By Cameron Silsbee and Ariel Villaseñor
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other. Have one person read Ephesians 3v16-19 over the group, and then have one person pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Take a few minutes to discuss anything noteworthy from your time last week doing the Examen or imaginative prayer.
Read this overview
In the opening pages of the Scriptures, the story takes a tragic turn as the Creator God’s crowning creative act, humans, rebel against him. The poignant imagery of the story taking place in the Garden of Eden depicts the scene of Adam and Eve rebelling against God, covering their nakedness, and hiding from God’s presence as he approached. The story resonates deeply with the human experience thousands of years after it was written.
In the face of the brokenness and evil in the world and within each person, people respond by creating a false self – a chosen composite composed of who they want to be. Making a false self is often subconscious, a coping response against a world that is not right, yet this is not who God created a person to be. Rather than a superficial construct of attributes, dispositions, and achievements, God wants each person as he created them to be. He wants to strip away this false self that only interferes with our relationship with him and our experience of being God’s beloved.
But this stripped-away self would leave us vulnerable, with both our gifts and our worst parts fully exposed before the creator God. The response of Adam and Eve to cover their exposure and hide is the typical human response to God, and modern, sophisticated, Western Christians are no different. We all have this impulse to cover ourselves and hide from God. The life-long call of Jesus to his followers is to partner with him in his work to peel away every layer of the false self within us. As we do this, our lived identity and experience as God’s beloved becomes increasingly tangible.
Talk through the following discussion questions:
Identifying your false self can be complicated. At times it can be obvious. Other times it’s much more subtle. The false self can look completely different from season to season throughout our lives and yet still hinders us.
In Abba’s Child, author Brennan Manning names the false self the “imposter.” He describes the imposter in detail:
“Imposters are preoccupied with acceptance and approval… They overextend themselves in people, projects, and causes, motivated not by personal commitment but by the fear of not living up to others’ expectations… The false self buys into outside experiences to furnish a personal source of meaning. The pursuit of money, power, glamour, sexual prowess, recognition… The imposter is what they do… The imposter prompts us to attach importance to that which has no importance, clothing with a false glitter what is least substantial and turning us away from what is real. The false self causes us to live in a world of delusion. The imposter is a liar.”
Discuss the following questions as a group. It might be appropriate to ask the question and sit in silence for a moment, allowing everyone to reflect on what the question is asking. Do your best not to rush answers to these questions without thoughtfulness.
- How do you distinguish between your false self and your stripped-away self? What are the differences?
- The universal human experience is that we cover and hide ourselves from God instead of accepting the risk of vulnerability and being fully exposed before God. How do you hide from this risk of being vulnerable and from God?
- What could be different if you were to bring your whole self, as both the beloved and painfully broken, in all its vulnerability to God? How would you imagine yourself doing this?
Talk about this week’s Practice as a Community:
For this week’s Practice, set aside up to an hour to have silence and solitude, reading and praying through Luke 14v15-24. It might be beneficial to journal during your time.
In Luke 14, Jesus tells a parable about a great banquet. The master invites many people, but those invited reject the invitation one by one. The master then invites “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”
One helpful way this story has been interpreted is to compare it to the invitation Jesus makes to each one of us. Each part of ourselves, the beautiful and the broken and ugly, is invited by Jesus to his feast, a metaphor for his invitation to our whole being to experience his love and intimacy.
It’s important to understand that these parts of ourselves aren’t simply the roles we play but instead are our emotional experiences and reactions to life. These parts of us are the varying responses we have to the world’s brokenness and are functional in how we see ourselves and others. The broken parts of ourselves are exposed through tendencies like making excuses, denial, lying, a need to control, fear of rejection, avoidance, and manipulation.
Use the following outline to guide your time:
- Find a space that is distraction-free and (relatively) quiet. Spend a moment taking some deep breaths in and out. Allow shoulders to drop and your body to settle and relax a bit.
- Pray and invite God’s Spirit to lead your time.
- Read Luke 14v15-24 slowly. Allow your mind to picture the scene and the characters involved.
- Once you’ve read the story, picture the different characters who were invited to the banquet as different parts of who you are. Reflect on the following questions:
- What broken part(s) of you are already at the banquet?
- What broken part(s) of you are not at the banquet yet?
- What broken part(s) of you are denying the invitation to the banquet?
- End your time by picturing in your mind’s eye sitting at a table full of delicious food across from Jesus. Use that scene to interact with Jesus in whatever way you feel led, even if it is just to simply enjoy his presence.
Be prepared to debrief with your Community next week about how your time went.
Close in prayer