Your weakness is My gift to you. Instead of offering Me your achievements, offer Me your poverty, your weakness, your very failure to achieve great things, and I, in turn, will accept your offering and, uniting it to My own all-sufficient Passion, will make it fruitful for My priests and for all My Church.1 So long as you come to Me humbled by your weakness and animated by a holy desire for Me alone, I will overlook the other faults that affect you and in My mercy, I will erase them and give you, in their place, graces, and mercies that I have chosen and designated for you and for no other, and this from all eternity. (from The Journal of a Priest at Prayer, Angelico Press)
Our lives, in the end, are about relationships. We can irritate each other because we are different. In community life, I would say that the greatest source of suffering can be at times, well, my brother-monks. As Sartre in his play “No Exit “stated, “Hell is other people.”Even though I don’t agree with that, I can understand the sentiment.
Relationships of any kind –friend, acquaintance, stranger–can bring me face to face with my own narcissistic and childish reactions and elicit aspects of myself that go contrary to what I believe. I am no longer surprised by this, but that does not lessen the pain of the experience or the rage.
Anger can be a response to some sort of perceived injustice, and I can deal with that. Rage comes from a place much deeper. An everyday event can provoke it.
Rage makes me think that who I say I am is nothing but a construct walking over very thin ice. Rage threatens to undo my carefully made ego, my humorous self, and my, what others call, my kindness which is often a facade.
The spiritual life is not about ‘dressing-up,’ though it can be that for a while. No, our seeking after the Infinite, is, in fact, a ‘dressing-down.’ Spirituality is about falling through the ice, though the very thin layer that hides the sometimes brutal unconscious from my sanitized and self-serving thoughts about myself. I cannot go very deep unless I’m able to face what is actually dangerous for me to recognize. Not only myself but others as well. The news is full of stories when someone falls through that layer of ice and comes in contact with the ‘Id’ as Sigmund Freud would call it. The Id according to Freud is
“The division of the psyche that is totally unconscious and serves as the source of instinctual impulses and demands for immediate satisfaction of primitive needs.”
Is this a gift? I would say, yes, a gift that needs a strong ego to deal with it. For me, self-knowledge has to do with embracing aspects of myself painful to look at. Yet there you are, if it’s a part of me, I must deal with it or shut down, keeping me from approaching the bright light of the God-Head in silene. To pray from the heart is to open up myself to the actions of ‘Infinite Truth.’ It can seem like hell, but in reality, it is purgatory, a necessary step in letting go of the false idea that I have to be ‘together’ before I can come before the ‘Face of God,’ revealed in Jesus Christ.
The truth will actually set me free, but first I have to understand how unfree I can be, how much I am bound by deep inner emotions of the unconscious. Yet when the boat starts to be buckled by the inner waves, it is then I am called to step out upon the water, even if afraid, buoyed by grace and the gift of faith.
Humility is based on truth; it has nothing to do with a ‘bad-self-image.’ All that I see in others, what brings forth my own self-righteous rage, is in actuality a gift, showing me, myself. I can only react to what lives in me. What is different, when seeing it in others, my lies, and excuses, about ‘why’ are not present.
Lord, in Advent, this time of waiting, let me not be afraid of what needs your healing, for we can’t heal ourselves, but have found that in your faithfulness, we need not be afraid of the pain that comes from self-knowledge, the healing. It just takes so long!
For after all these years, I am still at the beginning. Well, except for one thing: I trust in you Lord and no longer have the sort of fear that used to propel me to hide from your gaze, but allows me to stand naked in your presence, for to hide is impossible. The truth does, in fact, set us free.