I have quoted from David Benner often on the blog site. He has been a great help in my spiritual formation. He helped me to see that personhood is not an accomplishment, but rather a gift. It has been difficult to realize how much of who I have thought of myself to be, has been of my own making. The whole business of self-making has been a lot of futile work for me. But my true self in Christ is an identity that I have received from God. Any other image I have of self is an illusion. If God does not know me, then I really do not exist as a person, but rather as a image of my own making.
What was hard at first for me to realize that God knows me through and through, yet loves me as I am, not as I should be. I have spent a life time bringing before God and presenting to others a “polished image of self.” But as Benner observes, “Genuine self-knowledge begins by looking at God and noticing how God is looking at us. Grounding our knowing of our self in God’s knowing of us anchors us in reality. It also anchors us in God.” In this knowing I have coming to experience the reality that God loves me for who I really am, rather then how I behave. When my identity is truly grounded in God, “the first thing that would come to mind is my status as someone who is deeply loved by God”
This knowing has allowed me to welcomeand embrace those “unwelcomed parts of self” as Benner calls them. These parts of self have remained hidden for years in shame and denial They needed to be named and embraced. Listen again to Benner. “We need to be willing to welcome these ignored parts as full members of the family of self, giving them space at the family table and slowly allowing them to be softened and healed by love and integrated into the whole person we are becoming.” I have been learning that for transformation to occur in my life, I must bring to the table these unwelcomed parts, otherwise I will continue to live an illusion.
So men, I highly recommend the practice of looking at God and the image God looking at you. It can be a significant spiritual practice, as you come to know that God loves you as you are with all those unwelcomed parts. This is facing reality and not creating a spiritual illusion of denial. I am learning to create a hospitable place for these unwelcomed parts of self, rather then been ashamed or living in denial. The more I do this, the more I experience the unconditional love of God. As Benner asks, “If God loves and accepts you as a sinner, how can you do less?” Here is a final quote from Benner. “You can never be other than who you are until you are willing to embrace the reality of who you are. Only then can you truly become who you are most deeply called to be.” For me this has meant a life of more authenticity and joy before the Lord and with others.