Seedling plants come in these little plastic containers which are great at first but later become a prison that will suffocate and eventually kill an otherwise flourishing plant.
It requires a new container. More space. Fewer boundaries.
We all come to the limits of our containers. For some, the rules become unbearable. The tension and pain of pressing against a constant limitation drives some people to just quit struggling and settle into a life of taking the shape of the container–Just like a root bound plant. After a while they don’t even notice their slow death and once they become the container, those outside the system are painful reminders of the expanded self they once forfeited for the protection of the walls.
Inside the walls of family, religion, regulation, rules, and conformity lies power, protection, and an identity if you will accept the trade. Your energy to make the system work in exchange for an identity. Your life for it’s.
But some people just can’t settle in. The dying required to stay does not seem noble as it is spun from the inside, instead it feels eternal and permanent.
What is it that calls some people to leave their formative container?
When I was living within my formative container, (matrix, system, whatever…) I believed that those who left did so out of rebellion or some deficiency of character. The insiders always had harsh words, threats, and judgement for those who would leave. Now that I have left, I am more likely to see the leaving of others not as rebellion, but as integrity.
Integrity to what? What is is that calls people onward and upward or deeper or further?
It’s not instinct. We have the herd instinct, most like to do what others are doing. No, being called out is more than that. It comes from a voice we cannot disobey.
People have so many words, phrases and stories for this kind of escape or hunger for liberation. It’s a Shawshank Redemption story.
It could be an inner city minority who desires to free herself from being another generation on welfare. As her education surpasses those in her family she is actually ridiculed, insulted, and sometimes threatened if she would leave the projects and go toward her better life. Her rising up comes at a cost of her original identity.
It could be a man or woman who finds themselves in an acceptable marriage but one that has been highly dissatisfying. Leaving it comes at a huge social and financial cost. He/she is judged and criticized by the others who have opted to settle with their dissatisfying marriages. Some who stay have chosen duty over love and they tell him/her that true love is not real and that he/she is just going through a mid life crisis or phase. Their rising up comes at the cost of their original identity.
Is this what Jesus meant when he said; “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) In other words, if we would follow that call to possess our most authentic self found in God, we must first escape our false self as defined by our formative containers.
It’s no wonder some people just can’t or won’t escape. The gravity inside is very strong.
I’m convinced the call to leave in order to grow is the voice of God. The voices that keep us small and stuck are all surrogate gods, religious shadow figures, even adversaries, who would have you not go after your truest self or best possible life. The voice to settle seems the most sinister of them all because it convinces us that our efforts won’t work or that the pursuit is itself is actually sinful.
Abraham is the patriarch of the world’s three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The story in Genesis 12:1 says that Yahweh told Abraham to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” We know now that this land was the “promised land”. Of course Abraham doesn’t get there personally, it was generations later that it sort of happened.
This may be a historical story but the historical details are not what makes this true. It’s true because it is true at much higher levels. It’s the story that emerges between the lines that is so helpful. It’s a story of a man who purportedly had great faith. He believed and followed this calling voice and it required him to leave family and enter an exile.
The journey never really ended with him. He passed it on to his kids. Abraham died looking. So did Isaac, so did Jacob, so did Joseph then 400 years of descendants then finally Moses himself got to look at it but didn’t get to go in. When Joshua entered, it was anything but peaceful, it was constant war. Abraham was a father of a nation of exiles. The first “Church” perhaps.
We all leave by thinking the arrival at “the land the Lord will show us” is the goal. It’s not until we are in the exile, when we have forfeited power, belonging and solidarity that we discover that “the Land” is actually the self that is forged by the journey. The going is not a means to an end, it is the end itself. It is the end of one self and the birth of another.
This dying, then reliving is a cycle and a story that is also archetypical. It is the messianic story. It is the cosmic Christ living in you, the journeyman. First you question your system, then you reject your system, then you are rejected by it, betrayed, and hung out to die outside of town. You had no idea you were following him, but just look at your life, you are stepping right in his footsteps. Your life is a modern retelling of the same story.
(Here’s a brain buster: When Adam & Eve “disobeyed” they did so for the knowledge of good and evil. To truly expand where they were. They left the confines of their formative container in order to expand themselves. The amazing thing here is that they were never more “like God” than after they left. (Genesis 3:22). Being like God is the whole sum of religion. God sent them as he/she sends you. God ensured we would be sent (read “Go”) out of the garden into the exile of the world in order to be what we could never be in the garden. Jesus was not plan “B”, he was our cosmic role model. The garden was never the goal, the exile was.)
You suffer, then you rise again. Better than before. Bigger than before.
Solidarity is now with those who escaped, and compassion is for those who haven’t yet.
You’re now free to go back. But like revisiting your kindergarten class, you realize the chairs and desks are so small. This can never be your home again.
And you realize then that you have been saved.
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