In the past week, Smith has initiated a probing examen of where we might each need healing in our lives.
Death, body decline, family dynamics, anger and rage, sexuality, passion, childlikeness… In just a few days, he has broken every cocktail party taboo as he invites us to invite Jesus into every part of ourselves.
I’ve used the word ‘healing’ about this process of examination. Perhaps ‘integration’ is better.
Yes, there is much in us that needs healing. But often this is so precisely because so much has been cut away and banished. These parts of ourselves act out as any of us would when we find ourselves neglected, denigrated, and marginalized.
When some early Christians went into the wilderness, they had two ways of thinking about their unintegrated energies. Some went out there to engage in warfare against these evil parts of the ‘flesh.’ This school of thought came to dominate Christian orthodoxy and we ended up with the concept of seven deadly sins.
But Smith is speaking for that other school of thought. The second school thought that these different passions needed to be given to Jesus who could integrate them fully. Desire and sexuality could become lust or creativity. Anger could become fervor and persistence, or it could become rage. Each person’s reflection of God would come exactly in the place where they most ‘struggled’ authentically with a passion. In God’s hand it would become a great gift to the community, to the world.
I learned to repress was passion and anger. Smith is right: it is messy when this part begins to find its way to the light for integration. I think I’d be more comfortable if my heat was removed than to have God transformed it into something usable – something that I always carry within in, sometimes making me stand out in proper New England culture. Yet, there is it, a ‘thorn in my flesh’ for the glory of God.
Which of this week’s themes do you most need to bring to God for messy conversation? What do you notice leaks out into the community most often? Where does it have potential for life? Where does it cause embarrassment or shame?
Now the Spirit of Truth has brought us to a rigorous Lenten discipline indeed. But one that promises to reveal our own beauty to us in the places we have learned to engage only with shame.
The Rev. adwoa Wilson