Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Just as I am

In the above scene, you hear four of my favorite words, and, I venture to say, four words that we all long to hear.  "Just as you are..."  Not, "after you do this," or "when you change this," but "just as you are."  In my meager 35 years of living, I've stumbled (literally) upon the profound truth that as human beings, one of our vital core needs is acceptance.  We desire to be who we are, as we are, but because of demands from parents as children, spouses or significant others in adulthood, teachers in school, or employers at work, we succumb to the temptation to remain hidden.  Crouched down in the shadow of interpersonal expectations, external demands, and the cultural climate of showiness, we are unknown to ourselves and to others. The curtain in front of the authentic self remains drawn until some crisis or distressing situation brings it center stage, curtains fully drawn back.  Plunged forth by heartache and cracks in life's foundation, one's true identify only surfaces when confronted by the anxiety of forever remaining the same. A new fear emerges - that of change.  Behind the various masks worn to appease the masses or small collection of friends, co-workers, and family, is a deeply complex, sometimes troubled, individual, with likes, dislikes, desires, aversions, and overall perceptions of the world around him.  The discovery of one's true self is seldom a journey of willingness and delight.  It's muddled with uncertainty and pebbled with difficulty.  Carl Rogers once described a patient's path in this way: "struggling to be himself, yet deathly afraid of being himself - striving to see his experience as it is, wanting to be that experience, and yet deeply fearful of the prospect..." Why go down that road when the less challenging course is settlement on the comforting planes of "I am who I am?"  Even God, in Exodus 3:14, said "I am who I am," so it seems a worthy example of imitation.  And it's true..I'm okay. Just as I am.

 That statement comes with a caveat for mankind, however.  Hebrews 13:8 tells us that God is "the same yesterday, today, and forever."  In other words, His nature is unchanging.  Ours, on the other hand, is meant for transformation.  2 Corinthians 3:18 informs us that we are "being transformed from one degree of glory to another."  Put another way, we are not meant to stay the same or settle into the notion that who we are isn't meant to adapt and grow.  On the contrary, as we accept ourselves just as we are, we need to continue forward on the journey of who we are becoming.  I am who I am isn't a conclusion for the individual, it's a continuation.

In light of my recent indiscretions, failings, and weaknesses, I found great comfort in the realization that God loves me just as I am.  I needed to know that although I made mistakes in my marriage, picked up the bad habit of smoking again, and fell short in my life's calling, I was still somehow acceptable in His sight.  Forgiven, yes.  Redeemed, absolutely. I struggled, however, with acceptable. How could this be?  While the concepts of His forgiveness and redemption came easily, that of acceptance seemed to elude me. I feared that my mistakes had somehow deemed me intolerable, unacceptable, and therefore, wholly unholy, not to mention that I was suddenly confronted with a question of identity.  What did all of my recent poor choices say about who I was?   Those unwilling to dig deep into the cracks and crevices of the soul and painful life experiences will stay on the plane of I am who I am type acceptance.  That may work temporarily for some, but for the therapist, life must be an ongoing journey of self-exploration and actualization, or as the renowned therapist, Carl Rogers put it: "the carrying on of therapy is something which demands continuing personal growth on the part of the therapist, and this is sometimes painful, even though in the long run rewarding."  Right now, who I am is struggling to understand my path, perplexed by my marital circumstances, and confused about the direction ahead. I've gotten in touch with some of my darkest desires and unholy longings.  I met the shadow within and gave in to its yearnings, but I am not any one of those aspects.  Rather, they are all little pieces of me.  Therefore, I press on toward becoming who I'm meant to be and I accept myself for who I am presently. I accept me.  Just as I am.  

"We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are.  Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed." - Carl Rogers

Next step...

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