A bit more about the container of our lives. We spend the first part of our life building the container. Remember, the container consists of all the teachings, observations, lessons, and rules we internal to define ourselves and make sense of our world. Richard Rohr, one of my current favorite writers about the inner life, describes it this way. “Thus the first journey is always about eternals, formulas, superficial emotions, flags and badges, correct rituals, Bible quotes, and special clothing, all of which largely substitute for actual spirituality.” But he goes on to write, “You need a very strong container to hold the contents and contradictions that arrive later in life.”

There it is. A strong container is needed, not for the sake of having a strong container, but for the sake of holding all the messy and difficult stuff that comes our way as we grow. The problem for me is that it is far easier to simply enhance and strengthen the container than to pay attention to the contents that life presents me to put in the container.

job interviewWe, and by “we” I mean “I,” spend much of my life enhancing and promoting my container. For example, when I ran for president of the student council in the fifth grade, when I sat in my first real job interview as a senior in college, when I defended my dissertation to my graduate committee, and a thousand other times, I highlighted my container. I put forth my virtues, my knowledge, all the things I thought would sell me to my audience.

I did not talk about all my questions, misgivings, and confusion. I didn’t talk about how promoting myself felt a little cheap and dishonest at the same time it felt necessary. That would have been revealing some of the content.

But to grow and deepen in our lives, we have to focus on the content, and as I suggested at the end of yesterday’s post, the content comes to us through pain.

That’s next.