How Do You Find Your True Self?

In her excellent book on the Enneagram, Marilyn Vancil speaks to an aspect of human development that affects every single one of us---the struggle to embrace our authentic selves.  

Instead, of living into our God-given authenticity, Vancil asserts that most of us settle for an adaptive version of ourselves.  This version of us is what gets created over time as we deal with wounds, fears, doubts and the challenges of life.  

It's also a shadow of who we are meant to be.  

This morning I happened to be listening to "East" a song by Ryan O'Neal, and I realized how his lyrics painted a vivid portrait of the moment when we realize we've been living as a shadow of our true selves. 

In this stanza, O'Neal writes about a time when he felt authentically himself:  

i set out to rule the world
with only a paper shield and a wooden sword.
no mountain dare stand in my way,
even the oceans tremble in my wake.
the tide is brave, but always retreats.
even the sand, it cowers under my feet.
my kingdom towers above it all,
while i sleep safe and sound in my cardboard walls.

And then he realizes he's been living an adaptive and diminished life: 

now i bear little resemblance to the king i once was.
i bear little resemblance to the king i could become.
maybe paper is paper, maybe kids will be kids-
Lord, i want to remember how to feel like i did. 

The prayer that he prays at the end is the secret, longing prayer that we all feel at some point in our lives, even if we can't summon the breath to pray it.  It's when we have a Come-to-Jesus-Meeting within ourselves and realize we need to live differently.  

The great Christian mystic Thomas Merton once wrote: 

All sin starts from the assumption that my false, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. 

If you realize today that you have been living a diminished and shadow version of your true self, may you find the strength today to pray that simple prayer: 

"Lord I want to remember how to feel like I did... like I should... like I know I can feel as my true self in you."   

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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