Shadow-self

Context: Earlier this week I unexpectedly got in touch with some deeply-buried aspects of my shadow-self, which was absolutely shattering (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-bWz). Lots of tears, prayers and much painful honesty followed. In the end, of course, it proved to be a very healing experience. 

What is the shadow-self? 

Robert Johnson describes the shadow-self as the “…dumping-ground for all those characteristics of our personality that we disown.” 

He goes on to remark that “These disowned parts are extremely valuable and cannot be disregarded.” This is because “To honor and accept one’s own shadow is a profound spiritual discipline. It is whole-making and thus holy, and the most important experience of a lifetime” (see pp ix-x, “Owning your own shadow – understanding the dark side of the psyche”, Robert A. Johnson; HarperCollins 1993).

The same author later comments that “To own one’s own shadow is to reach a holy place  – an inner centre – not attainable in any other way. To fail this is to fail one’s own sainthood and to miss the purpose of life” (Ibid, p17).

The Bible shows that Jesus, too, had a shadow-self. Some of his most significant experiences brought him face-to-face with his inner temptations, anger, anguish, fear, doubt and despair. Thus, as we strive to become more like him, we, too, need to face, own, accept and integrate our shadow selves, just as he did. 

Following the dramatic emergence of parts of my own buried shadow-self, this prayer surfaced whilst I was saying grace before breakfast:

Trust in God always, my people;
pour out your hearts before God our refuge.

(Psalm 62:8; TIB). 

1. I face my shadow-self with God,
Like Jesus, in the wilderness,

2. And show my shadow-self to God,
Like Jesus, in the Temple.

3. I share my shadow-self with God,
Like Jesus, in Gethsemane,

4. And give my shadow-self to God,
Like Jesus, on the cross.

Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
(Mark 15:34; NLT).


Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last.
(Luke 23:46; NLT).


References 

1. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:1-3; NLT). 

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone’ ” (Matthew 4:5-6; NLT). 

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9; NLT). 

2. Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:13-16; NLT).

3. He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:37-39; NLT). 

The devil

Introduction

We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15; NIV).

On Monday morning, a friend asked me how I understand Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, which prompted me to re-read Luke’s familiar story:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days (Luke 4:1; NLT). 

During this time, Jesus had to wrestle against the temptations caused by his desperate physical hunger (vv2-4), his desire for earthly power (vv5-8), and his longing to test out his trust in God (vv9-12). 

Discussion

Many people have written extensively about what Jesus experienced in the wilderness, but I would like to focus briefly on the mysterious, alarming figure who tempted him.

An immediate problem is raised by the Greek word “diabolou”, which is often translated as “the devil”. However, this word is actually an adjective, rather than a name or a noun. It means “prone to slander, slanderous, or accusing falsely” (Strong’s Greek). Thus, “the devil” is clearly not a being of any kind. 

I find this interesting and helpful, as I have never seen the “devil” as a being. Rather, I understand the personification of “accusing falsely” as a way of representing Christ’s inner struggles with the temptations to which all human beings are subject. Welling up spontaneously from the unconscious mind, powerful, disturbing desires and impulses can assail us at any time, especially when we are very vulnerable, as was Jesus in the desert. 

Jesus’ understanding of temptation

Jesus came to understand the inner, psychological process of temptation very well, both from personal experience and through observing others. This how he explained it to a crowd one day: 

It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness…

It is interesting to note that there is no suggestion at all here that people are tempted by any kind of external force or being. Rather, Jesus concludes his teaching by stating firmly that:

…All these vile things come from within (Mark 7:20-23; NLT).

Conclusion

As a human being, though also divine, Jesus was subject to temptations, just like us (Hebrews 4:15; NIV), and how strong they must have been during those challenging days alone in the wilderness. He had just experienced one of the high points of his life: hearing God’s approving voice, and receiving the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Then, immediately afterwards, he felt compelled to spend many days alone in the wilderness, facing extreme heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and the constant threat posed by wild animals.

What a strange, challenging experience this must have been, causing him much deep physical and mental suffering, so it’s not surprising that the Gospel-writers’ accounts faithfully reflect the vivid, hallucinatory quality of Jesus’ desert retreat. Perhaps this is what leads so many translators to personify the powerful reality of his inner temptations, by turning them into an external being they called “the devil”. 

Breathing

Context: This prayer happened as soon as I woke and began to pray this morning. I was silently repeating God’s personal name, YAHWEH, breathing in on the first syllable, and out on the second. YAH is feminine, whilst WEH is masculine, so I love how both are combined in this truly astonishing name (see reference below). The prayer begins with an in-breath.


 God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh – ‘the LORD.'”
(Exodus 6:2; NLT). 

You are the God who gives breath to all creatures.
(Numbers 16:22; NLT).

YAH: breathe in, and WEH: breathe out:
With every breath, beyond all doubt,
I breathe you in, and breathe you out –
My Maker.

I live in you, and you in me:
Creator, for eternity,
The One who comes to set me free –
My Saviour.

For I am yours, and you are mine:
You, my temple; I, your shrine;
Together, far beyond all time –
United.

We live in love, unseen, yet true:
The God who comes to make me new,
Who breathes and sighs within, for you
Are YAHWEH.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.
(Song of Songs 6:3; NIV). 

We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
(1 John 4:16; NIV). 

Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true.
(John 3:33; NLT).


Reference

“The personal name of God, Yahweh, which is revealed to Moses in Exodus 3, is a remarkable combination of both female and male grammatical endings. The first part of God’s name in Hebrew, “Yah,” is feminine, and the last part, “weh,” is masculine.”

