My Christmas just about went to ruins with Black Swan (starring Natalie Portman et al.); after the movie, depression, shock, and a headache set in. The message I got out of it was a good one—namely, that one should not allow oneself to be consumed by things like career, sexual curiosity, and life performance—but the way the movie sought to make its points was horrifying at some place. The massive vulgarity in speech and in action aside, I suppose that Black Swan was quite realistic in representing what teens and young adults go through in their quest to find themselves in life. In a simple, single-sentence synopsis, although Nina (Portman) has lived a life of the white swan and thus is able to fit that role for Swan Lake, she must find her black-swan side in order to personify the white swan’s alter-ego in a way that would move the audience.

I am all for finding one’s self, but crassness does not need to be a part of that. There are many ways to find oneself, which include: community, meditation, rest and relaxation, exploration of the world in healthy ways, giving of oneself to God and to neighbor. The last point is key to self-realization.

Joy, prayer, thanksgiving, peace — these identify Pauline spirituality. Such lives are further marked by gentle forbearance and no anxiety. The key lies with “the Lord is near” — now and to come. The Lord is now present by his Spirit, who prompts prayer and thanksgiving, among whose “fruit” in the life of the believer and the believing community are joy and peace. Here is God’s ultimate gift to those who trust in Christ, shalom and joy.1

Such wholeness and joy is pertinent to a person’s finding of oneself—crassness need not be part of the journey. Self-actualization begins with God and is lived out with love in the community of church, family, friends, and strangers. Because of the Incarnation, the Lord has come near; and because of the Ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, He remains near. By Him, we are conformed to the image of the Son, and thereby become who we were and are meant to be.

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1. Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 412. This quote was Fee’s commentary on 4:4–7.[Back]