“Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for through You will I know wholeness; I shall reflect your light both day and night” (Psalm 25:5, translation by Nan Merrill, Psalms For Praying).
What is truth? Yes, it is true that I jumped off a bridge when I was 17 (stupid, but true). Yes, it is true that the earth revolves around the sun (the Catholic Church didn’t want to believe it for a long time, but too bad.) But the truth that the Psalmist is asking for is far beyond these types of truths. I believe the Psalmist is looking for the eternal truths that underlie all things, the truth that doesn’t just answer a question, but makes a person whole.
This truth is not about what we’re supposed to believe or how we’re supposed to behave according to some creed or doctrine. This truth is not written in stone, yet is more permanent. This truth is not as easy to find, but is more freeing. This truth, in the words of Sue Monk Kidd “will set [us] free, but will shatter the safe, sweet way [we] live.” This truth is within each of us if we dare to look.
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Walter Kania, in his book Healthy Religion, says, “There is no necessary truth or magic in what presently exists in your religion or in what you have received from others. There is an internal truth validation center in each of us. The real truth of universal resonance is within each of us.” (13)
Buddhist teacher Samu Sunim, in Stumbling Toward Enlightenment by Geri Larkin, teaches that, “Truth, salvation, and enlightenment are not separate from oneself. You are the very source of what is true and wise.”
That’s really pretty amazing stuff. But it seems to me that we have this problem… I’ll call it the viscosity of truth. The measure of our resistance to the flow of truth. Picture the difference between pouring water or honey through a sieve. Then on even worse days, we’re as apt to let truth flow through us as mashed potatoes through that darn sieve. Why? Well, I think there are a few reasons, but here’s my top one (you’ll have to listen to the podcast to get the other two).
The Jewish Talmud observes, “we do not see things simply as they are, but also as we are.” In other words, we have our infamous ego to contend with. Our ego is adept at creating our inner conflicts. It seeks to cover our insecurities, to justify our anger, to rationalize our defensiveness, to protect our soft spots. Our ego is not fond of our inner truth, because our inner truth sees ego for what it is – an illusion.
Let me give you an example: My partner, Julie, and I occasionally have ridiculous “fights” … ego takes hold, we each get caught up in the need to be justified in our anger and frustration. Yep, you’ve got it, mashed potatoes all the way.
So, what does it mean to seek truth in this situation? If I can calm down enough and look under all the layers of ego, I find the Divine waiting for me. And she’s smiling a sort of smug smile that says, “Are you done now?”
If I’m not, I tell her to shut up, I’m planning on being angry and aloof for a while, and I slam my inner door on her and the truth she brings with her. Sometimes I can keep her locked up for really long periods of time, or at least refuse to listen to her on a few subjects.
If I’m smart and I listen, she often has things to tell me that I need to hear… may not want to hear, but need to hear. Like, “Kaye, you’re blowing this way out of proportion. Kaye, you need to see this from another point of view. Kaye, you need to apologize for your part in this. Kaye, you need to not blame, but to seek understanding.” “Really, Kaye, let it go… let it go…” (she breaks into song and it immediately gets stuck in my head with its annoying message, well, not really, but you get the picture.)
How do we know when we’re hearing our inner truth, the Divine within, and not our own ego? I know because I feel it in my heart, in my gut. She reminds me that most often my issues are issues of ego, of fear, of insecurity, of wanting to please others. She pushes me out of my comfort zone. She asks me to be kind, understanding, loving, compassionate, forgiving. Asks me to love myself as much as I love others. Most of all she asks me to step back, to look at things from a new perspective, one where we are all connected, one where one person’s pain or joy is also my pain or join. She shows me how fragmented I’ve become and leads me on the path of wholeness.