What We are Not: By Elaine Porter

We are not our stuff.

We’ve all probably heard this, but it’s good to get an occasional reminder. When we attach our value as human beings to external things – like wealth, social status, and the accoutrements of success – we put ourselves in a precarious position. We do ourselves a great disservice because these “things” can be very fleeting. More importantly, we do God a disservice. If we’re devoting all our energy and attention to acquiring these “things,” we’re likely giving short shrift to God. And when we define ourselves and measure our worth based on our stuff, we may, inadvertently or not, find ourselves Edging God Out.

Something else we’ve probably all heard is: We are not our biggest mistake. (Phew! That’s a relief!!)

No one deserves to be judged or defined solely by his or her worst action. If we do condemn someone based on that, once again, I think we’re Edging God Out. By denying someone the opportunity for redemption, we’re choosing not to be merciful, compassionate, or forgiving. And we all know that’s not how God works. In my heart, I readily endorse this generosity of spirit, especially when I’m on the receiving end! However, in my head (i.e., when my ego gets involved), I may struggle with embracing and
applying this concept universally. I’d rather apply it selectively. So, when I find myself leaning more toward “stinginess of spirit,” I ask God for the grace I need to feel and act differently. And I also remind myself that it’s a two-way street: if I’m not my biggest mistake, then nobody else is either.

Recently, I’ve been thinking there’s something else that we’re not… We are not our wounds.

We’ve all got them. Anyone who lives in the world is bound to endure some bumps and bruises along the way. It’s a normal part of life. We fall down (or get pushed down!), maybe learn a little something, get up, brush ourselves off and keep going.

But what about when it’s something more significant – maybe because of its egregiousness, frequency, or impact? I’m talking about the sort of experience that leaves an emotional wound because it hits us in our most vulnerable place, e.g., betrayal, a fractured relationship, discrimination.

This type of experience can pierce our soul, can change us and how we view ourselves; and, consequently, may be harder to move on from. Experiences that have a more profound negative effect on us leave us with deeper wounds – the kind that others can’t see and may not even know about unless we share them.

So what do we do when we’re burdened with such a wound?

I think we have a simple, but potentially challenging, choice. Hold or heal. If we choose to hold on to it, the wound and the circumstances surrounding it get to define us. And when we allow whoever or whatever hurt us to wield such undeserved influence in our lives, we inevitably lose. Our lives become smaller because we relegate at least some part of ourselves to the role of victim.

In doing this I think we’re, once again, Edging God Out. Being (or remaining) a victim is not God’s plan for anybody; it’s our ego’s way of staying in control. The good news is if we find ourselves stuck in a “holding pattern,” we have a way out: God.

God knows that we can’t possibly evolve and grow into our best and truest selves from a
posture of victimhood. That’s why He’ll always help us. All we have to do is ask.

When we’re willing to put ourselves in God’s hands, we always come out better. He has the power to transform our deepest wounds and will. We may be left with scars, but they’ll be the kind that make us feel proud of ourselves. And more importantly, they’ll remind us that we are more than our wounds. Ultimately, when we enlist God’s help, we shift from seeing ourselves through a victim lens that focuses on and magnifies all the pain, hurt, and blame to seeing ourselves through the lens in which God views us.

God sees each of us with eyes of love. With Him, we’re not our stuff, we’re not our worst
mistake, and we’re not our wounds. I’m grateful to be reminded of that occasionally. When I see myself as God does, I am someone whose heart emanates love and whose soul is
overcrowded with peace and joy.

Reflection courtesy Elaine Porter, a member of the Emmanuel Community in Westchester County, New York

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