50 Shades of Ego

shadesWhen my oldest child was born my mother would look at her and say crazy stuff like, “Babies are just pure selfishness! They’re so sinful; all they can think of is themselves.” It was this mindset, based on her ‘Christian values’, that formed the standard in which she raised me. I know that’s convoluted, and I in no way wish to place blame, but it gives some context for how my formative Christian experience shaped and affirmed the false self in me.

To begin with, my egoic specialness was identified with being sinful and inherently bad. I’m almost certain my mother thought I was the spawn of Satan. As I grew older, my ego discovered that it could also be special in the church if, instead of being pure selfishness, it became outstanding Christian goodness. I became a youth leader and eventually a pastor’s wife. In the Pentecostal circles I inhabited as a young person there could be no higher spiritual achievement for a young woman than to be married to a pastor. I had arrived.

And thus, my false self’s passive need to be special symbiotically joined the church in myriad ways. Oh, the (mis)adventures we’ve had.

Today, I find myself re-entering the context of church after a sabbatical. In my time away I explored other mystical paths and integrated new perspectives into the growing expansiveness of my spiritual repertoire. I’ve spent time in communities with no defined doctrines or sacred agendas, just simple unconditional love and acceptance.

I’d somehow drawn the conclusion that upon re-entering the church I would easily assimilate my fresh understanding into church life and something new and wonderful would just kind of instantly manifest for me.

I could not have been more wrong.

As a matter of fact, had I known before hand what I was getting myself into, I don’t think I would’ve agreed to Jesus’ invitation back into ‘the fold’! That’s not to say I was tricked; I’ve been a willing participant with the freedom to leave at any time.

My biggest challenge has been that my false self or ego is still trying to fill its old role of being special within the context of church. When I attend on Sunday morning or join up with a midweek small group, ego arises in me, nuanced with various shades of judgment, anger, frustration and self-righteousness. Ugly, ugly, ugly. It’s as if a mischievous toddler just walked up to my beautifully crafted masterpiece of ‘enlightened self’ and scribbled all over it with a crayon.

Could it be that the Divine is gently proposing I rework my sanctimonious showpiece, starting with a thick coat of primer? Seems so.

Jesus, give me the courage to walk in the humility you so graciously demonstrated, to be open to the reshaping of your Spirit in me, not clinging to what I’ve created myself to be, but in the openness and vulnerability of my True Self in you. Let me be a freshly primed canvass. This time, you be the paintbrush.

“Love does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Nuance

Emptying: the Path to Fulfilment

refiners-fireMost mystical traditions teach an ascension path to oneness with God. The premise is to conserve the universal life force (prana, chi etc.) within oneself and engage in practices that enhance awareness of the Divine.

On the contrary, Jesus demonstrated a very counter-intuitive way of transcending the egoic trappings of this world. Rather than focusing on protecting and preserving his spiritual life force, he gave it away. Throughout the gospels we see him extravagantly pouring himself out. He loved. And he loved. And he loved.

Jesus consistently taught that the way to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven is through the letting go of earthly attachments and living in the Spirit. This approach to spiritual formation takes the flesh and spirit through different types of ’emptying’ experiences.

Accepting the Path

I once belonged to a community where everyone had their tidy little lives set up for plenty of peace, rest and an abundance of alone time to ensure that they were engaging in proper self-care. Most of them didn’t have kids.

After a while I began to seriously feel like I didn’t fit in. I meditated in my bedroom with the walls rattling as droves of children ran by, read enlightening books in the tub to ensure a valid excuse for non-response and practised deep breathing exercises in the 5 minutes of ‘alone time’ between dropping a kid off for an activity and arriving back at home.

Something about my life just didn’t mirror what my friends were experiencing in their tranquil, self-focused journeys. Instead of preserving my life force, I was constantly giving it away by caring for my family and others. My teachers criticized what I was doing, saying it was misguided.

