Knowing yourself for real, with Sonja Bomhoff and Elizabeth Wills

God doesn’t exist. God insists.” — John Caputo

“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” — Brene Brown

“Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted. You are accepted, by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know.’ — Paul Tillich

“A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.” — Meister Eckhardt (13thC Christian Mystic)

It’s like the time my friend was telling me the story of her ongoing struggle with depression, and her recent insight from therapy, saying, “I was living in hell, but I couldn’t seem to get out because the streets, the whole neighborhood, had become too familiar to me!”

It’s like the old Jewish tale of Rabi Zusha, the great Hassidic master, who lay crying on his deathbed. His students asked him, “Rebbe, why are you so sad? After all the good deeds you have done, you will surely get a great reward in heaven!”

“I’m afraid!” said Zusha. “Because when I get to heaven, I know God’s not going to ask me, ‘Why weren’t you more like Moses?’ or ‘Why weren’t you more like King David? I’m afraid that God will ask, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you more like Zusha?’ And then what will I say?!”

We are many things, I think, but often not the one thing that the very Source of our Being invites us to be, insists we become — our most authentic, accepted self. And only from that place of deep and honest self-acceptance can we truly love and accept others. Instead, we are often so many other things. We wear so many “skins.” And there are lots of reasons why, of course (family, society, neurobiology…). And we don’t really know better what and why we’re doing what we do until we start to recognize the old worn “streets and houses and neighborhoods” (and the neural networks our brains entrain and entrench to keep us there) for what they are. But then, at the insistence of grace (original blessing rather than original sin), perhaps we begin to sit with these destructive, biased, mindless patterns with more honest, vulnerable, and affirming curiosity than with judgment and shame.

Sometimes it takes a crisis (a crisis of faith, of relationship, of conscience, of disconnection) to open up the familiar in order to reveal something more authentic and healing in the unfamiliar. It can even take a pandemic, a broken, dysfunctional political reality, or a divisive disconnected society to break open and reveal that what we thought was normal was more about being easy and familiar, comfortable, or certain. But the real growth in life, moving toward greater wholeness, often requires breaking us open to reveal what is most honest, authentic, and possible in such times.

Jesus told the rich young ruler seeking salvation (seeking “to be made whole”) that it wasn’t a matter of doing all the right things, but so much more a matter of peeling away, letting go of, that which hides us from our truest self (whether that be wealth, fame, shame, bitterness, or striving for perfection). Our deepest and most vulnerable self-acceptance can open us to a more inclusive, non-judgmental, and authentic love of others.

This Sunday, October 4, I have a lively and informative conversation with life-coach and Brene Brown “Daring Way” consultant, Sonja Bomhoff as she shares her faith journey along with the pitfalls to perfection, to megachurch leadership, to never being enough, and where that journey broke her open to the beauty of mystery, uncertainty, and the joy of living in the resistance (and insistence) of love.

I hope you can join me Sunday as I continue my series of curious and inspiring interviews, “Peace in the Broken — Living in the Questions.” Elizabeth Wills joins Brad Thompson and the band to bring us music from Alanis Morissette and Scott Chesak. And our special guest, Sonja Bomhoff!

Find us at!

Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven


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