Friday, February 23, 2007

The flip side

Lest you all think I'm just strutting around bragging and calling myself phenomenal (no that's NOT what I was suggesting we should do in the last post), I want to offer what I think is the other side of the coin. Yes, I think that we should embrace our giftedness and believe that we were created with potential and beauty, BUT...

I think there's another side too. We may be phenomenal, but we are also phenomenally flawed. And what I learned recently is that we have to embrace both sides of the coin. Let me tell you about a personal journey I went on in the last few years...

One day (I was going to say it was during my "40 days 'til 40" contemplation phase, but it might have been longer ago than that), I stumbled upon a book called "The Gift of Being Yourself - The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery" by David G. Benner. At first, I just thought it was another "believe in yourself and recognize your gifts, blah, blah, blah" kind of book and I really wasn't expecting much from it. But what I read when I first browsed through it intrigued me so I stuck with it.

Near the beginning of the book, Benner quotes John Calvin as saying "There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God." Hmmm. Interesting. So there's spiritual value in the navel gazing I'd taken up when 40 started knocking on my door. Benner also says "Being most deeply your unique self is something that God desires, because your true self is grounded in Christ. God created you in uniqueness and seeks to restore you to that uniqueness in Christ. Finding and living out your true self is fulfilling your destiny." Okay, this seemed worth considering, so I read on.

The first part was interesting, and I found myself nodding my head now and then, but it wasn't until I reached chapter 4 that I felt like there was something in this book that I needed to spend time learning. That's where Benner throws the hard-ball. "Knowing ourselves as we really are inevitably brings us up against what the Bible calls sin." Okay, this was getting a little tougher. So this wasn't just going to be a "touchy-feeling pat yourself on the back for how great you are" kind of journey. From there, the book goes into how we should contemplate, pray about, and try to analyze our "core sin tendencies" - those flaws that lie deep down at the root of who we are.

Core sin tendencies? This was a new concept for me. I'd heard about sin all my life, but I'd never really considered that I might have a propensity for certain sins over others. Over the years, I'd spent a fair bit of time trying to figure out my giftedness, my personality, my leadership styles, and all those other feel-good kind of self-discovery things that are part of almost every staff retreat or leadership workshop anywhere, but I hadn't really flipped my heart over and looked at the dark side. Maybe that was the fatal flaw in my navel-gazing phase.

"Genuinely knowing yourself as you are known by God can be quite frightening," says Benner. Yup, that's right, I was getting a little afraid of looking around those dark corners. Who knows what was going to pop up? "But if God knows you and still loves you deeply, there is hope that you can do the same."

When I closed the book, I knew it was time to take another step in my journey. Gulp. But I don't wanna know my flaws! C'mon God - can't we just stay out here in the light? Hmmm... God whispered "Nope. Trust me. This is gonna hurt for awhile, but it will be worth it."

So I started thinking, praying, reading my Bible, and searching for those pesky skeletons that had become firmly entrenched in the closets of my soul. It wasn't pleasant, but I did it. I even attended a twelve-step program for awhile, trying to figure out what things I had to overcome and what I had to admit to myself to get there.

And what did I find out? Well, at the time, it became clear to me that there were 2 things that I needed to work on - gluttony and slothfulness. The more I thought of it, the more I realized I had let many things in my life suffer because of these two things. My relationships were harmed, my potential was stifled, my body wasn't well cared for, my house looked like a constant warzone, and I was busy ignoring the fact that there was any problem.

I spent a fair bit of time addressing those things - I cleaned out my closets literally and figuratively. If you go back into my blog archives, you'll find lots of posts about the messes that I tackled. Back then, you probably didn't know why there was such urgency to clean up a whole lot of mess in my house and let go of some of the possessions I'd let into my life because of pure greed, but it all had something to do with this journey.

One day, when I looked around and realized the skeletons had shrunk and my home was looking liveable again, I felt this incredible feeling of peace come over me. Trust me, I was still a LONG way from fully addressing my sin tendencies, but at least I was no longer afraid to stare them in the face and challenge them to "get thee behind me."

I'm still learning this stuff, and on almost a daily basis, I slip back into old tendencies, but the journey has definitely been worth it. So when I say that I am going to believe that I am phenomenal, it is only because I also recognize that I am flawed and my only hope of being phenomenal is if I am humble and put my trust in the creator who knows what I'm capable of.

And now, it's time to pack my bags and head to Gimli where I'm teaching a bunch of dentists and dental staff about how they can use the "Six Thinking Hats" to make decisions and work more effectively. Here's hoping I don't screw up.


Accidental Poet said...

Brave, necessary and thought-provoking post, Heather. Three cheers for you.

And I think it's just possible that you and I have the same "core sin tendencies"!

Vicki said...

Again.. I think that Moses had these moments. I think that maybe David had these moments. It's the part of us that God stretches that He can use because we are unsure of it.

Perfect Submission, Jesus is mine. I in my Savior am happy and blessed.

This is your story. Thanks for sharing.

Anvilcloud said...

I understood what you were saying in the first post. It has to do with being fearfully and wonderfully made. But as you point out here we also have flaws to keep us humble. What's wrong with appreciating ourselves and our gifts in a humble sort of manner? Nothing, I say!

I've actually tried a few lessons using the six hats, but the general concept of lateral thinking seemed to work best with the kids. I remember one stunned principal trying to summarize the book in a few minutes and telling us more or less to put on different hats at random. I don't think he totally got it, and neither did anybody else who bothered to try to listen to him.

andrea said...

I have been there so know of whence you speak. (Maybe it's because I have a couple of years on you -- it was when I was 38 that I started the same process.) As a fan of good quotes (I just used one to comment on Joyce's post -- that comments on yours from yesterday -- actually) I thought I had one stashed away that goes something like "one can serve God best by being true to one's authentic self (sounds like psychobabble but you know what I mean). I took it to heart.

Now I need to give the pantry its annual purging... so to speak ... :)

Dale said...

Gimli. There's a name from the past. CN used to have a training facility at the old air force base. It was there in 1986, I began my locomotive engineer training. State of the art technology, it was. Locomotive simulators. Very realistic. The envy of railroads across North America. CN closed it recently. Too costly, they said. Morons.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Heather.

Excellent post.

Judy - Anybody Home

The Passarelli's said...

This gave me something to think about.

Great post Heather!

Gina said...

I think it is just as important to recognize that we are flawed as well as phenomenal. We need both to really reach our potential.

Good luck, Heather!

Coll said...

Lately I too have been searching for my true self. Every once in awhile I see a glimmer of her and I like what I see. We all have our good and bad sides. As you say.. seeing the good is easy. Recognizing and acknowledging the darker stuff is more of a challenge.

Hope said...

Interesting to put a concept that I believe in those terms. I'm going to look up the book.
Good luck with the sadists, I mean dentists.

Lucia said...

My first thought was...too big! It's too big to look at what those things might be in me. So I took the easy route, which was probably the right route for today, and slipped little hooks into slothfulness and gluttony, two of my own challenges, and decided to make baby steps. Thank you.

Liz said...

This is way too deep for me!! LOL!

BarnGoddess said...

good post! I think I am nearing some sort of inside 'spiritual' shift. I cant quite put my finger on it, but I can sense something is changing and for the better :)

Pamela said...

I'm coming back tomorrow when I have more time to sift through and digest this

good, as always!!!

Linda said...

You continue to inspire and challenge me Heather. Keep writing!

Dianne said...

Great blog. I too have been influenced by some of Benner's books over the last few months so I enjoyed your take on his work.