Christine Sine is once again hosting an Advent Blog Series on her blog Godspace. The series is called “Jesus Is Near: How Do We Draw Close?”This post is my contribution to the series. Christine will share at least one contribution daily on her blog, where she also provides a list of all the contributors.
“We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent
and God is shining through it all the time.
God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything – in
people and in things and in nature and in events …
The only thing is we don’t see it …
I have no program for this seeing. It is only given.
But the gate of heaven is everywhere.”
– Thomas Merton
Years ago I believed that drawing near to God required me to become someone other than who I was/am. Although I became a follower of Christ while the old hymn “Just As I Am” was sung, I didn’t believe being myself would allow me to get very close to God.
It took me many years to begin to understand that being myself – my real self as opposed to my false self – was not only what would enable me to draw near to God; but, to my amazement and surprise, reconciliation with God and others was to be achieved through reconciliation with myself – my made-in-the-image-of-Christ self.
I don’t need to leave myself – my true self – to become spiritual – to commune with God – to see God manifested in everywhere, in everything – to walk through the gate of heaven that is everywhere – in people – in things – in nature – in events. It is my false self that must die so that my true self may emerge.
My false self finds it’s identity in what I am not (I’m not like “those” people), or in a group who shares some common experience, or in a person who makes me feel like I belong. My false self is consumed with personas and masks that hide my feelings, my failures, my passions, my fears, my desires in order to pretend to be what I perceive to be expected from me.
My false self is telling me right now, as I write this, that I must get busy and do something to become my true self … but the truth is I cannot do it – I cannot think or work myself into being real enough to draw near to God. Becoming real is something that happens to us in the midst of our life. Paula D’Arcy says, “God comes to us disguised as our life.”
In other words, it grasps us in the midst of our ordinary life. Being real is an experience – during prayer, in the midst of suffering, while fully experiencing our place in creation, being forgiven or loved, enjoying art or relationship … it is not based on any sense of merit or accomplishment – it is a gift. A gift that allows you to see a child sleeping, hear a voice singing, feel a breeze blowing with spontaneous awe and gratitude; a gift that allows us to be mindful of difficult feelings when they begin to surface – feelings of anger, fear, boredom, sadness, frustration, anxiety – that can be acknowledged to ourself and to God as if we were holding the feeling in our hand and presenting it to ourself and to God; a gift that allows me to look upon events and people with sacred attention and be vulnerable rather than defensive, judgemental, controlling and/or manipulative.
The fact that we cannot think or work ourself into being real enough to draw near to God does not mean that we cannot end up spending our life working to nurture and maintain our false self. Our realization of our false self, our struggle to remove our masks, our willingness to dwell silently in the presence of God, to allow God to live his love through us, to be present in the here-now – these things help us to receive the gift of the really real – the gift of being our true self – so that all our enterings and leavings become a movement into the presence of God because “the gate of heaven is everywhere.”
“Everything I see, hear, touch, feel, taste, speak, think, imagine, is completing a perfect circle God has drawn.” – Meister Eckhart