Monday, November 14, 2016

A Little Child

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. Isaiah 11:6
Inside of each of us is a little child. If our child has lived through an exile or multiple rejections from others, we are likely to reject that child ourselves. We come to adopt as ours the same voices that shamed us as children, or that judged our more child-like qualities. These voices can be brutal and cruel, and cause our own polarization and tumult within ourselves. These are the wars inside of wolf and lamb, of leopard and goat, of calf and lion.

Part of rescuing the exiled child, of holding that little innocent lamb in love, is calling forth your own inner shepherd: your true adult self. In the wounding of trauma, developing your adult Self is a beautiful journey of discovery. My own journey of discovery was entered into and guided by my lamb-like child. She has taught me so much about life and love. She carries the spirit of who I am, the creative impulses I have, the desire to love and be loved and connect with others, the love of all things funny and playful, such grand irreverence through silliness, and big feelings and big pain. She tells me a lot about myself and how I was raised, about how people treated me and how I am inclined to treat myself.

She also holds the belief that people are good, and she still holds that belief. But at some point, through the thorough work of scapegoaters, I came to have parts of me that woke up to the fact that there are “lions” in the world who would tear me apart. The child in me naively wanted to believe words like, “hurt people hurt people” and that people like that are destructive and offensive because of their own wounds.

The awakening came in realizing that there is a very real lion/wolf/leopard nature in others. This lion nature will absolutely hunt down an innocent lamb and tear it to bits. It will purr and lick every last piece of bloody flesh off the bone. It will suck the marrow and discard the fur. The lion’s nature is to take pleasure in the kill. It has no regard for the feelings of the lamb, or the family of the lamb, or the pleasures of life the lamb enjoyed. It only smells blood and relishes each last drop. It is a violent impulse each of us carries inside.

If we have, as children or adults, been exposed to this destructive nature in our fellow human beings, we absolutely have it inside of us to enact our own destruction. Those wolf-like voices, the ones that berate us and shame our child-like beauty must have as much peace as the child must have. In fact, they are often hungrier than the child, and more destructive to relationships. To build inner strength, we must strengthen our Self, the Self who can handle anything, the Self who is wise and knows that there is a time for wolf power and a time for lamb power. And there is never a time, in innate humanity, to unleash a wolf on a lamb. The wolf in the verse is peaceful, lying down. He has been welcomed, fed, and acknowledged by the shepherd, as have the sweet baby animals. He is not a threat to the child-ones in any way. The babies are safe with the shepherd-self in charge.

I love this verse from the Bible because it illustrates so beautifully how it can look. Yes, a little child can lead them. The child inside cries for fairness and justice, cries for love and morality, cries against pain and longing. These are cries for someone to come lead them. What is missing in the picture is that the power of the child is not to lead directly, not to be the one who has the power to make the lion lie down with the lamb, but the child has the power to call the Shepherd…the Self…to integrate all those forces inside of one’s self. The Shepherd alone has the power to calm the murderous instincts of the wolf/lion/leopard, and to also calm the big feelings and loud hungers of the lamb/goat/calf. They can then be in rightful relationship without any fear of terrorizing or overwhelming the other.

Bringing in your own Self, your own shepherd, requires that you work to become self-aware. We all have these parts inside of us, and trauma puts those parts out of balance and running wild. Coming to parent and guide yourself means making peace with the more violent and self-destructive parts and really listening to them. In taking up the conscious practice of listening to, and affirming those parts, we begin to calm them enough that they become manageable, and can be used for our good and good in the world. Then they don't hurt us or others. In embracing our child-like natures, we can find pleasure and joy in the world, and learn to nurture ourselves instead of letting our lamb-child bawl loudly enough to attract predators. Letting our own sweet inner child play, move, laugh, and create is healthy and healing for our souls and for our world.
This practice of listening to ourselves, of becoming self-aware, then becomes our practice with others as we deepen compassion and become other-aware.

The key to self-love is to embrace our child. We must be the champion of our inner child and teach her when we need our own wolf power and that we will never let a wolf-other tear her apart again. We can be a comfort for the hurting child, and indeed, for each other's hurting inner children. If we are waylaid by a wolf, we will let the good Shepherd carry us and heal us, our own good shepherd or the Shepherd of our faith.

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