That's My Story and I'm Sticking To ItDate: February 25, 2018 By: Fe Anam Avis
As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens breaking open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness and he was there for forty days, being tempted by Satan.
Dante Alighieri begins his Divine Comedy with these lines:
“In the middle of the journey of our life
I came to myself within a dark wood,
where the true way was totally lost.”
Commenting on these lines, the poet David Whyte observes: “You can almost hear a sense of relief in these lines. It is as if the author is saying, ‘I came to a point in life where I could not keep telling the same story because that story was patently untrue. Perhaps it had always been untrue, but he felt he had to tell it anyway. Harder still, perhaps it had been true for a season in his life, had helped expand his character and achieve important goals, but realizes now it is no longer true.’”
Jesus must have come to just this point in his life. Here was a carpenter, a man with a job, and a means of self-support. He apparently owned a home, was loved by his family, and respected by his community. At some point Jesus realized that he could no longer tell this story about himself because it was patently untrue. At the core of his being he was not a carpenter, he was not the hometown boy everyone thought he was, nor was he the golden boy that his family thought he was. To pretend that he was would trigger his own self-destruction.
The baptism of Jesus represented a profound moment in his life when realized he had to change the story of who he was and find his voice as a healer teacher. By this action he would confuse nearly everyone. Ultimately he would be sustained by a solitary voice, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
He was then driven into the wilderness where he would go through one of the most trying periods of his life. That’s a story for a later time. For now it is important to say that many people that I’ve talked to have come to a similar point in their lives. While they may not handle it as sinlessly as the Son of God, they come to themselves in some profound way and are faced with the difficult decision of either changing the story they tell others about themselves, or hiding for the rest of their days on earth.
These people, like Jesus, are driven into a wilderness to face one of the most difficult experiences of their lives. It is no wonder that the highest suicide rate for both men and women is around 50 years of age.
A number of years ago, my spiritual director gave me this exercise:
“First thing every day, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you are feeling. Then ask yourself this question: ‘When did Jesus feel this way?”
It was through that exercise that Jesus became real to me.
If you have awakened in Dante’s dark wood where the true way has been totally lost, if you realize that you can’t keep telling the same story, don’t run, don’t despair, and for heaven’s sake, don’t harm yourself. Take courage. You have an entire community of human beings who have faced this wilderness. Most importantly, you have Jesus as your brother. Stay with us.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
e. e. cummings