Wednesday, September 1, 2010

[Quote of the Day:] Secret Self

I've been doing a lot of reading and a fair amount of talking lately, and not much writing. As a reflection of that, here is a quote from a book that I finished recently, which made me ponder and brought me peace: Seasons of Celebration, by Thomas Merton.
Personalism is the discovery, the respect, but not the cult, for this deep reality. [...] The great paradox of Christian personalism is this: it consist in something more than bringing to light the unique and irreplaceable element in the individual Christian.

On the contrary, Christian personalism does not require that the inmost secret of our being become manifest or public at all. We do not even have to see it clearly ourselves! [...] Christian personalism does not root out the inner secret of hte individual in order to put it on display in a spiritual beauty contest.
This comment about "the inmost secret of our being" brought me relief in an area that I hadn't even realized I was feeling tension. The goal of self-knowledge always seems desirable to me, because understanding myself has often brought me clarity and peace--or at least calmness. The untangling of my emotions has brought the stillness and emptiness which together allow for a dreamless sleep, and which I have often sought.

But seeking has not always meant finding. Unwinding the knotted threads has not always brought understanding, which often seems too slippery to grasp. Moreover, even if understanding somehow falls into my open hands, and does not pour out through my fingers, communication may prove impossible.

This predicament is made worse by the feeling that knowledge I can't express is no knowledge at all. What good is reflection if it doesn't bear fruit: actions or at least words? If I can't make myself understood, or if I can't even understand myself, I have failed. At least, that's how I tend to think. Hiding and secrets come naturally, and so I've struggled against them and treated them as the enemy.

But Merton sanctifies secrets and mystery. He places mystery at the heart of holiness, and secrets at the heart of personhood. In that light, I can stop struggling to smooth out the shadowy folds of my self. It's okay to be a secret; it's okay that God only knows me through and through; it's okay that I don't understand.


ozan said...

:) yay
Thank you for embracing and relaying these ideas (his, yours, and ultimately His); it's really good to see you lifted up by such healthy insight + I am helped, awed, and humbled by God's creation (of which you are an invaluable part) and this understanding of it
We are made in His image and as such far too deep for complete human understanding, at least in this age

Anonymous said...

Jen, we WOULD be thinking about the exact same things! I was asking questions about this subject on the ride back from Summit.

God calls us to places and situations that require our growth. Yes, these situations and places can involve things He has already gifted us with - but at the same time, we are going to grow and be changed. He secures aspects of us that are good for the place/situations He is calling us to; He changes aspects that need to be changed. God's will be done in our 'selves' as we surrender to His will and His plan. That helps discover who we are.