Going Deeper: The Present of Owning Who We Are

Christ after his Resurrection, with the ostentatio vulnerum, showing his wounds, Austria, c. 1500

Christ after his Resurrection, with the ostentatio vulnerum, showing his wounds, Austria, c. 1500

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6 (NIV)

I’ve been thinking all week about Pastor Rich’s first sermon on returning from his sabbatical. Much of this focused around how he learned during his sabbatical to begin to own and live with some of the qualities about himself with which he has always wrestled: his restlessness and discontent.

The realization for him was that these were not going to change in three months, or maybe a lifetime. Rather, we need to grasp that part of the process of become fully human in the ways our Lord would intend is to neither deny or try to change who we are but to own that before God and with ourselves. We join the psalmist in acknowledging that who we are has always been known to God and is part of our fearfulness and wonderfulness.

The “present” in this realization really is the present. Blaise Pascal once said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” To live in the moment, not by ourselves but to own who we are and live with ourselves is a gift. It comes from the God who is graciously present with us — who sees us through and through and yet chooses to be “God with us”. If God can handle who I am and set his love upon me, then I am free to see myself for who I am and own that. I can sit quietly with myself.

I appreciated Rich’s candor about the qualities of self he struggles with and is learning to own. I appreciated his concluding challenge that we are too often absent to ourselves and God.

What I think Rich did is describe each of our life journeys toward wholeness. We might put different words in place of restless and discontent. For me it can be self-righteousness and compulsive diligence. Forty years of walking with Jesus hasn’t eradicated them. But knowing that Jesus knows these things, and chooses to walk with me means I can even laugh about these things, and accept the warnings of my wife when they are getting out of hand in my life.

I also wonder if there is something more. Henri Nouwen, in The Wounded Healer suggests that when we face our own woundedness and own these wounds and how we suffer from them, and offer them to God, they don’t go away, but become the source of bringing healing to others. They become sacred wounds, analogous to the wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus.

Rich, you gave us an example of that this Sunday in sharing your own sabbatical journey, and with that the wounds of restlessness and discontent. Sharing how you’ve come to own these, and live in the presence of God with these extends hope that Christ can meet each of us in this way. That is a profound gift to us all.

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