RELATIONSHIP AND TRANSFORMATION
“A three-stranded cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4;12)
“We are all addicted to the habits and behaviors in our lives. Whatever we do over and over becomes hardwired in the brain and becomes our neural network – your default program – your automatic way of believing, thinking, feeling and acting.”
~ Wendyne Limber
During the month of Shevat our attention is drawn to different aspects of relationship. In accord with our verse for the month, at the Tu B’Shevat (15th Shevat) Seder we celebrate the three-stranded cord of G-d, His Land and His people.
Another pattern of three we can consider, at this season of new life beginning to bud, is that of Redemption – personal, national, and universal. In the bigger picture of God’s plan of Redemption, each person’s personal salvation, and redemption from slavery into the Kingdom of God, widens into that of the nations and the universe.
We see this pattern reflected in the three central themes of the Tu B’Shevat Seder:
- Giving thanks and praise to God for His creation of the trees and fruit, with a special focus on the Seven Species grown in Israel.
- Recalling our beginning in the Garden of Eden, with the Tree of Life in the center, and the relationship we enjoyed there with our Father, and…
- Creating greater awareness of our task of restoring the ‘Garden’ and of how we can actively participate in God’s unfolding plan of Redemption by caring for our environment, both physically and spiritually.
We also focus on our three central relationships – with G-d, with ourself, and with others.
In every relationship, if it is to enjoy the depths for which it is designed in love and truth, the central cord of the three is G-d, who is the Source of both love and truth. A relationship is indeed like a three-legged stool. The “legs”, which enable it to stand strong, are God, Love, and Truth. If any one of these is missing it becomes very shaky and, in fact, in its deepest essence, is unable to stand and endure for any length of time. This is true for the most intimate relationship of marriage, as well as those with our children, our siblings, and friends, and even our business colleagues.
A link for access to the Tu’B’Shvat Seder : https://his-israel.com/2014/02/27/a-tu-bshevat-seder/
GOD, SELF, OTHERS
A key element in our relationship with G-d, and subsequently within other relationships is faith. Emunah, the Hebrew word generally translated as faith, does not have the same meaning as the English word faith. ‘Faith’ usually carries the meanings of belief, a set of principles, or a body of dogma. Rather, as illustrated in the lives of the patriarchs in Genesis, the Hebrew word emunah is mainly associated with faithfulness and relationship. It includes loyalty, commitment, trust, and acting with integrity – which all are part of the concept of covenant in relationship.
From the very beginning, in the book of Genesis, the central element highlighted is marriage, and the holiness of sex in the context of marriage. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in his commentary ‘Covenant and Conversation,’ explains how it is marriage that:
“…comes closest to the deep resonances of the biblical idea of covenant. A covenant is a mutual act of commitment in which two persons, honoring their differences, each respecting the dignity of the other, come together in a bond of love to join their destinies and chart a future together. When the prophets want to speak of a covenantal relationship between God and His people, they constantly use the metaphor of marriage.”
As I see it, the major difference between the God of Abraham and other worldly gods – whether they be the Greek gods, Allah, the pantheon of Hindu gods, or the secular god of Self, is that He is a God of truth, love and faithfulness. He does not impose His will upon us by force or violence, but gently pursues us and draws us to Himself. He woos us by His Spirit of holiness. Why? because His heart desires a relationship of love and trust; not one of fear, domination, and subservience. This surely is a shining example for us in connection with our own relationships.
SHADOW SELF – Positive or Negative?
The most important relationship we have, after that with God, is that with ourselves. Why? Because the more we are rightly related and in tune with our souls, our deepest true Self, the more genuinely and intimately we will be able to relate and interact, in love and in truth, with others. What hinders us from walking fully in the light of who we truly are and were created to be – a radiant soul – has been termed by some as our “Shadow Self.” We also have considered an aspect of this, in Hebrew, as the Yetzer HaRa, or Evil Inclination, in contrast to our Yetzer HaTov, or Good Inclination, which is our positive pro-active side in harmony with the will of God, as opposed to our negative reactive side, that constantly reacts to situations in ways that are against God’s will for good.
Usually the negatively reactive, ‘Shadow Self’ carries some form of shame and low self worth. It represents any parts that we may dislike about ourselves, that usually are connected to feelings of pain, fear, and shame that we have buried and disowned. Painful emotions we have repressed, that now are buried in our subconscious and, as a result, in the core of our being we may feel unlovable. The illusion is that if we keep parts of ourselves hidden we will be loved. The Shadow Self is viewed as a saboteur who may expose our imperfections and get us in trouble or ruin our relationships.
It begins in childhood, when we so desperately want our parents to love us and be proud of us; so, anything that displeases them is hidden and repressed. Little children need the love, protection, approval, touch, and security of parents; who, essentially, represent God’s presence in the relationship. As a growing child experiences the many traumas possible in being human, the negative Shadow Self grows. And, as its hallmark is fear and shame, it keeps hidden very well. Shame tells you that you are not worthy, something is wrong with you, you are not as good as other people. It inflicts a sense of guilt.
