Stephen Fry once said, with characteristic insight, “You are who you are when nobody’s watching.” No show or performance, no glitter or grin, no brave face or polished phrases. Just you.
And that Self is constantly “becoming” itself. It’s not a static thing, handed to you on a plate at birth, but is constantly being reborn, challenged and changed.
Oh, we’re so complicated! In Proverbs 20:5, the sage notes that “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
The trouble is that sometimes we don’t want to be “drawn out.” We may resent the intrusion because we feel inadequate or just plain silly. We think so little of ourselves. And yet, strangely, we manage to combine self-obsession with self-loathing! But we want to keep those “deep waters” deep as a well, covered and secret.
No one must know what we are really like.
But there’s a significant problem here. One of my favourite quotes from Brennan Manning nails it: “In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”
The fear is that no one will like me if they know what I’m really like. The shame is that, yes, I did do those things and the memory of my actions fills me with revulsion.
There’s a deeper truth, however. It’s suggested by the words “healing gift.” It’s only when the wound is exposed that it can be properly cleaned, and healing can begin. Otherwise it simply festers and smells. But once it is dealt with, the illumination of your inner darkness becomes a light for others.
Brené Brown’s wonderful little book carries this idea through its very title: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
Here’s the passage that really helped me understand this:
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
The book of Psalms provides profound insight for the journey to truly become oneself. Take a look at Psalm 139:13-18:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand –
when I awake, I am still with you. ”
This marvellous passage describes the Bible’s perspective on who you really are. You are “created.” That means that there is an ultimate reference point outside of yourself. You are not all that there is. There’s a connection which involves obligation, purpose, and responsibility outside your self.
You are well-made. And as someone has said, “God don’t make no junk.” The story of our beginnings in Genesis 1 carries the persistent chorus “And God saw that it was good.”
And think of all the implications that this has for the way we think about abortion, or disabilities, or suicide, or even low self-esteem.
You are known. You are not merely created ( in the sense of being “produced”) but “known” in the sense of being an infinitely valuable personality. You are known. Deeply. The Bible word expresses the ultimate intimacy.
And you are accompanied. “When I awake, I am still with you.” Does being accompanied sound like bathos? It really isn’t! You are led all the way, accompanied, parented, nurtured, cheered-on like a small child in sports-day race.
All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see
I was thinking of another hymn too, this morning. It’s the closing part of “Come thou fount of every blessing”:
“Here’s my heart, Lord,take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
So here I am, Father. Here is my heart. Take me just as I am and seal me know, because I understand that I am created, cherished and nurtured. I am known, and loved. The cross of Jesus proves that to me.
And I know too that I am sealed for thy courts above, that my ultimate destination is the place of ultimate intimacy, where I am fully known,and fully loved.