Tuesday, June 26, 2007
MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR SHADOW
I have complete confidence, O God! I will sing and praise you! Wake up, my soul! Wake up, my harp and lyre! I will wake up the sun. I will thank you, O Lord, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. Your constant love reaches above the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies. Show your greatness in the sky, O God, and your glory over all the earth. Save us by your might; answer my prayer, so that the people you love may be rescued.
Who, O God, will take me into the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? Have you really rejected us? Aren't you going to march out with our armies? Help us against the enemy; human help is worthless. With God on our side we will win; he will defeat our enemies.
I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, and how very great is his power at work in us who believe.
But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved. In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus.
He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. And so shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature.
(Psalm 108:1-6; Psalm 108:10-13; Ephesians 1:18-19; Ephesians 2:4-7; Ephesians 4:12-13 -- all GNB)
Gentle, reflective listening to the unfolding of God's Word in our daily lives has been a practice recommended by spiritual leaders over many centuries. To become aware of God's action in our lives we must stop and quietly reflect on where we have been and what has happened in our lives, to bring to our consciousness the beautiful ways in which God has called us into being and to ac knowledge before him our frailty and our brokenness.
It is a process of discerning each day our movements towards and away from God to acknowledge the gifts with which he has showered us and to ask his help to become ever more aware of the darker side of our personalities which if unattended may harm or cripple us. If we are prepared to enter into our inner sanctum or the fortified city (Psalm 108: 10), we will be in touch with the deeper forces that are beyond our ordinary consciousness and which have the power to exert enormous influence on our actions.
This process of silent listening in God's presence will enable us gradually to experience a greater appreciation of the inner meaning and relationship of those disparate parts of ourselves and of the world around us. As this understanding takes place so will our transformation or personal integration be enhanced.
The liberating spark of the 'light that shines in the darkness' (John 1: 5) will bring new life and light to our hearts and minds and our every action will become a vehicle for God's presence to us and our presence to him in love.
In actual life it requires the greatest discipline to be simple, and the acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook upon life.
That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ -- all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, the very enemy himself -- that these are within me, and I myself stand in need of the aims of my own kindness -that I myself am the enemy who must be loved -- what then?
As a rule, the Christian's attitude is [to hide this] from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves... We therefore do not hesitate, but lightheartedly choose the complicated course of remaining in ignorance about ourselves while busying ourselves with other people and their troubles and sins. This activity lends us an air of virtue, and we thus deceive ourselves and those around us. In this way, thank God, we can escape from ourselves. There are countless people who can do this with impunity, but not everyone can, and these few break down on the road to Damascus and succumb to a neurosis. How can I help these persons if I am myself a fugitive?
C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul
The tremendous compulsion towards goodness and the immense moral force of Christianity are not merely an argument in the latter's favour, they are also a proof of the strength of its suppressed and repressed counterpart -- the antichristian, barbarian element. The existence within us of something that can turn against us, that can become a serious matter for us, I regard not merely as a dangerous peculiarity, but as a valuable and congenial asset as well. It is a still untouched fortune, an uncor rupted treasure, a sign of youthfulness, an earnest of rebirth...
The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no-one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here or there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad. It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins; where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences.
C.G. Jung, Psychological Reflections
The teachings of Jesus suggest... that we should not wait until we know all about suffering to find our need. We need to be delivered from the source of our inhumanity, Jesus taught, and he told us first of all to pray, 'Deliver us from the evil one.' Then in various ways he showed that the task is to look within and to know what is causing the trouble and whether we are nursing anger or harmful desires in our hearts. Our job is not just to wait for evil to happen in the outer world and then try to do something about the pain and the agony it causes. Instead, Christians are to recognise the source of evil within themselves so that they can seek help in order to stand outwardly against it.
