One transformative book that has helped me greatly in my faith journey has been “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. The book cover shows a picture of an iceberg, with only its tip visible, but the rest of its massive body hidden out of sight. As you might expect, the book tackles the tricky topic of recognizing “tip-of-the-iceberg spirituality” in ourselves, and learning what it means to journey deep, through the dark night of the soul, emerging on the other side without losing our faith.
I’m sure you will agree that the majority of us want to present an image of ourselves that is strong and spiritually “together”. We want to show that little iceberg tip that looks “good”.
But have you ever wondered why we pathologically do this?
Do you think it could be because we are ashamed…? Ashamed that despite receiving this amazing and priceless gift of salvation and grace from God, we still seem so human.. so easily defeated, still fighting against life’s daily hardships, still struggling (as much as anyone else) with our hidden sin, pain and insecurities, like as if the victory had not been won? Where is that transformative experience that we all wish for?
So we cover it up, bury all the unanswered questions, the emotional turmoil, and because everyone else seems like they’re doing fine, we pretend that we’ve got it all figured out too. “Let’s just fake it till we make it.” We hide behind well-rehearsed Christian platitudes. We begin to believe that we mustn’t mar Christ’s pristine image of righteousness. We the church, the body of Christ, must look good to the outside world…
In doing so, we alienate the “outsiders” who look in at us and think we are just too good to be true. Too good to be authentic. Too good to understand failure. Too good to accept people who are just different.
We also alienate our true selves – the one that deep down is still perplexed by the messiness of real life.
If we continue to behave in this way (striving to put up a good image “for Christ”) I believe that many people, young and old, will eventually fall away from the church, convinced that it is irrelevant to “real life”.
For the most part of my life, I also grew up thinking I needed to project an almost-perfect image: what we call the “GCG” (good Christian girl). But God knows I was far from it. On one hand I was active in church, learnt my Bible well, got good grades in school, dutifully played my part; on the other hand I was extremely curious about the opposite sex, attention-seeking, reckless & impulsive, arrogant and probably way too self-assured. As a result, because I couldn’t quite reconcile the “GCG” with the many ungodly desires I continued to have, I led a pretty dichotomous life for most of my growing up years.
After a particularly hard period in my life recently, what one could call a “journey through The Wall”, I’ve finally come to realize that Christian life cannot be easily explained in black and white absolutes. I still have many unanswered questions and many ungodly desires. Christ never asked me to be perfect, or to have all the answers, but instead has asked me to be vulnerable to my faith community as I work out my faith, admitting that messiness does exist on this side of eternity. His desire is for me to learn to be humble, and to trust in the slow work of the Lord. It has taken me a long time to understand this, but the despair that we feel over the brokenness that we see in our own lives, is precisely the thing that draws us deep into His presence, and opens our perspective to living a life that is truly in step and aligned with His.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 ESV
Dear Lord, help us not be discouraged if our spiritual progress and transformation seems slow. Help us Lord to abide in You, trusting in Your process, and allowing Your gentle slow work to be done in us daily.
By sister Cheryl Yap
**Notes: More details on the “Journey through The Wall” can be found on this website: https://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Session-4-Journey-through-the-Wall.pdf