Growing in intimacy requires… well, growing. That means we have to change, and we resist change for all kinds of reasons. At their core lies self-preservation. We resist losing some part of ourselves.
Child development models identify egocentrism—the tendency to perceive, to understand and to interpret the world in terms of the self—in young children. At some point, maturity leads our awareness to points of view outside of our own. This development of perception has an analogous development of motive. When all our desires center on self and when we live with our own desires as the driving force in our lives, we have a very narrow range of decision-making ability. We are severely limited in thought and action, and we invariably run into conflict with others. When we remove our own desires as the driving force in our lives, much becomes possible.
The Twelve Step tradition addresses this condition in Step 3: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” If I seek freedom from the involuntary servitude to self-will and the confines of my bondage to it only to continue pursuing my own desires, I escape nothing. It is a radical change, but nothing less frees us. The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book speaks candidly to those seeking a more moderate path:
“At some of those [steps] we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.”
Even self-hate reflects an unwillingness to shift one’s focus outward on God’s kingdom rather than inward on self. Like so much else in the spiritual life, it is binary. Only one thing can be at the center. C.S. Lewis describes the dilemma:
“From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it.”
We may wonder who will advocate for our desires if we do not. Being open to the desires and imaginations of others, though, opens the possibility that others will delight us in unexpected ways. These verses and breathing prayer encourage openness to the possibility that God’s imagination for us is better than ours for ourselves.
11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29: 11-14)
Inhale: God’s imagination
Exhale: bondage to self
Join the conversation. What really bad thing happened to you that, in retrospect, made a really good thing possible?
Copyright 2012 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit http://www.AcrossTraditions.com.