If I want to accept God’s invitation to intimacy, what do I actually do? Intimacy in any relationship requires a willingness to reveal part of ourselves—not the image we project to the world but rather the inner truth of who we really are. We often think of intimacy as revealing that truth to another, and we wonder, perhaps a bit anxiously, how the other person will respond to that truth. It’s different with God. Rather than revealing the inner truth to another, in intimacy with God, our inner truth is revealed to us. And we wonder, with more than a bit of anxiety, how we will respond to that truth.
Hence, many of us pause at the threshold of self-discovery. I regularly write and teach about the power of introspection for spiritual growth, and yet, I find myself pausing, lingering, and hesitating before crossing that threshold. Introspection is not easy, I imagine not even for the pure of heart. There’s a Sufi story about Mullah Nasreddin who searches for the key to his house. He looks frantically outside under a lamp post, and his neighbors come to his aid. After hours of searching, one asks where he was when he lost the key. Nasreddin replies he lost it in his house. The neighbor asks, “Why are you looking outside?” Nasreddin responds, “Because the light is better out here under the lamp.”
Like Nasreddin, we find it infinitely easier to analyze external conditions than to take a candid look inward. Accepting the invitation to intimacy with God, however, requires us to leave the light of the lamp post to go deep into the darkness of our own houses. What impedes our journey is less fear of what anyone else will think than fear of what introspection will bring to light for ourselves. As we embark on introspection, the prospect of facing our less than best moments is uncomfortable. For those who suspect that they won’t like (or can’t live with) the person they find, it is terrifying. If I have negotiated an uneasy peace with my past, introspection might feel like opening Pandora’s box. We fear changing, too. Even if my present way of being causes conflict and suffering, I might fear giving it up or resist conceiving of a new way to be.
How does one get to the place where an honest and unflinching introspection feels safe? Several spiritual traditions–some ancient and religious and some modern and secular—offer wisdom to address this question. In observing the Christian tradition of Lent, this blog for the next six weeks will explore some of the obstacles that hold us back from intimacy with ourselves and with God, along with prayers and meditations for overcoming each one.
Join the conversation. What holds you back from crossing the threshold into intimacy and vulnerability?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit http://www.AcrossTraditions.com.