Waiting in the Chaos

I’m reading a book right now called When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. Numerous times I had to put the book down and wonder– did this woman know what was in my head? The book was written in 1990. Yet the thoughts, the issues, the questions… the abyss of the unknown, the inner turmoil… it is all the same, as if it were written yesterday, or as if it were me she were writing about, and not just herself.

So, here I am, according to Kidd, “… having come upon that time in life when one is summoned to an inner transformation, to a crossing over from one identity to another.”  I find myself identifying with her eloquent words about her inner turmoil and how it parallels my own.  She calls it “midlife darkness”.

As I continued reading I started to see more parts of myself in her story of this inner upheaval. I found it stunning and challenging. This stage is fundamentally a new phase in our spiritual journey, where we confront “the lost and counterfeit places within us….” Kidd elaborates further, from Chapter 1:

I should have remembered, though, that the life of the spirit is never static. We’re born on one level, only to find some new struggle toward wholeness gestating within. That’s the sacred intent of life, of God– to move us continuously toward growth, toward recovering all that is lost and orphaned within us and restoring the divine image imprinted on our soul.

Those words resonate within me. I understand this. I feel as if I’ve been trying to find those orphaned places within myself, that were lost, and restoring the divine image God imprinted in my soul… Kidd puts into words so clearly what I am going through.

And further she writes:

Now oddly, I could feel the intimations of an unknown woman locked away inside of me who wanted life and breath, who wanted to shed what wasn’t real and vital and recover that which was. I felt the vibrations of a deeper, authentic self who wanted to live out her own unique vision of individuality and embrace her own mystery. Who was this self inside of me who cried out to be?

Again, Kidd’s words strike a deep chord within. I, too, see myself as a circle of concentric selves, and with the authentic one hidden inside the other rings. It’s a wrenching search to answer the question of “who did God create me to be?” Truly answering that question requires a step of spiritual growth. Kidd writes:

I believe, however, that in such a summons we’re actually being presented with a spiritual developmental task. We’re being asked to unfold a deeper self– what we might call the life of Christ within us.

To embark on this task involves a deep and profound movement of soul…. This task is truly one of the more precarious and mysterious pathways in the spiritual life, for how it’s navigated radically affects one’s alignment with oneself, with God, and with the world.”

So, here I am, according to C. G Jung, in the afternoon of life, and there is no college for forty-year olds to prepare me for the future, as young people have to help prepare them. No, according to Jung, we step into this second half of life assuming our ideas will serve us in this next phase, but they will not. What worked in the morning, he says, will not work in the afternoon. So, we find ourselves in an inner upheaval.

I quote Kidd again:

When the fullness of time comes, a sacred voice at the heart of us cries out, shaking the old foundation. It draws us into a turbulence that forces us to confront our deepest issues. It’s as if some inner, divine grace seeks our growth and becoming and will plunge us, if need be, into a cauldron that seethes with questions and voices we would just as soon not hear. One way or another, the false roles, the identities, and illusions spill over the sides of our life, and we’re forced to stand in the chaos.

Without such upheaval we would likely go on as always. It’s so like us to deny things until some jolting moment– something we call an “eye-opening” experience– comes along and sharpens our vision.

‘There is a self within each one of us aching to be born,” says theologian Alan Jones. And when this aching breaks into our lives– whether through a midlife struggle or some other crisis– we must somehow find the courage to say yes. Yes to this more real, more Christ-like self struggling to be born.

There, she said it, more beautifully and capably than I could have. I get it. That’s where I am. The false identities are dying and a new authentic self is in the birthing process. I am in the chaos. I’m saying “yes”.

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