"For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it
Romans 7:11, 13
I died in my dream last night. I've had plenty of dreams where I almost die and wake up just before but this time, I died. I was in some kind of open-frame aircraft and knew that we were going down. Someone next to me was panicking but I felt overwhelming calm. We were spinning and falling fast. I remember holding my breath and buckling down in my seat, waiting for impact.
And it came.
I remember a bright and hot explosion, fire consuming the air around me. And that was that.
I believe in the importance of dreams. The Bible is full of stories where people were alerted by dreams or given input and direction through dreams. And I can usually tell if a dream is significant by how vivid it appears in sleep and how long it stays with me after. I can remember dreams from childhood. So this one holds meaning for me, I'm sure.
That became more evident when I woke this morning and started reading Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr. It is a small book that walks through The Twelve Steps as it relates to our spiritual journey. The first chapter, of course, is Powerlessness.
"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable." -Step 1
This feels particularly true to me after my dream last night. Something within me is dying away. Hopefully, my ego. The last few years have taught me that my character is not much like what I thought it to be. This sweet, compliant church-faithful is capable of deep anger, rage, hatred, pride, self-deceit, and self-indulgence. I'm unmanageable. I'm quite powerless to "be good."
Rohr points out that this is the human condition that we all face. Regardless of our denial of it:
"The ego always insists on moral high ground, or as Paul brilliantly puts it, 'sin takes advantage of commandments to mislead me, and through obeying commandments--kills me.' This is a really quite extraordinary piece of insight on Paul's part, one which I would not believe myself were the disguise not so common (e.g...
- Celibate priests focusing on birth control and abortion as the core of evil
- Heterosexuals seeing gay marriage as the ultimate threat to society
- Liberals invested in some current political correctness while living lives of rather total isolation from the actual suffering of the world
- Bible thumpers ignoring most of the Bible when it asks them to change
- A nation of immigrants being anti-immigrant, etc."
It's true. As Paul said, I will use God's commandments to hit "sinners" over the head. This is sin.
Obeying the commandments often "kills me" because I become so full of pride and bigotry that I am no longer obeying the commandments. This is the irony of Christianity. And then, in sinning, I am full of shame and self-hatred.
Option 3 is admitting that I am powerless and choosing to let the ego die.
Let it spiral down and burst into flames.
I think I'm ready for that. Damn, I'm not perfect. I mess up every day. My greatest sin is trying to project the illusion of perfection for the rest of the world. My marriage wasn't perfect. My kids aren't perfect. I'm often tired of wearing a smile and just barely getting by.
But that's okay.
Rohr challenges, and I'll end with this: "No one likes to die to who they think they are. Their 'false self' is all they have."
Describe yourself. Now imagine letting that image of self die.