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Being familiar with oneself (Lenten post #1) - Light One Candle

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February 26th, 2012

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12:14 pm - Being familiar with oneself (Lenten post #1)
Hey, all. I'm trying to write one post a week during Lent this year, as I did last year. I hope something here is of blessing or use to you.

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.

Current Mood: happyhappy

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[User Picture]
Date:February 27th, 2012 04:38 am (UTC)
Oh, absolutely!

Thanks for the reminder. I don't usually have a problem with this, but so much has been uprooted recently that introspection has been painful of late. Not that pain is necessarily because of sin/guilt/etc, just that... there's pain there. Like when I fractured my arm, and there was pretty much nothing I could do about it, except wait.

But pain is a great excuse to neglect introspection, and neglecting introspection is a great way to forget who I am, and that's an important thing to forget. :-) God seems to like me well enough. That should be all the reason I need.
[User Picture]
Date:February 27th, 2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
But pain is a great excuse to neglect introspection, and neglecting introspection is a great way to forget who I am, and that's an important thing to forget.

Mm. That can be true.

It's intriguing that this is what you came away with from my post--I do think that's pretty much exactly what I'm saying, but I've been trying rather hard the past year or two to limit my introspection and just live. (Do you know the concept of "mindfulness"?) Mostly because introspection, for me, has been associated with fear, anxiety, and absorbing the idea that I might secretly be "bad" at least as often as it has been associated with the blessings of knowing myself.

I guess I'm moving on, if I can invoke the blessings of introspection again! :-D Thank you for drawing my attention to this.

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