Monday, July 12, 2010

Reclaiming Oneself

I ended a recent essay with these words from St. Francis of Assisi: “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” These words seemed appropriate, since I was writing about my need to loosen a tendency toward willfulness. Yet, I hesitated before I included that quote.

I’ve known too many people whose sense of self was painfully fragile. When we humans are subjected to repeated abuse or to challenges that feel far beyond our ability to cope, a shaky identity often develops. Urging an overcoming of self in these situations seems exactly the wrong advice.

Sometimes, folks just might need to move in the opposite direction. Like a plant growing in rocky soil or beneath an unrelenting sun with little water, sometimes a person is taxed to the extreme. The life force remains, but the vessel itself is wobbly. In these situations, tender loving care is called for. Nurture is needed, not a further weakening.

Many religious traditions, both east and west, encourage the relinquishment of self. I can accept that this is where we are all ultimately headed. Our tiny drops of individual identity will eventually merge into the immeasurable stream of Infinity. And with that merging, we’re told, will come the supreme realization that we were never separate at all.

But, hey, I’m talkin’ about you and me on this earth, housed in these clay bodies, with our sometimes perplexing personalities. Whether our lives have been unduly harsh or not, I think most of us might do well to first claim the small drop that is ours and live that life to the fullest.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are asked, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” If this is true of the body, would it not also be true of our personal identities?

We are each unique jewels, specialized facets in the unfathomable design of the cosmos. Every one of us has a singular part to play in that overall design. Discovering who we are and deeply embodying our role seems one of the most important tasks of our lives.

A quote from another Francis comes to mind. “Do not wish to be anything but what you are,” St. Francis De Sales urges, “and try to be that perfectly.”

So, how do we discover who we are, and by what means do we grow in our ability to more perfectly express it in the world? The particulars of that answer are likely as diverse as we are. Yet, if we begin with the idea that it is Spirit that animates us, then strengthening our connection to Spirit would be an essential first step.

Saints and sages live united with the Divine, and act from this awareness with apparent ease. The rest of us, though, must consciously and diligently build that relationship and renew it regularly.

As we touch this Essence more consistently, our individual selves will be brought into better balance. Those of us who need to let go, will be better able to let go. Those who need to strengthen will find greater stamina within their reach.

Whichever direction this process takes us, the world will be more fully blessed by our presence. With Spirit as our steady and true guide, we’ll shine out more vividly as the unique jewels we were intended to be.

Shine on!

Loanne Marie


Anonymous said...

I think this is very true- each of us is very unique and special. I believe we were put on this earth to learn from one another. Each of us has something to contribute to the various types of relationships that we have. It is our job to seek that out. The lesson learned is not repeated. As we learn the pieces of puzzle of life began to fill in.

Jay said...

...and we'll better appreciate each other as the unique gem we each are, even when we refract the light differently from one another.

Loanne Marie said...

Thank you both for writing. Yes, unique and special gems all, with much to share, no matter how we 'refract the light'.

Here's to hoping we can, more often than not, remember this perspective when we need it most~~like when we're right smack in the middle of a challenging experience and finding it hard to recognize any gems, ours or theirs!

Bonnie said...

My favorite sentence is "Do not wish to be anything but what you are...and try to be that perfectly":.........although "perfect" is an impossible concept. I wish he had said, "Do your very best and try not to lose heart or give up, even if your efforts result in a less than perfect scene". Of course his "try" in there pretty well covers that ground.

Loanne Marie said...

Oh, Bonnie, I agree whole heartedly. That perfect thing is a bugaboo. But we need to cut the guy some slack~~he was, after all, a Roman Catholic bishop writing centuries ago. And, I guess, if we're going to strive to be perfect at anything, being who we truly are, deep down inside, might not be a bad idea!

Thanks for writing!

Monica Wood said...

Loanne, I really love your posts. Your blog is on my favorites list. xo Monnie

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks, Monnie!

For those of you who don't know Monica's work, she is an accomplished and very wonderful writer~~in addition to being a dear friend of mine for (OMG!) over 30 years. You can find out more about Monica at her website,

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Leia Marie