(This is the first of 6 reflections on True Self/False Self. Read #2, #3, #4, #5, #6)
My 2nd ever spiritual vision happened 19 years ago at a student camp in New Jersey.
At the end of the week, we sent everyone out with a bag lunch for what we called a retreat of silence. Anyone who’s actually spent any time in the disciplines of meditation and solitude would call those three hours a long quiet time, but for students between eighteen and twenty-one, it was challenge enough.
I took my guitar and journal onto the lake’s dock and tried to sing worshipful songs softly, both because I didn’t want to disturb the others, and because my singing can be almost as flat as my chest. Between the singing, journaling and attempts to quiet my soul, I experienced my ever-present companion to spiritual disciplines—drowsiness.
Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann
So I snoozed off and on between attempted prayers and attempted silence.
Somewhere in the midst of prayer and dreaming, a picture came into my mind: I sat in a huge wooden chair. It was my version of comedienne Lily Tomlin’s Edith Anne, where she plays a little girl, sitting in a gigantic rocking chair and musing (with a stuffed up nose) on life as she sees it.
Like Edith Anne, I filled only a quarter of the seat. My head reached only half-way up the back of the chair.
I was a little Kathy in a very big chair.
When I strained and pushed real hard, I could puff out my edges to become a big Kathy that filled the rocking chair. But it took so much effort to push out to Big Kathy that when I took a breath, I would shrink to Little Kathy again.
Little Kathy was very real, dense and compact and everything about her was authentically herself, which was why she was so teeny because all the hot air and fluff had been drawn away. It’s like those theories that if you remove all the space between electrons and protons and just condensed the sheer mass of the world we’d all fit on a pinhead.
As I drifted in and out of sleep, the image in my mind continuing, Little Kathy pushing out with all her might to become Big Kathy only to deflate back into Little Kathy and start all over again, I sensed God telling me that the little Kathy was the real me, the true Kathy, but that I spent an awful lot of energy trying to project a bigger image of who I am.
God wanted me to know that He loved the little Kathy.
When I got home from the retreat, my boss and apartment mate Bobby, asked me what God had done at camp. I gave him all the highlights, and then hesitated before telling him about the Little Kathy version of Edith Ann in a big chair.
“I don’t know if this is just a dream I made up or if it’s from God,” I said.
Having witnessed my character as only a roommate and boss can, Bobby grinned and said, “Oh yeah, that’s definitely the word of God for you.”
I just spent the past several days on spiritual retreat with my InterVarsity team. Adele Calhoun who wrote Spiritual Disciplines Handbook(IVP) led us, and the material she gave us to pray and ponder was so rich I will probably blog on it for weeks to come.
The first night she raised the concept of true self vs. false self, sending me back 19 years to Little Kathy/ Big Kathy. The questions she raised started me wondering how my parenting impacts my kids’ relationship to their true selves. Have I been helping them worship their false selves with my criticism and desire for good behavior? How do I help them identify and embrace their true selves, the self God loves?
I’ll fill you in as I keep thinking and praying along these lines. But for today, I’m asking for grace to let myself be little Kathy, and let my kids be little and real too, with or without stuffy noses.