You have your identity when you find out, not what you can keep your mind on, but what you can’t keep your mind off. – Archie Ammons
Time for another Harry Potter life lesson.
Harry is sitting on the Hogwarts Express for the first time, minutes after departing on a journey that will change his life forever. The train rushes forward, black smoke billowing all around, family and friends waving to the young students bound for their first year at Hogwarts School:
“Harry watched the girl and her mother disappear as the train rounded the corner. Houses flashed past the window. Harry felt a great leap of excitement. He didn’t know where he was going to- but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.”
Have you ever reached a point in your life where things have got to change, where anything has got to be better than what you have right now? Maybe it’s time to get unstuck.
The halfway point in my Theodyssey journey came with the section entitled “Excavation” and I dug up some pretty painful insights. But, the digging was so necessary for me to uproot many of the core beliefs, attitudes and perspectives I had that were keeping me trapped.
The first part focused on identifying and removing the obstacles that keep us stuck in our old, stale ways of living. The most daunting obstacle in my path was my failure to accept myself. Over the course of my 29 years of life, I had come to believe that somehow I could never measure up. This belief had been formed by different circumstances, experiences, people, words and assumptions. David Smith asks, “What experiences, memories, situations, or people have the power to dictate my sense of self-worth? To whom have I given the power to be the ‘sayer’ of who I am?” Tough questions.
Take that core belief, and add on “the four rules.” Essentially, everyone comes in contact with these four rules at some point in their life and they stifle, constrict and invalidate the person you were made to be. They are:
- Don’t think what you want to think; thing what we want you to think.
- Don’t feel what you want to feel; feel what we want you to feel.
- Don’t say what you want to say; say what we want you to say.
- Don’t do what you want to do; do what we want you to do.
Have you ever obeyed one of the four rules? If you’re like me, you’ve encountered all of them at least once in your life and realize how painfully oppressing they can be. They force us to be something other than who we truly are and slowly, very insidiously, we find ourselves acting, thinking and existing in ways that we never wanted. But we’re too stuck to change.
So how do we move from a place of feeling trapped, to joining Harry on the train to Hogwarts and to something better than we’re leaving behind? We have to let go.
For me, my freedom came by releasing my unforgiveness and my deep shame. As I worked through this section, I realized that I was holding on to unforgiveness and shame because they protected me: unforgiveness protected me from those who had hurt me with their four rules, and shame protected me from the reality of feeling imperfect. I thought I was protected; in reality, I was frozen. I had created these false barriers around myself, and God invited me to gently let my walls down so he could replace them with his mercy and strength.
He taught me that forgiveness is not about forgetting, it’s not about excusing and it’s certainly not about putting up with ongoing hurtful behavior. As David Smith writes, it’s about “releasing the offender to God and trusting him to accomplish his purposes in their life…Forgiveness is between us and Jesus, not the one who hurt us…It is something we do for the sake of our own souls.”
And he taught me that shame is not about being perfect, it’s not about high expectations and it’s certainly not about cleaning up my mess before God can love me. Instead, it’s about “accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives [as] the beginning of spirituality, not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws, but because we let go of seeking perfection and instead seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.”
Are you ready to find something better than what you’re leaving behind?