Layers of Man- Summary

For the last week we have been exploring the different layers that make a person up, which ones we mistakenly identify with, and the one true identity that we should define ourselves by. We made this journey by moving from the outside in, first examining the external falsehoods, moving to the interior ones, and finally settling on the truth. This inward journey tends to be the pattern that the reawakened soul follows, digging through the layers to get back to who they once were. But, of course, all of these layers come upon the soul in reverse order. So, let’s take a minute to start at the core and work our way back out, just to make sure the picture is complete.

The Divine)

First and foremost, we have the divine. Our true identity, present in us from before our birth. We do not have to work for it, we do not have to earn it, it is just inherent in our innocent, infant state. Artists have long recognized the natural divinity of children, rendering them as angels and cherubs, holy souls under the direct purview of God, Himself.

The divine core is present in us from the beginning, though it should be noted that it can grow and expand throughout our lives. When we are living from this authentic core, we are able to develop and attach other virtues to our character. If we attempt to attach these virtues at any other level of being, they will never stick. Thus, the great prerequisite to real change in our lives is for that change to be able to communicate with this most intimate layer. If you really want to make lasting changes in your life, then you need to stay in this place.

The Wound)

Tragically, though, at some point the divine self is assaulted and taken from us. Though we are naturally bright, someone tells us that we are stupid. Though we are effortlessly kind, someone tells us that we are hurtful. Though we are inherently innocent, someone tells us that we are guilty. We accept these messages as true, because we are young and vulnerable, and they come from someone that we love and trust.

Part of the reason why childhood wounds hurt us the most is because they cut at the truest part of us. If we accept that at our core we are foolish and selfish and worthless, then there is nowhere else to go for reassurance. We see ourselves as fundamentally broken, and by definition, fundamentally broken means unfixable.

The Shame)

The pain brought on by this wounding cannot be overstated. It is entirely appropriate to say that these are the greatest assaults our souls will ever face in life. Being struck to our core, our survival instincts will almost certainly kick in. These instincts are simple and powerful, designed to find the quickest, most efficient way to remove oneself from the pain.

And all too often, the quickest, most efficient anesthesia is some sort of carnal pleasure. Whether the pleasure of sexual gratification, or of consumption, or of entertainment, or of mind-altering chemicals, or of getting new things, or of establishing control over another. All of these alleviate pain in the moment, but they do so at the terrible cost of tearing our conscience and hurting the hearts of others. We will hate ourselves for doing these things, but that hatred will only inspire the survival instincts to do them yet again to numb that pain also! A vicious cycle of self-hurt and hurt to others thus begins.

The Façade)

The pain of a broken heart and of a guilty conscience, the two most terrible burdens to live with. The instinct-based survival mechanism has tried to save us in its own way and utterly failed, so now our higher reasoning takes a crack at it, but its attempt is hardly any better.

We mistakenly conclude that we must create a new layer outside of the others, one that covers the shame so that no one else can see it and one that overcompensates for the part of our divine soul that was assaulted by the wound. So, if we were told that we were selfish, and if our shameful addictions have reinforced that belief, then we will likely create a façade of exaggerated niceness, straining to put on a show of compassion and consideration, not motivated by genuine love for other people, but by fear of having our ugly side seen.

Because the façade totally ignores the underlying issue, it is trying to erect a beautiful building on top of a fractured foundation, and it is doomed to fail miserably. Sometimes this failure is a sudden and public collapse, sometimes it is hidden from the world as we slowly erode from the inside out. In either case, its scope is all-reaching, shattering every branch and relationship in our lives.

Hope)

And thank God that it does. Thank God that our efforts to put a band-aid over a gaping laceration don’t work. Thank God that we will never find a workable solution without Him. And I literally mean “thank God,” because He is often the one who topples our house of cards to the floor.

Sometimes, when we are in the midst of trying so hard to cover our mistakes and wounds, we feel like divine intervention is tripping us up. Often that makes us incredibly mad! “God, I’m trying to make myself good enough, I’m trying to make this house beautiful enough, so why do you keep sending earthquakes to knock it down?!”

God breaks apart everything that we build so that we can finally give up. Routed and cut off from support, our marshalling ruined and our hopes in retreat, finally we throw our hands up and say “I surrender! Go ahead. Punish me! Break me! I deserve it!”

And then we see what a liberating captor God is.

One layer after another, God then breaks through the façade, the shame, and the wound. He blasts all of it away and reveals to us our shining, divine spark, long forgotten but never faded.

“I don’t care about the wrongs,” He tells us. “I don’t care about the lies. I don’t care about the shame. And I’m not here to condemn you, break you, or punish you. I’m only here for this!”

He takes that divine spark and puts it back into our hands. He gives ourselves back to ourselves.

“Now let’s try this again,” He says.

And now, with our true self restored back to us, we miraculously find ourselves effortlessly able to be the person that we could never make ourselves be by force. Where once we felt cursed in all that we did, now we are blessed. Certain defeat is replaced with already-won victory. Real change and real happiness come over us, and we are amazed to find that all this was ready and waiting for us at any moment.

