George Bailey, in the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, experiences extreme shame after a business failure, and he makes a decision to commit suicide. But God sends George’s guardian angel, Clarence. And Clarence becomes a divine mirror for George that helps him see himself and his life differently. And by transforming George’s paradigm he saves George Bailey’s life.
Like George, many of us have a heroic-self that is marred by toxic-shame. And what’s so great about Restore Small Groups is how each group becomes a divine mirror that provides a secure attachment. A small group can mirror back to fellow participants a truth about themselves that they can’t see through the dark lens of shame. It’s a process of hope—the hope of grace.
Clarence’s role in the movie reveals how the whole universe is a divine mirror when we look for hope and redemption on a larger scale. But a shame-based paradigm keeps us focused on the human condition of failure. And no matter what I attempt to change around the symptoms of my human condition, I always come back to the root, the foundation, the center. And at the center is the message:
I’m not enough.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not good enough.
I’m not intelligent enough.
I’m not organized enough.
I’m not efficient enough.
I’m just not enough.
This shame-based paradigm closes us off to the miracle of transformation, which makes us hopeless.
So we must strike at the root of the human condition and change the way we see ourselves in the divine mirror of grace. If that never changes—if we never see ourselves the way God sees us—then we only treat symptoms by focusing on the problem, not the solution.
For transformation to occur—as Curt Thompson says—we must be fully known—warts and all. If that experience does not occur on an ongoing basis the narrative, the paradigm, will always revert to shame, making us hopeless. We will live in despair. It is inevitable. We will relapse back into the dysfunctional responses of giving up all hope for the future and medicate our shame.
Restore Small Groups and Journey to Freedom provide a sacred journey, a sacred environment, a sacred encounter, where the participants—through the emphatic listening of the other participants in the small group—connect with each other at a much deeper integrated level with their stories, and this encounter becomes the divine secure attachment that provides the divine mirroring which transforms our paradigms. And it’s all driven by grace in Christ. The most powerful force in the universe.
Over the past 20 years, I’ve come full circle from when I first read “Addictions and Grace” by Gerald May and “Breathing Under Water” by Richard Rohr, where I was exposed to the concept of desire and the hole in the soul of the human condition. I now see what these great spiritual contemplatives were saying, that at the heart of the human condition is the desire for all human beings to be loved. It provides meaning, purpose, and a significance that transcends our lives though this grace—this amazing grace, this enlarged seeing, this expanded seeing where God’s spirit enables us to see ourselves differently and the world differently. For without a vision we will perish. Without this ability to see ourselves in the light of grace, we will perish. We need to see who we are in Christ. And then see what we were meant to be and what we offer the world.
Grace expands us, like the universe is expanding, and that’s how we overcome addiction, anxiety, and depression. We open ourselves like a blooming flower to other people. It’s the only permanent antidote.
This new paradigm will empower us to expand and to see ourselves and our lives completely different. Just as it did for George Bailey. The divine mirror saves our lives. It affirms our true nature in Christ and our part in the divine dance.