Scaffolding is used during a building construction project.  It is an external and temporary structure used to support the work crew, their materials and tools, and even the edifice that is being built.  The scaffolding is a useful part of the construction process.  But it is not the finished product.  A time comes when the scaffolding’s work is done.  Then the scaffolding is taken down and packed away for the next construction project.

The scaffolding is not the building.  Scaffolding is not furnished, nor decorated.  It does not have a foundation, and lacks the ability to withstand strong winds, tough physically insults, and damage to its support pieces.  Due to its limits, there is a fragility to it.   While it is strong enough for its work, it is not strong enough for decades of work.  There is a limit to how long it will serve the project. 

Scaffolding is serving as my metaphor for our flesh, or false self, or ego – that part of you and I that gets hurt, looks to be offended, is fragile, self-righteous – those bits of ourselves that long to be released and transformed into the release of “do not worry about your life” as Jesus invites us[1].   The false self is the part of us that people-pleases, lies, cheats a little, judges too much, does what we don’t want to do, hates ourselves and our enemies, and knows-it-all.  It is the part of us that is attached to how we think, to too much drink, and to too much food.  It is the part that keeps score, compares, and is self-righteous.     

Part of our spiritual journey is to de-construct the false self.  We typically begin this work in our mid-thirties, maybe earlier if you an early-griever – one who suffers when your peers have yet to.  The de-construction is initiated by suffering; by some event in which you do not have control, or you lost control.  This is suffering.  Maybe a decision turns out differently than you hoped, dreamed, or calculated.  Maybe the suffering was a mistake made by another person, but you took the hit – be it physically, financially, emotionally.  Maybe the job disappeared, the stock market corrected itself, the advice was not sound, or maybe your body betrayed you by being weak, ill, or fragile.  Whatever or however suffering arrived at your life’s door, it also held the invitation for de-construction of your scaffolding and for moving into the true-self, into the you who is detached from people’s opinions, from striving, from pushing the river.[2]

This invitation is about release, truth, and at times, shame.  But it is also about freedom, connection, compassion, and courage to live without needing to have control.[3] If you are suffering, trying to control what is not controllable, I encourage you connect with another seeker, or find a spiritual director.  The work of moving from the exterior of your life to the interior, to true self, is work best done with another person or two.  We are built to connect.  Connect with a spiritual director, he or she will journey with you as you discover your inner longings, inner voice, and inner compassion for self and others.  Courage, self-love, and an open heart that listens is what is needed as the scaffolding comes down. 


[1] Matthew 6:25.

[2] Matthew 6:32.

[3] Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead, (New York: Penguin Random House, 2012), chapter 3.

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