The Gold That Is Within

In 2003, a friend of mine was in New York when the “great Northeast blackout” hit. More than 50 million people lost power from eight states, including all the way up to Ontario, Canada. My friend and his bride were at the JFK airport when everything fell apart. An announcement came over the airport intercom: “Due to the blackout, all flights are canceled. We do not know when you can fly out.” My friend called his assistant and she somehow secured a reservation for them at a local hotel, where they could retreat until they actually caught a flight.

Life didn’t get better with a hotel room. Like everything else, the hotel was without power. No lights, food or functioning elevators. They trudged up the stairs with their luggage in tow to their dark room on the 7th floor. When the finally arrived, they lit candles so they could see and unpacked their bags. That’s when my friend looked out the window toward another hotel across the street. All of the lights at the other hotel were on. From a distance, it appeared as if the other hotel had full power. He was upset.

He huffed back down the stairs and ran to the hotel across the street. As he walked in, he could see that the restaurant was open and packed with people. The pool and gym were open, too. Escalators were running. Music was playing. Computers were operating at the front desk. He walked up to the front desk manager and asked: “How is it that you have all the lights, music and everything else on, while I am staying directly across the street and my hotel is powerless?”

The manager responded: “Sir, this hotel was built with a gas generator inside of its foundation to ensure we’d always have power. No matter what is going on outside of this building we will always have access to the power that we need to fully function.”

I believe the story is a great metaphor for how we can choose to live our lives:

  • What is your life built upon when everything around you becomes powerless?
  • What are your spiritual “reserves” when everything around you collapses?

In The Crucible Project, we learn about the things we hide, repress, deny and keep in shadow. Those are the things that can keep us powerless. I’ve had times in my life where I feel like I’m living in a hotel without lights. There’s nothing. Not even hope. Even as I write this, the issues I am currently facing cause my my shadow to debate with me. It seems the parts of me that I keep in shadow prefers a life without power. But, I prefer to live my life from my gold … like the hotel that my friend saw across the street. No matter what is happening on the outside, the inside of my life — and potentially yours — is built on truth and grace.

As Christ followers, we already have the power to love our shadow for what it is, but not let it govern our lives. That requires living with authenticity.  I become less and less an authentic man when I hide, repress and deny my gold, surrender to my shadow and shut down. I escape. It’s a go-to response for me. Yet when I realize that I am more authentic when I honestly see that my gold has the power to love my shadow even when I am not wanting to flip on that power switch.

The challenge for me is often the process of getting to my gold and overcoming the patterns that keep me from experiencing God’s power. Often I feel as though I am standing in the darkness looking out of the window at everyone else who seems to have their light on. Here are few tools that have empowered me to live in my Gold:

The Gold of Silence & Solitude

Silence and solitude has been one key tool that I’ve used to help me flip that switch.  it has taken me a year or so to work up to 20 minutes of silence and solitude, but you can start simple and slow … try it for about five minutes and then slowly add more time. Here’s how it works for me:

  • I seek to spend time alone — and without distractions — in my chair at home. Sometimes I do this at my office, but it is even more challenging there to keep distractions at bay. I keep a notepad nearby.
  • The first few minutes are about getting my heart and mind settled and starting to release those things that I’d prefer to keep in shadow. If something comes up that I can’t shake, I write that thought down on my notepad. It is a physical act to get that thought out of my head and onto a sheet of paper, where I can see it clearly.
  • Next, I image what it is — or who it is — and I put it before me as if it was a painting.
  • Then I look at it and offer it to God. I don’t try to fix it. I just want my head and heart to see it and literally shred those thoughts or feelings I’d normally prefer to hide, repress or deny. This opens me up to hearing from God and getting my power from Him.
  • Finally, I ask two questions:
    • First, I ask God how He wants me to be with Him today
    • Then I make a request of how I’d like God to be with me.

In my life, I have found that incorporating this spiritual practice allows me to feel more centered in my power and authentically living in my gold. I live with a spirit of hope and expectation knowing that the power is still on. Even when everything around me is in darkness or falling apart.

By Phil Jackson

Phil completed his initial Crucible Project weekend in November 2011. For nearly 30 years, his passion has been to bring the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to young men, such as in Chicago’s north Lawndale neighborhood. He has served as a youth pastor, associate pastor and lead pastor of Lawndale area churches in addition to founder and executive director of The Firehouse Community Art Center. He also is co-author of The Hip-Hop Church, the Urban Devotional Bible and is a contributing writer for A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry.

Photo Credit: Crystal via Creative Commons