Meditation: "Can't Go Back"
'by Debbie Cesie
Sunday, May 15, 2022
If we look back to the first Easter of Covid we will remember we were all expressing a deep longing to return to normal. For many, Easter seemed almost meaningless in the new locked-down world. Now, into the third year, although the vaccines and less deadly variants have offered us glimpses of normal, we are still not back to that desired place
we naturally long to return to.
The lesson in all this, and it is a hard one, is that we are not going to get back to that life thinking about what was, or by holding on to how it used to be. Let’s look at the resurrection narrative we recently heard in John’s Gospel;
Mary Magdalene tried to cling to the Risen Jesus who had just made himself known. But he discouraged her and helped her to see that the reality she knew and experienced was gone. He, her relationship with him, and their world, were all changed.
She had to find the courage and strength to move forward, for the life she now sought was not behind her but ahead.
Like Mary, in times when we don’t know what the future will look like and we cannot have the life we once knew, we ALSO have to let go of our temptation to cling to the past, the familiar, the safe, and we have to step into the new reality that awaits
us—whatever it may be. Yet, instead, many of us try to hang on for dear life to what God is calling us to leave behind, whether it be a job, a relationship, a house, an opportunity, something comfortable, something rewarding and enjoyable, something
familiar and what seems secure to us. How many of us get into God’s face waving our little fists and silver spoons, declaring that we can’t possibly make the change He is calling us to make.
Imagine how Abraham felt when God told him to leave behind his country and home, his family and friends, absolutely everything he had known. His response to God was to get up and go, despite how foolish and terrifying it might have seemed to leave behind everything without knowing where he was going or what would happen outside of God’s promise which must have seemed incredibly far-fetched, if not intangible, to make him a father of many nations and bless him. When God tells us to leave someone or something behind and to go where He is sending us, he is asking us to believe, trust and go. Yet again, many of us do the exact opposite, refusing to trust, refusing to take our feet off the brakes, stubbornly and fearfully clutching to everything or anything, everyone or anyone right where we are, refusing to pack our bags, insisting everything stay the same, and be as it has always been.
We are not on this Earth to wave our little magic wands at God so He will answer to our every wish and want while we cling with all our might to what we desire and want.
In the two-thousand-year-old allegory, Platos famous myth of the cave, which is found in book 7 of his masterpiece ‘The Republic’, tells about a group of prisoners who were bound and chained from childhood at the bottom of a dark cave, their legs and necks fixed and facing in one direction, so, all they could see was what was in front of them. The world in which they lived was composed entirely of shadows projected on the wall by a fire that burned behind them.
One day one brave soul breaks out of his chains and with his heart in his mouth, he stumbles through the darkness to walk from the bottom of the cave up to the light. Once he reached the top of the cave the light blinded him. His eyes had become so accustomed to the dark that this change was unbearable and terrifying. At this stage of his journey the darkness of the Cave was preferable to the pain he was experiencing, but in time his eyes adjusted to the light so that he could see clearly. He realized for the first time that this world of light was the real world, and the world inside the cave was but a pale imitation. Instead of a fire being the source of shadows and light, he understood now the fire is in fact the sun.
Excited to share this news with his friends he descends into the darkness of the cave once again, and once again his eyes take time to adjust from brightness to darkness, but his mind knows what to expect this time. He makes it to the bottom of the cave, where his friends are still chained. With great passion and excitement, he tells them about what he has seen and
points out that the wall they are staring is not all there is. There is a whole world BEHIND them if they could just be brave enough to leave the darkness of the pit behind. He warns them about the blindness that he first experienced going from the dark to the
light but shares that just as his did, their eyes would adjust.
Yet, instead of excitement and curiosity in their eyes he sees fear and hostility. They wonder if the blindness he experienced had harmed him permanently. He feels dejected by their attitude and realizes a line has been drawn, he has become an outsider for ever. He will never go back and live in darkness and they will never have the courage to live in the light.
Just like the prisoners chained in the cave we can make company with thoughts, ideas, prejudices, people, things, or situations, and chain ourselves to them. Our older way of doing things or ways of existing, feel familiar and in times of change whether wanted or unwanted, we can waver at the threshold of the old and the new. Often this experience is very painful and can hinder us from moving forward to good or better things. During these times we often teeter between falling apart and breaking open.
These two might at first seem a lot alike, but there are differences. Any change can make us better or bitter depending on whether we accept it as a blessing or burden. Any change can make us dig our heels in and stagnate or it can make us grow and adapt as we are meant to do.
Again, we look at Abraham who became a father of many nations. This would have never been possible if he had not let go of the comfortable, the familiar, and what he had known for so long, and departed with the Lord leading the way.
Barbara Brown Taylor talks about her own life when God was telling her it was time move on.
"Despite all my best efforts", she says, “I can only say that the lights went off in my life (literally and figuratively), plunging me into the kind of darkness that turned my knees to water, a place that I surely did not expect to survive nor was I sure I
wanted to. Nonetheless she says…I did not die. The monsters did not drag me out of bed and take me back to their den. The witches did not turn me into a bat. Instead, I have learned things in that empty and bottomless dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again."
We can all walk from the known to the unknown, we can all master change, go from a place of fear to a place of love and we can do that because we do not cross these thresholds alone. If we call upon God, he will walk with us and carry us if needed
through these journeys, he will remind us that as a beloved child of God we carry the spark of divine love within us that gives us strength and courage, and that when we are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward us with a new hello.
All Glory be to God.