Unveiling our shame and our wounds may seem a terrible ordeal. Our anxiety might seem sure that to do so will kill us! But this is the only way to get them out of the way and then unveil the divine, and once we have done this, then all the hard journey will have been worth it. At last, we are our ourself again, and we need never go back to playing pretend.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:9-13

9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.

10 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son.

11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.

12 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son.

13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.

Leah bore children, Rachel couldn’t so she had Bilhah bear children, and now Leah has her maid Ziplah bearing children, too. As I mentioned before, Rachel had to adapt to the unknown, and now we have Leah changing tactics, too.

And as for Jacob, all he had sought was one wife but now he had four! No doubt his life was a world away from anything he expected it would be while he was still living in his father’s household.

And what stands out to me out of all this is the futility of human plans. It frankly doesn’t matter what any of us think is going to happen in our lives, what will occur is only what God has already laid out for us. Even those who deny God’s purposes for themselves end up playing into His larger plan anyway.

It’s a hard thing to fully give up the reins to God, in fact that’s something I realize I still struggle with to this day. But if He’s the one calling the shots anyway, then life will feel a whole lot smoother as soon as I give up the illusion of control and just go with God’s flow.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:11-13

11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

The day of Abraham’s offering had come, the altar had been prepared, and something needed to be sacrificed. But instead of it being Isaac, who is a representation of all humanity, the role was filled by an intervention of God instead.

But the intervention only came to Abraham when he was willing to surrender his all to God. Only by being willing to give God that which he loved best was the way opened for him to retain it.

Because if Abraham had withheld his son from God, what would he have accomplished? No matter how desperately he clutched to Isaac, he and the boy would eventually be parted by the grave anyway. Abraham was powerless to retain that which he loved any longer than mortal life allowed him.

But by giving up his modicum of control to God he invited powers that exceeded his own. Abraham couldn’t preserve his father-son relationship with Isaac, but God could. God could preserve Isaac and Abraham’s bond here and in heaven…but only if Abraham surrendered that relationship to Him first.

If there is anything that any of us want to hold onto forever, at some point we will have to surrender it to God, or else there won’t be any chance of it persisting beyond the grave.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 21:12-13

12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.

Abraham was at an impasse, but in the midst of his conundrum God assured him it was alright to let Ishmael go. God assured Abraham that Ishmael would be under His protection and that He would raise the lad into a mighty nation of his own.

And this is a rehearsal for Abraham’s future sacrifice of Isaac. Here, with Ishmael, God is asking Abraham to turn his son over to God’s care, to surrender him with the trust that God will provide. Later Abraham will take that level of trust and surrender to a whole other level.

Dealing With Failure- Psalm 51:1-3, 6-7, 1 Peter 5:6

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

COMMENTARY

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness
According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions
I am continuing to examine the need to surrender my shame and burdens to God. Rather than always trying to make myself be better, I ought to let Him make me better.
But how do I do that? What are the steps to surrendering? What are the words that I must say to better invite God into my life?
I started asking myself these questions before I realized that I was making the exact same mistake as before! I was looking for some specific quota to fill that would bring God into my life. I wanted to be told “say these special words, pray this many times, help this many people.” And at its core this was all about having my healing be in my own power again. God will save me, just as soon as I earn His saving.
And as before, that’s just not how it works. As the psalm quoted above explains, it is according to His lovingkindness, and it is according to His mercies. It has to be His way, done on His own terms, and in His own due time. His will, not ours.

Humble yourselves under the hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time
The only formula that I should maintain is to try my genuine best, keep an open heart, hold out hope, trust that He will come, invite Him with sincerity, and be totally honest with Him and myself.
After all that, at what point along that journey will He show up? I have no clue.
When will He decide that I’m ready for His grace? Totally up to Him.
How and when will He heal my heart? Not for me to say.
I just trust that in His own time, in His own way, and by His own criteria…He will be there.

Dealing With Failure- Isaiah 53:10, Psalm 55:22

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved

COMMENTARY

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed
If you’re like me, you struggled to accept the notion of God’s forgiveness being free. I wanted to pay Him back for the things I had done wrong, overcome my addictions by my own pure grit, and earn my place in salvation. After I failed to do this many times over, I finally humbled myself, and let Him win the victory for me. At long last I felt clean again.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee
And if you’re like me, once you were washed clean you went straight back to believing it was only up to you to keep yourself clean. I had accepted that I had to rely on God for the “big” stuff (forgiving serious sins and healing very deep wounds), but I was still on the hook for the “smaller” stuff (day-to-day obedience and managing stress).
But this verse in Psalms simply says to “cast thy burdens upon the Lord,” with no qualifier for only the ones of a sufficient size. Slowly I’ve been realizing that God wants me to surrender the “small” stuff too.
And I need to. Because when I rely on myself I fail at the “small” stuff all the time. I try to grip tighter and tighter, but still slip, and wonder why I can’t make myself do it right. And you know what? I don’t think that’s a question I really have to answer right now. I think right now I just need to accept the fact of it and surrender it to God.
I need to say “I really can’t make myself do it right. Simple as it seems…it’s beyond me. So I’ll stop trying to do it alone, and open up my heart to you, God, instead. Will You please come inside and win this battle for me? I will let it be Your victory now, not mine.”