Leaving the Cocoon

Sometimes, you have to be snatched out of your comfort zone in order to move into the next phase of your life.

I have written about myself being reclusive, comfortably snug in a cocoon of my own making. I have known for a while that I needed to come of out the cocoon, but I have been reluctant to do so. So, God snatched me out.

The will of God, I believe, is for us all to be all He/She created us to be. The recent economic crisis has resulted in not a few people realizing, or discovering, parts of themselves that they didn’t know existed. Entrepreneurs have been born out of despair and panic.

God must be smiling.

There is something about being out of a cocoon that is radically liberating. Scary …but liberating…because being out of one’s comfort zone and thrown off the cliff, so to speak, and being told to fly is a tipping point. You either fly, flapping the wings you didn’t know you had …or you crash and burn.

In trying to figure out how to flap the wings you didn’t even realize you had, you lose the time you had to concentrate on feeling afraid or angry because of your situation. You have too much work to do. To worry or give too much time to what caused you to be “out there” is to pull valuable time away from learning how to discover and then use the wings you always had.

I think God must rejoice at times like these. God must smile and say, “finally.” So many of us remain closed up in our cocoons and never get to experience the freedom that comes when one is out of it, so when some of us break free, or, as in my case, are snatched out, God surely must smile.

The late Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote an amazing, book called God In Search of Man.  In it, he writes that “self-deception is the chief source of corruption in religious thinking, more deadly than error.” He also writes that “religion is liable to distortion from without and to corruption from within …Faith, in its zeal, tends to become bigotry.”

It occurs to me that many of us commit bigotry against ourselves, blaming religion and religious teaching for the same.  We discriminate against ourselves and hold ourselves back because of our lack of faith in ourselves and in God, who desires that we fly.  When we commit bigotry against ourselves, we are more likely to feel bigotry from others because we have created a spiritual culture in which bigotry, whether self-imposed or from the outside, can and does flourish.

Staying in a safe place, in a cocoon, is a petri dish in which self-deceptive words, feelings and attitudes multiply and too many of us do not realize how we are blocking the will of God, which is that all of us would be free.

Religious doctrine and political ideology have been blamed for a lot of the non-movement of human beings, but the fact is that many of us have prevented ourselves from moving. We don’t dare.  We would rather be holed up in an old cocoon than to burst out of it, “following our bliss,” as Joseph Campbell advises us all to do. And in not following our bliss, too many of remain dolefully unhappy and unfulfilled in these very few days we are allotted on earth.

If being in relationship with God is supposed to be liberating, which I believe it is, then many of us “cocoon dwellers” miss it., Richard Rohr writes, “… but in most of history the priestly tradition has been in control and defined religion. “Leviticus and Numbers” usually trump any real exoduses from slavery to freedom.” That phrase struck me, as I realize many of us enslave ourselves, in spite of deep religious beliefs. We humans all need a personal Exodus experience, and Rohr writes that it is as much an internal as an external journey. That’s what “liberation theology” is basically about…but too many of us don’t understand.

I didn’t understand, and so God snatched me out of my cocoon. I was so comfortable there;  I yearn for it at times …but I am kind of liking this feeling of wings that are slowly drying out and spreading. I am beginning to live my way into a new way of thinking. Wings are spreading, slowly …

It’s better than the cocoon.

A candid observation …

Being Careful About What You Ask For

At the beginning of a series of sermons I did on prayer, I shared with the congregation that I was praying that my prayer would lead to a life-changing experience.

Well, I got my wish!

You always hear old people say, “be careful what you pray for,” and they say that for a reason. It’s because when you put the desire of your spirit “out there,” the universe receives it. The universe definitely received my prayer request…as did God.

The experience of having such a powerful prayer request granted has thrown me off just a bit. I should have specified what kind of life-changing experience I was looking for. I knew that I felt inadequate as a pastor, I knew that I felt, actually, like a failure in that capacity. But I also knew that in the areas of being a pastor where I am good, I was really good.

Well, God has jokes. God answered my prayer. I have resigned my role as pastor. I am scared out of my mind about what my “next steps” will be. I believe that God is faithful…but I don’t know what my life will look like after November 30 of this year.

In this place of newness, I am learning new things about God, and about things I have always believed in, like, for instance, baptism. There are three symbols of baptism, as listed in the Bible: death, burial and resurrection. Certainly, in some experiences, in order to be transformed, the “old” us has to die and be buried before the new “us” can resurrect. I am convinced, however, that baptism is not a single  event, but is, rather, a series of experiences. In other words, in this life, we “die” rather frequently as we move closer to becoming who God intends for us to be and do. We cannot move forward until the “old” us dies …and is buried.

Well, the “old” Susan has taken her last breath. Burial is pending…but so is resurrection.

This dying, being buried and then being resurrected, while it sounds nice, is rather painful. While I have complete faith and trust in God, I do not like the pain of dying. It really hurts!  And yet, nothing new can come until something old has died. Even as I write this, the leaves of summer are dying and falling to the ground.

I wonder what the United States would be like if it allowed the “old”  United States, you know, the USA that was founded on a principle of equality but has moved forward in a culture based on inequality and oppression of  “the least of these.” Indeed, my reading and finding out that our own country had deep involvement in the Eugenics Movement, has sobered me. I wonder what would happen if our country would “own up” to its sins of oppression and discrimination, and ask God for that spirit which still exists to die, what our country would ultimately look and be like.

We would hurt for a bit, but we would be transformed. After death and burial, newness comes. It is inevitable. I know…because I am living it.

As we are in this 2012 presidential election cycle, I find myself, a woman who asked for transformation and who is getting it, asking God to show me my transformation means for my life, my work and my ministry. I wonder if President Obama or Governor Romney have transformation of our country and its policies on their minds.

Probably not.  Too painful. Too involved.

But if a new USA could arise out of this election, and if that resurrected USA could begin to see “the least of these” in a new way, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Nothing new comes from something old.

A candid observation …