Job 3:25 “For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.”
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” So says Kent Allard, the Mysterious vigilante of pulp magazine legend. Shadow comics, and popular radio series, first appeared in the 1940s. There is a shadow in all of us. But by letting God come through, and letting our light shine, shadows will disappear.
TODAY is a good day to say, “Good morning, God.” There are people who use the same words, but in a different order, when they get up in the morning. Perhaps you’ve heard, or maybe you’ve even said, “Good God, it’s morning.”
Remember last Thursday well before sunrise, a group of distinguished people got up in a town called Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and put on formal clothes. And went out to a place just outside of town, a very celebrated burrow, where there lives a groundhog, named Punxsutawney Phil. Punxsutawney Phil is a great prognosticator. It would be nice to say that he comes out on cue, but what happens is that somebody in a formal coat and top hat has to get down on his knees, reach into the burrow, and pull out this sleeping groundhog, (and hope he doesn’t get bitten in the process).
You probably know the story. If it’s sunny, and Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, he’s going to walk back inside that burrow, and we’re going to have six more weeks of winter. If it’s cloudy, however, he’ll just stay outside and play around a while. That means we’re going to have an early Spring. I don’t know about the accuracy of that method of predicting the weather. I imagine it’s about as accurate as anything else. But I do know that it’s rather interesting that it’s the shadow that scares Punxsutawney Phil back into his burrow.
God is everywhere present, with us in our burrows, with us in the light of day, and with us when we are scared by the shadows. How many of us have been scared by our own shadows?
How many times have you been sleeping and perhaps seen a shadow on the window shade that looked like some kind of an awful thing, and you saw later on that it was really only a tree limb waving in the breeze? Shadows are a fact of life. Where there is light, there’s going to be shadow.
Right now I would like you to take a look with me at the shadow within yourself. What do I mean by the “shadow within yourself”? Well, let’s do a little diagram. You can either do it on a blank piece of paper or you can do it in your mind as I like to. Draw a rectangle. Divide that rectangle into quadrants. There will be four parts to the rectangle,now.
In the upper left-hand part, write “What I know – I know.”
Next to that, in the upper right-hand quadrant, write, “What I know – I don’t know.”
Down in the lower left, write, “What I don’t know – I know.”
And finally, on the lower right, (and this is the most fun), write, “What I don’t know – I don’t know.”
This sounds a little confusing to say it. It’s a little easier to draw it on a chart board, but stretch yourselves with me this morning. You’ve got these four quadrants:
what I know – I know,
what I know – I don’t know,
what I – don’t know I know,
and . what I don’t know – I don’t know.
This is a very famous psychological diagram. It’s called Joe-Harry’s Window. They named it after two fellows, one named Joe and the other named Harry. It’s kind of a mirror of conscious awareness. There are so many things that we know that we know. For example, you don’t have to call home this afternoon to discover how to find the way back. You know how to get home. You know it real well. You know how to get dressed in the morning. You know so many things. You know quite a bit. You’re amazing. All of us are.
Some of the things that you know, you are not aware – that you know them.
How many times have you encountered a situation in your life that you had
never encountered before, that you had no training for, and you worked it
out beautifully? It happens all the time.
Now, there’s also a great body of things that we know we don’t know. For
example, if you need a haircut, don’t come to me, because I know that I
don’t know how to cut your hair in a way that you would go out in public
There are also things that we don’t know – we don’t know. These are very important. Why? Because they affect our behavior. They affect our behavior in ways that seem so mysterious to us. Years ago, somebody said about the Chicago Cubs baseball team that they were the only team in major league baseball that was totally skilled at “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”. In other words, being an eleventh hour failure, from having everything go right so nothing could possibly go wrong. Then everything does. I know our San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Cowboys are also famous for that. We fans hold our breath until the game is over.
What about you and what about me? Have you seen yourself, at one time or another,
moving along beautifully, perhaps in a relationship, and then, for no apparent reason, we say something insulting that picks a fight? And it is like your are moving in a vacuum and the encounter just will not end. I want to tell you that there are beliefs, there are projections, operating in awareness that cause us to do these things.
Genesis 1:26 says that God creates humankind in God’s image and after God’s likeness. God goes on to give us dominion over everything that happens in our lives. What have we done? We have often taken that dominion, and set it aside. We let ourselves be led by the events, and daily situations of our lives, rather than leading ourselves with the help of God. Is this something that is a relatively new phenomenon? No.
Job 3:25 says, “For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me.” Thoughts held in mind, produce after their kind. And how much of our thoughts are spent on worrying about the worst thing that can happen? It’s almost acting like a magnet, pulling it toward us.
In the book of Romans, in a beautiful passage, Paul writes, “I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do, what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” When I first read that I said, “So, I’m not the only one …” All of us have been in this situation. All of us, I believe, have done the very thing – we hate. Now, Paul ascribes that to the power of error being active in him, rather than the power of Christ. And Paul is right. Error is any attempt, conscious or unconscious, to negate God-given Divine guidance.
You see, Divine ideas cannot be negated. When we attempt to negate a Divine idea, we suffer. God doesn’t punish us, but we suffer because of our action. We literally punish ourselves.
