What does it mean to be spiritually mature? Much of what I have been reading lately includes in that definition the ability to take all the parts of ourselves, the good, the bad, the ugly, the young and ignorant, the old and foolish, and embrace them as part of the whole of who we are now. People who are able to recognize that everything in their life makes up who they are today, even if some of those parts are not what they want to be dominate in their lives now, are more integrated and therefore at peace with themselves. More spiritually and emotionally mature.
It reminds me of a Russian nesting doll, which we happen to have here at this old house. Ours was a gift on e Christmas. It is a traditional design like the one pictured first here, except ours decreases in size to a doll that is a little bigger than a piece of rice!
They are called “Matryoshka” in Russian. According to Wikipedia, “the name Matryoshka comes from the Russian female name Matriona. In old Russia among peasants the name Matriona or Matriosha was a very popular female name. Scholars says this name has a Latin root “mater” and means “Mother.” This name was associated with the image of of a mother of a big peasant family who was very healthy and had a portly figure. Subsequently, it became a symbolic name and was used specially to image brightly painted wooden figurines made in a such way that they could taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another.”
In the traditional form, these dolls are identical to each other as they get smaller and smaller, fitting neatly inside the larger one before it. To me it is a perfect image of this idea of embracing all the ages and stages of ourselves and welcoming them into a cohesive whole that reflects the tapestry of our lives. It is a form of making peace with the rough edges of our souls and memories.
Some of the more modern Matryoshka dolls are made around a theme instead of an identical replica in different sizes. For example, you may have one about a fairy tale and each of the dolls is a character from that fairy tale.
At times, we may view the various stages of our lives as separate characters that just happen to be in the same play. Those times of our lives when we were less than God created us to be may feel like they don’t belong to us. We may be embarrassed or saddened by those phases of our lives and want to split them off, box them up and stuff them in a bottom drawer that never gets opened. But, when we embrace those hard parts, lovingly invite them into their place in the totality of our life’s story, we will be more whole mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
An exercise towards spiritual maturity may be to acquire a traditional nesting doll. Then, in a quiet, uninterrupted space, unpack the doll, journaling about each phase of your life, beginning with the present and working your way back to the smallest doll and the earliest memories you have. After you have spent the time reflecting on your life, seeking forgiveness where necessary, forgiving where possible, loving and embracing as much as you can, put the doll back together with a prayer that you might “be fit together neatly and in a whole way.”
It is possible to buy blank Matryoshka dolls so you could, if you wanted, personalize each doll to reflect in some way each phase of your life. Another option is to print out a picture of a doll unpacked, such as the one above, and use the sizes in the picture during your reflection time. However you choose to engage in the exercise, let the Holy Spirit help you unpack and repack your life into a seamless whole. May all that is unforgiven in you be released. May your fears yield their deepest tranquilities. May all that is unlived in you blossom into a future graced with love. John O’Donohue