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A Pair of Shoes by Vincent van Gogh, 1886

Portraits of You

AS THE SAYING GOES, and as you have heard it said, you are the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the friends you make, the name you bear, and the words you speak. You are also your social security number, your high school picture, the glimpse of you a passerby brings to mind, and the epithet to be etched upon your tomb.

Not least, you are what you see and think of yourself for better or worse when you look in the mirror and either sigh with satisfaction or scream in dismay. You are what you reconstruct of yourself at the end of your days when you add up the balance and subtract the failures from the achievements and trust the sum to be greater than zero. In that sense you are what you forget as well as what you remember.

You are also the person who has an honest conversation with yourself about not always being your best self, and needing more often than not to be your forgiving self. And when you are your false self, you are that part of yourself that hides from the rest of you your true self.

When you are your true self you may hardly know exactly who you are, for in truth every true self is a composite of more than one self. It is several selves resident in one, and one centered at the heart of many.

Today you feel rotten, tomorrow on top of the world, which means you are somewhere within the vast range of normal.

When the wind blows right and you go left, you are the person who discerns the difference between what is right for you and wrong for others. You respectfully leave it to them to know their own minds, even as you trust they will kindly leave it to you to make up yours.

You are a blundering idiot when you cannot help yourself, and a surprising wonder when you entrust yourself to the wisdom buried deep within you.

You are the sacred ground you tread upon, the holy sights you see, and the mystical things you do. You are the lover who, being loved, loves, and yet the one who can miss the mark of love altogether.

You are the hilarious moments you stumble upon that lift your spirit, and the horrendous deeds you witness that diminish your soul.

You are the prayers you say as you fall asleep, and the dreams you live before and after you awake.

Yes, all these are portraits of you.

Yet even more, you are the living image of the One who made you the exquisite glory you are.

(Composed for those persons who were Charles’ pastoral counseling clients over the course of twenty-three years)

© Charles Davidson, All Rights Reserved


Charles Davidson, writer and editor, is a retired Presbyterian minister, psychotherapist, and professor of pastoral theology, care, and counseling. He is the author of Bone Dead, and Rising; Vincent van Gogh and the Self Before God (Cascade Books, Wipf and Stock Publishers).