The intermediate coming [of Christ] is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. - St. Bernard of Clairvaux
In some deep place within me, I am.
I am the truest, most complete version of who I was created to be. In moments, when I locate that solid center -- or it finds me -- I know who I am. I feel like myself. I am at home. I find myself riding the wave, coasting, flowing with clarity and purpose. I feel un-self-conscious. I simply am.
Who am I if not myself?
Coming home to ourselves ought to be the most natural thing in the world. Yet most of us feel like we live at a remove from our own centers. It makes sense. From our beginnings, we interact with a world broken by sin -- and we react. We're looking for three basic things: safety and security; affirmation and approval; and power and control. These are the things that help us to navigate an often hostile environment. Safety, approval, and control. These become the shields we wield to protect ourselves from the world.
An inside job
This might all be well and good if danger, judgment, and manipulation were only coming from outside of us. We could, I suppose, use these tools to ward off the forces and live in harmony with our inner selves. But it doesn't work that way. We ourselves, sinners all, are the source of these same forces. They flow out of us, and they circulate inside of us. I behave in ways that are self-destructive -- in my actions when I fail in self-care; in my judgmental thoughts; when I am identified with and consumed by my feelings. I am a danger to myself. I disapprove of me. I am out of control.
Who will save me from this body of death?
We have to learn to look beyond, beneath the surface of ourselves. We have forgotten who we are, if we ever consciously knew. We have taken as our true selves the self-protective façade we've constructed. That isn't me. My true self is a hidden treasure, but not un-discoverable. I can find it if I am willing to go into my own depths and explore. There I will find myself, and where I find myself, I will find Christ.
Where there is love, there is God
Self-discovery is not navel-gazing, and self-love is not the same as selfishness. What "saves" us (in the language of St. Bernard), is recognizing that where the true self dwells, God dwells too. The outer construct, a product of our sin and the sin of the world, separates us from God, and separate from God we are separate too from our authentic identities. Recognizing who I really am and coming to know God in Christ are not two different things. They are the same thing.