Recently I watched the Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez movie The Way for the second time. This time around, I was really struck by the lyrics of the Alanis Morisette song, “Thank You,” which could be heard poignantly at the part of the story when the main character reached a breakthrough.
Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence
The chorus really struck home for me. In my life’s journey, it was only in the last few years that I have come to start losing my fear of failure, frailty, disillusionment… I have come to realise that these seemingly frightful things can serve to free me from my inner shackles. For just as Jesus had taught that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him, so it is that it is nothing “out there” that can imprison us but what comes from within us: our fears, our insecurities, our avarice, lust, pride… these are what really hold us prisoner.
When external circumstances seem to conspire to bring us down; when we find our best efforts fail to keep us afloat and in control, that is when we have the blessed opportunity to come face to face with our deepest fears. And, when we come to the point when we have nothing to lose, we are able to look calmly at ourselves and see ourselves for who we really are instead of who we have been trying desperately to be. That moment when we behold our naked souls and experience God’s love for us in what we see as our ugliness – that is the moment of our salvation.
No, we are none of us as good a person as we think we are or wished we could be. But we are not defined by how good we are, but by how LOVED we are. And for many of us, it is only a descent into the painful experience of failure and humiliation that precipitates for us an experience of the unconditional love of God. For it is when the illusions about our ability to be deserving of God’s love are shattered that we realise just how rich, how unlimited, and how utterly unmerited is his love for us. And it is that experience of pure grace that starts us on our new life in Christ – a life that no longer sees us cowering in fear before the judgments and opinions of Man; a life that sees us walking in true interior freedom.
So let us not be afraid of crises. Let us not be afraid of having our masks of self-assurance and puffed-up confidence stripped away, and for our intelligence, ability or goodness to be called into question. For the sooner we let go of these false securities, the sooner we will find ourselves on solid ground. The sooner can we begin to live a life of peace, freedom, and joy!
Image: Movie still from The Way