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the real self

The real self

I consider that the spiritual life is the life of [one’s] real self, the life of that interior self whose flame is so often allowed to be smothered under the ashes of anxiety and futile concern.

— Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

In these few words Merton has spelled out the scope of this blog:

  • the ‘real self’ God made us to be
  • how to find that self
  • how to fan it aflame amid the ashes of our lives

It boils down to what I have come to believe is the good news of the Gospel:

Following Jesus leads us from our fake selves to our real selves,

from living in our heads to living from our hearts,

from advancing our own agendas to receiving the gift of His,

from thirsting for the next transient thrill to drinking deeply of eternal life.

dw

  • What do you think of the notion that each of us has a ‘real self’ that God loves and nurtures?
  • To what extent do you feel in touch with your real self?
  • What are the ashes in your life that hinder your real self from emerging and thriving?

I encourage you to consider writing out your answers, either in a journal or in the comments section.

Grace and peace to you…

dw

p.s. this, too, is a refresh of an earlier post

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attention the real self

A million things

…to run anything in this world…is like being lost in a forest of a million trees…and each tree is a thing to be done… A million trees. A million things. Until finally we have eyes for nothing else, and whatever we see turns into a thing.

So how am I to say it, gentlemen? When he came, I missed him.

— The Inkeeper

Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons, “The Birth”

I can’t begin to convey the magic of Frederick Buechner’s sermon “The Birth”. Sermon isn’t really the right word. It’s more like three interviews with people who witnessed the event: the Innkeeper, the Wise Men, and the Shepherds. The quote above is from the Innkeeper’s account, his witness, his confession – that’s what it is in the end – his confession. And it’s my confession, too; maybe it’s yours.


  • Are we lost in the forest of our concerns, so lost we can’t see the Light of the World around and among us?
  • He came to his own people and his own people…”missed” him.  Do we, like the innkeeper, have no room, no mental or emotional space, for Jesus to be born? Are we missing him? Are we aware we are missing him?
  • What can we do to not miss him? (Attention is the beginning of devotion.)
  • List out some of the ‘million things’ in your life. Note down times in your life when those things caused you to miss something important. Write down what Jesus means to you and what you might do to give him more space in your life.

I highly recommend Buechner’s book and that you read this particular sermon. What I have shared here doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Grace and peace to you…

dw

p.s. This is a refresh of a past post from early 2018

Categories
the real self

Thomas Merton – The First Responsibility

For it seems to me that the first responsibility of a [person] of faith is to make [their] faith really a part of [their] own life, not by rationalizing it but by living it.

— Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

Jesus said we would know the reality of a person’s faith by how they live. Living our faith means we pay attention to his words and let our lives be transformed by them. It means we let him live in and through us; we follow where he leads.


  • Are we living our faith? Do we keep it contained in a comfortable space or do we let it loose in our lives?
  • What is God pointing out now to help us live our faith more fully?
  • Write down what comes to mind so you can go back to it over the coming days.

Grace and peace to you…

dw

Photo by Madi Robson on Unsplash