Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The...Danger...of Denial...

There was a headline on the front page of this morning's paper, “Short walks on a long journey." It was meant to encourage hikers, like myself, not to focus just on the long hikes alone but to consider shorter ones as well. It then went on to point to short hikes that were really worth taking. It struck a chord with me, as I reflected on how it may apply to everyday living. As you know, I love to compare our journey on "the spaceship earth" to a long, long hike. Each and every day is a “short walk" on the hopefully long journey we call life. We, who have emerged from the mist of The Eternal, are forever and always, in a reality, way beyond that which our limited vision, can see. We believe, the Eternal, the Mystery, the Indefinable, the Ineffable, is a Reality we will never understand, on this earthly journey. As a consequence we will ever and always be seeking, and searching for understanding. Understanding of who we are, and who that source of our being is. We are in good company. We need to remember, St. Francis had just these two very basic questions. "Who are you God, and who am I?" St. Francis had that wonder-full simple faith which kept him grounded in those questions. I have, from my youngest years, admired St. Francis. I had even thought about becoming a Franciscan. In facing it myself I have to admit I love to complicate even the simplest things. So I have had to learn to simplify everything about my life. This is an ongoing difficult, pain-full moment-to-moment, daily struggle. Thank God I found, or was forced into hiking. Almost from the beginning I became aware, a hike was just about hiking. It was not about putting one foot carefully in front of the other. There was more, much more to this seemingly simple exercise. (I was told many years ago that the more simpler a reality APPEARS to be, the more profound it really is i.e. God). Gradually I came to realize that on hikes some of the basic, essential questions of what it means to be a "spiritual being immersed in the human condition." What this word means has triggered so many thoughts, feelings and emotions. We are all invited. Though many are not, and never would be, if I had anything to say about it. Which to my horror I have found out I do not. As a consequence I have many, many uninvited guests. Ever notice when you are in a place of quiet, in a deserted seemingly abandoned place, you have even more of these unwanted visitors. You can look and see that there is no one on the trail and you are, seemingly, on your own, but not really. You have many unwanted company crowding your mind, and demanding attention. They are unwanted because they bring to consciousness that which we much prefer was left buried. When this happens to me, I am forced to face my shadow side. This is the side, the part of me I want to live in denial of, the part of me I do not want to share with anyone. I am choosing to live in the hell of denial, choosing my state of denial brings NOTHING but pain, and destruction, for myself. Pain and destruction will also hurt a lot of those who share my life. I am going to have to deal with great upheavals, in my daily living. Those parts of my reality I choose not to share, the shadow, have been described by some authors as "the past, the primitive, and the inferior." It can be the parts of me that I find "unacceptable, unknown, and not yet developed." We all have this shadow side as, individuals, couples, families, parishes, diocese, nations, and the family of nations. On my hikes I am forced to face that which I would rather not face. Here, denial comes in very handy. Denial, I am sorry to say is just a stop gap measure. It does not do anything to help in the living into the solution. On the contrary, it just postpones the inevitable, which is pain and destruction. That which I choose to reject or am not ALLOWED to accept, as part of my reality, will REMAIN as part of my reality. This is going to happen whether I like it or not. It is not going anywhere, darn it! I can only embrace it, or as one book encourages, romance the shadow. We of ourselves are incapable of loving the shadow, that is where grace comes in especially particularly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes!! That Sacrament is still being celebrated, though not as much, to the detriment of so many who are unfortunately, shadow controlled. The Creative Lover, The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Wisdom, needs to be invited to bring about reconciliation. A reconciliation between which I would like to be, and the reality of which I am. Reconciliation is a PROCESS, not an event, I have found from sad experience. So I am forced, on a daily basis, to embrace the truth of what Thomas More has said, "The soul is never cured, it is cared for." If the soul is not cared for there is a horrible price to be paid. When the maintaining work, that is spiritual exercises, is not being done there is a price to be paid. The Spirit brings about a transformation, and we are delighted. When the ego takes overhand we get cocky, the spiritual exercises are neglected, and we assume the place of God occupied. The ego has removed the Real God, The Real Higher Power. So now we worship at the altar of pride. This always results in the old patens of behavior returning, and with a vengeance. Remember what The Prophet Jesus said “the last state, will be worse than the first." It will be the same for me as soon as I stop the spiritual work, I am on the road to places I never, never in my wildest dreams, imagined ever existed. So I have to become more and more aware of what is bubbling up from the depths. Each moment is my encounter with where my life has come to and at this moment my life has peaked. "By the grace of God I am who I am, and on the way to becoming a more authentic human being. Not becoming in any way perfect but I am growing in the acceptance of the fact that I am perfectly imperfect. The letting go of the ideal, and becoming reconciled with the reality is all through the Loving, Creative, Power of our Gracious Prodigal Father God. Grace has brought me to this moment, and grace will keep me safe, in this moment. After all, does not The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth, say to you and I, “Now is the acceptable time now is the time of salvation.” Right here right now my salvation is being worked out, as I respond, not react to my present reality. In order to reach the end of a hike, I have to take a number of steps. I cannot just wish, or imagine that the hike is made. It takes action. It takes the healthy use of my free will. What an awe-full gift our Creator has entrusted to you and I. On my hikes I am challenged to face the question of how healthy is my use of this precious gift, in a way that other activities do not do. The truth will sometimes hurt, but the soothing oil of God's mercy-full love is always there for me to fall into.