Thursday, October 23, 2008

Getting My Cage Rattled
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised at this point, but I am in awe at how deftly the Holy Spirit is able to ferret out the deep seated obstacles and hurts that get in the way of God’s sanctifying grace. The last three years have been a roller coaster. I know that the Spirit has led me through the painful depths in coming to terms with the nature of my relationship with my father and over the heights of exhilaration as I’ve experienced God’s presence in ways that I wouldn’t have thought possible. Even through the ups and downs, I can say that all is trending up. Most recently in this e-ticket ride I have had to come to terms with the true nature of the narcissism that exists in my life.
I’ve shared before that part of the revelation that has come through the journey toward a perfecting spirituality is the fact that I was raised by a father with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Being raised by a narcissist, my life carried the imprint and the scars of his way of engaging in relationships. By the grace of God, the love of my mother and myriad people that have loved and supported me along the way, my world view doesn’t mirror his. My view of my self was very deeply imprinted by this upbringing. As a result, I have engaged in an ongoing struggle, over the balance of my life, with the narcissistic self-view that has remained firmly rooted. In my best moments, again by grace, I’ve been able to live faithfully and sacrificially according to my faith. In spite of this, I’ve had to deal with the times and circumstances where I acted more out of self preservation.
I’ve been given this incredible gift of faith, healing, resurrection and ministry by the grace of God. I give thanks for the ways that I’ve been able to share these gifts. I lament the ways that I’ve denied this discipleship, caring more for my own well being in ways that have been deeply narcissistic.
At the risk of appearing as if this is self-flagellation, I am drawing a distinction between appropriate self-care and narcissism. There are times in all of our lives where it is important and necessary for us to retreat. These are the times that we need to recharge. From the standpoint of spiritual formation, however, retreat is not about the escape “from”. Retreat is about a movement more deeply into the heart of God that one might know healing and restoration. The narcissistic retreat is the movement into self. It is a bunkering into the indulging of one’s own needs. While the details differ from person to person and situation to situation, the narcissistic retreat is essential a juvenile (if not infantile) collapse in on one’s self.
I can say now that God has been at work for a long time to dig out around this root. This bent toward narcissistic retreat has been a need for healing for a good many years. Even though this realization has been a source of some anger and pain in recent weeks, I can see how God’s grace is at work and how healing is flowing. The final piece of this is that I have also come to terms with the fact that this essentially lifelong pattern won’t just simply evaporate. This is something that I choose to live away from as I seek to engage more and more in a perfecting spirituality. As I choose to fold this part of my life and experience into my relationship with God, I will be able to live more completely into my call and discipleship. I will be a better steward of all that God has given me.
The journey continues…

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