the truth about me

I don’t know about you but, when it comes to my own inner landscape, I feel like I have a pretty large capacity for denial. I guess I have found several tried and tested ways to kid myself over the years. As a three on the Enneagram, I can kid myself into believing that I am in touch with my emotions because I am aware of other people’s (while really and truly being oblivious to how I feel). I’m also a master at ‘stuffing’ - no, I don’t mean the stuffing you eat with your turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas. I mean that instinctive response where, at the first whiff of difficult emotions, I stuff them down somewhere deep, where it means I can get on with my day-to-day life without having to face them.

The thing is, we are wired for truth-telling. We are made to live in truth and it is only in our places of truth, or reality, that God can meet with us. Denial, lack of awareness, blind spots and self-deception are just not places where the good stuff can happen, you know?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we are supposed to face everything about ourselves all in one go. That would be … well, overwhelming to say the least! I do think that we are being constantly invited into more and more truth, with regards to ourselves and God. This is the nature of our spiritual journey.

So, given this realisation that I don’t know all there is to know about myself - that some of that is a mercy because I am not yet ready, and some of that has been a choosing not to see uncomfortable things - how do I orientate myself towards the light, towards seeing truth? Knowing that this truth, however uncomfortable at first, will energise my process of growth and becoming. So how do I make room for it, or seek it out?

ways to Engage truth

Here some thoughts based on my own truth discoveries. Perhaps for you, as for me, these points will serve as a reminder as you continue to seek truth in the places you know you need it. May they also help you, even in the places where right now you don’t even see the need.

1. Get in touch with your body

Our bodies hold onto the things that are real to us. Those fears we don’t want to face, the losses we never grieved, the bitter root of unforgiveness, the shame that we hate feeling so much that we have covered it over with a million tactics for surviving in the world. All of these things, unless resolved, remain true somewhere on the inside of us. And often it is the body that reveals this truth to us, if we have the patience to tune in to what it is saying.

That acidic feeling in your chest when you think of a certain person or experience? That sinking feeling in your stomach when you are quiet with yourself? The knots and tightness you carry across your shoulders, that just never seem to let up? The headache that follows you through your day? All these are telling you something, if only you will pay attention.

Take a minute to check in with your body. What are you feeling? Perhaps you want to present that feeling to God and ask him about it. What truth lies behind or beyond that feeling and how is God inviting you to engage it?

2. Get some space

There is very little chance that we will hear what is mostly deeply true about us when we are surrounded by noise and distractions. It’s just hard to listen to what our hearts are saying unless we get away from all the activity in some way. So whether that means taking time in the early hours of the morning, before the day begins, or literally getting away from it all for a day or more, the revelation of truth requires us to get quiet and still somehow.

Stillness will allow deep truth to rise to the surface. And it may not be comfortable! This could be why most of us subconsciously avoid it. What is most true about your life in this season? What is life-giving for you and what is draining? How would you describe your deepest longings for your life? Where are the places where unfulfilled longing is causing you pain? How might you express that?

Engaging our heart truth in stillness sometimes takes a while. It’s a practice, not a quick fix. I encourage you to set time aside each day - even if it is only 10 minutes - to be still. In the stillness, listen to your own heart. For some of us, it helps to write or journal; for others it helps to walk. What would it look like for you to create space for what is most true about you to come to the surface?

3. Get into nature

There can be something greatly soothing about being in nature. Being outside can become a compassionate space where we find a freedom to feel the truth about our lives. Gazing at the ocean as the waves move unceasingly toward and away from the beach, watching the sun rise above the mountains, or smelling the heady scent of rich blooms, our experiences of nature somehow ground us. When we stop rushing through the landscape and slow down enough to pay attention, we may just find our hearts speaking to us through the living, growing things we see.

Most often, we are moving through our world with a purpose in mind; we want to get from A to B. How would it be to spend time outside with no agenda? To give yourself time for your attention to alight on a certain blossom or bug, cloud or crag? As we engage creation with compassionate curiosity, it is not unusual for us to become aware of something true about our own lives, or the state of our own hearts.

Perhaps you want to take a look at your calendar and actually schedule an extended time to be outside. While you may not live close to the sea or to mountains, it could be that there is a park or botanical gardens you could visit? And even if you just take 5 minutes to gaze at a bunch of flowers, or watch a couple of puppies playing, I wouldn’t be surprised if something like gratitude stirs within you. Could it be that this gratitude represents something true for your heart?

I’ll end here with an encouragement from Ruth Haley Barton, a great teacher on matters of the heart:

“It's best not to mess around with superficial answers to questions that invite us into deeper levels of self-awareness. It's best to let the truth pour out - desperation, desire, whatever has driven us to the wilderness and keeps us waiting so far outside our comfort zone. It is best to just come clean … there it is - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“This willingness to see ourselves as we are and to name it in God's presence is at the very heart of the spiritual journey But it takes time, time to feel safe enough with ourselves and with God to risk exposing the tender, unfinished places of the soul.”

I am trusting that you and I will take the time we need to hear our own truth in the presence of God, and to know him dealing with us in that place.

(Meeting with a spiritual director is one way to engage the truth about ourselves, in the presence of God. If you would like to know more, or have any questions, you can contact me here.)