Passion Week, or Holy Week, continues to be a season in my life where the veil between heaven and earth exhibits an opaqueness allowing me to gaze more deeply into myself and the heart of God.
From the Triumphal entry to the empty tomb, I have learned that life is a journey of captivity, liberation, wilderness, and freedom. Learning the layered lessons embedded in the Passion of Yeshua is worthy of a lifetime of prayer, meditation, study and practice.
The story, or rather the stories, that comprise the final week of Yeshua’s life cascade out of larger story. To miss the larger story will diminish the power of the latter. In this week of cumulative passion Yeshua uses the Passover as the framework to display His compassionate redemptive mission. The Passover story itself is part of a larger narrative displaying God’s saving and intimate connection with humanity, the Exodus.
The moments and movements found in the Exodus story include Captivity, Liberation, Wilderness, and the gift of freedom.
This week I chose the spiritual practice that Jung called “shadow work.” Shadow work, or sanctificational reflection, is when I allow Holy Spirit to shine the light of Yeshua in my soul in order to reveal both light and shadow, the twin growth partners of our human journey,
I went on a slow walk. While walking, my attention was drawn to my physical shadow displayed before me on the path. Pausing, I reflected on how the light more easily helped me see my shadow. That thought is worthy of a divine pause. I took a picture of my shadow on the ground. Next I looked at the image and asked Holy Spirit to illuminate the moments and movements where I have been living more from my shadow-self than from my true self.
As I reflected on my shadow in the picture I felt the nudge of the Spirit beginning to speak. I felt drawn to reflect on how my shadow has been showing up in my life, relationships, unspoken thoughts, and subconscious interactions.
In that moment I remembered one of my favorite “shadow” or ” imposter” quotes Brennan Manning wrote years ago:
“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”
I simply love that quote. Closing my eyes I can hear Brennan intone those thoughts to me the last time he spoke at a church I pastored. Perhaps even more to the point Brennan also has said:
“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”
Why is shadow work important?
I believe there are multiple reasons, however, two that immediately come to mind are, first, that people who don’t do the deeper shadow/soul work cause great harm to others by their lack of personal awareness and stunted emotional and relational intelligence. Often, they are unaware of how their interactions cause pain.
The second reason is exactly what Brennan said: In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” To stand in confessed awareness before God and receive His grace helps us better know both Trinity and self.
Do you see shadow at work throughout the Passion Week as the radiant light of the Resurrection shines fully?
Pondering the liberation experienced by the people of Israel as their Exodus journey began, I quickly realize that liberation and freedom are two very different things. God moved powerfully against the hard-hearted Pharoah in a display of power and strength over the gods of Egypt. The final judgment, “Death of the firstborn” was the ultimate blow crumbling Pharaoh’s impenetrable heart. God’s people were liberated.
The “Death Angel”, however, spared the firstborn of Israel by “Passing over” every house that had the blood of an innocent lamb applied to the doorframe of their houses. The blood of the lamb was the sign for the “Death Angel” to Pass Over and spare that house.
This resulted in light for some, but darkness for others.
While liberation came for the Children of Israel that night it took forty years to experience the freedom they inherited on that “Passover night.”
Those were forty years of “shadow work.”
As the people escaped slavery, tasting the sweetness of liberation for the first time, they experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. As a people they were:
- Delivered, yet never satisfied…Where are we going Moses, it was better in Egypt.
- Divinely fed yet never thankful…Really, manna again?
- Spiritually Taught, yet slow to learn…Hey I have an idea, let’s craft a golden calf idol.
- Continually rescued, yet never appreciative…Does Yahweh even care about us!
“The journey from liberation to freedom is long, hard, and takes as long as it takes.”
I wonder if the years of wilderness wandering might have been shorter had they spent more time embracing the wilderness rather than trying to escape the wilderness. In my life I continue to learn through doing my shadow work that trusting God in the wilderness creates a greater capacity to be satisfied with the unseen traits of the ordinariness of freedom.
God is not in a hurry, Trinity prefers the long game.
The spiritual/human journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
The movements from liberation to freedom pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
In the passion week of Yeshua we see Him:
* Destroying the way of power and empire as he enters Jerusalem on a donkey and not a war stallion.
* Eating with and serving those He knew would deeply betray and deny Him.
* Wrestling with the conflict between His desire and the will of Abba in the shadows of Gethsemane.
* Longing for his followers to pray with Him rather than fight for Him.
Even in His final week Yeshua reveals that the path from liberation to freedom travels through the darker spaces and places of life. The only way to embrace the light is to journey through the dark. The beauty of life is through the wilderness of death.
Shadow work not only asks the question, “What is it that is causing me anxiety?” But it also seeks to understand “Why am I so anxious?”
Shadow work not only reveals what wounds I carry, but also helps me ask deeper questions such as, ” Why do I still carry the wound around allowing it to define me?”, or, “Why am I choosing to hold onto bitter wounds rather than allow God to transform them into sacred wounds through forgiveness and grace?”
Shadow work not only allows me to be honest about who has hurt me and how I have been betrayed, it also takes me to deeper into my heart becoming aware of and acknowledge those I have hurt and who need me to make amends. Deeper still I am able to see where I have betrayed myself and God by inflicting pain on others.
Shadow work is the journey between the triumphal entry and the resurrection. Between Liberation and freedom.
There are no shortcuts, bypasses, or alternate routes if your desire is the freedom only found in God.
Perhaps this is why the Passion Week remains a “thin space” for me where the veil between who I am and who I am becoming is more profoundly seen, and why the opaque veil between an earthly reality and a heavenly present-future hope is calling me to trust God in the journey. The result is feeling the embrace of His light.
Finally, I hold to the truth that as the Divine Light that is Yeshua bathes me in grace and mercy,, I am able to trust that His all encompassing Light is far greater than any darkness in me.
Breathe in: I am not my shadow
Breathe out: I am becoming love