Today I’ve mainly been reflecting on honesty, on what is ‘true’ and what is ‘false’. I guess the reason for this is that I’m simply tired of the façade, the glossed over appearance of this thing called life. I’m over tired with anything that just isn’t authentic or doesn’t ring true at that deeper level.
We are all masters at face painting…of presenting the ‘us’ that we want others to see and like. We are all excellent at building our persona with whatever cultural attachments we want to have as attachments to ourselves. Our life is then built around trying to defend, bolster or ‘tart up’ that self as if its the most important thing in the world. Our world then becomes an unending quest to build our own happiness based not on the depth of who we really are, but on our accessories.
When St Francis adopted the concept of ‘poverty’ as a value for his life, it wasn’t just on the basic level of choosing to have few possessions or finances. It was, rather, a commitment to self-emptying, kenosis, seeking the One True Thing. A desire to strip away the things that come to distract or in fact anaesthetise us to the reality of things, the reality of who we are deep down.
Religious people are good at this, especially. My confession here before is that I allowed myself to become institutionalised within a religious system called Salvationism. So easy to do, seeing as this system is so outward, visible, tangible and ultimately, concealing My name is Andrew Clark and I’m a recovering religionist.
But here, we really have to redeem the word ‘religion’. It has its roots in the idea of re ligamenting…..putting things back together and holding it. So when Jesus says love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, body and strength, he is talking about the process of waking up, stirring up all the faculties of our being to honour our True Source. To be authentically ‘religious’ is not to get trapped in the trappings as professional ‘religionists’ but to be joined in union with Jesus who is the Archetypal human being, fully integrated with God. This is our path.
To be brutally honest, to get to the place of nakedness before God does require a stripping. A taking off of the masks. A striping away of the accessories. A stripping away of the persona we present to the world. Its not that these things are necessarily wrong in themselves, its just that they are, actually, the periphery of things and not the core task. To get the core task right means that other things find their place. Seek first the reign of God, says Jesus, and everything else will be added accordingly.
Yet, this ‘stripping’ doesn’t come through some sort of flagellation, some sort of masochistic guilt-ridden self punishment. We can’t whip ourselves into being. Neither can we ‘pull Christ down from heaven’ as Paul says in Romans. Instead, we realise, as he realised, that the Word is in your mouth and in your heart.
When we can take the honest path of coming before God, warts and all, as we do our ‘inner work’, accepting that there is nothing we can do, accepting there is nothing we can add, accepting that there is nothing to work for and that it is ALL grace then we discover that ourselves, created in the image of God, emerges.
It is, in fact, the Cruciform road. It is death. It is grief for the things we once thought were ‘it’. It is a loving resurrection and new eternal life begins in earnest. We finally start to see ourselves, others and other things as they truly are, deeply loved by God.
This gets to the root of most things. We no longer have to focus on the differences that people present, the facades they put up, the identities they project or any other such thing. Instead, we can see a loved son, a loved daughter waiting to be born, waiting to be released, waiting to be freed.
This is incarnation. Flesh and soul being united at last as we become ‘new Adams’, ‘new creations’.
Let’s be honest. Maybe we can find the courage to take the Calvary path for real.