It was 2009 when I first heard Father Richard Rohr say, “We Christians tend to put the cart before the horse.” Among other things, he was speaking about the tendency that we have to boil our faith down to a set of moral codes that give us a Pass/Fail view of a spiritual life. This tendency could make it difficult to truly engage in the 4th movement of the Examen–Reflection.
Our temptation could be to beat ourselves up about the times that we failed, fall to our knees and beg God to resist the urge to smite us. This is a common practice among Christians and it completely misses the point of this movement. The Street Psalms community offers us these words:
As those who are being renewed by your love, we freely confess to you our wounds–the deep wounds of blindness, voicelessness, despair, and isolation. We confess our misplaced desires that bind us to our wounds in deceptive and destructive ways. We confess the same for our communities we serve. We pray for the healing gifts of sight, voice, joy, and community. Loving One, kiss us into existence now and re-create us in your desire. As you promised, meet us in the “inner room” of life. We want to see you face to face, that we might discover ourselves again in you. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
This is not to say that we should have no remorse for violence, hatred, selfishness, etc. Remorse can often be a catalyst for something deeply transformative. The problem arises when we enter into the cycle of striving for perfection, almost convincing ourselves that it’s possible, and then becoming borderline hateful toward ourselves when we fall short of that impossible goal.
The Reflection movement of the Examen has much more to do with awareness than guilt. We reflect on the day, week, month, etc. and try to become more aware of our motives, our fears and anxieties, our joys, our moments of presence, our moments of avoidance. By growing in our awareness and confessing our wounds to God, we open ourselves to the invitation of God to experience wholeness through being renewed and reminded of who we really are and who God really is. In this way, even our most regrettable failures are used by God for the work of transformation and should not be a perpetual source of shame which only serves to cripple our maturity and growth.
As a good friend of mine said recently, it’s time for us to accept the whole of who we are. One day that will only include our Truest Selves, but until that day we will be a mass of contradictions–loving and hateful, selfless and selfish, courageous and cowardly. Only when we are vulnerable enough to offer all of who we are to God will we experience true healing and growth. So stop beating yourself up. You are not condemned. God will use even your greatest source of shame in your transformation.
I will again leave you with a few questions from the Street Psalms community…
1. As we remember our week and our actions, what moved us and shaped us?
2. When did we cave into our fears, anxieties, addictions, and displaced desires?
3. When were we our truest selves?
4. When did we experience consolation or desolation? Fear or Freedom? Integration or Disintegration? Trust or Fixation?
5. When did we relax and experience the ground of Being itself?
Did you miss the first blog of the series? No worries. Just click here.