Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ego Revisited

A few months ago, after I gave a very revealing and humbling talk at a CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) retreat, I wrote about ego and the Holy Spirit, wondering how and when to differentiate between the two. How do I know when I am being prompted by the Holy Spirit... or when my ego is just being stroked? How do I know if I am actually doing God's will... or my own?

These questions have come back to me again in the past few weeks. I have a lot on my plate at the moment. In addition to my usual homeschooling, mothering, and household duties, I am the Spiritual Director for the current CRHP Formation Team (and weekend retreat in mid-March) and I am a facilitator for the 8-week Bible Study that begins next week. Both of these activities require a good amount of planning and preparation on my part every week.

The CRHP position was all Holy Spirit. I wanted nothing to do with it. But there was no peace in my heart. I was being called to this role, and until I accepted it, I was agitated and irritated. I know that was not me. There is no way my ego had anything to do with it.

The Bible Study is all ego. Not to say that God is displeased with my willingness to step in and take on the extra responsibility. I had planned to attend the sessions anyway, so accepting the facilitator role was not a significantly bigger time commitment. But truly, there were no promptings of the Holy Spirit (at least on my end). When the Deacon (the one I don't always get along with, no less) approached me to facilitate one of the weekday sessions, I was flattered. When he explained that the program was completely laity-run, I was tickled. When he mentioned who the other three facilitators were, I was floored. He was including me with these other people... these pillars of the Church? It took me less than a second to say "yes!"

I don't mean to pass judgment on one choice over another, or to suggest that one of these responsibilities matters more than another. I also don't mean to say that the Holy Spirit is only present when I am being forced to do something I don't want to do (though more and more often, when I am feeling that way, I now stop and consider if God could actually be stretching me in some way).

Both of these responsibilties are good for me. I am excited about both, am learning a lot in both, and am growing and stretching in both roles. But if I am going to be truly honest here, left only to my own devices, I would only have the Bible Study commitment on my plate right now.

Shortly after my post last fall, one friend emailed me to say that ego was ok... as long as we left space for the Holy Spirit to do its work, too. I think balance is the key. It's ok for me to be motivated by a stroked ego, so long as those things I am doing are not leading me away from God. And it's equally as important for me to make the space for God, to quiet my ego and listen to what He wants, to where He is calling me.

Perhaps my question is the wrong one. Instead of asking "ego or Holy Spirit?", should I be asking "ego and Holy Spirit?"

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