I had a dream last night in which I was Harry Potter. In the dream I surprise the rest of the students when I fly without a broom. I decide to no longer hide this ability. When a malevolent, Draco-like student threatens Hermione, I swoop in and whisk them both away to resolve the conflict. Meanwhile the other students and professors join ranks to protect Hogwarts. Their focus is to venerate the horcruxes because, left untended the horcruxes would give rise to the dark lord.
Apologies to anyone reading this who is not a Harry Potter geek. Harry Potter is the young wizard who with his friend Hermione battles an evil wizard who has spun off parts of his soul into objects called horcruxes. As I sat with the dream this morning, I went deeper and deeper until I got to two core themes, or horcruxes, that needed attention (veneration) so that they don’t lord it over me. Those themes are abandonment and shame.
When I mess up, some part of me fears I’ll be rejected because of the error (abandonment). Another part of me takes it in as further proof that I’m a bad person (shame). And one other part of me tries to avoid these feelings altogether by being defensive: blaming others for what happened, making reasonable excuses, overcompensating by trying to be hyper-good, etc.
What I take from the dream is a way to hold all of this: with vulnerability. Be vulnerable enough to admit my error. And be truthful: this mistake says nothing about who I am. I’m neither good nor bad. I’m a human being who is learning how to integrate his virtuous and non-virtuous tendencies. I also admit my tendency is to go straight to shame when I make an error. Acknowledging this horcrux makes it less likely to become my lord.
As I sat with the theme of abandonment, I thought of Jesus. His friends and followers abandoned him when their expectations were not met and when his life path became treacherous. Among his final words were: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Perhaps there is no fear greater than that of being abandoned. No wonder part of me wants to manipulate and finagle circumstances to avoid that possibility…or even the fear of it.
Yet as I sat with it, a deeper peace arose. Knowing that Jesus (and for that matter the rest of humanity) shares my experience, I no longer felt alone. When we lean into how vulnerable we are as individual human beings, we realize how alike and interconnected we are. Shared vulnerability dissolves isolation, the fear of abandonment, and the lie of shame.
Moreover, by paying attention to my own fear of abandonment, I felt cared for, honored, and accompanied…by myself. I no longer felt abandoned. I had shown up for myself and realized I would never be alone. I am with me. (I also sense that a Sacred Presence is with me to support this process.) I integrate those virtuous and non-virtuous parts of myself into one human being, neither hero nor villain, neither all good nor all bad. I’m simply human, vulnerable, a mixed bag of altruistic and selfish, wholesome and devious, just like everyone else.
The alchemy of vulnerability transmutes shame into self-acceptance, fear of abandonment into self-love, all of which then ripples outward to embrace every other flawed human being with a bit more compassion and openness. Some call this salvation. Others call it grace. I call it magic.