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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What if God just wants you to discover yourself?

I recently came across this writer in the blog world and have enjoyed many of his thoughts. With his permission, I have reposted one of his more recent writings below, as it ties into the two of my  own previous posts. This may in fact clear up some thoughts about where I am coming from, although, I may indeed go a little bit farther yet. Read these words of Peter's and the words of others he has mentioned. There is, indeed, wisdom here!


What if God just wants you to discover yourself?

A few years ago, I was given a short book written by James Martin, SJ, Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other SaintsI read it quickly, and liked it well enough, but I recently picked it up again and I felt this time I was more ready to listen to what Martin had to say.
You may know Martin better from his two recent books,The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (a NYT Bestseller) and Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life. He has great insights, and is becoming a writer I look to for guidance along the way and to push me think differently about…oh, I don’t know…life I guess.
Much of this short book (89 pages, plus) is a review of the life and writings of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen centering on the idea of, as the title tell you, Becoming Who You Are.
Martin explains by citing Merton from New Seeds of Contemplation:
For me to be a saint means to be myself,…Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and discvoering my true self” (p. ix).
These might be off-putting, even scary, words for those raised in a Christian faith where “we” are the problem that needs fixing. I mean, Jesus even said you have to lose your life if you want to find it.
But Merton is in fact saying just that. Note Merton speaks of “discovering my true self.” The true self is “the person we are before God and the person we are meant to be” (p. 18). The false self, by contrast, is “the person that we wish to present to the world, and the person we want the whole world to revolve around” (p. 19)
Martin cites Merton, again from New Seeds of Contemplation:
Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences  for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface (p. 19).
I understand some might be tempted to think this is self-help psychobabble, but nothing could be further from the truth.  True knowledge of oneself, and the process of transforming beyond the false self, is a lifelong, arduous process.
It takes courage to look deep inside ourselves and ask, “How well do I know myself? How bound am I to a life I have constructed for myself that on the surface has all the trappings of piety and faith, but in truth is rooted in jealousy, anger, fear, power, self-justification, control, and the like?”
As psychologist and spiritual writer David G. Brenner puts it in Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation:
Far too often we confuse our own spiritual self-improvement tinkerings with the much more radical agenda of God. The call of the Spirit–which is always gentle and therefore easily missed–is an invitation to abandon our self-improvement projects that are, in reality, little more than polishing our false self and become the unique hidden self in Christ that we have been from all eternity (p. 33).
It is a sad thing when one’s faith in God is an expression of the false self: judgmentalism, us vs. them thinking, theological pride, overweening attention to rules and regulations, etc.
A faith that is simply an expression of the false self is mere religion. But when flowing from a knowledge of the true self–which is a work prompted by the Spirit, if we are willing to listen–faith becomes love of God and love of neighbor. This is what Merton means when he says, “For me to be a saint means to be myself.”
I think there is much wisdom here.
Thanks Peter for allowing the repost. If you'd like to read more of Peter's writings, you can follow him at Peter Enns . You wont regret it.


My Little Warriors said...

Thank you for expanding and sharing more of where you are coming from ... Very intersting thoughts and thank you for sharing peter's writing and thoughts as well.. I will have to check that out

CalledtoQuestion said...

M.L.W.- You're welcome. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy some of Peters thoughts. He has an interesting Interview with Myron Penner (Remember him from your Prairie days?) about his new book.

Grant said...

Hey Phil:
I think I just had a flash of "revelation" as to why I have had "difficulty" with your take of "self" and "denying self" etc.
In part, it is because while others are struggling to 'get there', I basically started out coming to Jesus NOT for the forgiveness of my terrible sins, but because His invitation to me was. I am come that they might have life, ABUNDANT life, or "life in all its fullness". And my exploration of 'trivia' as it were has led me to find out about 'what makes me, me.' It is why I "researched" my temperaments and in grasping both my strengths and weaknesses I could be a "Spirit Controlled" Temperament, or at least recognize when I was NOT being Spirit Controlled. Likewise I worked at discovering my "gifts". "Know Thyself" as it were, and "Know God",then you are equipped to "know others" and what makes them tick, and you come to know God's answers for the ones who are broken or bent. This is what allows me to face and accept reality both about myself and the world. And in that framework I really can have "Abundant Life" here and hereafter. So it is really saying the same thing as God want you to discover yourself.
And I think maybe in a little less "mystical" way than the mystics.

I think someone else said it kind of like. "To know what you know and to know what you don't know is to know." Applied to Self and the other Selfs around me is to take what is there and to make application. Then when I allow myself to be myself and am comfortable with the 'real me' then I can also afford to let others be their own selves. Is that why others cannot allow "us" to be ourselves? Because they have not learned to be them Selves... as they are "in Christ"?


Kmarie said...

Loved this..and I changed your font colour again...It was hurting my eyes:) This is much better:) Anyway, thanks for sharing. You know I am probably a bit more mystical than this take but yet this is definitely a step towards that Godly inner self or the God in self or the self within God. Whatever you want to say:)
This self loves that it is married to your self:) LOL. Sorry I am being silly...I am not too serious today but I wanted to at least know I read this:)

CalledtoQuestion said...

Grant- I think we can agree!:) Yay! Thanks for your thoughts. I often wonder what it must be like to have come to Christ as you did.

Kmarie- Thanks darling. Always looking out for me. I think I am as well. I lift my glass of wine a say, "Here is to Self."