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As I sat in Adoration, preparing for Reconciliation, or Confession for those who aren’t familiar, I started to ponder the shadows that were cast across the floor of the Sanctuary from the Nativity Scene still standing there.
As I looked at the different shapes and sizes of the shadows I remembered that I too had shadows and that was why I was here. Those shadows caused by what I had placed between the Lord & I. I was here to have those things removed with the Sacrament of Confession I was about to participate in.
I Fear No Evil
You know the scripture passage from Psalm 23:4
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
I imagine you have heard this verse many times, I know I have! I have heard this preached on many times as I sat in the pew of my Pentecostal Church I attended in my youth.
And, also read often from the ambo during Mass throughout my adult life. It has been part of daily readings and broken down in many ways in my daily meditations. I have often wondered and pondered the fact that God is with me when I am walking through ‘my own‘ valley of the shawdow of death.
That is a comforting thought, and I am forever grateful for his presence. Through all of my difficult life experiences and challenging circumstances he has always been right there, in the moment with me.
Expecting Him To Help
In these valleys we all know instinctively to call out to Him and to expect Him to respond with his loving assurance and peace. That is exactly what this verse states, “though I walk trought the valley of the shadow of death…you comfort me”…but, we have the responsiblity to accept and receive that comfort.
In taking a second look at this verse I started to consider the word shadow. A shadow is a dark area or shape produced by something coming between a source of light and a surface. The shadow of death in this passage is a shadow that we did not create nor do we control. It is always there. It is the dark shadow of death that Jesus came to get rid of. He had the last say. He rose from death and defeated it.
We will all die, but we are reminded that we also have comfort knowing it is not the end. Eternal life in heaven is now an option for those of us who decide to receive this gift.
Even though the shadow is there it has not overcome us.
Now consider the other shadow of ‘daily life’ that we walk in. The shadow that we create for ourselves at times. Depending on what we have placed between ourselves and the true Light Of The World.
I realized I created a shadow to hide under, this shadow was mostly created by the burden of unworthiness that I had decided to put between God and myself. It prevented my from living the life of love I should have been living.
Living In The Shadows
This image, of who I thought I was, I placed right in the spot where it would block the brightest light. This shadow condemned me to live with my distorted self image of not being good enough, being overweight or to hide the real me because I believed myself not to be very special.
This obstacle I put between God and I resulted in a dark shadow to cover, conceal and darken the truth that I wanted to keep hidden and out of my sight for good. I put this obstacle, also known as a form of pride, between God and me, creating the dark shadow I walked and lived in daily.
We even create shadows from expectations we place on ourselves. I am a mom and in my late 40’s so I have my ‘shadow’ forever over me of how I should behave as such. My ‘mom shadow’ often keeps me from being spontaneous, silly, or just plain fun.
It was a shadow of who I had decided I was and it determined what I did and what I strived for. I lived in a darkened shape created out of my perceived “not good enough” personal reality. The reality I had allowed the enemy to assign to me. My shadow became my excuse for not being or doing what I ought. These are the shadows I chose to live in.
So, while thinking of this, I considered how I was going to remove these self-created shadows. How can anyone? Well, we can’t. It is He who is with us and is our rod and strength. He will remove our shadows.
Tending to live with our distorted perception of who we are given to us by ourselves, others we have allowed to define us, our failures, expectations, or just plain pride and we place it right in the way of the Source of Light.
We look to these obstacles and take direction on how we are supposed to respond or live, instead of looking to Him who is Light itself. Oblivious to the fact that we are looking straight into the darkness we have created. Unable to really live in or see the light as we should.
The distorted reality we have come up with. Our creation, our pride, is keeping out the light we need so much! We condemn ourselves to the life we have outlined with our perception.
The light of pure Mercy, Hope and Love itself that we absolutely need every single moment is just out of reach. We are keeping ourselves in the dark shadow that we created and that we aren’t allowing ourselves to step out of even for a moment.
When I looked at it this way, I realized that God was saying something to me. I was just too interested in who I thought I was (pride again) and not on who He says I am. He was calling me out of the cold shadows that I had lived in for so long.
‘Coincidentally’ during this time, I came upon this reading
1″Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a]free from the law of sin and death.
-An aha moment – “no condemnation”, really!? I had been condemning myself my whole life…
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
–I was living according to my flesh – living my way by what I thought and that led me in a direction I was not happy in. Living as the person I thought I was – creating the shadow I would spend my life in…My mind was not completely on Him (The Light) or what he has told me I was.
6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
–So as I was living in the shadow I created, I was not governed by the spirit, I was governed by the flesh which was leading me to death or less of a life than God promised me…
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.“
How, for so long, had I not realized that I was creating my own little life of being and acting not as I was, but as the person, I had decided to be.
The insecure, inadequate, and unlovable one. This person who thought she belonged in a shadow of low self-worth and self-esteem…and yes of condemnation.
Oh, yes we all have created our own shadows, some bigger than others. There are shadows caused by abuse, circumstances, opinions, and just our daily experiences. They are our excuse for not living in the True Light.
Removing The Shadow
But, I believe that when you realize there is a shadow you can then intentionally, with the help of the Holy Spirit, start to remove it. Confession was what allowed me to finally start to chip away at the shadows that engulfed my life. It truly is a gift!
We can learn to live in the warmth & Light beside Jesus, fearing no evil, as promised to us so long ago and spoken of in that Psalm. Yes, we can step out of the shadows…
We can begin to live without that obstacle coming between us and The One True Light, Jesus.
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