Second Journeys & Shadow Boxing
I don’t know of anyone I’ve met, myself included,
who at first blush desires to search out their
shortcomings and failures. In fact, quite the contrary is true. We spend a good majority of our time managing our persona and projecting an image that presents us in a good light both to ourselves and to others. The problem of course is that you cannot heal what you cannot acknowledge, and what you can’t acknowledge will control you. Our unaddressed “shadow sides” will play themselves out and take a toll on both ourselves and our relationships.
Second Journey moments, times where we encounter adversity and challenge, remind us that all is not well in the world or within us. This in fact is God’s very purpose of the law, using it to expose our failures and fallings, not for the sake of punishment, but to enhance our self-awareness and increase our compassion for those around us. It is painful to look inside at our darkness, but we must become willing and open “shadow boxers” if we are to heal and to grow. The conflicts, relationship difficulties, personal defeats, and moral failures of our Second Journey moments are the very things that enable us to even spot our shadow selves. They are our necessary mirrors.
To be adept at “shadow boxing” we have to be willing to see what the ego doesn’t want to see, and we must make it an ongoing practice versus an occasional event. Shadow boxing involves taking an honest moral inventory, bringing our heart into the light so that darkness can be exposed and good can be illuminated. We are not called to take vengeance on ourselves for our darkness or to muscle up to have victory over it. Jesus call, as exemplified in so many of his interactions in the scriptures, is to simply be honest about our failings so that His love and His light can change us. “The light shines on the darkness, and it is a light that darkness cannot overcome.” (Jn: 1:5) Seeing our darkness rightly, as it is brought into light and love, moves us toward humility and enables us to freely confess and release it. As we acknowledge our shadow sides we can move from blame shifting and denying that either displaces our problems onto others or puts an oppressive weight of self-deprecating judgment on ourselves. In exchange Jesus wishes to fill us with gratitude for the gift of His forgiveness and a generosity of spirit He provides in place of our darkness.