65. On Death and Resurrection
It's incredibly relevant to me because a life-enhancing disease means that something must and will die. There is no getting around that part of it.
The story is that Jesus is betrayed by Judas, is tried, crucified, dies and resurrects. Christianity teaches that he died for our sins. We should be very grateful for that, feel appropriately guilty, not play with ourselves under the bedclothes and thank Grandma nicely for the gifts she gave us that we really, really didn't want.
And we are asked to believe in an all-loving God who would cheerfully send His only-begotten son to such a horrible death. Tough one that. After all, if that's what God would do to his own child, what would He do to us? And that leads to the last judgement, to purgatory and hell.
'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' cries Jesus on the cross in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.
'Father, forgive them,' says Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.
'It is done,' says Jesus in the Gospel of John.
Kabbalah taught me that the symbolism of numbers is inherent within the stories which became the Bible and that the four levels of creation is an enduring and important pattern. Four elements: Earth, Water, Air and Fire, four courts in the Temple, four Gospels in the New Testament. There's more to it than that but, in a nutshell, Earth represents the physical world, water the psyche and soul, air the spirit and fire the Divine.
Our bodies scream when they are hurt. So do our psyches. But our spirits see deeper into the mystery and know that there is a greater magic afoot. The others are nearly always just doing the best they can with the level of understanding that they have and following their training and the social mores of the world. And they are all our reflections; they are in our lives for a purpose.
Our Divinity sees the whole picture from beginning to end and totally accepts what is, seeing it as perfect.
In the physical and psychological we focus on the suffering. I always thought Deepak Chopra made a very good point when he said 'I'm not asking you to give up your pain—just your suffering.' Pain is. Suffering is optional.
My first husband died once; in my heart and mind I made him die 10,000 times. My second husband left me once; in my heart and mind I made him leave me 1000 times. It's natural to go over the pain for a while but it's not natural to re-empower it. There's a North American Indian tradition that you may tell your story of woe three times only. After that, you start to embed it in your soul. A developed soul, in touch with spirit, feels pain but does not suffer.
So, Jesus, in Matthew (body) and Mark (psyche) is expressing the pain and suffering of a mortal man. In Luke (spirit) he is out of the suffering and into the level of understanding and compassion. In John (divinity) the emotional level is pretty much unimportant—he's completed the most difficult part of the job he came to do and can let go and move on.
For me (for us?) that's the story of what it's like when life goes 'wrong' whether it's bereavement, divorce, losing your job or facing a difficult diagnosis. We can yell and rant and blame and suffer as much as we like—and we do. Our wounds become a long-lasting part of who we are; how we relate to others ('oh they can't possibly understand what I'm going through' or 'he/she really gets me'). We compare wounds in building relationships and often even require our friends to maintain their wounds so we all have a lovely excuse not to develop and move on. (Caroline Myss is brilliant on this subject).
I discovered very swiftly what kind of temptation a life-enhancing disease gives you. For the first time for me it was entirely possible to say 'no, I won't do that' without having to give any excuse. People would just say, 'well, it's understandable given what she's going through.' I suddenly saw all the manipulations and control mechanisms that 'suffering' gives to those who want that kind of power. Hopefully I haven't succumbed to them because, once you do, it's going to be very hard to surrender that dis-ease and its benefits. The ego loves a bit of power and control.
The healing is about re-discovering the soul and working in spirit. No matter what anyone has allegedly done to me over the years, it's time to let go of it and move on. To forgive is rarely for the other person, it's to let go of the poison in us. To forgive ourselves is even more important.
In Luke, Jesus talks with the two thieves on the cross. One is unrepentant—wants to be set free without atoning (at-one-ing) for what he has done. The second understands that this is cause and effect for him but not for Jesus, who is innocent. It is to the second one that Jesus says 'today you will be with me in paradise.'
It's all about letting go. Once you let go, then the problem is solved. That's true whether the outcome is life or death. Because, as Rachel taught me, it's not the crucifixion that matters, it's the dying. Once you die to the problem, then resurrection is a done deal.
You die and you resurrect. You let go and let God. You release the suffering and you transform.
That, for me, is the real message of Easter. Am I doing it? More and more each day, each blessed day on this beautiful earth. Is it healing me? Absolutely.
It's also worth noting that Jesus was on the cross for six hours. That's all. I'm sure it was more than enough but it's less time than the average woman is in labour. We've kept him on the cross for 2000 years.
Yes, his suffering makes us believe that he understands our wounds. But his death and resurrection shows us that we can heal them. It will probably take considerably more than six hours but that's the challenge of true Christianity. How long before we can truly forgive and move on?
G. K. Chesterton said, 'Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried at all.'
It took a life-enhancing disease for me to take the time and energy to really get into this forgiveness lark. I'd played around with it and thought I was doing okay, but when you get down and dirty, it is truly amazing and liberating. My friend Adam-who's-Jewish said 'Maggy, this is your crucifixion. You can do it.' Yes I can. And what an incredible journey it is.
Oh—and God doesn't need to forgive us or them. God loves us unconditionally. But we need to believe that we are forgiven to feel set free. If we forgive ourselves and others, it opens the door to that all-embracing love.
How do we forgive? Well the simplest method is the ho'oponopono I mentioned in the previous thread. It's not swift and it works subtly but it's very effective. Say the mantra 5,000+ times a day. Ah, yes ... it does need commitment. The lovely thing is that it works without telling you what it's working on. You'll just suddenly find that a thought that used to hurt doesn't any more. It's gone.
In closing, forgiveness does not mean to condone the cruelties of others. Not at all. It means to set our hearts free of the ongoing suffering. As my friend Janet-the-Methodist said, 'forgive by all means. That doesn't mean you let them get away with it.'