Most people are familiar with such images of icebergs. This famous one is not actually a legit photo but is a composite of 4 images taken in different locations by an underwater photographer. Regardless, it reveals the reality that much or the iceburg lays hidden under the surface. We use this image to illustrate such realities in ourselves and others as well. People only see some of who we are by the things we say and what we do but they do not see all the hidden content. People do not see the depths of our pain or our possible histories of trauma and abuse. They don't see it and the truth is neither do we much of the time.
We don't see how our behaviors are connected to the ways we learned to cope with hurt when we were relatively young. Some of us fought, some of us shut down, some cried and some didn't but what we all have in common is that we were formed by those moments in life. People use drugs, over eat, get into codependent relationships, run away, and a million other unhealthy things that we do to sooth and get by. What gets confusing is when you start realizing that some of your activities your proud of have some similar motivation mixed in there. You work out, are disciplined, study hard, work hard, achieve, lead, serve etc. Eventually as you look inward at that mass below the surface you begin to realize that I lead because of a need for control, serve because I need to be needed, study and work hard because that's what I actually believe makes me valuable and wanted. We do many things for reasons that are beyond our reasoning. Our actions and lives are like this iceberg barely poking out of the surface. So much that we are is hidden and submerged inside.
This reflection has me raising many questions. What is it that is actually showing? What is it that we want to show? If we, being human and having will, are able to make decisions about what we allow to show above the surface then maybe we can make strategic choices about this reality of our being. Is there a part of me that I keep submerged that would actually be healthy to let out? Are there parts of me showing that should really remain beneath the surface? Will our relationships with others be different based on what we show and what we hide?
I think many of us have answers to these questions even if we have never stopped to consider it. We make decisions all the time about what to hide, what to bury, what to say and what not to. Our lives are the answers to this question. We decide to hide those things in us that are shameful and weak. We hide in embarrassment. We hide, for the most part, what we know is wicked. We hide our lusts and our rage and our insecurity. Some of us hide by engaging socially and hide in plain sight. Others retreat away from such interactions and hide in seclusion. Some of us get busy and some of us use humor but we all know that hiding is an important part of our being.
Then we show much on purpose as well. I think our facebook account clearly demonstrate how we put effort into presenting a certain story or image about ourselves in the world. We are mindful about what we allow to, or make sure that, shows. We try to remain humble and know how boasting can come off but we still want to be seen, noticed, listened to and respected. We hang degrees on our office walls, post accomplishments on our twitter feeds, and put our best foot forward in most social interactions. We want to be thought of as kind, smart, thoughtful,generous, and respectable people and we make every effort to let that be the part of us that is seen.
Hiding and being seen are very related. First of all it seems that only so much of us can float above the surface and we know just enough about ourselves to know how much we must never allow to emerge. We want to be seen as generous and we know our greed and covetousness inside, we want to be seen as kind and we are all too aware of that murderous voice in our minds. We must hide and be extremely careful about what it is we allow to show. This is all a part of the way that we have learned to get by in this world. It is like a dance that we learned at a very young age. We know what gets us punished and we know what gets us praise, we know what makes us feel bad and we know what activities make the pain lessen. We know and we function accordingly.
What troubles me is that I had not really sat and considered these things and made a willful decision as much as I had been conditioned and pragmatic in my development. Well would I do anything differently after contemplating? Wouldn't i see the pragmatic benefits of this way that almost all of us have settled on? This is where I think Christianity challenges everything about this mode of being in the world. Jesus was no advocate for such a natural state of being. Jesus would tell his disciples and followers to hide certain things about themselves but they were not the things that we hide. He said to pray in secret, fast in secret, and give in secret so as not to pursue credit for such things. He cautioned his followers about their own tendency to seek rewards among people in such actions and that our motives matter. Jesus knew that we often do wonderful things for hideous reasons and the best of actions can be unhealthy for us too. Jesus and the early church would then challenge the community to confess their sins to one another. Tell one another those things that you so desperately don't want them to know. This community would encounter grace in realizing that they are not alone in there struggles and that they were still loved and valuable. Jesus would challenge us to turn the entire iceberg upside down. Maybe the same small amount is all that can possible stick out of the water but he would challenge his people to let that part that shows be what they most want to bury and to bury and hide that thing they most want others to know.
What might happen among us and in our relationships if we would muster the courage to obey him in this? What would happen if my friends saw those things in me that I am convinced that they would not love me if they knew. Would I find myself all alone or might I encounter community and the truth that in sharing those parts of me that I am no longer alone? What wisdom might there be in hiding all of those things that I think make me valuable and wanted. Might I realize that I am valuable as a human being regardless of doing. Might I stop striving to be noticed and loved and find that by not striving for it I am noticed and loved. Might we confess to one another only to bond in deeper community than we have ever known? Could it be true that I could expose the darkness in me only to find it losing power by being brought into the light?
Jesus knew the wisdom of hiding and taught us to do what we rarely see done. Hide your virtue or accomplishments and display your struggles and weaknesses. This is the wisdom that we find being exercised in 12 Step meetings in little rooms all over our city. The 12 Steppers have found the healing and transforming power of God in forming communities around their confession of powerlessness. It is the ability to share your weakness that is the only requirement for participation. They are communities of the weak and when we visit them we find within these communities strength unlike anything we have ever known.
The way of Jesus turns everything upside-down. What we long to hide he calls us to expose, what we parade around he instructs us to hide, in what we see as weak and vulnerable he demonstrated the power of God and what we do to get by and live he would see as death. He is calling out to us as though we are Lazarus in the Tomb to arise to life.