Parker Palmer’s Teaching on Disillusionment and this Lenten Invitation

Parker Palmer’s Teaching on Disillusionment and this Lenten Invitation April 2, 2023

Parker Palmer's teaching on disillusionment and its grounding as a Lenten practice
Arisa Chattasa/Unsplash

As we enter the final week of the Lenten season, I’m being consistently reminded that it is often through going downward into our depths that we touch upon what’s truly Real in our lives.

Take a moment to think about that in your own life.

  • How have you touched upon the Realness of life in the midst of your pain?
  • How have moments of struggle taught you what the Divine is like?

The season of Lent invites us into our own stories to recognize the Divine’s presence even there. It’s not about giving material things up – it’s about letting go of our illusions of how we want to think the world is and about who we want to think we are. It’s a reminder for each of us to allow ourselves to sink into the depths – trusting that the Divine is there.

Lent as a Season of Disillusionment

This month I find myself returning, as I often do, to the powerful and resonant words of Parker Palmer.

In his book, The Active Lifehe writes:

“There is the experience we commonly call disillusionment, when a trusted friend lets us down, an institution we had relied on fails us, a vision we had believed in turns out to be a hoax, or—worst of all—when we discover ourselves to be less than we had thought. Many of us try hard to avoid such experiences, and when we are in the midst of them we go through a kind of dying.

But the very name we give these moments tells us that something positive is happening through our pain. We say we are being “dis-illusioned.” That is, we are being stripped of some illusions about life, about others, about ourselves. As our illusions are removed, like barriers on a road, we have a chance to take that road farther toward truth.

Instead of commiserating and offering a shoulder to cry on when a friend says that he or she [or they] is disillusioned, we ought to congratulate, celebrate, and ask the friend how we can help the process go deeper still.”


The season of Lent is a time of disillusionment. And while it is a somber season, it can also be a celebratory season. The wilderness is not just a space of wandering, but a space of exploring. It is not just the in-between, but a period of hopeful awaiting.

For all the folks like me who find ourselves exploring the in-between, spiritually seeking without a clear understanding of what might come next, Lent is a reminder of communal possibility – that our experience is not just our experience. It is a season pregnant with potential, rooted not in a desire for the afterlife but for the earthiness of the right now.

That the path of descent need not be a path of despair.


An Invitation For You

As we continue to journey toward Easter, I invite you to take some time to look deeply into yourself – into your story – and examine what you find.

If you’re a journaller, journal. If you’re a wanderer, wander. Here are some questions that might guide you.

  • What illusions are you living with?
  • What status quos and comforts are you clinging to?
  • How might you let go of what is keeping you from becoming disillusioned?
  • How might you change if you were to become disillusioned?

Richard Rohr once said that “if we do not discover a prayer practice that ‘invades’ our unconscious and reveals what is hidden, we will actually change very little over our lifetime.”

Before this coming Easter Sunday, I hope each of us experiences such a prayer practice, a moment of disillusionment that reveals what is hidden underneath the narratives we’ve been handed or built for ourselves: a process of unmasking that allows us to live more whole and truly free. And may such a process continue within us, emboldening us to go deeper still.

40% Off April Book Sale!

Andrew Lang Unmasking the Inner Critic: Lessons for Living an Unconstricted Life

“In Unmasking the Inner Critic, Andrew Lang has created a beautiful and accessible guidebook to help you do the inner work central to the act of being human.”

—Brian D. McLaren, author, activist, and teacher with the Center for Action and Contemplation

Rooted in the teachings of mystics, saints, poets, and prophets, Unmasking the Inner Critic: Lessons for Living an Unconstricted Life offers guidance and support for how to move beyond some of our most challenging fears and negative inner narratives.

With an intuitive blend of reflection questions, contemplative practices, action prompts, and his own personal story, Andrew Lang shares the wisdom from secular poets and therapists—as well as from Christianity, Buddhism, and Sufism—that has grounded his workshops for almost a decade.

Discover how to:

  • do the work of inner excavation with spiritual practices that hold and embolden it,

  • dig deeper for a more authentic way of living and being who you truly are,

  • lay aside the masks that keep you from fully experiencing the world,

  • engage the inner life as the beginning of sustainable activism, and

  • live a healthier, more confident, and well-grounded life.

The perfect book for progressive Christians, secular seekers, and those who are deconstructing Christianity, Unmasking the Inner Critic helps us expand our spirituality beyond the institution of religion for our personal transformation and communal healing.

40% Off Sale Information

From April 2-8th, you can get both versions of Unmasking the Inner Critic at a huge discount (it’s actually more than 40%)!

Get the paperback here for only $10 + shipping! (It is currently selling on Amazon for $18.95 + shipping.)

Or get the eBook on Amazon here for just $0.99!

About Andrew Lang
Andrew Lang is an educator in the Pacific Northwest, an alumnus of Richard Rohr’s Living School for Action and Contemplation, and author of Unmasking the Inner Critic: Lessons for Living an Unconstricted Life. Along with writing regularly, he facilitates workshops helping people to navigate their inner lives and explore their sense of identity and spirituality. You can read more about the author here.
"Thanks Andrew. I'll be checking out some of these resources."

7 Resources for Progressive Christians Who ..."
"Thanks, Andrew. I read your piece not only as a lay theologian, but as a ..."

Church Should Feel Like a Workshop
"You're so, so welcome! Jenny is an absolutely wonderful guide in this work. Here is ..."

Moving Beyond the Harms of Purity ..."

Browse Our Archives