Most mothers I know have stories to tell about their youngest child. Oh, those youngest children… (shaking my head.) They are a different breed, always seeking to emulate their older siblings, always striving to keep up. (Full disclosure: I am a youngest child.)
From a very early age, my youngest son was determined to match his older brothers.
His first word was “self“, as in “I can do it by myself.“
When I tried to help him put his coat on, his frustrated response as he swatted me away was, “Self, self, self.” I got the same rejoinder for my attempts to assist him in teeth brushing, face washing, and eating spaghetti.
Of course, he did learn to do everything by himself. He was and is self-reliant.
It would have been so much easier, faster, and neater if he would have allowed me to help him. Parenting is a delicate balancing act.
Last month I wrote about my word of the year for 2021: “Empty“.
Some may see a negative connotation associated with this word, but my intent is precisely the opposite.
I see “empty” as the equivalent of being full of possibilities. I see emptiness as the diminishment of self, to give more room for God’s light to shine. I see emptiness as eliminating the selfish, the egotistical, the self-absorbed, the heedless parts.
It is a daunting task, but, as one reader reminded me, not one I must undertake without support.
The Christian concept of emptiness goes back at least to The Christian Desert Fathers of the fourth century. These monks taught disciples to empty the mind using a form of meditation. Through this practice, they removed mental distractions in preparation for prayer.
The medieval friar Meister Eckhart taught that emptying ourselves of self-centeredness rooted in fear is a crucial spiritual practice. He advocated cultivating “inner solitude“.
Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians that Jesus “emptied himself” in the following passage: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
In his emptiness, God’s love could shine through the human form of Jesus.
Saint Paul also wrote, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me”, in Galatians 2:20. I believe his intent here is to encourage us to relinquish our personal concepts of reality and emulate Christ. To see all joys and sorrows without judgment, knowing they all come from God.
Not easy to do.
My first instinct is usually that I know the best way. My version of reality is the correct one.
As it turns out, by demanding “Self, self, self,” as my son did as a toddler, I am actually working against my own growth.
Learning to accept help when we need it makes our spiritual unfolding easier, faster, and neater. It prevents us from getting spaghetti all over ourselves and the kitchen, spiritually speaking.
It is a delicate balancing act.
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