Shattering the Ego

Posted on October 30, 2011 by


Lord God of our Fathers: God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. Let the grace of this Holy Communion make us one body, one spirit in Christ, that we may worthily serve the world in his name.
-Book of Common Prayer, Rite II, Eucharistic Prayer C

This prayer always gets me. The second sentence is particularly resonant. When I utter it, I am reminded that I am but a man and that I struggle with approaching the table for both solace and strength. I am wedded to thanksgiving. I am comfortable with it. I am uncomfortable with the admission that I need succor, that I need a buttress.

Everyone gets a trophy. We are all self-actualized. God gave us brains, we should use them. We are capable of carrying forth with one set of footprints into infinity. We need not solace. We need not strength. We need not cheesy poems that can be made into posters.

Except that is a pretty lie I tell myself. I need solace, I need succor, I need strength.

I may have brains. I may be a capable man, but I am not all-powerful. I am not perfect. I am not whole when I am cleaved from the universe and from our maker. I cannot pretend that the singular set of footprints is my own, no matter how large my super-ego grows. Nonetheless, I continue to pretend that the opposite is true.

As a revert, this admission is the most difficult thing for me to accept. Basking in the wonder of the universe, reveling in the beauty of my life, feeling thankful for all the goodness that I experience is easy. It’s the travails that trip me up. I do not want to admit that I need help. I do not want to admit that I myself am incapable of extricating myself from my mortal failings.

As a revert, this is a stumbling block to my spiritual growth. I must admit my humanity. I must admit my failings. I must admit that my success ripples outward and affects more than just my moods, that my success is part of the fabric. I must accept, then, that there is a greater purpose to my success than my own perception of my goodness.

It is a work in progress. I am learning to to approach prayer, at least the plaintive aspects, as a series of objectives. Satisfy one objective, move on to the next, revisit the previous, remember that regression is a constant possibility.

To remove this from the esoterica, I am aware that my two daughters, particularly my elder, do not comprehend that I have bad days, that I am cranky because I am especially hungry, that I am tired. I have attempted to overcome these obstacles logically. My daughters do not understand, ergo I must not inflict the symptoms of these inconveniences upon them. When I rely on logic, I fail. But, after praying daily to only interact with my kids, and my wife, in the moment, to not let my day or my blood sugar level or my lack of sleep affect my behavior, I find that I smile easily. I ignore the distractions and embrace the present. There will be respite, there will be food, there will be sleep.

In other words, when I forgo my ego, I find strength. Less egotistically stated, when I humble myself, I am granted strength.

When you approach the table, when you pray, ask not solely for solace. Ask for strength. Ask for renewal. To presume that we are capable of betterment without His hand is to presume a level of greatness that we shall never attain. To presume that we are capable of betterment without His hand is to resign ourselves to a level of mediocrity from which we shall never escape.

We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.
-G.K. Chesterton

Posted in: Religion