The Word Became Flesh: An Advent Journey Toward True Self
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.—John 1:14
This world of ours, entrusted to us by our Creator, is broken. And we continue to break it. This is an intensely tangible reality these days.
And yet we stare blankly at our television screens and Facebook feeds as conscientious nudges come and go.
Why is this?
Perhaps it is because we have distanced ourselves from the image of our Creator, the imprint of the divine etched deep into our being.
It’s not that our image-bearing nature is beyond our grasp. Intellectually and emotionally we contemplate and grasp at this every day.
But we suffer from severely unbalanced senses of self.
Reflection on my own past leaves me convinced that an individual’s sense of self is located along a spectrum. Many psychologists and theologians would agree. The far ends of the spectrum detach us from the suffering of others.
On one end you have negative self-consciousness, an overabundant meekness that prevents deep engagement with the other (i.e., anyone in your proverbial neighborhood that you would say is categorically different from you). This is rooted in fears of judgment, rejection, and alienation.
On the other end of the spectrum you have the egotists of the world whose names we need not speak, for we know who they are. For these self-aggrandizing folks, the ego is so greatly inflated that they cannot help but imagine in most every waking moment that they are superior to most other beings that have ever set foot on the earth.
In the middle of this spectrum you have a remarkably elusive sweet spot. Some might even argue that this sweet spot is so elusive that it actually sits outside the spectrum, on its own transcendent plane. Thomas Merton refers to this as the True Self. It is not a rejection of self. It is a full, comfortable, and transcendent sense of self. It is the space where we meet our Creator and come to terms with our image-bearing nature. When we enter this space, we are consumed by love. As Richard Rohr puts it so beautifully, “The True Self—where you and God are one—does not choose to love as much as it is love itself already.”1
It is a self in which you will experience and live into true identity. Moving toward the elusive middle of the spectrum requires significant self-reflection. It requires tremendous humility. It will involve suffering. However, if a child of God (read: you) is truly able to arrive and then occupy this most fragile and beautiful of spaces, then this child will experience a very full, rich, and confident joy in life both in the now and the forever. This is particularly true if the child of God is able to find a constructive way of sharing this true experience of self with others.
Our deepest wants, desires, and hopes in life should emerge from this true experience of self.
We will realize more deeply that we exist and we are as others around us reflect our image—which itself reflects the image of God—in its fragility, its brokenness, and its wholeness in love, back to us.
The deepest want, desire, and hope that one can have in life is the genuine and authentic expression of selflessness that emerges from this place of true self-understanding. For surely if we come into such great fortune as to truly and wholly know ourselves and Christ’s incarnational Spirit who comes to live within us, we will be compelled to share that gift with others without inhibition. And by removing positive and negative balances of self-consciousness, our deepest desire will and must be to walk alongside the other.
This applies to any community anywhere. And it especially applies to yours.
Christ is with us. Indeed, Christ resides within. So, in Christ, become a true human.
Blessings on your Advent journey.
God, as we ponder and reflect on the awe-inspiring gift of your Son and his grace-giving presence and ministry, we ask that you give us pause. In such moments, we ask that you attune our hearts to the profound indwelling of your Spirit. In so recognizing this Spirit, we pray that we come to embody and live into your true and perfect love. And in each and every encounter, may we seek to find your face in both neighbours and strangers alike.
1 Richard Rohr, “Your True Self is Love,” https://cac.org/true-self-love-2016-12-18/
Cameron Klapwyk is a refugee program associate with World Renew. In this role he has the privilege of walking alongside Canadian churches through the journey of refugee sponsorship. Cameron lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with his wife, Erika, a campus ministry associate at St. Jerome's University. Cameron also runs a Transition Coaching practice in which he helps individuals move from frustration and disempowerment in work and life toward flourishing and a true-self embodying future.