I am drawing a distinction here between self and self-image. Giving up this self-image involves letting go the illusion of power; particularly of the illusion that we are in control and that we can control, and that we should control. It is our desire to control that brings us to slavery, because our own designs are limited, and cannot help but end in a closed system, a dead end. The closed system may give us a sense of security, but it obviates possibility. And salvation - being sprung from a trap - means possibility.
What do we mean by control? Giving up the world, in Isaac's definition, is often rightly put in terms of self-control. But this is not the world's entrapping control. Self-control is really a gathering of the fragments of self-image in order to be emptied, in order to lose control. It involves letting go the illusions of power that keep us full of self-image. Self-image must be emptied out, in order that God, who is always emptying out divine mercy on creation, might enter, indwell, and pour out through us the transfiguring Spirit onto the earth. This right kind of letting go control is especially important in terms of our ideas of how God works in us, in terms of what, or how important we think particular gifts are. Often we are trapped by our ideas of God and holiness.
God's life is able to dwell in us whether or not we cooperate. We exist by mercy. But if we are to grow into the image, the mirroring, of God's willing powerlessness, we need to increase our capacity to have the divine love poured out through us. In ancient tradition, God 'absented' a bit, or 'pulled aside the skirts of glory' in order to make room for the creation, since God was everywhere. The kenosis of God begins with creation, because God is committed to be involved in it, to give it freedom, to suffer-with in its joys and sorrows, in its bewilderment and pain. And it means that God willingly limits God's power to intervene and control.
Maggie Ross, Voice in the Wilderness
"It is our desire to control that brings us to slavery." Isn't that why so many people are so afraid, why so many people are in real trouble, in the present financial situation? We invest in order to control our future. I'm reminded of an lady in her 80s on the BBC South news last night, who feared she had lost her life savings (some £500,000) in the Icelandic banking debacle. She spoke of her dismay, since she had assumed she had ensured a comfortable future for herself, and now she was in her own words "reduced to penury" - which actually meant that she and her widowed daughter would now have to live on their state pensions, like so many others. What really seemed to be worrying her was that she had lost control of her future: that all her planning had, through no intention of her own, come to nothing.
All our attempts at control actually make us more vulnerable. Jesus said, "…those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it." (Luke 9.24)
As Maggie Ross says, we exist by mercy. We have to let go of our illusory sense of control over our lives, the illusion of power that leads us to imagine we can keep hold of our life, that we can be captains of our souls, and let God be and do what God is and does, trusting that in his love and his mercy all he does is for our good, in the end (Romans 8.28); and that he will, finally, set all things free (Romans 8.18-25).