Five Days in the Grave

Back when I entered the woods and encountered almost immediately the first humiliation about myself in relation to community, I saw two realities at work within me. There was a secure place inside me that had learned and come to believe with joy that all I have is from God and belongs to God. This place inside me knew at that time -- and still does -- that I am a mere instrument who has been given gifts that God uses in the lives of others.

Listening is one of those gifts. I could see that God had placed listening into my open hands and that he could even decide one day to take it out of my hands and replace it with something else. This place inside of me was secure in that possibility, knowing that the gift of listening is simply given to me by God for his use as long as he deems it useful. He gets to decide that, and I simply receive and respond.

But there was another place in me that I saw at that time. It was the false-self place, the part of me that wanted to be the savior for others and to have everything they needed securely locked inside of me. It was a yucky place, but it was there. And this was a part of me that focused on the gifts themselves and on myself and would get caught up in other people's estimation of me and need of me.

When that first humiliation happened, I could see myself standing in the woods with God. We had just entered the woods, and my cohort group was just back beyond the bend where we had just come from. I turned to God and said, "This is one reason we're here. This is perhaps why you've called me apart from them."

I could see God and I standing on the path, turned toward each other there at the beginning of that path around that first bend in the road, and I had pulled something out of my pocket. It was a small white sphere, like the cue ball used in billiard games. I had pulled it out of my pocket and held it in my open palm between us.

This was my ego.

I knew we were going to look at this cue ball of my ego here in the woods, that we were going to talk about it and that, eventually, God was going to ask me to give it to him, to place it in his hands to do with what he wanted.

This was hiddenness. This was dying to self. This was what I had been praying for God to teach me.

At the time, I didn't feel any pressure from God to hand over that white cue ball of ego right then. I felt only his presence with me as we looked at it together, as I came to realize it had been in my pocket and was now sitting there between us in the palm of my hand. I knew I wasn't ready to give it over to him, and I didn't feel any impatience or disappointment from him for that. He knew I wasn't ready. That was why we were here: to create in me the conditions that would make me ready to give it over to him.

So we kept walking and talking, and I slipped the cue ball back inside my pocket.

And the humiliations continued to happen as we went. It was so hard and difficult to discover this false self of ego almost everywhere I turned in those days.

And then finally, as I mentioned in my last post about the three humiliations, I reached a point of ultimate defeat and surrender. It began in my kitchen on a particularly pressure-filled day, where with hands raised and tears streaming down my face, I called out to God, "I give up. I can't do this anymore."

That led to five days in the grave. Five days of kneeling down on the ground in the woods at God's feet, turned away in remorse at the reality of my superhuman ego self. I couldn't move. I saw God standing next to me on the path, quietly receiving my surrender and waiting for my next move. At one point I tried to listen to what he might say to me as I knelt in this posture at his feet. I heard the words, "Peace. Be still. You are utterly loved."

It was such a grace to receive those words, but still I seemed to need to remain in that posture of contrition and surrender for however long it took. I didn't know exactly what I was waiting for, only that I couldn't yet move. Contrition and repentance were happening in this place.

I slowly realized this was the place of my handing to God the white cue ball of myself. To be continued . . .