These words are quoted from an article by David Wheeler-Reed, who is Visiting Assistant Professor at Albertus Magnus College, Connecticut. His article is well worth reading, and is available free of charge online at The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/what-the-early-church-thought-about-gods-gender-100077#. I am very grateful for being able to include his words here today.

All is well (#3 of 3)

All is well (1 Kings 5:4; NLT). 

1. All is well,
For You are here
To set us free
From sin.

2. All is well,
For You are here,
Around us,
And within.

3. All is well,
For You are here
To set us free
From doubt.

4. All is well,
For You are here,
Within us,
And without.

Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them
(1 John 4:16; NIV).

God is with us (Isaiah 7:14; NKJV). 

Be sure of this: I am with you always
(Matthew 28:20; NLT).


References 

1. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds (Titus 2:14; NLT). 

2. The Kingdom of God is already among you (Luke 17:21; NLT).

The Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever (Psalm 125:2; KJV).

All who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16; NLT).

Christ lives within you (Romans 8:10; NLT).

You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you (1 John 2:27; NLT).

3. Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him (Hebrews 10:21-2; NLT). 

4. The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; KJV). 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalm 23:4; KJV). 

Peace for all (#2 of 3)

There is peace with God through Jesus Christ,
who is Lord of all (Acts 10:36; NLT).

1. Peace for all:
The Lord is here
To set us free
From sin.

2. Light for all:
The Lord is here,
Around us,
And within.

3. Truth for all:
The Lord is here
To set us free
From doubt.

4. Love for all:
The Lord is here,
Within us,
And without.

You are the temple of the living God (Luke 17:21; NKJV). 

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!
(Genesis 28:16; NLT).

There is …one God and Father, who is over all,
and in all, and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).


References 

1. The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds (Titus 2:14; NLT). 

2. God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45; NLT). 

I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life (John 8:12; NLT). 

His glory fills the whole earth (Isaiah 6:3; CSB). 

The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; KJV). 

3. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him (Hebrews 10:21-2; NLT). 

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NIV). 

4. God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

God is peace (#1 of 3)

The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

1. God is peace,
And he is here
To set us free
From sin.

2. God is light,
And he is here:
Around us,
And within.

3. God is truth,
And he is here
To set us free
From doubt.

4. God is love,
And he is here:
Within us,
And without.

The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; KJV). 

His glory fills the whole earth (Isaiah 6:3; CSB). 

I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth
(Psalm 116:9; NLT).


References 

1. The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds (Titus 2:14; NLT). 

2. God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life (John 8:12; NLT). 

This light within you produces only what is good and right and true (Ephesians 5:9; NLT).

3. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him (Hebrews 10:21-2; NLT). 

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NIV). 

4. God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!(Genesis 28:16; NLT).

There is …one God and Father, who is over all, and in all, and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).

Heal our unbelief

We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28; GNT).

“Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-4; NLT).

Father,
You bring good from bad,
And peace from every fear we have;
Truth from lies,
And gain from loss –
Help us to overcome our unbelief.

Father,
You bring light from dark.
For growth from pain, you hit the mark;
Love from hate,
And faith from doubt –
Bring gain from all our troubles, Great High Priest. 

Father,
You bring life from death,
And comfort from each final breath;
Hope from grief,
And joy from woe –
Your resurrection, Lord our God, is sweet.

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25; NLT).

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies (Psalm 103:2-4; NLT).

Close your eyes

The Lord is full of tenderness and mercy (James 5:11; NLT). 

1. Close your eyes to seek Christ’s face:
Full of mercy, light and grace.

2. Lift your gaze to catch his smile:
He won’t censure or revile.

3. Look at him, and watch his love
Pouring down from heaven above.

4. Talk with Christ; ask him to heal:
He will know just how you feel.

5. Your faith, your doubts, your hopes, your fears,
Your suffering throughout the years –

6. He sees, and knows, and shares them all:
Each loss, each pain, each grief, each fall.

7. He sees, and knows, and shares each one:
Our Lord, who died for us – God’s Son.

8. At last, receive his healing touch:
Rejoice! He loves you very much.

He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).


References

1. I will see you face to face (Psalm 17:15; NLT). 

2. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:8-10; NIV).

3. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39; NLT).

4. I love the Lord because he hears my voice (Psalm 116:1; NLT).

5. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testings we do (Hebrews 4:15; NLT).  

6. O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me (Psalm 139:1; NLT).

7. In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT). 

God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were sinners (Romans 5:8; NLT).

8. I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:27; NIV).

 


 

You hear me

1. Father God,
You hear me,
And never leave my side.

Each word, each sigh,
Each prayer, each cry:
You know; you grasp; you care.

2. Father God,
You see me,
And never leave my side.

Each hurt, each tear,
Each pain, each fear:
You know; you grasp; you share.

3. Father God,
You love me,
And never leave my side.

Each doubt, each loss,
Each sin, each cross:
You know; you grasp; you bear.

🖤


References

1. He hears my voice (Psalm 116:1; NLT).

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect me and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

You hear my every sigh (Psalm 38:9; NLT).

You know all about me (Psalm 139:1; CEV).

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you (1 Peter 5:7; NLT).

 2. You are the God who sees me (Genesis 16:13; NIV).

He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103:14; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years (Isaiah 63:9; NLT). 

3. He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble, or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35-8; NLT).

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19; NIV).


Bear fruit

Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love –
and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; NLT).

Lord,
May my doubting
Wither, and decay;

But, may my faith in you
Gain strength each day.

Lord,
May my anguish
Fade, and die away;

But, may my hope in you
Increase each day.

Lord,
May my sins
Reduce, and cease, I pray;

But, may my love for you
Bear fruit each day.

🖤

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5; NIV). 

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-3; NRSV).