Odds are you are not who you think you are. Actually that is probably true for all of us to varying degrees. I am of course talking about the Ego, the Small Self, or the False Self depending on who you are listening to. I prefer the name False Self as it cuts to the heart of the issue. It is what happens when we try to find our identity through what we have, what we do, and what others say about us. If we are honest…that pretty much includes all of us. The problem with this is that most of us never realize that who we think we are is mostly (or completely) this False Self. Many of us spend a great deal of our lives working very hard to build and then defend the identity our False Self has given us. This does nothing less than keep us from engaging in true spirituality and seeing ourselves and our world as they really are.
The third movement of the Examen is called Gift of the Spirit. The Street Psalms community offers us these words to guide us through this movement:
We welcome you Holy Spirit, who gives us the courage and compassion to see ourselves, our relationships, our world, and even our enemies as we really are. Ease the fear that blinds us, that binds us to our false selves, and that keeps us from the Truth that sets us free.
The Holy Spirit is a completely mystical being. As a priest friend of mine has recently said in a homily, “The problem with the Holy Spirit is that as soon as you think you have Her boxed in, She escapes and shows up somewhere completely different and unexpected.” Many believe that it is the Spirit who wipes our lens–so to speak–and helps us to see what truly is as opposed to what our fear, pride, etc. would have us believe.
It is more difficult than ever to live a life of spiritual awareness. We are constantly seduced by the belief that our chief aim should be to attain more things…succeed just a little more…perfectly obey a set of rules–all with the ultimate aim of firming up our identity and proving ourselves worthy of others’ respect…envy…love…etc. The Bible is filled with words inviting us to become aware of the lie of those pursuits and the lie of that identity. We are invited to find our identity as it truly is–God’s Image which already rests at the center of who we are. In that way we have nothing to prove to ourselves or anyone else seeing as though our truest identity is firmed up before we even begin. The most fruitful journey of any spiritual experience is becoming more aware of this truth and resting in it.
Like a “Magic Eye” picture, once you catch a glimpse of your True Self there is no way to unsee it. Every time you look, you will see what is hidden beneath the chaos. The gift of the Spirit is clarity of sight. We are invited to grow in our awareness of our False Self. A professional athlete is invited to become aware of their true identity which is in no way hinged upon their career, how popular they are, how much money they have, etc. Of course this sort of invitation is open for all of us and not just celebrities. I am invited to become aware of my true identity which is in no way hinged on how well I know the Bible, how much I appear to care about the kids of Joshua Station, or how you may or may not see me as someone worthy of respect.
This movement of the Examen reminds us that this awareness offered by the Holy Spirit is not a quick fix situation. Even after you begin to recognize your False Self it will still tempt you to believe that it is the “real” and “only” you. Father Richard Rohr observes that no single person will spend a full 24 hours living in their True Self. Our False Self has been formed and secured throughout our entire lives as a part of our understanding of who we are–you don’t just undo that overnight. But, practices like the Examen offer us the space to confront these deep truths in such a way that the False Self starts to have less and less power over how we see ourselves, how we see those around us, and even how we see those we have been taught to fear.
As we grow in our awareness of our True Selves, we will begin to see everything through the eyes given to us through Christ–we will begin to see as Christ sees. If that doesn’t offer you a bit of hope for yourself and the world then I am not sure what will.
I will again leave you with a couple of questions from the Street Psalms community…
1. How is the Spirit who defends us against all accusation inviting us to relax into God’s love, that we might see as Christ sees?
2. What are we defending?
3. How does this blind us?
Did you miss the first blog of the series? No worries. Just click here.