Someone once said the journey for each of us is to find ourselves, accept ourselves, be ourselves.
Jesus said we find ourselves by losing ourselves (Matthew 10:39). And what Jesus means, of course, is that we start living life selflessly.
Alcoholics Anonymous says whatever our circumstances, we believe in the sovereignty of God and must stand in our circumstances knowing God is at work. We let him take control.
Charles Reynolds Brown puts it like this: “Every life is a plan of God. The wise architect never calls for material which will not be needed. Every board, every brick, every shingle, every pane of glass must contribute something to the strength, the beauty, the utility of the building, or it would not be there.”[i] God doesn’t waste time, effort, or material on us. Everything is intricate and detailed.
So why does it feel like a terrible wrestling, instead of a constant building? Thomas Merton says from the moment we are born we are living and dying simultaneously, so we are struggling with hope and despair.
Merton said, “Like life, (hope) is a gift from God, total, unexpected, incomprehensible, undeserved. It springs out of nothingness, completely free. But to meet it, we have to descend into nothingness. And there we meet hope most perfectly, when we are stripped of our own confidence, our own strength, when we almost no longer exist.”[ii]
To add to that, Henry David Thoreau once said, “As long as a person stands in his or her own way, everything seems to be in their way.”[iii]
Is everything in your way today? Do you feel blocked by circumstances? Trapped by addiction? Bound by shameful thoughts? Freedom may simply be getting self out of the way.
We lose our life to find our life, which allows us to accept ourselves.
The French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
We don’t stand separated from God but participate with him. This subtle shift in how we view our position in Christ is how we accept ourselves as we are. We are not trying to become spiritual beings. We already are. Instead, we are trying to overcome the human experience. We don’t look for God in ourselves, but we find ourselves in God. That’s a huge difference.
Irenaeus once said, “Christ became what we are to make us what he is.”[iv] This is why the bible says repeatedly that we are “in Christ.”
When we see ourselves and our world through a different lens, a different narrative—participating in Christ’s narrative, then we accept our divinity in Christ. The Apostle Peter put it this way, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Notice that “his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life,” which allows us to “participate in the divine nature.” It’s not based on our goodness or our works. We have everything we need for a godly life. It’s inclusive. We don’t need anything outside the divine nature to create happiness, which means we are no longer controlled by desire, which causes us to ask, “Do I like it?” This panders to our addictions and attachments.
Our hope is to recognize the divine nature within us. If I’m in a place of despair—which is inevitable–then life is going to present this terrible struggle. But this struggle can lead us to the greatest gift—our hope in Christ’s divinity. This is the hope of my despair, I recognize, not the struggle, but the goodness being offered to me by God.
When we accept his divine nature, it leads us to his “precious promises” that allow us to be ourselves.
Being ourselves means we no longer strive against the human experience but overcome it through vision. For example, if we don’t see ourselves as capable, loving, beloved children of God—despite our weaknesses and mistakes—then we will never be able to recognize ourselves as beloved children. We will always see the inadequate, the incapable, the weak parts of ourselves, which produces shame and hopelessness.
We must position ourselves for an integration with the divine.
And here, hopefully, we can begin to see our self and our world through a different lens, a different narrative. For the critical lens of self thwarts our ability to recognize the divine in us (2 Corinthians 4:4). So I must silence the inner critic, which creates new neural pathways to hope (Romans 12:2).
This for me is a profound paradigm shift.
Find Yourself, Accept Yourself, Be Yourself
Think of Jesus walking across the water in the middle of a storm. Peter and the other disciples failed to recognize him. That’s why Peter said to him, “If it’s you, tell me to come.” He could see Jesus, but it’s not until he wanted to join Jesus on the water that he positioned himself to participate in the divine nature.
We’re all in this terrible storm, in this human experience, and we need to position ourselves for the divine to fill us by descending into nothingness, as Merton said. There we discover hope that transcends despair and ultimately transforms our lives. Then we can say with Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This is the hope of the world.
[i] Charles Reynolds Brown, Finding Ourselves, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935), 6.
[ii] Thomas Merton, The New Man, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1961), 4-5.
[iv] William Barclay, The Mind of Jesus, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1976), 259.