I go in waves of reading, you guys do that? I’ll read every day for hours on end for a few weeks and then I’ll not read a page for the next few weeks. I’m currently in a reading mood-something about winter does that to me. We keep our house a bit on the chilly side just so I can have a cup of coffee constantly in hand and a blanket (or 2) constantly wrapped around me.
I just finished Rob Bell’s, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. My mom-in-law graciously lent it to me whilst I was out with bootfoot. Once I was freed from my boot prison I went on quite the dry spell of reading (that’s what 9 weeks of heavy reading/TV watching will do to a person) so just got around to reading it the last few days. Last night I read this and have been percolating on it since,
We don’t transform our shadow side by denial but by entering into it, embracing it, facing it, and naming it because we believe God is with us and for us.
When we do this-name our fears and sins and failures and own up to them, describing them as clearly as we are able-we pass through them into the new life on the other side. We have faced the worst about ourselves and we have survived, making us strong in the only sense that actually matters. This is why resurrection is so central to the Jesus story: he faces the worst that can happen to a person, and comes out the other side alive in a new way. It is not a false strength we gain a posing and posturing and pretending, but a quiet, humble, grounded strength that has done the hard work of facing our most troubling inner torments and then watching them be transformed into sources of vitality and life.
Do you guys love that as much as I do?
When I look back on the last couple years of my life, years where I’ve been really trying to do the hard work-to face that which scares me the most about myself I realize it’s been both the worst few years (it was so much easier, on the surface anyway, when I was in denial) of my life but also the very best. Not only have my close relationships gotten stronger, more vibrant and beautiful but so have I. And it isn’t because I’ve scrubbed myself clean and come out on the other side smelling like roses-it’s because I’ve come on the other side battered and bruised with the realization that I am still utterly and completely loved.
Before-back when I was in complete denial about my shadow side-I tried so many different ways of earning love. Some didn’t hurt me or anyone else, some really hurt me or other people I love. I was floundering for an easier way to come to terms with grace. We all do this, right? When we aren’t convinced of how much we love we go over the top in trying to earn love, perhaps that’s just me.
Of course this showed itself in a myriad of ways but I was thinking this morning about the ways my denial affected my parenting specifically. I believe very much in the energy we put out into the world. I think for a long time the energy I was putting out reflected my inner turmoil. I would be telling my kids one thing, “Do the right thing, be honest, no lying, you are wholly and completely loved” but my energy was saying, “Lie if you’re scared of the truth, ehhhh I’m not convinced a person can be completely loved when all the shit is out there.”
Of all my kids Tariku was the best at projecting back to me exactly what I was putting out into the world. Perhaps that’s why for a very long time I didn’t fully attach to him. Who was this kid skeptical of my love, constantly lying and totally ill equipped for accepting love? Oh right, that kid is me. I am he. How terribly frustrating it can be to parent a child that exhibits the same behaviors and attitudes you dislike about yourself, right?
I’m sure you see where this is going. As I continue every. single. day to own my shit and walk through it, Tariku is mirroring that as well. The lying has all but stopped, he actually let me hold his hand for half a movie the other day. When I look at him to tell him I love him he looks back and I can tell more and more of him each day is taking it in-allowing it to settle into the parts of his heart darkened by the pain, loss and heartache he’s had in the past.
I think as parents we owe it to our kids to transform our shadow sides, don’t you? I think if we don’t we run the risk of our kids being so scared of their shadow sides they’ll do anything to keep it hidden. The truth is I’m not at all scared of my kids’s shadow sides. The truth is, they are young enough I see most of it. But I want them to feel free to discover it on their own and then talk it through with me. Then maybe when I tell them I love them or that God loves them they’ll know that I mean all of them-even the parts of them that hate me sometimes. 😉
I guess my goal for the new year is going to be that-to keep discovering that which scares me about myself and to step forward in faith-knowing I am God’s beloved. And to maybe take that leap of faith to share with my children all the ways in which I have failed so they know it’s a completely human and acceptable experience. I think they’re worth it, I think I am too.