This is part three of a short blog series reflecting on the keynote that I facilitated for the WeConnect women’s retreat at the Gay Christian Network conference in January 2015. Together we shared practices and reminders that invite us to go deeper and farther in our spiritual lives. The next layer we applied to the wheel introduced key ideas connecting us to our true selves.
In the top quadrant, that of awakening, there is a call to resist. We resist “Who I am NOT.” In this early season, a season of coming awake, perhaps after a period of chaos or stress where we found ourselves unable to remain present, attuned, or aware of the happenings within our soul, we so often forget (or haven’t figured out) who we truly are. We may have taken on the labels or expectations of others. Perhaps the whispers, the mockery, the accusations that pull us into dark, slimy pits of insecurity and self-loathing have overwhelmed us. Perhaps the voices of others in our heads are so loud – that we can no longer hear our own voice. This call of awakening is the call to stop, silence the voices, strain our ears for our heart song, and resist the false self (the one so badly wanting to earn God’s love and everyone else’s) (the one so frightened that the built-up personas are a constant presentation) (the one that has numbed down true emotions in order to fit in, not cause a stir, or be a burden). We become still long enough to recognize that which is NOT ourselves. The Spirit offers the accompaniment to a new song. Perhaps life has thrown so much at you that you find yourself bitter, angry, complaining, negative …… and the still small voice inside reminds you that this is NOT who you are. Resistance brings energy, it brings remembrance and recognition. And it ushers us to the next season.
The empowerment quadrant is the season where we reclaim. We reclaim “Where I have come from.” The resistance of the false self is a critical first step – but it is not enough on its own. The next step is to reclaim the deep knowledge of who I truly am by being receptive to the truth of where I have come from. We are created in the image of the Triune God – eternally in relationship, eternally pouring out self-emptying love, eternally enjoying perfect trust and intimacy. We are created for these things. We of course live in the tension of the now and the not yet. We obviously don’t fully experience these things this side of heaven. But we are created to long for these good, beautiful and complete experiences of being known and loved and able to offer ourselves fully to others. When we reclaim this truth, when we are receptive to the reality that we are already united with Christ, then we can begin to actualize these truths in our perception and presentation of our self. We begin by integrating these truths internally into how we see our self and then externally in how we reveal our self to others. We are the Beloved of God. No one and nothing can change that true reality.
As we remain present to the truths about who we are, we are invited to build – or to construct – where we are going. We have choices. We face cross-roads. We reach for that which we have imagined, envisioned, nurtured and cultivated. When we are young, these are brand new adventures, risks to take, goals to set, values to clarify, beliefs to engage. For those of us who’ve come around this season a few times, we may begin to ponder what our legacy may be. Will we be on the right side of history on the key questions of our day? Have we worked for justice? Have we been engaged in the making of peace? Did we humanize those around us? Did we mature in self-emptying love?
These cross-roads and these choices give us the opportunity to act. In this final quadrant, we enact the culmination of the other three. We have resisted who we are not. We have reclaimed where we have come from and the beautiful gift of our true self. We have constructed where we are going and the contribution we desire to make. And now we act in response to the question, “What are my responsibilities?” Now for some of us, the idea of responsibilities harkens us back to harsh expectations or being caught up in people-pleasing and perfectionism. Such striving and earning are not the true enactment of our responsibilities as they arise from our true self and chosen vision and vocation. Rather, they are the poor substitute energized by fear and never quite finding true satisfaction or rest. No the responsibilities of which we speak in this quadrant are the connection to our deep sense of purpose and place. We know who we are, we sense why we are here, we glimpse what we have been created to offer. We realize the potential and capacity we have to extend value and dignity, to join with others in dismantling the barriers that prevent flourishing in God’s creation. We realize that we are responsible to cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We are responsible to navigate our reality with a courageous maturity that refuses to get defensive, that resists so quickly becoming offended, that extends a generosity that brings blessing and grace. These are the responsibilities that we can now enact because we are at rest in being the Beloved, gifted and called to co-operate with God in extending love and being a life-giving presence.
Blessed are the ones who are able to remain in this place, faithfully offering of themselves, quietly confident that God’s truth of who they are is sufficient to sustain them.
I don’t know about you – but my life seems to rip that rug out from underneath me on a pretty regular basis. I get overwhelmed. I forget. The losses pile up, the emotions drown, the frustrations and disappointments distract. And I find myself back in the place of needing to simply awaken …. and resist who I am not so that I can move through the journey to return to the place of serenity and generosity and mutuality and peace. But I take great comfort in knowing these seasons, in knowing the invitation to move forward and deeper, that even when the storms of life knock me over, I can more quickly and calmly find my way back to the place of enacting the life God has given me to live.
The final post will look at how we experience power in our lives – and how that element can help us understand how to move into a place of generativity and grace.