The Christian Journey: Walking without Jesus (or, you are not God’s robot)

Today’s post, “Following Jesus: The Road Untraveled,” is by Deborah B. Edgar, an MFT (that’s Marriage and Family Therapist) psychotherapist in private practice in Pasadena, CA. She is in hot pursuit of her PhD at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Depth Psychology and Hebrew Bible (which confirms my experience that people like me who work in Hebrew Bible need psychotherapy, but I suspect Deborah means something different). Her dissertation’s working title is “The Sacred Presence in the Healing of Trauma: The Courage to Walk On.” Deborah can be reached at deborah.edgar.mft@gmail.com, if the Spirit so moves, or through her website The Unselfish Journey.

Following Jesus: The Road Untraveled.

Perhaps on our Christian journey we go from the road traveled, to the road less traveled, to the road untraveled.

When the “sidewalk ends” (yes, I am thinking of that wonderful graphic on the front of Shel Silverstein’s book) we look down and around, and gulp!, find ourselves face to face with a moment in time—our time—where no one has gone before.

Not even Jesus.

There is no preset plan, a road “we must find or else…” All we’ve got is spirit in union and communion with Spirit. Spirit whispers peace in the unknown. Spirit speaks when there are no words. Spirit defends you to you, to others, to God. Spirit beckons courage to remain congruent with who you are and fosters the creativity within, which, by definition, has no preset mold.

In sum, Spirit both protects and urges this image of God in you: you are not God’s robot, but an organic, dynamic, alive, endlessly creating embodied being.

I bet I started to lose you at “not even Jesus.” And then even the utterance of the possibility of there being “no preset plan” sent you to your knees praying for another sister who has very near lost her salvation—hopefully it is not too late.

Please pray, by all means, but hear me out. When Jesus says “follow me,” I wonder what he is calling forth? I have always thought of it as the road less traveled, the “straight and narrow” verses the “broad road.” And I have Scripture to prove this to be so.

But what if the “straight and narrow” was just the beginning? What if the beginning was a set time, kind of like in Batman Begins, where Bruce Wayne trains in the Kingdom of Bhutan before returning to Gotham to live out his calling?

On the “straight and narrow” we learn a new landscape, a re-languaging, a re-experiencing of life in a new way, with a different set of assumptions, a healing, where we become familiar with new depths in our being we would never have guessed were there.

It’s all kinda like, eh-hem, a re-birth. Oh yeah, that—thanks St. John. Wherever our metaphorical Kingdom of Bhutan’s might be, a fundamental wrestling is done between old and new: what had been formed in us (old) is now being reformed through an ordeal. And that ordeal is Homeresque in quality. How could it not be? Our egos are being relativised.

But here’s the question: what if that was just the beginning road, the road less traveled?

We all know from the Gospels that that is the road we need to choose. And some of us actually do (which is hard to believe!). And then perhaps, once equipped, re-formed, and basically freed by the burdens of ego—dying to ourselves, as Jesus said—we come to where that road less traveled ends.

A fundamental change has happened: we can actually feel it at a deep embodied level. Subsequently, we look up and out, and behold: the road untraveled, our untraveled road, opens before us.

I know. All you can imagine this to be is a cutting off from Jesus. Finally, it is all about ME. But it is not that at all.

Remember, ego is not front and center anymore—we’ve done the hard work (better, God has done the hard work) of relativising it already. No, our union and communion with the Triune God does not end. Rather, we live in greater freedom of being within the oceanic and fearless life of the Trinity, the intimacy with Jesus and the Father than Jesus promised.

It would be to live now as we were truly created to live, as if Jesus actually effected something real for us on the cross and the empty tomb. Behold a new creation! The old has gone, and the new is here—thanks St. Paul.

Get this: if we are re-made in the image of the risen Christ who is creator of all things new, then we have the awesome fun and terrifying responsibility of creating something altogether new in the world.

One way to look at this would be to imagine following Jesus to the brink of the road less traveled—and what an ordeal that has been! (Step 1). Step 2: seeing the untraveled road before you, getting freaked out a little (okay, a lot!), and waiting for him to take the lead per usual, as with any Master to Servant relational covenant would have it. But instead, Step 3, hearing him beckon us to take it from there, to lead, to create the path, to follow our spirit, to be fully who we are, all within the boundary of his love.

