Years back, I read a book called The Celtic Way of Prayer. The highlight for me was when Esther De Waal talked about the importance of feeling comfortable in your own skin. That means feeling comfortable with who you are. Yes, we all have our shadow sides. We all have those personality quirks that tend to derail even our best intentions, and even our relationships. Part of her point was that the shadow side of me is simply a part of what it means to be me. That’s what I have to come to terms with.
Frederick Schmidt just wrote a good article on the difference between “leaders” and “hacks.” In my reply, I argued that spiritual leaders were able to listen deeply to divine calling and guidance. The hack, on the other hand, was primarily concerned with self-preservation and self-image. I then drilled that down to what I believe it the key difference: self-awareness. Because the hack is unable to recognize and face her or his own shadow side, it prevents deep spiritual listening.
While replying, it made me think a bit about not just spiritual leadership, but also what we are called to as Christians. It seems to me that the Christian calling may often be misunderstood by many Christian leaders. I suspect that the stories about Jesus are portrayed in many churches as if we are to aspire to become “Jesus” in our own stories. How Jesus lived, how Jesus felt, how Jesus interacted becomes the ideal. I’ve come to conclude that this may not only be wrong, but misleading when it comes to a spiritual walk.
Simply put, I am not called to become Jesus. Only Jesus was called to become Jesus. I am called to become me. That means my lifestyle, my demeanor, my habits, my curiosities, my concerns, indeed my life will be vastly different. While Jesus was meant to live his story, I am meant to live mine. Not only is that okay, but that’s my divine calling.
We have to be careful how we use the gospels. We live in a different context. What was “appropriate” back then would not necessarily be “appropriate” today, and vice-versa. This is not to say that the gospels are bad for us. Although I will say that I believe using the gospels in such a way that we try to become who Jesus was will can actually hinder us from growing in our own spiritual becoming.
The Christian Testament teaches us that “God is Love.” From a trinitarian perspective, the spirit that animates Jesus (the Spirit of Christ) and the Holy Spirit are the same love. So, when we come to the gospels, it’s important not to get caught up in the particulars of Jesus life and personality. Rather, we should be asking ourselves, “What does love look like? Why is this love? What is love, anyway?”
As Christians, we are called to become “Christ-like.” This means we are to be the bearers of divine love for all those around us. Love will look different in different times and in different places. As we live our lives, we will not look like Jesus (who lived in a different time and a different place as a different person), and we shouldn’t. Instead, we will look like ourselves as we grow into a deeper love.
I am me. I am meant to be me. I need to be comfortable being me. I need to befriend and embrace my shadow side as an important part of myself, recognizing my quirks as a form of self-expression. And while I do this, I am called to continually grow into an ever expansive love. This I believe is is my personal calling, because I am called to be a Christian.