I have listening to an epic fantasy audiobook on my evening commute. At one point, one of the main characters is tied outside, hanging upside down, to be “judged by the StormFather,” being exposed to the equivalent of a hurricane. If he lives through the “high storm” he will be considered to have passed the StormFather’s judgment. Of course, because he is a main character and it is a fantasy, he lives through the storm after having been ravaged by the winds, his skin flayed and scoured by the rocks and debris kicked up by the storm.
As odd as it sounds, I have at times felt as though I was lashed to a tree in the middle of a pounding storm. My clothing stripped away, I too survive the storm, bruised, breathless, and sodden, holding on for dear life so as not to be blown away. Naked and exhausted there is nothing left of anything material. It is just me there. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.”
Anyone who has read my blogs on the regular knows that I am a big fan of metaphors. So while it sounds dramatic to have been laid bare by a metaphorical storm, internally I have felt that way. There have been times in my life when I felt like the external trappings of life were stripped away from me. While I always knew theoretically that my life and worth were not defined by things like my job, my home, a loving relationship, etc., in practice it was much more difficult to feel my value when all those things were lost to me within the span of a few months. A storm had blown through my life, and with it any illusions about who I was in those particular contexts were gone.
Who am I now, if not associated with those things and am no longer identified by them? What is my true worth? I suppose life is a constant redefinition and reevaluation of one’s value when based in a particular context. There are things with which we are associated that shape and define how the world sees us and often how we see ourselves. When I was a single parent, I identified with that role. It became a badge I sewed on my sash of identities and identifiers (yes, another metaphor…picture here girl or boy scout sashes filled with merit badges). I had a lot of different badges, and at the point in my life when a particularly harsh storm blew through my sash was tattered and my badges scattered to the four winds. In short, I felt stripped down to nothing.
In such a moment, how does one define oneself? This is the struggle of the ego. When laid bare before the storm, when a number of significant the things with which I identified were gone, the question became, “Who am I without these things?” The ego answer might very well be, “nothing,” but the truth might be “Everything.” My wholeness cannot be dependent on things, no matter how wonderful and “deserved” those things may be. I must be whole without them because they are transient and not real. In one area of my life right now I find that I am in the midst of a storm. I have lashed myself down and am waiting to see what will remain when it has passed. I am not afraid, I am resolute.
This is another one of those posts when I wish I could more clearly convey what I’m feeling. When I feel myself in the midst of an epic struggle, I know I am letting go of things that no longer serve me. I’m untying them and letting them blow away. Things that the world tells me should matter, things with which I used to identify, I am attempting to unclench my hands, not grasp them so tightly, and see if I can let them go. I am not yet sure how to do this, but I’m hoping I get it sorted soon.
As we come into the last week of Lent, as we prepare this week to enter the passion of Christ, we know that Jesus is about to face his storm. He will be stripped bare, taunted, beaten, and tortured, brutalized physically, mentally, and emotionally, before he is crucified and killed in unimaginable ignominy and pain. In the season of Lent, as we find our way to the end of these 40 days, it is this week where–for me at least–the introspection and reflection deepens. And so we will see how it unfolds during this most solemn of times, Holy Week. And so it goes.