I learned about archetypes several years back from a Wayne Dyer tape a friend lent to me. He described the various phases we transition through as we age, or at least hope to transition through–child, cowboy, warrior, statesman, sage.
The 90’s was my warrior phase and my wife was dragged along for ride. We built a house, started a family, became a business owner, killed it in the stock market…all the things that every other overzealous middle-adult-child-of-an-alcoholic did. Bigger, faster, better. And I projected this energy into every aspect of my life. Including my faith life.
We were attending a small Episcopal church in our town and I was asked to join the Vestry which is the lay leadership council. Soon I was Senior Warden, the big shit, weighing in on decisions, feeling self-important and learning all the right things to do and say in the Anglican liturgy. Well, almost all the right things that is. The Suffragan Bishop paid a visit one Easter to preside over the vigil service. I volunteered for cantor duties as I was full of confidence from diving into just about everything else with the attitude that I would grow wings on the way down.
I should have practiced.
Three bars into the Vigil I realized I was over my head. I badly faked my way through the rest of it. Bishop Hampton, a tall and lanky silver haired Dr. Welby mid-westerner type was kind and didn’t protest. I think he prayed for me.
Undeterred, I reveled in the hierarchy of the church, even attending a couple of the annual Diocesan conventions as a delegate. Rubbing elbows with the movers and shakers from Seattle made me feel important and I was immersed in what I thought was important work. In all of this however, there was this undercurrent–an inkling of sorts that there had to be more to a faith life than this. As if I were play acting. I talked out loud to God about this, mainly in the car when I was driving by myself, but they were nothing more than one-sided conversations. Absent of anything else to do, I continued on, questioning.
Then September 11, 2001 came and initiated what I have since coined the grand trifecta: First the the terrorist attacks, which left me feeling numb and angry. Six months later my dad died from Alzheimer’s. Though we had expected his death would come sooner than later with his failing health, it still came as a surprise and made the surreal even more so. Six months after his death, my mom died from metastatic breast cancer. As with Dad, we knew her time was limited when her cancer returned, however this was different.
With Mom’s death came a sense of urgency and clarity about my life, about who I was and what I was put here to do. More to share later, but suffice to say her death brought on a reconciling of sorts about my faith. In particular, with Jesus. He had always been a part of my tradition, but in a history book, mythic figure sort of way that I would awkwardly pray to because that was what I was taught to do. Pray that is…when I was in church at the right moment in the service, or before I went to bed just in case I died in my sleep. Because that is what I was taught.
But I was also being pulled in different directions of spiritual contemplation, much of it influenced by Mom because she was a seeker of spiritual truth from many different faiths and that impacted me. I rather fancied the diverse approach as well, picking and choosing bits and peices of faith truth, like grazing at the salad bar. The problem was, that approach wasn’t transforming either. Mind you, I was not caught up (nor still am) in the theological cluster-F-of-an-argument around John 14:6 that many of my staunch Christian brothers and sisters aggressively defend. But still, I was yearning for a critical mass to my faith.
And I kept coming back to the history book. The mythic figure Jesus to pray to, and especially in the days and weeks following the trifecta, I was asking Him some hard WTF questions like, “who am I supposed to I follow?”
And He finally responded. Like a hoot owl calling in the quiet foggy morning.
“You have to choose, Rick.”
I paused, for a minute, or maybe it was a month, or a year, and then in a bread-in-the-toaster, morning-coffee-moment sort of way, I responded.
“I choose you.”
And then I said,
“I don’t get the cross.”
And the Owl hooted back,
“In time, you will know.”