No Shadow of Turning

Jan Antonsson


The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

May 15, 2014

Neosho, MO

“Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, RSV).

Have you ever known anyone who talked a righteous game, but whose life was far from the mark?  We tend to call such people hypocrites, a word that comes from the Greek word, hupokritēs,” meaning “actor.”   Such people are the stars of a drama about their own lives in which they portray someone they are not, much like a movie actor who plays a role.

Richard Rohr has been discussing our “shadow self” this week in his daily meditations.  He equates our shadow self with our persona, the kind of person we see ourselves as and therefore project to the world.  If there is a great gulf fixed between the kind of person we project to others and who we really are, then our real self is in “shadow.”  

Rohr wrote, “We all identify with our idealized persona so strongly when we are young that we become masters of denial and learn to eliminate or deny anything that doesn’t support it.  Neither our persona nor our shadow is evil in itself;  they just allow us to do evil and not know it Our shadow self makes us all hypocrites on some level.”  After reminding us that “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word for actor, he concludes “We are all in one kind of closet or another, and are even encouraged by society to play our roles.  UNTIL GRACE IS FULLY TRIUMPHANT, WE ARE ALL HYPOCRITES OF SORTS.”  End quote.

Those of us who grew up in Sunday School were taught how a Christian behaves, what moral values we must adhere to, and most especially, how we are to feel about God and each other.  I’m not sure that kids today have the stringent religious guidelines pressing upon them, curtailing their behavior the way we older people did.  When did I get to be an older person?  That’s another story, but Christians today are still reminded about how godly people are to be in this world.  We are, as one Baptist friend put it, “spurred on to righteousness”  usually by others whom we may perceive are more godly than we.

Of course, many people practice the adage, “Fake it until you make it,” which means that we’re often surrounded not by people more godly than we, but by better actors, people who can walk the walk and talk the talk, at least when others are watching.  Think about the Pharisees of Jesus’ Day.  They personify denial of their shadow selves.  Jesus called them out on it repeatedly.  They nailed Him to a tree for His honesty.

Am I ringing any bells yet?  I’ve been thinking about my own shadow self a lot this week, because until we let the sonshine (pun intended) in, we are walking in darkness, and that’s a place none of us want to be.

Until we know what we’re covering up, be it fear of the dark, or losing our looks, our temper, our health, our money, or getting old and decrepit, we are merely shadow boxing.  Counseling helps us to look ourselves squarely in the face and after we get over groaning at what we see, we can take the first step toward wholeness: admitting what we see and who we really are.  That’s another way to describe repentance (changing our mind), without which, none of us can truly see God and find peace in our lives.

People who live in their false personas are deceiving themselves, but many people can see the truth about us even if we can’t.  Perhaps this is a product of my cynical mind, but the more people profess their own godliness, the more I wonder what they are covering up.

People who have faced themselves and lived over the shock, know that our lives are ordered by God, and He continuously calls us out of Ur of the Chaldeans, empowering us to leave our idols behind and walk with Him to the land He has promised our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  None of us can make that journey alone, of course, because there are giants in the land, and we’re afraid to enter there.  That’s where our beloved Christ comes in.  He takes us by the hand and loves us through those dark valleys where death seems to lurk behind every boulder, over the mountains which would defeat us if we traveled alone, and across the river Jordan into the garden with our Father and the Tree of Life.

Our dear friend Harry Fox has explained why the children of Israel were afraid to enter a land which God said flowed with milk and honey.  Harry believes it was the milk and honey, rather than the giants which kept them from going there.  What’s scary about milk and honey?  Having been slaves in the land of Egypt, deprived of life’s basic necessity for happiness, freedom, they couldn’t imagine what a land flowing with milk and honey would be like, and what price they would have to pay to live there.  It sounded too good to be true.  No wonder they were afraid.

Now the Israelites were a group of people who while struggling to maintain their persona without the help of the indwelling Spirit, often reverted to living out of their shadow selves.  They talked a good game, saying to Moses about this fearful God who shook the mountain before them with thunder and lightning, earthquakes, fire and smoke, “Go tell Him we’ll obey Him,” they said to Moses, “only don’t make us come into His presence because He’s too scary.”

That was their religious persona talking.  Moses had no sooner turned his back on them to ascend the mountain, than they fell into their shadow self, compelling Aaron to make them a golden calf to worship.  Aaron knew better, but his own shadow self was too strong for him to resist.  So, by the time Moses came back down the mountain, the children of Israel had set free the hidden impulses they had shoved down for so long; their long repressed shadow selves came out to play.  Orgies and orgasms, debauchery and drunkenness, blasphemy and idol worship had taken hold of the hapless children of Israel.   Deprived of personal pleasures for hundreds of years, they let slip any pretense of their righteous persona and let‘er rip.

Fast forward the tape to the establishment of the Law.  It was instituted with all the pomp and circumstance, the trappings of power and authority, and the manifestations of God’s presence that the people needed to see and feel and hear.  Religion was born.  Without the indwelling Spirit that serves as our guide and mentor, they had to depend upon the Priesthood to tell them what God expected of them.  That was, after all, what they told Moses they wanted.

When they first arrived at Mount Sinai, and saw “the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.  They stayed at a distance and said to Moses,Speak to us yourself and we will listen.  But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’  Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid.  God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning’”  (Ex. 20:18-20). 

We all know that didn’t work out any better than trying to live by law does for us today.  Some, however, are still living their lives by the words of their leader, a man on earth.  The Apostle Paul was one who was zealous regarding the Law, before he was apprehended on the Damascus Road, so it is liberating to hear what he wrote the Colossians: “He (Christ) disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.  Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ”  (Col. 2:15-17).  There you have it, the Law was a shadow of what is to come.  When we try to keep the Law, and allow the words of a man to guide us, we’re walking in shadow.

Though sometimes in the midst of our struggles and trials it doesn’t feel like it, we have entered the Promised Land, led by Christ Himself, and He has already defeated the giants in the land.  

It is good news that we are free from the judgment of others, but it is also true that sometimes the judgment of others reflect what they see in us, our shadow self.  I believe that no one deceives others unless he or she has first deceived himself.  What is it that dispels the shadows in our lives?  It is light, as any child can tell us.

He is the Light of the world and we who follow Him shall have the light of His life.  He said of Himself,  “I Myself a Light, have come into, and am now within, the world (the organized system of religion, culture and government; the ordered and adorned arrangement; or secular society; or the cosmos, or universe), to the end that everyone (all people; all) – [each] one habitually trusting and progressively believing into Me – can not (should not; may not; would not) remain (abide; dwell) within the midst of the Darkness, or in union with dim shadiness or obscurity.  

[note: darkness is perhaps a figure for their religious system, or for the world that does not know what God is really like, or for the Night, that period before the coming of the Day].  (John 12:46, Jonathan Mitchell).

Father, we want to walk in the Light, as You are in the Light, so that if You empower us to do so, we can be Light bearers to those who still walk in darkness.  Deliver us from our shadow selves that we may be one with you, in whom there is no shadow of turning.  In Christ, we ask it,  amen.  Jan Antonsson

Jan and Lenny (in Spirit) Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO, 64850 (Snail Mail Address)

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