Woodsong is a place where I see myself as both teacher and student. During the past 62 years, I have been like a hermit crab. I take up an identity believing it will deliver me fulfillment in life, from my childhood of Chinese/Confucian ideology, to years as an evangelical Christian, to my dedication to science,..... only to discard the previous identity for the next. These rigid identities have the appearance of promising us salvation, but in reality are an illusion and can lead to rigid tribal identification.
Here I will use a well known Biblical story from the Gospel of Matthew to illuminate the theme:
A long time ago, a wealthy man came to Jesus and asked, "Rabbi, what do I have to do to enter the Kingdom of God?" Jesus advised him to obey the commandments. He told Jesus he always observed the commandments, but still did not feel peace within himself. He asked Jesus what else he could do. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. When he heard this, the rich man became very sad.
I am inspired by this passage to expand the story even further.
Sometime later, a guru came to Jesus and asked, "Master Guru, what do I have to do to reach nirvana?" Jesus advised him that he needed to be careful with his carnal desires because they can cause him regrets. He replied that he meditated and fasted all the time to suppress his carnal desires, but still could not find eternal peace when he was not meditating. Jesus told him to give up his spiritual superiority and just be an ordinary man. When he heard this, the guru became very sad.
More time had passed, and a pastor came to Jesus and asked, "My Lord, what do I have to do to truly follow you?" Jesus advised him to love his fellow people. He assured Jesus he made sacrifice all the time, used all his willpower to suppress temptations, and obeyed all the commandments, but he was still very much disturbed and frustrated by the sins of his fellow people. Jesus told him to give up being the messiah, to follow him instead of being Him. When he heard this, the pastor became very sad.
These stories show how the power of identity can control us. The cage of identity can appear in many forms. It is sad we are trapped by an identity and not able to set ourselves free from it. After living so many identities, I finally understand that releasing myself from their constraints is true salvation. Being a Christian is not tribal, it is a relationship.
Freedom is the willingness to challenge your values, sense of identity, and certainty. Spirituality is a journey to mystery. The unknown. I am teaching uncertainty, therefore I am a student.