Here’s the deal: you cannot be the sole support caregiver of 4 children plus attend to the needs of a sick parent and not give yourself away. God doesn’t put us on a path and then make it impossible to follow. No. I knew I was doing what was right for me, I just didn’t understand how it all fit together.

Letting Go

Often, I don’t realise how much I pour into others or how much they pour into me. It’s a lifestyle I embrace and most of the time it’s pure joy to love and serve. In giving,  I also receive. But sometimes my flesh gets caught in a downdraft and I crash.

For instance, lately I’ve been feeling increasingly weary and worn out. I thought I’d be real smart and responsible around that and finally book a weekend off for myself, a retreat where people would minister and pour into me a lot. The retreat I was to attend would be free, which was perfect. I made my plans. Got all my ducks in a row.

Just as I finally let my mind begin to anticipate what I perceived as much needed time away, I was sent an email that said, “sorry, we actually don’t have room for you this time.” And that was it…my flesh had a tantrum.

Letting go of egoic attachments has got to be the most agonising experience of emptying in this temporal existence. There always seems to be a reason why I’ll die or go insane without the person or thing I think I need. Nevertheless, it’s essential for the ego to feel abandoned before it will acquiesce to Holy Spirit.  It must be allowed to cry and argue and bargain and feel completely forsaken if healing is to occur. David demonstrated this masterfully throughout the Psalms.

Refining

Here’s where it gets good.

The scriptures talk about the Refiner’s Fire, a process where gold is repeatedly melted down to dispel its impurities. Modern processes use heat, acid and a variety of other harsh chemicals to achieve the same end. It apparently smells real bad too. The resultant product is pure, with enormous value and function.

My fleshly meltdowns are like that; ridiculously intense, ugly processes that unhinge me from my earthly attachments so that I can be free to enter into unity with the Father. When I let go of the illusion of egoic fulfilment, Abba opens his arms so wide that He swallows my little world up whole and for a transcendent holy instant there is nothing but pure Love. Its absolutely indescribable.

If you’ve experienced this, you’ll know it’s worth the existential crisis. If not, I dare you to let go…to allow your soul to purge itself in the sacred safety of Divine love.

It’s impossible to stay in a funk after an experience like that.

Criticize

Should My Ego Educate Yours?

arguingThe question was asked in church the other day, “If someone doesn’t believe in sin, how can you help them see its reality?” My stomach turned. I could feel something in me push back at that this, but I wasn’t quite sure what. As I took time to unravel it, this is what I discovered…

I’m a mediator. It’s not just my job, it’s who I am. Not that I do it perfectly, but it’s my role and my personality in this fleshly existence. I do make judgements, because it’s my egoic nature to do so, but many times I sense a check in my spirit when I have. That check is an invitation back into neutrality and openness with Holy Spirit.

One of my biggest hang-ups with church and Christians in general is this idea that it’s our moral duty to educate others on what the truth is. I’ll address that duty in a moment. First, let’s talk about what usually happens when my ego decides it should tell someone else’s ego that their perspective is wrong and mine is right. Naturally, people get defensive. As soon as you put someone on the defensive, you’ve lost the argument no matter how good or valid your points are. You might’ve proven your rightness to yourself and other like-minded individuals, but you’ve most certainly pushed the other person further away from seeing your take on the truth.

Truth is not revealed to others by egos educating egos, because our flesh-nature is completely out of touch with God and doesn’t know God. Therefore, truth isn’t revealed through opinions, arguments and apologetics. Truth can only be revealed through the Holy Spirit or that part of me that’s deeply in tune with the Spirit called my human spirit.

Here’s the paradox: your human spirit will never feel the need to educate someone on truth. It will only serve to point them to the Divine for revelation. When we walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, people will naturally be guided to the Spirit when they’re around us and they’ll find their answers there. They’ll also own these revelations because they received them directly from the Source.

When I’m coaching someone or working with parties in dispute, it’s never my place to tell them why I might perceive that their ways are flawed. Trust me, I wouldn’t be very successful with that approach! My job is simply to ask questions and share positive insights that’ll help them understand themselves more deeply and that lead them to God for answers.

