Surrender to the Inner, Downward Journey

Posted on March 9th, 2009

I spent the last week and a half pondering, once again, the profound lessons buried in Jesus’ testings in the desert (Luke 4:1-14). His internalization of biblical truths in the desert enabled Him, in an extraordinary way, to walk through his fellow-townspeople who attempted to kill him by throwing him off a cliff (Lk. 4:28-9).  And to think these were his friends, neighbors, clients, cousins! What will it take for us to be so differentiated, so clear about who we truly are in Christ, and His purpose for lives that we too can walk through people who have agendas for our life and may not approve of us? I think the answer lies in a surrender to an inner, downward journey. Without this commitment to look at the hardest realities of our lives, I think it is inevitable that we will project them outwards. We will make other people into monsters when the real enemy is within us. Genuine spirituality, I think, is ultimately about dealing with our shadows, our flesh, our “inner demons”, our monsters, our darkness within — even though everything in me/us prefers another route. The following story from Chuang Tzu summarizes it well: There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them. So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty. He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead. He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps. Might this be a better reason to account why we keep running faster and faster in the church rather than choose a reflective life that looks at our inner life?

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