Thomas Merton, contemplative and theologian, wrote: "Life consists in learning to live on one’s own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one’s own—be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid.”
I love how he puts this: to be familiar and at home with oneself.
Looking at this in the light of the Lenten season, I find a new thought settling into my heart and mind: maybe self-examination and reflection isn't about uncovering sin or problems. Maybe it's not even about claiming good things.
Maybe it's about knowing myself. Knowing who I have been created to be, but also knowing how far from that completeness and wholeness I still am. Knowing what my gifts are, and what my weaknesses are.
Not so that I can be fixed, or fix myself. Not so that I can beat myself up, or allow myself to be crushed under others' expectations. Not so that I can boast about myself.
Just so that I can be.
So I can exist without being constantly afraid of what I might someday do. Of what I might someday find in hidden in myself.
So I can live knowing that I am reaching bravely for everything I can, making choices with wisdom and in love.
So I know I won't look back next year, or at the end of my life, and despair because I couldn't find a way to give myself to the world around me.
Myself, not what others say they want; who I am, not who others want me to be; what I have to give, not what other people demand.
Because I am familiar with myself. I know where I am weak, and I don't have to keep searching for hidden sins or hidden damage. I don't have to mistrust myself, except in the areas I know are still unformed or embittered.
Because I am comfortable with myself. I know where my gifts lie, even ones that others cannot see. I don't have to question those gifts, only figure out how to nurture and use them.
That's the glorious center of this meditation, for me: That knowing myself (in God), I can trust myself. I can be familiar and at home with myself, whether that is enjoying all the goodness in and around me, or gently reminding myself not to fall back into old ruts of anger or bitterness or self-abnegation.
It's Lent. It's time to know yourself. And in knowing yourself, find new ways to know God, since (to quote Julian of Norwich) He is the ground in which your self is rooted. And in knowing God, to better know yourself, since you are learning to be comfortable and familiar with the ground in Whom you grow.