So…what can be done to transform one’s Shadow Self from negative to positive? One must be willing, in faith and trust in the power and light of God’s Spirit of Holiness, to look inward, discover and befriend, and forgive this part of the Self. In so doing healing begins and hidden fear and shame are released. It also is a great blessing to have a loving friend or trusted mentor with whom to share this inner journey of discovery and transformation. And to remember the truth:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua.
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)
Considering both relationship and our quest for transformation, photographer and writer Raynna Meyers, one of our precious fellow-climbers, expressed on her blog:
“ The most challenging place for fears to become uncovered for me has been in the most intimate relationship of my life, with my husband. It is not fear of him that I’m speaking of, it’s fears about me – my questions, and doubts abut myself and the baggage I carry, that speaks the loudest. In the most camouflaged ways.
It is the truest place I am learning faithfulness. It is the place I am learning covenant language, and it continues to wake and resuscitate me in the process. Because, what can be brought to life but that which is dead? Not the death that destroys, but rather the seeds that fall to the ground “dead’ – equipped-and-designed-for-their-purpose-which-is-to-die-in-order-to-live “dead”. That’s us.
These words and ideas can be scary and bring confusion or conflict to our souls. They do mine, until I am reminded abut resurrection again.”
The hope of resurrection brings contentment, a place where we do not have to try to control everything. We do not have to hold on so tight in our fears, we get to dance with hope. …
If we’re going to give a faithful fight, for life, and love, and all that is truly dear, let us turn our eyes and hands and feet toward a world that will one day be made new, understanding we have a place in that healing — today, here, now.
Love, real love, raucous as it is, is at the core a humble thing that gives of itself. Love denies itself rights and entitlements because that’s what Love incarnate did.
Love enters another’s world, with humility and vulnerability.”
A link to full article: Faithful Fight https://www.raynnamyers.com
In the light of understanding the “Shadow Self’ we may further consider that any transformation, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, begins with knowledge, intention, and commitment.
Initially, one needs to gain knowledge of what exactly needs attention in order to bring about change and effect transformation. In this life, no matter how deeply we may long to, not many people can claim to have reached perfect holiness and wholeness. That, in actuality however, is the aim we are working towards – to learn and grow and to become, as far as we are able, the person our Father G-d created us to be.
However, being human, as well as having inherent strengths, we also are beset by certain weaknesses, both elements being unique to each individual. The challenge we face is to gain knowledge of, to recognize, our particular strengths and weaknesses. Then, as a result, we can utilize and build up our strengths and we can intentionally commit to bring healing and transformation to our weaknesses. Of course, there are any number of ‘weaknesses’ – some minor, some major.
Key factors to remember when we set out to tackle these and bring about their transformation are:
- We must not feel condemned or ashamed at the weakness and, as a result, avoid facing it. The enemy of our souls is the accuser who brings negative judgment and condemnation. (Romans 8:1) The Spirit of G-d is 100% behind us to help us accomplish any righteous decision we make.
2. We need to face and express our deepest emotions. Usually a weakness or addiction, whether physical or emotional, is a result of inhibited feelings and emotions. Negative behavior patterns are formed, as we saw with the ‘Shadow Self,’ in order to survive childhood or other life traumas. These negative patterns serve to repress the pain and overwhelming feelings of powerlessness; but they do remain part of one’s psyche and behavior until they are recognized, expressed, and released.
Relatively minor traits, such as procrastination, laziness, clutter, with the correct intention , a plan of action, and commitment, can be recognized, addressed, and transformed fairly easily. More serious behavior patterns, such as co-dependancy – which at root is a dysfunctional relationship with oneself and can include victimization, anxiety in relationships, and trying to “fix” others; or substance or medication abuse, eating disorders, love or sex addiction, work addiction, compulsive gambling, or even exercising, Internet or shopping addiction, etc., etc., need deeper understanding and stronger intention and commitment.
As we have mentioned before in the “Keep Climbing!” Series: “Every problem is mental, every solution is spiritual.” Negative patterns of thought and behavior are hardwired in the brain. They are a state of mind. Sadly, they are obstacles that hinder us in partnering with G-d to co-create and to fulfil, to our utmost, the reason He has for giving us our life here on earth. Paradoxically, these “addictions” usually are an attempt to fill a spiritual void and yet they actively obstruct our aims for achieving wholeness, for feeling the true depths of love, and for achieving a deeper sense of peace and unity with others, with humankind as a whole, and with G-d Himself.
When we realize the great importance of recognising, understanding, and intentionally committing to work with G-d in bringing transformation in any area of weakness we begin to experience a sense of relief, release, and freedom. As we are willing to open up any “dark places” in our subconscious Shadow Self to the Spirit of Holiness, G-d’s healing light shines in. He is more than able, as we co-operate with Him, to heal, “rewire,” restore, and raise us up to be the extra-ordinary person He created each of us to be. We are assured:
“…after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Messiah, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. “ (1 Peter 5:10)
Rather than turning away from His light, and allowing our Shadow Self to remain trapped and hidden in the darkness of lies and shame, we can choose to turn and reach out to our Abba Father, allowing His truth and love to flood into our deepest hearts. Then we can, as the movie title describes, ‘Cast a Giant Shadow’- one that is positive and a reflection of our true Self. We can stand tall and shine His light and truth into the world – for His glory!
~ Keren Hannah