Living in the True Self

Bougainville in light.

I was in a session with my spiritual director yesterday, and we talked quite a bit about the true self — the self God created when he created us, the self into which it is his ever-continuing intention to form us throughout our lives. 

There was a moment in my time of prayer during the session when I could see three selves inside of me, two of them false and one of them true. 

The two false selves exist on the extremes of a pendulum.

On the far right is the self that wants and seeks to be super-human. This is the self that wants to create magic, to be the irreplaceable part of other people’s lives, to be the savior for another person’s quandary. It’s the self that exists under extreme pressure to live up to some ideal of perfection and shininess in order to be needed and wanted and utterly indispensable to others and to this world.

On the far left is a completely opposite self. This self exists in the shadows, behind a heavy curtain, cloaked in shame. This is the self who walks with eyes downcast, ashamed to meet other people eye to eye. It is the self who shrinks from being seen, the self who lurches into coffee shops and grocery stores and the post office and drives down the road with a sense of unworthiness and fear. It is the self who apologizes all the time for merely existing.

Neither of these selves are true.

And I’m so thankful for long-standing relationships, like the one I have with my director, Elaine, that can be a place of reminder. Because of our long-standing relationship, Elaine was able to remind me — through concrete examples — of the true self I have come to know and embody and embrace through my relationship with Christ.

This is the self who walks on the beach with Jesus regularly. It is the self who took a four-month journey through the woods with Jesus, even though I didn’t know what would transpire in those woods or what would emerge on the other side of them. It is the self who eventually came upon a village with Jesus and who sits on benches and rocks and walls and front-porch stoops with him. 

It is the self who knows Jesus and is completely free and strong and fully alive and full of joy in his presence.

There is no shame present at all in my true self, and no need at all for magic. Just being.

The true self lives in honest and glad surrender to these truths: Jesus alone is the one who holds and offers and is the magic. And with Jesus, there is no evidence or place for shame.

Have you met your true self yet? What is that self like? When do you most often inhabit and live inside your true self?

Are you familiar, as I am, with the pendulum that swings from one false self to another? What is your false self (or selves) like? What does your false self seek? How might companioning with Jesus help bring you back to center, to living in the rest and assurance and joy of the true self he created when he created you?