The shadow is the part of our personality, which is in our background, of which we are usually unaware. It is that part of us which our conscious mind can only accept with difficulty. So the shadow is our angry side, our weakness, our sickness, our primitiveness, our sensuality, our rebelliousness, our inferiority—whatever it may be about ourselves of which we are most afraid and would rather not face. (106-107).
For all of its darkness it seems close to God. So it is that when we begin to wrestle with our shadow we find ourselves—like Jacob—somehow also wrestling with God. Seeing our shadow, the “beam that is in our own eye,” is essential to religious experience, the beginning of a confrontation with ourselves and with God.
—John A. Sanford, Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language, p. 108
The shadow tells me to binge eat. It’s not that God can’t or won’t heal my pain, but this way will be quicker and more enjoyable and make me feel a little more in control if I solve things with food.
To receive God’s healing with food, I have to sit in the land of the shadow. I have to feel its breath on my face and down my neck and wonder how in the world it’s ever going to leave. I don’t want to do that if there’s another way for now. I have no problem confronting other people, but confronting something that might actually be a part of myself? That’s messed up. No way.
And yet, even though I feel as though there is no choice, saying I have no say in the situation is a stupid lie. I have choices … I can face my shadow, the shadow, and feel it breathe on me with this sense of impending doom as if it’s going to violate me. It’s done that before. It’s taken away everything I love about myself and caused my life at times to be so painful that I really wanted to die. How can I choose to be in that place again? But I made it through, so I can choose that. I don’t have to want it.
But, I think, there’s no guarantee that I’ll come out ok! Well, even Jacob went through a wrestling match with God, got his hip knocked out, and was blessed and lived to tell the tale. Still, what if I look at the shadow and all I see there is me? I mean, what if there is nothing else to me other than shadow? What then? I don’t know. But I still have a choice to face it … I know that God is not in the shadow, but He’s letting me face it. Sometimes I think that’s cruel. And yet how can I see God’s face clearly if I don’t get this disgusting shadow out of my face? It is battle time … NOW.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Psalm 73[Allison lives in Boston with her husband of two months(!) and is looking forward to teaching Pre-K starting next month! She wrestles with her shadow still, but feels largely healed from her history with eating disorders.]