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Becoming Who You Are

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Death and Resurrection: Week 1

Becoming Who You Are
Thursday, November 15, 2018

There is a thread you follow. It goes among
Things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
—William Stafford [1]

My words for the thread that Stafford speaks of are the True Self. Your True Self is who you are, and always have been, created in the image and likeness of God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower. Most of human history has called the True Self your “soul” or your participation in the eternal life of God.

The great surprise and irony is that “you,” or who you think you are, have nothing to do with your True Self’s original creation, and you can never get rid of it. It’s sort of disempowering and utterly empowering at the same time, isn’t it? All you can do is nurture your True Self, which is saying quite a lot. It is love becoming love in this unique form called “me.”

The dying process at every stage of life is a natural opportunity to let go of the small, separate self and return to the fullness of True Self. Kathleen Dowling Singh, who spent hundreds of hours contemplatively ministering to dying people, wrote:

As we return and/or are returned to our Original Nature, virtues that we have acquired, usually through deliberate cultivation, flow naturally as water from a spring. The qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, presence, centeredness, spaciousness, mercy, and confidence all radiate naturally forth from our transformed being as we come closer to death. . . . Many a time I have seen the dying comfort those in pain around them. . . .

Love appears to be the last connection the dying have with the world of form. We become expressive vehicles for the power of the Ground of Being [i.e., God], inhabited and vitalized by far greater Being. . . . The Ground of Being is, in a very real sense, Love. As we merge with it, self-consciousness and all questions of self-worth and previous psychological issues of lovability spontaneously melt. Love simultaneously pours into and pours out of us. . . .

With this basic change in identity, in the sense of who we are, death is no longer seen through the peephole of the mental ego. It ceases being a frightening enemy, a defeat, an unfortunate error in the universe and becomes, instead, an incredible moment of growth and transformation. It is a graduation into a previously unimaginable scale of being. [2]

References:
[1] William Stafford, “The Way It Is,” Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems (Graywolf Press: 1977; © 1998, 2014 by William Stafford and the Estate of William Stafford), 42. Used with permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.

[2] Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace in Dying: A Message of Hope, Comfort, and Spiritual Transformation (HarperOne: 2000), 211-212.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 176-177.

Image credit: Woman Knitting (detail), fancycarve.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
There is a thread you follow. It goes among
Things that change. But it doesn’t change. . . .
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
—William Stafford
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