The following blog post was written for State of Formation Online in response to this month’s theme of rebirth.State of Formation Online is a blogging collective of young up-and-coming scholars who enjoy musing about ethics, theology, and academics. They are largely ecumenical and interfaith and range from chaplains to Imams. To view the original post visit: http://www.stateofformation.org/2014/06/death-and-rebirth/
The following story, regardless of how bizarre and strange it may sound is entirely true. No part of it is made up. Once upon a time, I lived in a castle. The castle was made of pride, arrogance, and disbelief. The castle had high walls not allowing anyone else entrance into it unless they first walked past a knight in shining armor and a fire breathing dragon. The castle also was staffed day in and day out by handsome butlers, frivolous maids, and the best tutors in the land. Yet, even though the castle was gigantic, I was the only one who lived in it.
This castle became my safe haven. My sanctuary, and rarely did I venture out of its protective gates. All around me I could hear the noises of city life, the skipping and frolicking of young school children, and the occasional dog barking, yet, rather than engage I chose to shut all this noise out.
The castle was gigantic, but yet I was the only one who lived in it and that could get lonely at times. My butlers and waitresses did a good job, but they could not fill the hole in my heart needed for friendship, laughter, and light-hearted jests.
This is the castle I lived in my whole life until one day I died. It may sound strange, but there never came a time in my life when I questioned what was truly happening outside the castle until the day that I was pronounced dead by the court doctor, Dr. Love-Kindness. Dr. Love-Kindness was the most well trained physician in the whole Kingdom of Greed and yet although he lived within the vicinity of Greed, he himself was a doctor who always practiced equality, justice, and mercy. Dr. Love-Kindness was married to a famous religious leader, Mrs. Gold-Heart. Mrs. Gold-Heart lived a life of service to everyone regardless of their socio-economic background, their apparent abilities or disabilities, and their ethnicity. It was from Mrs. Gold-Heart that Dr. Love-Kindness had acquired his passion not only for medicine but moreover for helping people in ethical ways and his desire to see the gates of the palace open so that love come flow to and from it. Yet, although at many times Dr. Love-Kindness suggested this to me, I simply shut out his words as being completely void of meaning.
Once upon a time, I died, and it is in that death, that a mysterious rebirth happened. You see, outside of my self-enclosed castle of cynicism, doubt, and self-seeking, lived a poor peasant boy who always begged me to come out of my room. He used to sit just underneath my window, playing his little harp and making up little ditties. Although never musically trained, that much was apparent, his voice was not half-bad and he did have a knack for rhyming schemes. Once I heard him venture closer to the front of the castle begging the knight to let him in. The knight turned him away. “Please,” the boy begged “I have no bread and I am starving. Yet inside this castle lives a princess who has all the food she could ever want and more. Please. If she will only spare a loaf of bread, I will be full and leave you all alone.” I heard the dragon snorting fire. It was in this moment that my heart gave way and I died.
I did not die a physical death, but I died the death that all men and women must die. I died to myself. In the Christian Scriptures, the Apostle Paul writes that the old man must be put to death in order that the new man may live. What is this old man made up of? Pride, deceit, and the work of the flesh. What is the new person made up of? Love, gentleness, and compassion. Paul writes that the person who lives by the Holy Spirit must also keep in STEP with the Holy Spirit. That means never going too far ahead of God’s plan for his or her life nor staying back in the comfortable space when God is nudging them forward.
You see, all of my life I considered myself a Christian. I was brought up in the church, acted like a good little church girl, and did all the necessary things to present a good image of who I was. Yet, as all people must come to realize, at the core of who I was, I was not seeking the betterment of society but only of my own self. In order to experience the fullness of my potential, I had to unlock the gates of my heart, to slay the dragon of envy and bitterness and to unarm the Knight of malice. Instead, I had to open up my heart to the poor, the least of these, and the broken-hearted. Instead of a palace of mortar and brick I needed to surround my Kingdom with the flowers of peace and forgiveness.
This story is entirely true as bizarre as it may sound. Every single thing happened in it just as I have written it. Not a single word is made up. Once upon a time I died, however, I did not stay dead, but was resurrected to a new life and to new possibilities. Once upon a time I left my castle, ventured into the scary and unpredictable world, and chose a life of service and humility instead of honour and dignity. Yet, once I chose the life of service, I began to see that as I emulated Christ, my life solely began to change for the better. I noticed I had more friends. I noticed I started making more of a difference, and I noticed that all around I felt happier.