Last night the cell leaders got deep. Our teaching pastor, Dr. Gwen White, offered some of her wisdom in the struggle to become less judgmental. It seemed timely in this highly politicized time (and the normal state of the human heart!)
Her premise was that we have a hard time facing ourselves at the depths of us. We are psychologically wired to focus on the good—or what we think is good about ourselves. But in actuality we fear being alone or abandoned; we fear being found out or made a fool; we fear being known and rejected. We haven’t yet taken in the full measure of God’s grace to us in Christ Jesus. We haven’t yet known the fullness of this love…and this puts limits on our love. We are on a pilgrimage toward the truth that sets us free; we’ve got some of it and it’s glorious! But there’s more.
We seem to fundamentally have rooted in us this conviction that we must save ourselves by being good in all manner of ways. This is folly. And it is folly to think that our friends can manage this or our cell members or our pastors or our spouses or our children. We need to admit and admit again that because of Jesus Christ, it really is OK to be flawed. And so we will make mistakes and need to learn more each day we live.
Gwen shared how contemplative prayer has allowed the Spirit of God to fill the shadowed corners of her life. Through prayer we can learn to see our shadow selves and not run away. Like Peter Pan, we must learn to keep our shadow close so that when we turn toward judgment, comparison, and condemnation (of self and others) we can also turn toward our Savior and his open arms of acceptance that ultimately bring us to transformation.
To know the shadow means attending to our pain and frustration and hurts. She led us to consider the last time we felt significantly stressed and irritated. What was going on? We spent some time meditating and journaling and she led us in a very illustrative exercise.
We learned that when we see the “worst” in others it’s often a projection of the “worst” we see in ourselves. We can have more empathy for their struggle, too, as we continue to observe this inside us with Jesus. After all, it is not up to us to “fix” anyone—it is God who saves and transforms. Like Richard Rohr writes: Only an in-depth spirituality can fully accept the paradox of our flawed humanity, indwelled by God’s presence, where both light and dark are allowed and used by God.