18. The Journey into Reality

Becoming the person you are called to be is a journey into reality. This journey involves shedding all that is not your true self: the masks, the excuses, the self-deceptions and illusions, the false ambitions and escape routes, the fears, pretenses, and prejudices, and anything that makes you its slave. The deep longings you still experience when you are most free of everything that lacks authenticity are the longings God created in creating you.

You never have to pretend to be anything or anyone that you are not.

The journey is about becoming more real. That’s the joy of it: you never have to pretend to be anything or anyone that you are not! There is great freedom in being your true self. But it presupposes that you make judgments that distinguish between true and false.

There are subtle ways we avoid the journey; for example, by keeping ourselves too busy to think about unresolved issues. Chasing after passing fashions or acquiring more things can serve as a distraction; keeping rigidly to a narrow routine can also be a way of avoiding whatever else there might be to see. Looking for ready-made, authoritative answers (fundamentalism) rather than going more deeply into the questions is also a way of avoiding the journey into reality.

There will be mistakes on this journey; perfection is at the end of the journey, not before. Part of accepting reality is accepting yourself, including your track record and your failures.

Does this mean there is no need for change? No, it means that important change takes place when we accept what we are (which includes our frailty and failures) rather than try to be what we are not (i.e., someone who doesn’t have any frailties or failures). So we need a way of dealing with frailty and failure that doesn’t involve denying them. This is why knowing about God’s forgiveness and acceptance makes all the difference. To know that God has accepted Christ’s faithfulness in place of our unfaithfulness is what makes Christian faith a great privilege:

If God is for us, who can be against us? God did not spare even his own son ... how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against those God acquits? Who will condemn? It is Christ ... who intercedes for us. (Romans 8:31-34)

We need to accept that the journey is gradual. Otherwise we might try to compensate for not being better than we actually are. Compensating can lead to an unhealthy perfectionism (the feeling that you have to make everything “right”), or to disillusionment (discovering that you can’t).

The starting point for this journey is always the present moment, whatever its circumstances. There is no other time - we cannot be in the past or in the future. So you never have to wait until you are in better circumstances or in “a better space.” To postpone meeting God is to avoid God, and to avoid God is to avoid the self that comes about from “seeing” God.

God meets you in the reality of your own life. There is no other place for you to meet God. This seems so obvious. Yet isn’t this the truth we miss when we imagine we could really meet God if we were like someone else, or better prepared, or more worthy? God is saying to us: “Come as you are ...”

For Practice

Slowly pray Psalm 23. As you pray, let your mind rest on the images found in these words.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where you give me repose.
Near restful waters you lead me,
to restore my strength.
You guide me along the right path;
You are true to your name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.
You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.