Friday, April 3, 2009

Is it the truth, or is it a lie?

It's been an exciting week for me. On Sunday I preached at Church of the Resurrection (the text of which will be finding its way here shortly), and for the past few days I've been at a Benedictine monastery for a Lenten retreat. 

The monastery was the same place where we'd gone at the beginning of this internship, and it was actually nice to be back at the place. I've changed a lot since I was there; I'm a bit more confident in what I do, I've learned a lot about myself and have realized that I might actually be called to the priesthood. 

These times of retreat and quiet can be scary and dangerous. Sometimes we find out things about ourselves that are unpleasant and that we try to hide, but sometimes quiet can leave us alone with the Accuser, Satan. Now, I'm not going to get into a discussion about Satan, but suffice to say that what might seem to be the "dark truth" about us can be a distortion and a lie, too. Humility comes from learning the truth about ourselves, not from believing we are "a worm and no man." It's this facet of spirituality that we who struggle with guilt and shame need to accept. 

It's so easy to think that we are incredibly weak, flawed, wretched and just plain un-lovable human beings when we struggle with shame. We like to think that we know ourselves that well. People can be deluded about their greatness, we think, but people who know how horrible they are thinking the truth. 

For a long time I knew that others were to be loved and cared for. Everyone was a beloved child of God, and no one should hate themselves for their faults. The only problem was that I put a little asterisk (*) there like you see on packaging as a little disclaimer: "well, that refers to everyone but you." That little asterisk of unlovability enabled me to sit in judgment of myself. I was going to be strict with myself. Hating myself was OK, but I wouldn't allow someone else to hate themselves because I knew they were loved by God. When people would tell me that I was worthy of love, I would nod but reject it. That little asterisk seemed like I was being humble, being truthful to the Gospel. 

Humility requires being open to the truth. Humility is not at its heart about knowing how "bad" you are or how flawed you are. Humility is recognizing the truth about yourself and taking it to heart. Humility requires you to recognize your talents, skills, flaws and imperfections. You have to know how good you are and how bad you are; all of us do good things but we also all do bad things. We're not perfectly good, but we're not perfectly evil, either. 

If you've been struggling with self-hatred and despair, it's time to leave it here. That little voice that tells you you're a horrible person outside of God's love is not your conscience; it's the voice of Satan. The voice that tears you down and tears you apart and does not build you up into a child of God does not speak the truth; the truth may hurt when you hear it but it also helps you grow as a child of God. 

If you're like me, giving up that little asterisk of unlovability, giving up that idea of "I'm unlovable" is hard. There might be the fear that you will become arrogant or that you will stop listening to your conscience. It's a possibility, but it's doubtful. As long as you seek the truth and not the lies, then you're in good shape. 

1 comment:

Country Parson said...

If this is all you ever learn, it is enough.