Have you ever met somebody and taken an instant dislike to them-even though you
have never met that person before? Are there traits in other individuals that you find particularly displeasing? Conversely, are there traits in individuals that you find particularly pleasing?
Anything you see in another person is a projection of something in yourself that you cannot see. It’s got a name, and it’s what the groundhog saw-it’s “the shadow.” Most of us don’t want to look at our shadows. Peter Pan was very much in love with his shadow, to the point where he actually had it sewn onto his foot so it wouldn’t leave him. But most of us don’t like to be reminded of our shadows.
Our shadow is a collection of beliefs, a collection of ideas, a collection of thoughts, that we don’t know we know. It is a collection of things that we may not know we don’t know.
Robert Bligh calls it the “long bag we drag behind us.” He says that when each of us comes into the world, we have a 360 degree personality. We radiate love and joy in all directions. He said that if you don’t believe that, just watch a little child. A little child is a globe of energy who just goes through the world joyously. But then, that little child begins to hear messages,
“Stop that noise!” “Don’t eat with your hands. Use your fork.” “Don’t get things all over your clothes. Don’t get messy.”
Little by little, slices of that circle, pieces of that globe, begin to be taken out of the conscious personality and stuffed into a long bag. They are things of which people don’t approve, so we have to keep them hidden. They are parts of our personality that others have told us they don’t care much for, so we put them away where they can’t be seen. And hopefully, they won’t show up again. What do you think of that idea? Can we do that successfully with anything in our consciousness? Of course not. It’s like trying to paint over rust. Or holding a Beach ball under water. Oh, you can cover things up for a while, but they will come back-with force.
Ask God for help for release, a letting go of the energy that is tied up in negative thinking. But before we can let go of that energy, we have got to acknowledge that something is going on. Before work could begin it had to be acknowledged that some work was needed. That is the step that so many of us find so difficult to take.
We must own it. We must say, “Yes, this is a part of me.” Once we give ourselves the freedom to do that, it’s really not so bad. Watch yourself. Do you begin to get defensive when people say little things about some characteristic of your personality that you may find less than acceptable? We have done that many times. Own whatever it is about yourself that you find less than favorable. Once you can own it, you can do something about it. That’s the glorious gift-being able to do something about it.
Spiritual people never take themselves too seriously and are always willing to laugh at life, and themselves.
How can you tell if something is bringing up a shadow in you?
Watch your response when you hear a piece of news or when you interact with another human being. If what you hear informs you, that’s fine. But if what you hear affects you, (and these are the ideas of the psychologist Ken Wilbur), if it brings up an emotional response, it’s telling you something about what you don’t know you don’t know or perhaps what you don’t know you know. Pay attention to it, and don’t run from it. Pay attention, especially, to those things that bring up the strongest negative responses in you. As you pay attention, you are going to find freedom from the unknown inside hurts.
Carl Jung once said, “The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the
moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook upon life. That I feed
the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemies in the name
of Christ, all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the
least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover
that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most
impudent of all offenders, the very enemy himself-that these are within
me, that I, myself, stand in the need of the alms of my own kindness, that
I, myself, am the enemy who must be loved? What then?”
Well, that was a mouth full! That gives us a very sticky situation. Pogo (that little swamp character drawn by Walt Kelly years ago) put the whole thing very much more simply when he said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” What do you do? How do you begin to love yourself? How do you begin to do that work of healing when what you have to look at is so unpleasant? Carl Jung suggests the way. Offer the same kindness and forgiveness to yourself that you would offer to other people.
How many of us are willing to go the extra mile, the extra two miles, for anyone who has offended us? But then we look at the less pleasant side of our own consciousness, and we are filled with revulsion, even disgust. And so, this morning I invite you to consider something like the poet, Wendall Barry, suggests. Consider doing this.
I go among trees and I sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet,
Quiet around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
Where I left them asleep like cattle.
Then, what is afraid of me comes
And lives awhile in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
And the fear of me leaves it.
It sings and I hear its song.
Then, what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
And the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.
The invitation is clear! Face what you fear. Recognize that if God is the one Presence, the one Power, the one Activity in your life and in the universe. You are not alone – God is with you. Recognize that shame and anxiety are defense mechanisms you have created for yourself that have served a purpose. You don’t need them anymore. Recognize this one gentle step at a time. Don’t punish yourself for your shortcomings. Don’t punish yourself when you don’t quite achieve what you set out to achieve. Don’t be like the person who said to me, “I’m so embarrassed that I can’t love myself more completely, that I feel totally disgusted with me.” Don’t do that. Instead, celebrate your victory, however small.
Look at what the groundhog saw, but don’t run back into your burrow. Stay out and play. Sit under a tree like the poet said, and invite those parts of you that you fear, and those parts that fear you, to come and sing their song with you.
Let’s close our eyes for just a moment. Let us behold ourselves wondrously made. Let us remember that God created humankind in HIS image, after God’s likeness, and God defined us as good and very good. The shadow part of us, the part that we will not see, can be our teacher. In faith and joy, let us open our minds and our hearts to receive the lessons it brings.
God blesses you … Amen.