Know Thy Self (Part 1)

Discernment can take on many forms, but during novitiate I have kept coming up against a common subject of discernment which has revealed itself to be a very difficult one to undertake. This, for me, has been the discernment of self. Through personal experiences, classes, spiritual reading and spiritual direction, this importance of self-discernment has continued to pop up over and over again.

The discerning of one's self, in light of one's relationship with God, is a very common theme to be found among the works of many spiritual writers. Being a big fan of authors such as Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Rohr, I have read a lot about the need to look within myself so that I may come to know more fully who I am. But at the same time I must also realize that to do this I must also see myself in relation to the One in Who's image and likeness I am created. Many of the above mentioned authors write about seeing yourself as God see's you and coming to know your "true self" from your "false self". Just thinking about it is rather intimidating.

It has been very beautiful, exciting and even refreshing to read about such things, but, to be honest, for the longest time this is all I ever did. I merely read about it. Now as Novitiate has provided a time and a space for God to actually begin to get my attention and begin the process of making it a very real thing in my life, I am quickly coming to the realization that to actually go through the process is altogether something completely different. To look inside one's self can be and often is very challenging and, at least for me, it can also be quite terrifying.

Coming to see the real you or the real me in all our brokenness, which we are all broken, and all of our sinfulness, again realizing we are all sinners, and seeing how far one is from where one needs to be is often enough to make us run from our own reality. We find that our common instinct is to repress it and cover it up and pretend it's not even there. We often even go to the other unhealthy extreme of beating ourselves up with self-condemnation, refusing to acknowledge who we are, which is that we are broken sons and daughters of God, and to allow God to work through that brokenness. We must remember that St. Paul tells us that it is when we are weak that God makes us strong if only we allow God to work through everything going on in our lives. To be able to find your true identity as a child of God, made in His very image and likeness and what that means for us personally is the most important part of the spiritual journey in my opinion. Because in coming to know ourselves we come to find our identity which can only be truly found in God. And to be aware of all this also helps us to know where we are being called to in life and what is the next step that we must take.

It is my hope in further posts to explain what discernment of self has been like for me and where it has taken me so far, fully knowing that I am still far from where God wants me to be and for the moment that it is OK! Discernment is a constant process and it is never something which comes to an end.