August to November was a difficult season, but somehow some of the clouds are parting and some light is creeping through…
I was sitting with some friends of mine recently—older men who have gone round and round with life and lived to tell about it—and unpacking the things I’ve seen and heard and done.
Most of it revolves around buying into the same lies I’ve bought into countless times before, namely that I can somehow control the brokenness inside me. Some of us—I’m not the only one—lose sight of the fact that our false self is manipulative and sneaky, and largely seeks to just throw us off our path.
It hits me again and again; it’s a strange thing when you can’t trust your own thoughts (because “your own thoughts” are really the thoughts of your false self).
One of the amazing gifts of centering prayer and meditation is that gradually you can learn to identify these tricks of your false self as such, and steer clear of them, but sometimes…
… Sometimes you still drift.
In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul uses the phrase “the old self” (6:6). I used to understand this phrase theologically, as a reference to “just” our sin. Now, however, I realize that Paul is actually wading into to pretty deep psychological waters: the “old self” = the “false self”. It’s the part of ourselves that seeks to find its solace in security and control; in acceptance and affection; in power. Technically (and theologically) it has no power over us except the power that we give it.
When we buy into what the false self is selling, we tend to reap the consequences.
The only cure for it is to deliberately (and painfully) return to rejecting this false self through meditation and prayer, and to choose to live in reality instead of the illusion of the false self.
(By the way, this is called repentance: it’s really not as scary of a word as you might think.)
And guess what: reality is actually kind of refreshing and peaceful.