Richard Rohr often writes of the problem of the ego. In the reflection published today he describes the way in which we can use the pursuit of the spiritual as the perfect mask. (You can find the full text here.)
‘In the name of seeking God, the ego pads and protects itself from self-discovery, which is an almost perfect cover for its inherent narcissism.’
I am truly blessed to have the friendship of a few older and substantially wiser people. In conversation with them I am allowed to witness a tremendous humility. The recognition that our ego continues to be a stumbling block. It manifests in different ways for different people, but with each passing day we encounter our own poverty of spirit. In the end we are left with nothing to offer God but our naked vulnerability. And the God we encounter in that space is paradoxical – both immanent and transcendent; engaged and impassive.
In sharing these conversations I catch glimpses of the lived reality of the paradox in the Gospels – unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains itself. But if it dies it produces many seeds (John 12:24).
I have a long way to go on this particular journey!! But I know that an entry point is the capacity to recognise the areas where I am not yet free and to pray for the grace of interior freedom. The challenge with this prayer is that it requires that I let go of any particular outcome. I do not know what ‘shape’ interior freedom will take until it begins to grow in me – and it almost never manifests in the way I think it will.
The challenge in all of this is that the discovery of the places of internal ‘stuckness’ is never particularly pleasant. We cannot strip ourselves, we need to wait for God’s good time attending to the process living as fully as we can each day – and being discerning along the way. Noticing the invitations along the way.
We don’t ever ‘get there’, but it is important to understand that the end result is the discovery that we are loved in our wounded broken vulnerability not a restoration of ‘wholeness’. The journey is one of gradual integration of the parts of the ourselves we find harder to love rather than a removal of those parts. Because those very parts of ourselves provide a connection with our own deepest desires and those of God.
Unfortunately our ego craves ‘wholeness’ without integration. We want to transcend the mucky reality of living, rather than recognise that our best chance of real connection with God is through the places we make the greatest mess. There is no redemption without integration.