In the call story of the prophet Jeremiah, there are two amazing lines:
Before I formed you in the womb, I chose you.
Before you were born I dedicated you.
In Jewish, Christian and other religious traditions, the essence of who we are is with the Divine long before we are born. Eternal life is not, as we have been led to believe, about life after death. Eternal life with God has always been and will always be. The very core of our beings has always been and will always be.
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Yet if someone were to ask you, “Who are you?” or “Tell me about yourself?” how would you respond? Would you say, “I have been with the Divine from before I was born, I am part of the Divine now, and shall always be even after I die. I am stardust and moonbeams, dirt and ashes, water and fire. I am love and compassion. I am a piece of the whole. In the deepest part of me I am known and I know and it has always been so.”
Um, no. In describing ourselves we’re mostly likely to tell people about our roles, relationships, work, skills, hobbies, character traits, illnesses or even addictions. But we are so much more!
There is a Buddhist meditation called “Who am I?” that is designed to get people past all of these superficial definitions of Self and help us remember that we are more than. The gist of the meditation is to ask yourself over and over again “Who am I?” until you get past all the transitory pieces and begin to recognize our true selves which are connected to the Divine and everything else in creation. Rabbi Rami Shapiro describes it in a beautiful way when he says, “You arise from God the way sunlight arises from the sun, the way a wave arises int he ocean. The “I” that is your true Self and the true Self of all predates time and creation like an acorn predates an oak…”
James Hillman’s acorn theory suggests that just as the acorn has within it the “map” of its destiny to become the oak tree, so does each human have encoded within him/herself an identity – call it the soul – as part of the primordial instant of all creation. Hillman states that “each person bears a uniqueness that asks to be lived and that is already present before it can be lived.” At birth we forget who we are and our life’s assignment is to remember ourselves and who we were created to be. If we will listen, our souls work to teach us and guide us through our life experiences to become who we were created to be.
Sue Monk Kidd tells a story about being a novice gardener and, not knowing any better, planting her tulip bulbs a foot deep. A gardener friend eventually informed her that a few inches would have been sufficient! Yet, they managed to push through all that dirt to grow and bloom. Kidd draws the connection between the bulb and the true Self. She says, “The Self is already within us, an imprint of our wholeness and divinity.” Seeking realization, our true Selves must push through the dark layers of our false selves to come into the light. Our false selves take many shapes including, the need to please, perfectionism, fear of commitment, emotional distance, anger, negativity, addiction, fear of risk and failure, and the need to be in the spotlight.
Our true Selves, as an emanation of the Divine, manifest as light, joy, peace, compassion, justice, non-judgment, hope and love. The world will try to make us who we aren’t, but our true Selves, the seed planted deep within us, will continue to nudge, annoy and frustrate us to be who we are. Listen!