LIVING AS APPRENTICES
The idea of shadow boxing (explained in an earlier post) is directly related to the 4th – 7th steps of The Twelve Steps, which are the backbone of the recovery movement. These steps point out the need for each of us (since we all have an addiction of one kind or another, even if it is only to our own thinking) to do the following:
- undertake a fearless moral inventory, looking especially for hidden personality flaws and blind spots
- share our findings with a friend or mentor, or spiritual director
- become ready to have these shortcomings removed by God
- ask God to remove them and then step out of the way and let God do the work.
The questions then become “What is a fearless moral inventory?”and “how do I do it? I like to think about opening the door to a storage closet, turning on the light, and then fearlessly, even ruthlessly, looking at each of the items in the closet, asking “Do I really want this cluttering up my life?” Here are some ways to open that door and look inside.
Adopt the soul-training exercise of the Prayer of Examen. Examen is the Latin word for examination. This exercise has been practiced for centuries. This is the version that helps me the most.
- Do this each evening before you sleep.
- Begin with a time of silence
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything that happened during your day that was life-thwarting – anything that hindered or prevented Christ-like living and an intimate relationship with God and with others
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything that happened during the day that was life-giving.
- Pray that God will remove the life-thwarting aspects of your character.
- Pray with the Holy Spirit for ways to encourage or increase the life-giving moments that were revealed.
- Conclude by thanking the Holy Spirit for working in your life.
Find a friend or group of friends and meet regularly with them to share what you are learning about your shadow-self through your inventory of your life. Confession and words of forgiveness will help you release these shortcomings to God and leave them with him.
Make a practice of joining classes or attending events that encourage, even require taking off your mask and being willing to be vulnerable. This may seem scary, but you will find it easier to find wise friends among a group of people that is willing to risk being authentic with others.
Find a spiritual director, a person who has been trained to walk with you through your life on a regular basis (usually monthly), listen with you to the Holy Spirit, and ask the right questions.
Pray with the writers of the Psalms. Many Psalms are confessional in nature; here are a few to start with:17, 28, 32, 40, 51.
Read spiritual formation authors like: John Ortberg, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Ruth Haley Barton, Brennan Manning, N.T. Wright, Tim Keller, M. Robert Mulholland . . . and many others. All describe a life with God that will encourage your efforts to live an open, vulnerable, authentic life style – modeled after the life of Jesus.
Any of these may be used to help us root out the parts of us that we ‘”cannot see, will not see, or dare not see” – our “well-denied shadow self” as Richard Rohr puts it.