“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”
This quote from Margaret Thatcher, though probably said in jest, is often closer to the truth for me than I’d like to admit. I can wait, as long as the outcome is in my favor. As long as I get my own way. And nothing stands in my way. There’s something inflexible in this stance that leaves no room for transformation. The word “way” originally meant a road, path or course of travel, not an end in itself. Thus to “give way” meant to yield the road to another.
Maybe either unconsciously or consciously, we assume our way is best, as Frank Sinatra immortalized in the song, “My Way.”
“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!” — Frank Sinatra, “My Way”
What I’ve noticed is that my way, as good as it may seem to me, only takes me so far in life. There is so much I just don’t see on my own. I am one who kneels and asks for divine light, help and strength. I know that in any situation, I only have my own perspective, which is often so much a part of me – maybe even a treasured part — that I don’t see my bias. This relates to today’s advice from Living Out the Resurrection (Rohr): “Do not indulge or believe your False Self – that which is concocted by your mind and society’s expectations.”
This is a tough nut to crack. After all, we’ve been building this False Self (ego self) ever since we were small. It’s given us an identity, it’s helped keep us safe, there’s much about it that we define as good. And it’s all we know. We think it is who we are. Even our thoughts are contained by it, as we follow our preferred ways of thinking.
Operating out of my perspective, which is limited at best, allows me to dig in my heels, to take offense at others’ views, to believe my own press, to remain a victim, to hang on to anger and resentment, to judge and label, to feel justified in defending myself. This is not a pretty picture. These are all things that get in the way of love. Instead they lead to deep division. They keep me stuck, majoring on the minors, defending shaky ground. They keep me bound up in the same old worn out patterns of relating, instead of the freedom and healing I find in letting go, in forgiving, in living and let live. I need humility to truly see in order to get out of my way.
Anne Wilson Schaef wrote, “There are so many ways to heal. Arrogance may have a place in technology, but not in healing. I need to get out of my own way if I am to heal.”
How do I know if I’m in the way or set in my ways? Even if I just assume that I am, how do I escape from this deeply worn groove?
Even in the midst of conflict or angst, it helps to step aside mentally and emotionally and just breathe. This helps me be fully present to myself, my feelings and to God’s spirit. As I quiet myself I allow myself to notice what’s come up in me, even if it’s unpleasant. It’s just honest to admit to feelings of bitterness, resentment or judgment, asking God what they have to teach me. Then I invite God’s spirit in, and rest in the presence of Love, and let go. There’s nothing to do here, just be. As I center myself in his peace, I’m able to get out of the way, in sync with his Way. In meditation, I’m given a fresh and enlarged perspective, an acceptance of others and a glimpse of the truth: that we are all loved. Even this person with whom I’m in conflict. I get to confess my part and receive forgiveness. And emerge in a new place. Who knows what’s possible now that I’m walking in his way?
Each Sunday we are invited into worship with this prayer:
“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
If I know that the All Seeing God is also the All Loving God, what could keep me from coming and receiving good from his hands? If there’s any fear, his perfect love can dissipate it. When I feel my mind beginning to spin a tale, either to elevate myself or to disparage someone else, may I respond to that awareness, be still, let it go and pray for God to have his Way in me.
Practice for today:
Spend a few minutes reflecting on the question, “Who do I think I am?” And then, “What do I need to see?” Feel free to bring your real life conflicts up. Remember the False Self is about who you think you are, though your thinking does not make it true. Your True Self is who you truly are, apart from all roles and labels and viewpoints, in the presence of the God who is Love. We can only be free from ourselves when we let go of our addiction to our own preferred way of thinking. Contemplation helps to free us. Ask God to show you who you truly are through his eyes as you breathe deeply, sit quietly and rest in the peace of his presence. Afterwards, express gratitude for the inner freedom and peace he offers.