Where can I go from your Spirit? (Ps. 139) Answer: nowhere.

He’s there. He never leaves us. He goes with us. You see, nothing of the road less traveled is lost; it is rather now second-nature, and it is part of the fundamental and essential material used to build our untraveled road, my untraveled road. There is still the wrestling to some extent with the old—let’s call this  ego flair-ups—but it is not the struggle that it used to be. It is altogether a new place in time—our time, and no one else’s.

It comes down to this: I am putting forth the idea that we actually can come into a mature relationship with Jesus, like the best of marriages, where there is a mutual respect for the other—a true playing out of union and communion. He fundamentally trusts us, and moves with us; and we fundamentally trust him, and we move with him.

And we live in that dance, as we continually make room for one another. Truly, we are no longer Master and Servant, but Friends. Thanks St. John (again.) Really. Concretely. In the here and now. Fellow-sojourners. He remains the “One in whom we live and move and have our being”: absolutely. (Oh, thanks St. Plato.)

There is no going back to the broad road, the road traveled. That’s out of the question. Indeed, we have tasted the feast of the road less traveled: how could we settle for Applebee’s or White Castle ever again? I mean really. He is Alpha and Omega, he is the Beginning and the End. But now to get to the End, we must take the road untraveled.

Step 4. Who’s in?

 

  • Mary Frances

    Always a good word from the almost-Dr. Edgar. Thanks Deb, I needed this today!

  • Jeff

    Actually the philosopher is Aratus not Plato, but I like this post. THE only explicit statement of God’s will for our life is to be holy – I Thess 4:3

    • http://www.theunselfishjourney.com Deborah Edgar

      Thanks Jeff for the correction: Aratus. I wonder, what does holiness look like?

  • Don Johnson

    She seems perhaps to be describing reaching a crisis point and then taking a (scary) step of faith.

    I recall where Cathy Kroeger shared about the first time she was helping a woman escape from her abuser and Cathy was scared out of her mind that she was disobeying God in a way that put her out of the camp. She did not (yet) have the theology to act as she was doing, just the compassion. But she acted in spite of her fear, in an attempt to limit the effects of evil. And God was faithful. And Cathy went on to help found the ministry of Peace and Safety in the Christian Home, to help those who found themselves in the place she was formerly and well as the abused.

    One way I describe my faith walk is a continuous process of metamorphosis, from catepillar to butterfly and then seeing yet again (with the Spirit’s help) how the butterfly was catepillar-like in a different way and still needed transforming. And then trusting the Spirit do it as I let go of my old ways.

  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    In.

    There is so much meat here but the point I’d like to reflect on is your statement, “You are not God’s robot, but an organic, dynamic, alive, endlessly creating embodied being.” I have long felt that creativity is one vehicle for helping us to understand the concept and process of resurrection, for all things die and re-emerge anew in the creative act. Art demands that we move towards “where the sidewalk ends” and faith requires that we jump. And God often meets us in the intersection of walking and leaping. Therefore, given this connection between creativity and spirituality, I simply love Genesis 1 in how it describes form emerging from a void or watery chaos and the fact that Wisdom was present at God’s side, as he brought the world into being.

    True wisdom keeps the ego in check and human creativity reflects the Imago Dei within each of us. And He is the Master under whom we apprentice.

    I also love the batman analogy for the Holy Spirit often takes us through an alchemical process – i.e.
    “All the false notions of myself
    That once cause fear, pain,
    Have turned to ash
    As I neared God.” – Hafiz

    Thanks for the post.

    • http://www.theunselfishjourney.com Deborah Edgar

      Yes. Thanks for your reply to this. Wisdom is the dynamic of being. And in this age of globalization, I hope that there can be a return or refocus on developing wisdom so that we are not statically stuck to theological propositions that no longer breathe new life into us. (I probably will be struck down for suggesting this. I’m a Gen Xer, what can I say?)
      You must have a little Jung in you with your references to the alchemical process and to Hafiz. Yes?

