In my last entry I wrote about “Bi-Polar Spirituality”, and tried to describe the tensions we experience in making sense of some of the promises in the Bible which seem to contradict our every-day reality as we negotiate our path through the voyage called life.
I feel that the main issue is that many of us have misunderstood God’s promise of transformation. For the longest time I truly believed that if I stayed close to Jesus this process of becoming more like him would happen on auto-pilot, just to find out that many years later I found myself still struggling with some of the less spiritual facets of my personality. By opening my heart to spiritual formation and direction I discovered that all along He has been waiting for me to own-up to the missing parts of my authentic self, and allow him to come and breathe through the caverns of my soul.
Today I want to introduce you to a simple exercise called “OWN-UP” which can become a pathway to freedom from our adapted self. The process of letting go of our seed coat and allowing space for our true self to grow involves an internal shift that is usually quite subtle, yet powerful.
The subtle shift of letting go and relaxing into the sacred space of the Authentic Self brings freedom to become the unique image-bearer of the divine nature. The shift may be subtle, but it’s not easy. It requires intentionality, self-awareness, and honest transparency.
OWN-UP— Observe, Welcome, Name, Untangle, and Possess.
O is for Observe
The ability to watch oneself is called the Inner Observer or Witness. Since we tend to go through life with a limited awareness of our habitual patterns and automatic reactions, this capacity to observe ourselves is often asleep and ineffective.
The point is to nudge the Inner Observer to life and become aware of how you are responding to life and certain situations.
W is for Welcome
“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men and women of mature character with the right sort of independence.”
This doesn’t mean we accept or condone inappropriate thoughts, feelings, and actions, or stoically bow down to our difficult circumstances. What it does mean is we allow them into our awareness and then open our hearts to God’s transforming love and wisdom.
This welcoming stance is not our automatic response when we recognize things that are unattractive in ourselves. We tend to justify our attitudes and behaviors or just accept them as “the way we are.” We might slam the door on these intruders and deny their existence. We may pass the blame onto someone else or claim that we somehow deserve to act or feel a certain way.
N is for Name
“The man who can articulate the movements of his inner . . . life need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering.” —Henri Nouwen
To name ourselves is to know ourselves— to identify our internal landscape and put words to how and why we function as we do. Referring to Henri Nouwen’s quote above, the ability to articulate our inner world is crucial for our spiritual growth.
We can’t disown what we don’t own.
Although we will never fully understand ourselves, we can identify some of the basic qualities, tendencies, and beliefs that affect how we feel, think, and behave.
U is for Untangle
This step is about releasing a segment of our dead seed coat so there is more space for the real seed of our true self to emerge and grow.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9: 23).
The word deny implies disowning a relationship with someone or saying you don’t know them. The “self” we’re called to deny is the self God didn’t create and doesn’t know; it’s the persona we’ve made up to get along in the world.
P is for Possess
It’s simply about possessing who you truly are as a treasured child of God, created to experience and express His divine image in a unique way.
It’s owning up to the remarkable gifts God has imprinted on you. It’s claiming God’s promises and your union with Him. It’s the transformative movement from the tangles of the false you to the freedom of the true you.
Step out in faith that God will deliver you from all that binds and holds you captive. Possess with confidence the knowledge that the expression of your true and Authentic Self is the imprint of God’s image on you.
As we let go, feelings of peace, clarity, wisdom, joy, faith, hope, love, strength, and wholeness may emerge, to name a few. It’s our true and Authentic Self finding expression.