One of the mysteries I’ve found perplexing in the Christian faith is the tussle for my identity in Christ — because I’m so far from his righteousness and the completeness of virtue. Then, I found to my amazement, that God has used secular theorists to bring light to a dark subject; we all have a shadow.
We all have a shadow.
We all have a side to us that remains dark; which resides in the seat of our intentions.
Identifying, engaging and tussling with our shadow is an essential part of Christian discipleship. God cannot help us if we’re not honest with ourselves.
As I consider one part of my shadow is I tend to idealise people, particularly leaders, holding them up as the paragons they should be (note the falsity in these previous nine words, as the statement falls short as a statement of realism), I’m made to own up to a truth of darkness that remains in me; as part of me. It’s a default me that God wishes to sanctify through growth beyond it, yet he will only do so much in this life. My shadow, in this particular way, of idealising leaders, is founded in the falsity that they have no shadow. We all have a shadow. I’m holding them up to a standard I cannot even hold for myself. That’s hypocritical and unfair. And, worse, it’s a recipe for relational disaster.
Another part of my shadow could be the propensity to seek others’ approval through my writing, about my vulnerabilities and weakness. There’s virtue in ‘being honest’, but, what’s the motive? The shadow conceals a possibly sinister motive — the seeking of others’ approval. All I can say, in all honesty and seeking for my own openness, is it’s possible. I do enjoy others’ approval — and I certainly loath their rejection. But I don’t think I fear it so much as I fear thought of the rejection of many — for something I could write that misrepresents the truth or is unjust. None of us wants to be a fraud. My shadow is fearful for being found out as a fraud.
The Shadow – Doing Good, With Bad (Often Unconscious) Motives
Out of our shadow we do good things but with less-than-pure motives. We can also do bad things out of our shadow, too, but doing bad things by intention is not front-and-centre of a Christian’s psyche. When Christians do bad things it’s invariably unconscious. Yes, it does happen. It happens for all of us; often enough that we would cringe.
Not every good we do we do with good motives. As Jesus is interested more about our heart underlying the good we do, we ought first to reconcile why we want to do the good thing. This requires us to be honest, particularly as we engage with our shadow.
The good we do is only good — wholly good — if our motives are good. Knowing our shadow we can ask that of ourselves: “What’s my real motive?”
Tussling with our shadow is the key to knowing the self and inner growth.
Tussling with our shadow also expands our breadth of understanding for God’s magnanimous grace. How much are we loved — that Holiness died in our place, whilst we’re still wretched!
The more we know ourselves, the more we need God; the more we know ourselves, the more God’s grace we must access — to accept God accepts us unconditionally. Knowing this impels us to know our shadow, for we no longer have any fear of it, or of being honest.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.