Thursday, July 28, 2016

Unmasking the False Self

“And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 

2 Cor 3: 18

My backyard

Spiritual formation, Jesus-style, is about heart-morphing into Christlikeness (Galatians 4:19). Every Jesus-follower has "Christ in them, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1). The apostle Paul speaks of this "mystery" as a great treasure to be discovered and sought out, again and again. Every day of our lives is a day of potential discovery as we experience the riches of Christ in us.

Henri Nouwen writes of this reality in The Inner Voice of Love:

"What a gracious provision is ours to access in our present journey! Truly, we can be conformed to Christ— from glory to glory— until that day at the consummation of all things, when we can wholly reclaim our true-self-in-Christ. Finally, when we come home to “glory,” we are guaranteed never to fall short of it again— ever! Until then, as we daily find ourselves immersed in the concurrent experience of our true self and our false self within, we face the reality of tension, fully cognizant that our “deepest, truest self is not yet home.”

Commenting on this Will Hernandez writes: "In fact, the first step to our ongoing process of homecoming demands this continual claiming of our true self and the unmasking of our false self. In Thomas Merton’s words, “To reach one’s ‘real self’ one must, in fact, be delivered from that illusory and ‘false self’ whom we have created.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 34; quoted in Will Hernandez, Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension, Kindle Locations 523-529)

Hernandez continues:

"Our true identity, therefore, is the one defined by God himself. So who are we according to God’s precise view of us? The bottom line is that we are creatures made in the image of our Creator, “valued, valuing, and valuable” beings whom God has loved and will continue to love from eternity to eternity. Indeed “we are the beloveds of God,” as Nouwen confidently declares repeatedly in almost all his speaking and writing. Unshakably, he understood Jesus’ true identity as God’s beloved Son (Matt. 3: 17) to be true of us as well and therefore something we can legitimately claim for ourselves. As John Mogabgab, Nouwen’s former teaching and research assistant at Yale, underscored, “This was for Henri the first truth about us, the truth beyond all biological, cultural, and psychological truths that accumulate around our identity.” (Hernandez, Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension, Kindle Locations 533-541)

My new book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.