Morton T. Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence
True knowledge of God always goes hand in hand with a painful self-knowledge. John of the Cross expresses it beautifully by means of the famous metaphor of the log of wood being transformed into fire. As the wood burns, it becomes blackened, it cracks and steams and all the knotholes and flaws are exposed. If the log could speak it would cry out: 'My seeking to become a fire was a mistake! I am now worse than when I started -- black, ugly and flawed. I was better off before.' The log is the soul and the fire is God. And the truth, of course, is that the log is not worse off then it was before. All the ugliness and defects were present before but they were concealed. The only way the log can become fire is to be revealed honestly and openly as what it is in itself. The process is painful but, contrary to appearances, it is the mark of real growth in union with God. That is why good souls who are making real progress often feel they are regressing and getting further from God.
Thomas H. Green, Opening to God
O, to vex me contraries meet in one; Inconstancy unnaturally hath begot A constant habit, that when I would not I change in vows and in devotion. As humorous is my contrition As my profane love, and as soon forgot, As riddlingly distempered, cold and hot; I durst not view heaven yesterday, and today In prayers and flattering speeches I court God; Tomorrow I quake with true fear of his rod. So my devout fits come and go away Like a fantastic ague, save that here Those are my best days when I shake with fear.
John Donne, Holy Sonnets VI
One reason why most of us experience alternating consolation and desolation is because our minds have layers upon layers of consciousness. At one level of consciousness I may be full of faith that all power belongs to God and that without him I can do nothing. Then my security is threatened in some way and I reach a deeper level of consciousness to which my faith has not penetrated and where I have been living in a state of unconscious atheism. This moment of crisis is an invitation to grow in faith. I may accept the invitation and for a few years I live in this deeper level. Then another crisis occurs and I become aware of an even deeper level of atheism within me. In our journey towards God we proceed like those small birds whose flight is in loops. They always seem to be about to drop, but the drop in their flight seems to urge them forwards...
'The answer is in the pain.' We fear whatever causes us pain and try to escape, but in escaping we are running away from the answer, and so another useful guideline in learning to read our moods is: Face the fears that haunt you.
In Jungian language, 'Face your shadow'. Fear, like guilt, is a healthy human reaction to danger, but if we refuse to face the fear, we cannot discover the danger which is threatening. If we refuse to face the fear, the fear may become a ruthless tyrant pervading and poison ing every aspect of our lives. Once faced, the fears often turn out to be illusory.
Gerard W. Hughes, God of Surprises
The act of love -- extending oneself -- requires a moving out against the inertia of laziness (work) or the resistance engendered by fear (courage). Let us turn now from the work of love to the courage of love. When we extend ourselves, our self enters new and unfamiliar territory, so to speak. Our self becomes a new and different self. We do things we are not accustomed to do. We change. The experience of change, of unaccustomed activity, of being on unfamiliar ground, of doing things differently is frightening. It always was and always will be. People handle their fear of change in different ways, but the fear is inescapable if they are in fact to change. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future. On some level spiritual growth, and therefore love, always requires courage and involves risk.
M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled
Lord, I do love the darkness
The hours folk call the night
Where others see but blackness
I know a lordly light.
The light that burns within
Each breathing hopeful heart
And gives all living kin
Of godliness some part.
Lord I do love the sunlight
Reflected by the moon,
I move by it at midnight
But hide from it at noon.
Your daylight dawning blinds me,
Reveals me from above,
Ungainly and unkindly
Unworthy of your love.
Lord, I do love the darkness
The hours folk call the night
Where others see but starkness
I know a lordly light.
I dance between the trees
Of this cathedral wood.
I scent the gentlest breeze
And know your will is good.
George Scott Moncrieff, Prayer of the Badger
Lord Jesus, may you yourself prepare in the wilderness of our hearts the path of your return.
The hills of our pride - tear them down with your humility. The valleys of our despair - fill them with your hope. The winding roads of our lives - straighten them with your truth, and let bloom in our desert the daffodils of your joy.
Then will we be able to see your glory and adore your presence in the face of each of our brothers and sisters.
Lucien Deiss, Biblical Prayers
May the Lord bless you and take care of you; May the Lord be kind and gracious to you; May the Lord look on you with favour and give you peace.
(Numbers 6: 24-26)
Rowland Croucher ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys, Albatross/Lion, chapter 23