Even though I walk through the valley of deepest shadow I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Psalm 23:4
May is a time of advancing shadows. Celtic Christians did not run away from these, they went alone into places of shadow, and there they faced the shadows inside themselves. They learned the importance of doing this from the desert Christians.
Just as it is impossible for a person to see their reflection in a pool whose water is disturbed, so, too, the soul, unless it is cleansed from alien thoughts, cannot pray to God in contemplation.
The psychiatrist Carl Jung gave the name ‘Shadow’ to that part of our inner life that is unacceptable to us. Jesus drew the distinction between the surface life and the shadow life when he likened some proud church people to sepulchres that were painted white outside but full of rot inside.
In his book Why do Christians break down? William Miller admits: ‘I break down because I am afraid to admit that evil, unacceptable, inappropriate tendencies still exist within me, even though I have committed myself to the way of Christ, and I cannot accept them as being truly part of me’.
The qualities that we bring to the surface when we inter-act with the outer world are subtly adapted in order to get the approval of others. The opposite qualities to these get buried in our subconscious, and lie there unattended. Subconsciously we don’t want to know these parts of ourselves for fear that they will damage ourselves or others.
Take time to get in touch with your shadow. Make a list of the things that most often make you angry with other people. That may give clues as to your shadow. Once you have become real about your vices, make a conscious effort to replace each vice with its opposite virtue; that was how Celtic Christians approached this matter. And then invite in God’s light.
Holy Three, help me to stay with you
while I stay with the darkness in myself.
Throw your light upon this darkness.
Give me strength to know, to bear pain
and to journey through into a greater wholeness.