* to encourage a reasoned awareness of how our beliefs impact the way we interact with the world around us
* to foster intelligent and open dialogue
* to inspire a sense of spirituality that has real meaning in day-to-day life

Monday, March 9, 2015

John 11 Pharisees and Daleks

Another thing about the Lazarus story is the reaction of people after the miracle. Whatever metaphorical meaning we might draw from it, the legend is about a man coming back from the dead because of Jesus' miraculous power. One of the real lessons of the tale comes after that event, however.

In the story, Jesus is emotional. While there's nothing explicit about exactly why he's emotional, it's easy to assume many believable reasons. Maybe death is always a sad occasion, although that seems strange for someone who also expresses utter confidence that he can bring Lazarus back to life. Maybe he is grieved by the attitudes of people around him, people who had seen the example of his life and still don't get it. Perhaps he is disturbed in this story because others seemed to have brilliant insights into what he should have done -- armchair messiahs as it were -- but don't actually have much affirming to say about Jesus' decisions.

Even after Lazarus is back among the living, there are some people who don't like that one bit. Some folks celebrate the miracle, of course, but others run and tell the religious officials, who in turn react out of their own fear. They decide that they need to take Jesus out of the picture (which, according to the story, they had already decided awhile back, but we won't quibble with the narrative). Their reaction to a self-differentiated purposeful person who can bring people back from the dead is extermination, which makes me imagine all the Jewish leaders running around like Daleks from Dr Who shouting "Exterminate! Exterminate!"

As amusing as that image is, people are like that. When you or I decide to do something because of our own deep values, because of our own connection with our deepest, most noble self, there will be people who can only react with hostility. Their fear doesn't allow any other response.

We aren't always graceful with the choices we make, but once in a while we manage to do something extraordinary. That scares the dickens out of some people. Extraordinary or unexpected behavior seems like a threat for some reason, and instead of recognizing the value of what we are doing -- instead of finding ways to do extraordinary things in their own lives -- they focus on criticizing, dismissing, excommunicating, and even eliminating the people they see as dangerous.

Accept this for what it is: Some people aren't ready for you to be a person of radical integrity and intention. And it's alright. They don't have to be. You don't have to wait for other people to give you permission to live into a best possible version of yourself. They might be amazed at your life or inspired by what you create. They might shun you or start shouting, "Exterminate!" Either way, your choice to live intentionally with integrity to your guiding principles is not about them. It's about you. It's about living into the vision you hold of a best possible version of yourself.

As with everything else in our lives, it is up to us to choose how we will respond to people's hostility. We might back off, settle into old familiar patterns, and let the water settle. This is an understandable choice, and it's one I've personally made many times. I made preserving those relationships more important than living into the life I most wanted. It was a decision to have the external appearance of peace rather than an internal reality of peace.

From my experience, that easy option is overrated. If we are going to grow closer to a best possible version of ourselves, the reality is that we are going to outgrow some relationships. Just like we outgrew our clothes as a child. This is sad. We want the people we care about to celebrate with us, but they aren't always able to do so. Our connection with some people may change over time. The good news is that there are other relationships we can grow into. It still takes time and commitment to nurture relationships, but we can always find relationships to nurture if we are willing. The other good news is that there are people who are willing to grow with us -- perhaps even people who are models of growth to us. And the complex array of emotions that we experience is all part of the journey toward a best possible version of ourselves.

May we continue to grow into a practice of radical integrity. May we continue to invite the people around us to journey with us. And may we gracefully allow them whatever response or reaction they offer us in response, as vulnerable as that may feel to us.

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