink. “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (Rom 5:8 – The Message). I can not stress to you the joy and freedom in coming to accept all aspects of who you really are before God. When you come to the inner knowing that God loves you with unconditional love, you are able finally to accept yourself as you are. Knowing God and knowing self are intimately related. As David Benner puts it, ” Knowing ourselves must therefore begin by knowing the self that is known by God. If God does not know us, we do not exist.” In other words, we can live with an illusion of self, rather in the reality of who we are.
Think about it for a moment. How is change going to come to a part of our self that we do not even accept? Living with an illusion of self takes a lot of work. We know that Jesus wants us to be crucified with him. But when we live in illusion we end up often crucifying part of our true self in God. Living in the reality of who I really am, means living in the light of God’s love and acceptance. Take it from a fellow traveler, there is grace and mercy to crucify, that is surrender and give up control, of those bad habits and diseased atttiudes when they are exposed to the light. In the clear, bright light of God’s grace I can then rejoice and be accepting of who I really am in Christ. This is the real authentic me, giving me energy to live in joy and freedom. Illusion simply is not an option once you taste the freedom and joy of living in your true self in Christ.
So here is a simply practice that has been very helpful for me. I learned this from David Benner. Spend time imaging God looking at you. All those negative feelings and images you have of yourself, allow to flow out of yourself into the presence of God. It might help to see them going into Jesus’ body as He died to healing you of your sinful condition. You can bring all your inner junk to him at the foot of the cross. Then visualize God the Father receiving you in love. “Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 – The Message). Like a strong wind the Spirit clears to air of our inner life. “If you’re content with simply being yourself, you will become more than yourself” (Luke 18:14 – The Message).