I Am Not the Holy Spirit (And Neither Are You)

Do you know how many times my ego has secretly thought it knew exactly what someone needed to hear from God (moral base and apologetics included) only to find out later I was completely off track?! I’m embarrassed to say. Think about how many biblical characters made what seemed like bad choices to begin with, only to have it revealed later that they were on the paths that were right for them? Jonah, David and Paul come to mind…just to name about 1% of them.

My children have probably taught me this lesson most deeply. That’s because I judge them more than anyone else, poor dears. Most people jump to the conclusion that kids can’t adequately hear from the Holy Spirit in order to make good choices for themselves. Christian parents tend to take on the fear-based role of being some sort of replacement or interpreter for the Divine in their kids’ lives, telling them how they should behave or think according to God. (Hint: anything you do out of fear is not of God.) In many cases, kids are more in tune than we are. We just don’t give them a chance to demonstrate this.

These days I try to teach my children through imparting principles and concepts, not should’s and shouldn’ts. I try not to interfere with how Spirit is leading them. This lends itself to a lot of judgement from nearly everybody because it’s not a popular child rearing method in the Western World. Fortunately, I don’t mind what people think much anymore.

The bottom line is this:  I am not the Holy Spirit. You are not the Holy Spirit. But when we are in sync with the Spirit and living out of the fruit that this life-style yields, we will always be helpful to others in the best way. You’ll know when you’re walking in righteousness because you won’t feel angry, fearful or like you have to prove a point, you’ll just feel awesome and full of unconditional love!

Replacement

Soul Flow Is the Best Way to Grow

angel-devilSince God is omnipresent there’s no place we can go to escape from Love, right? This can only mean one thing: God’s not just up in Heaven, but everywhere!

Can somebody please explain to me why we ‘invite’ God to be present in church services or say we need to find our way back to God?! If you are standing next to me I don’t need to send you an email asking you to come on over. You’re already here.

On the same token, Apostle Paul was really clear that we can’t be separated from the love of Christ. Christ is ‘present’ everywhere at all times. The only time we feel the absence of Christ is when we are not present. Oh, so the problem’s not with God then, it’s with us?

As dichotomous beings we have a flesh nature (our ego) and a spirit nature (our soul or human spirit). I’ll use these interchangeably. One is intrinsically connected to God, the other is not. Can you guess which is which? Of course you can. The scriptures teach us that all people have an internal ‘knowing’ that God exists. The trouble is, most people in this world have dissociated themselves from that part of who they are. Their human spirit is asleep and this causes a lot of problems.

If your human spirit is that part of you that is inextricably intertwined with the Holy Spirit, Jesus and God (Greek: perichoresis), then your flesh is the part of you that is not. Flesh lives in fear. Soul thrives in unconditional love. Flesh plans, strives and resists. Soul is inspired, content and allows life to flow.

When people get off the rails and feel like God isn’t present it’s because they’re living out of their flesh or ego in that moment. That’s how most of the people in our world operate and that’s exactly why it’s such a mess. Flesh makes. Soul creates. Flesh destroys. Soul builds up.

Let’s face it, you know when you’re flowing in your human spirit; you feel free, loving and connected. People make good choices and want the best for others when they are joined with God in their spirits. When we are operating out of our flesh we feel competitive, jealous and separated. We want to hurt others and believe that we lack what we need to survive and succeed in life.

This year I’m making an intention to only ‘create’ when I know I’m in the flow of connecting with God through my spirit. From experience, I know that this is a gazillion time more productive, not to mention blessed, than when I plug away at forcing stuff to happen using my ego.

What do you do to switch from being in flesh mode to soul mode? It’s worth figuring this out. Think of ways to intentionally shift when you feel yourself being sucked into the black hole of the ego. Maybe it’s listening to a song, going for walk, praying, getting out in nature or hugging someone you love. Whatever it is, do it!

Connect. Abide. Love.