“Romance, finance and self-importance.”

(Photo taken at Holy Cross Monastery)

(Photo taken at Holy Cross Monastery)

Just this morning I heard a friend make the observation that “romance, finance and self-importance” are the three areas that are most likely to get him off-track. These distractions — trying to find love, scrambling for money or seeking an ego boost — can be stumbling blocks.

It has been a long time since “romance” or “finance” caused me much heartburn. My lack of obsessing in those areas likely has as much to do with the passage of years as it does any spiritual discipline. And I don’t see myself pre-occupied with self-importance in the conventional sense. But I do know something about ego.

God has a funny way of helping us come face-to-face with whatever demons or shortcomings we need to face. At this point in my life and ministry I do not desire being the center of attention or being elevated to some position of importance. Ironically, though, I seem to get more and more invitations that pull me into the spotlight – I feel myself resisting this, but I usually comply with the requests, as they are opportunities to share more about our “church without walls” ministry. Each time, I must confront self-centered fear. Each time, I must remind myself that it’s not all about me.

That self-centered ego bypasses logic and reason to tell me in a very visceral way that I will die if you discover how impoverished I really am. When I sense that I am about to be found out and exposed, I go into survival mode on a body level, as if my very life is on the line.

Oddly enough, this is good news. If I will sit still and be quiet, if I will prayerfully allow these feelings and sensations to move through me, then I stand a chance of allowing God to help me separate from my “false self,” from that image or mask that I am often eager to maintain and defend. If I sit still long enough to acknowledge to myself and to God that I am a mass of quivering jelly, then the possibility for being freed from this false self comes into play.

This week, on Ash Wednesday, we will pray one of my favorite prayers:

“Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This prayer reminds us that we are a beloved part of God’s magnificent creation. None of us is a mistake. God hates nothing he has made. God wants each of us to be the creature he envisioned before we ever took a breath.

I want to be freed from that scaffolding I have acquired, from that false self that no longer serves me. I want to release the expectations I have placed on myself and to discover what on earth God had in mind when he made me.

This morning a dear friend handed me a beautiful medallion, inscribed with the words “To thine own self be true.” With God’s help, may it be so.

About Mother Beth Tjoflat

Episcopal priest, urban contemplative, playwright, lover of hounds, American of Chilean-Norwegian-Moravian descent. Interests include transformational ministry with the forgotten and marginalized; church planting and congregational development; 12-step spirituality; Hispanic ministry; radical hospitality, and spending time with dear friends.
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