Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Take a look at yourself and change..."

"I'm starting
with the man in the mirror.
I'm asking her
to change her ways.

And no message could have
been any clearer:
'If you want to make
the world a better place
take a look at yourself,
and then make a change..."

I love Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror."  But it was this version of  "Man in the Mirror," from the film, Joyful Noise, that really hit home tonight.  Sometimes it is the way we are viewing ourselves that can make the biggest difference in how we see our world and the impact of our prayers.

Something happened Friday morning that bears telling -- as hard as it is to admit. I started my day, as I usually do, with prayer, scripture, inspiration, and more prayer. I was feeling peaceful and prepared for the day.

Then, out of the blue I felt a surge of unreasonable anger. A horrible darkness seemed to come out of nowhere. It didn't take long before I'd attached those feelings to myself, and a series of things I assumed were triggering such a visceral reaction.

I don't want to make light of this inner turmoil. It wasn't like anything I'd ever felt before. It was a combination of some very overwhelming feelings -- hurt, anger, despondency, frustration, betrayal, despair.  Feelings that left me sitting on the floor with my hands balled into fists, fighting the urge to break something.

It was ugly.  It was nothing I wanted to attach myself to. But I did. It felt as if there was something poisonous in me that was coming to the surface.  Something primordial.  Something I hadn't ever been aware of, but had been smoldering in me for longer than time. I felt sick with fear. Could it be that the decades of deep spiritual study, prayer, and stillness I'd devoted my life to, had not purged something I'd long buried.

I took it hard.  I felt incapacitated.  And that's when the phone started ringing off the hook.

"Have you seen the news, Kate?" I hadn't. But it didn't take long to catch up with the events of the morning. Each caller shared some new detail of the Newtown shootings that they hoped I'd be praying about.

No, I hadn't heard the news, I'd felt it. And I learned an important lesson yesterday morning. One that I hope I never forget.

In her Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy states that:

"It is no more difficult
to read the absent mind
than it is to read the present."

 and elsewhere, in the same text she writes:

"We approach God, or Life,
in proportion to our spirituality,
our fidelity to Truth and Love;
and in that ratio 

we know all human need
and are able to discern
the thought of the sick and the sinning
for the purpose of healing them.
Error of any kind
cannot hide from the law of God.."

I'd experienced this kind of "discerning thought" many, many times. An intuitive thought would occur during a phone call, on a walk through a neighborhood, in a meeting, and I would know - without question - exactly what I needed to pray about. It would be immediately clear how I could best bear witness to the presence and power of God in that very moment, situation, or circumstance.

But because these dark feelings came so viscerally -- I had been tricked into thinking that they were mine. I had let "personal sense" come through the side door of emotion, and attach to those feelings, memories, stories and experiences that seemed so personal -- and thereby, take me down. Instead of detaching myself from anything dark and erroneous, I let it convince me that was a spiritual failure. Rather than accepting the gift of pre-knowledge about what I needed to be addressing prayerfully.

Could these dark feelings of anger, sorrow, despair have been a call to detach hatred from anyone -- myself, or a young man in Connecticut. I believe that they were. And next time, you better believe that I will be more alert to the insidious distractions of personal sense. You can bet I will not be found weeping on the floor, with my hands balled in fists of disappointment. Frustration with my own spiritual failings. Instead, I will be on my knees seeing only one man -- God's child, never separated from his/her divine Parent. I will be vigilant is seeing God as the only Source of anyone's identity, thoughts, emotions, motives, or acts.

Tonight, I'm taking a closer look in the mirror. I want to remember who I am. I am someone who knows that anger, despair, darkness, self-doubt, violence are never personal -- never mine, never yours, never his.

These ideas shared in a recent article in The Christian Science Monitor, are speaking to me in very powerful ways tonight:

"But beyond taking public action, the ultimate solution lies in each individual understanding that these shooters act out of the same anger, fear, and hopelessness that their violence evokes in us.

We cannot afford – as individuals or as a society – to keep mirroring their motivating angst.

The best antidote is to embrace the opposite of those thoughts and feelings. These include empathy, calmness, mercy, hope, and openness, all of which have as much substance to deter killings over time as do metal detectors in the moment."

 Darkness does not have the power to motivate anything. It cannot cause a leaflet to turn, initiate photosynthesis, facilitate growth, or urge the ripening of a tomato.

Only light can motivate creation and impel action.

Next time I feel strong emotions that are unlike my divine name and nature I will not attach myself (or anyone else) to them. I will summarily dismiss their claim on my identity. I will not identify darkness with my fellow man. I will search for why it might be emotionally reasonable -- for any of us.

This scripture from I Peter has fresh meaning for me tonight:

"Be sober, be vigilant;
because your adversary the devil,
as a roaring lion,
walketh about,
seeking whom he may devour."

 Personal sense, the ego, is the only adversary. It would love for us to become so personally attached to those dark emotions, that we feel unable, incompetent, unprepared, and incapable of dealing with them impersonally and effectively. It is only seeking to devour our sense of spiritual purpose.   It would love to convince us that we are feeling too hurt to bring healing, too angry to share love, too filled with despair to give hope.

On Friday it fooled me into thinking that those unhealthy emotions were actually part of me. That they were in my heart. In the future, I will be much more alert.  When the next cry for help comes in the language of dark feelings, I will be ready.

with Love,



  1. Kate Dearborn3:32 PM

    Oh, Kate... how insightful, and bless you for sharing. You've just given me a clue that has had some nice ripples of understanding.
    Much love and light!

  2. One thing my CS teacher said, quite a few times actually, during class was this: "The only mental malpractitioner you will ever face is the face in the mirror." That seems apropos to your experience. And I really love the citation from 1st Peter! This whole post is beautiful (par for the course here), and absolutely bears telling. Thank you so much for sharing it.