I can't close the cover on Ronald Rolheiser's The Shattered Lantern without sharing one last idea.
I remember reading this almost 20 years ago when I was in my late 30s and desperately trying to find a sense of myself in this world. I felt responsible to prove myself, to show the world that my education meant something, that I mattered, that I should be taken seriously. I remember experiencing quite a bit of angst.
Rolheiser put words to my experience:
"At the deepest root, each of us aches for significance, meaning, uniqueness, preciousness, immortality, and to have in our lives a great love and great beauty. This ache is congenital, incurable, obsessive.
We are, as Plato said, fired into life with this divine restlessness in us.
However, as Alan Jones says, our madness comes when the pressure gets too great and we ache for our mortality and insignificance and so we create the vital lie.
The vital lie is when we try, through our own efforts, to create for ourselves significance, uniqueness, and mortality."(Ronald Rolheiser)
Seems like a lot of work, doesn't it? For most of us, it is the work of a lifetime.
Alan Jones explains:
“We nurse within our hearts the hope that we are different, that we are special, that we are extraordinary. We long for the assurance that our birth was no accident, that a god had a hand in our coming to be, that we exist by divine fiat.
We ache for a cure for the ultimate disease of mortality.
... we fabricate a vital lie to cover up the fact that we are mediocre, accidental, mortal. We fail to see the glory of the Good News. The vital lie is unnecessary because all the things we truly long for have been freely given us.”(Alan Jones, Journey Into Christ)
The problem is that we think we have to strive to create our own significance. We try to fabricate all that ourselves. To show the world (and ourselves) that we are special, unique, superior, worthy.
Our very human ego works to create a story with us as the hero, to cover over our own sense that we are small, insignificant, vulnerable, weak and at risk of being rejected for those things.
But God is the Hero, always has been, always will be. We are God's beloved, though. And by that fact alone, we are special in our own ways - one of a kind! We are unique - no one else quite like us! We are worthy - the very breath in our lungs is the breath of the Divine!
When we live as if creating our own worth and value is up to us we can never truly rest. Every battle feels epic, every win feels tenuous, success only leads to anxiety and we build walls around our egos, our hearts, our lives. It is too painful to have the vital lie exposed as, well ... a lie.
I am done with the vital lie.
From here on, I want to throw myself at the mercy of God. Let the One who designed me be the source of my specialness, my sense of being unique, worthy, enough and good.
Wanna' give up the vital lie for Lent?
Chocolate is so yesterday ...