  • http://craigvick.wordpress.com Craig Vick

    Thanks for the great metaphor. Hopefully, you’ll forgive me for kicking the tires just a bit. The weakness of the metaphor is, in my not always as humble as it should be view, it doesn’t adequately take into account that we as human beings are fundamentally social beings. Our creativity, for example is given purpose in the context of community.

    • http://www.theunselfishjourney.com Deborah Edgar

      Kick away! Indeed, creativity is never a-relational. We are social because God is social in nature– the Trinity, 3-in-1. In fact, one cannot fully become without an “other”– this has been argued as philosophically true and theologically true forever. Interestingly, with the advent of epigenetics in the last 10 years or so, science is confirming this too. However, there are those who diffuse themselves too easily in “community” so that they have very little felt-sense difference between their “I” and their “community”. Some communities, Christian or otherwise, make too quickly the move to community without care of the individual(s) who make up the community, thereby unwittingly dismissing the diverse and complex creativity pregnant in the community itself.

  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    @ Deborah – Thanks for responding. I do have a little Jung in me and am also a MFT in California. I’m going to zap you an email, as we may have some overlapping interests and vocational leanings. BTW – Your thesis sounds great!
    @ Craig and Deborah – your responses on creativity being relational are wonderful. The only thing I’d add relates to the comment that “our creativity is given purpose in the context of community.” While this is definitely true, I also invite the consideration that the act of creating can have purpose both in and outside of community. Here in the West we put so much emphasis on creativity as product vs. process but in an ideal world, creativity is completely interwoven into the fabric of daily life, even when God is the only witness to our endeavors (and thus creativity remains relational). When I was referring to creativity, I was relating to it in a more global context beyond an aesthetic product. And as long as He is the Master under whom we apprentice, our expressions have beautiful purpose – and even more so when our creativity breathes life and hope into others.

    • http://www.theunselfishjourney.com Deborah Edgar

      I like the idea that creativity is interwoven in our lives vs. being split off, and operating only within a certain sphere… As with God, we can’t help but be creative.
      @Lise– zap away!

  • Jennifer

    I resonate deeply with the end of the road being the place of freedom, uncharted as calculated growth, rather relaxing into a relationship in which we are graced with the clothing of Jesus and the breath of the Holy Spirit. Ironically getting there usually requires a stripping of my own cherished clothing which I believe makes me beautiful. It isn’t until I find myself dancing that I realize I am no longer wearing my old rags but the depth of the relationship with Love.
    Thank you Debbie for your ability to use metaphors and similes when sharing about the Kingdom of God. Your creativity and insight is refreshing.

    • http://www.theunselfishjourney.com Deborah Edgar

      ooh– I love “it isn’t until I find myself dancing that I realize that I am no longer wearing my old rags…” May you have more and more experiences of this deep level dance with Love.

  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    @Pete – I am a little biased that we can all benefit from therapy. :) That said, I was once told that the Hebrew letters were sacred and healing, particularly when working with them. Given that, you’re probably better off then many of us…

  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    Correction: are sacred and healing (vs. were) and better off than (vs. then) many of us. When will I learn to proof read what I write before hitting “post”? Now I need therapy….

    • peteenns

      I have never once heard a Hebrew student say Hebrew was therapeutic. :-)

      • http://www.theunselfishjourney.com Deborah Edgar

        I once wrote a paper for Goldingay for Wisdom Lit, where I put Proverbs to Song of Songs to Job to Ecclesiastes in a developmental trajectory towards Wisdom. Psalms were the “gut” dialogues with God on the journey towards Wisdom being born is us. I do think that if one is engaged with life, not just through one’s cognitive faculties, but through various methods of knowing (body, soul, experientially), Wisdom Lit provides wonderful companionship through the twists and turns of life. I am sure that this is what Pete is doing :)

  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    Deborah – very cool. Pete – I was given some prints of paintings depicting each Hebrew letter and oddly enough, they are comforting and soothing. Go figure.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Deborah,
    Today I have been reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ newest book “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion and the Search for Meaning”. It was amazing to take a break and turn to your essay – had I really changed authors? I’m not talking about words, and certainly Jews and Christians use different emphases. But, important, fundamental ideas are so similar in, for example Sacks’ chapter entitled “Human Dignity” and your essay that it was a delight to read them almost together. Beautiful work!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X