Any deeper and I’ll drown!

I live in my head and I feel deeply. For me, the challenge to cultivate the ‘inner life’ is really no struggle at all. Believe me, my inner ravines are deep enough. The reflective gumboots of my soul are caked with enough introspective mud to bog a four-wheel drive.

It’s why I find the constant invitation of contemporary pastoral theology to ‘know myself’ exhausting. Oh, I know its truth. Those with minimal self-awareness are dangerous beasts. Set free on congregations, pastors like these can do untold damage. And I know, too, the hazard of the activist spirit that allows no space for silence and solitude. No doubt, a dry and busy soul will soon crack down the middle. We need our quiet days. But this call to be constantly peeling away the layers to find the ‘real self’ in ministry? I don’t know.

As I reflect on the formative influences in my pastoral identity, it is the out-of-my-head stuff that wins the tally. It’s in the doing. The real self is not a thing we discern and then bring to ministry. It is fed and shaped by it. The truth is, I cannot know myself apart from knowing you. And I cannot know God or who I am in relationship to God in a sphere set apart from my neighbourhood. Increasingly, I find the models of spirituality that minimise this truth wearying.

For my soul to flourish, I am ever more conscious that I need to get out of myself as much as into myself. While North American writer Rebecca Solnit makes no claim for theology, she certainly challenges mine. In her beautiful book The Faraway Nearby, she says this:

The bigness of the world is redemption. Despair compresses you into a small space, and a depression is literally a hollow in the ground. To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest. Being able to travel both ways matters, and sometimes the way back into the heart of the question begins by going outward and beyond.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you Simon. Thoughtful. I am doing a lot of wondering concerning successful secular therapies that lead to helping to find the “inner child” and a relationship with Christ, and how these can be woven together in good theology, connected to what is out there, relating to the tension you describe. Shalom, Peter.

    Reply

    1. Thanks Peter. I suppose I have never really understood the search the ‘inner child’ though I do appreciate what underlies it. I don’t dismiss it at all, I just wonder how it relates to the new creation we find in Jesus and the continuity of human experience. Lots for me to think about!

      Reply

  2. A good word. It reminds me of the last line of my favourite song by Tiddas “In My Kitchen” which goes:

    Get out of your head and into this world
    You can’t solve the problems, no, no
    At least not on your own, not on your own

    Reply

  3. Yes, this is true for me as well! Thanks for writing this down Simon, and putting words to something I have definately experienced. The revelation for me has certainly come in the doing. In being forced out, drawn out of my own head, and finding myself in places where it is so important to be present. This level of urgency, and need for present-ness has helped to prompt the best, most alive and liberating responses from me. I find it to be incredibly challenging, yet highly energising and quite addictive.

    Reply

  4. Great piece thanks Simon, could we use this for engage?

    regards from GP, loving teaching in Banglore, living in community, daily worship, Indian food, keen students, playing soccer every day, who could ask for more. cu on 8th,

    GP

    Sent from Windows Mail

    Reply

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