“Come unto me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Who said that? Do you know?
It was Jesus. Where is he today?
I look around me and I see a lot of heavy-laden people. For instance, I see people who call themselves “empaths” that seem to “feel everything,” bearing the collective weight of the heaviness of the suffering of the planet on their shoulders. Some are often at the brink of suicide. Hell, some live there. It’s a landscape they’re vastly familiar with. The energetic sum of suffering is so alive for them that on occasion, it is just too much and they spend a few days crying at home before they can pull out.
And of course, there are those that do not pull out.
We go to their funerals from time to time and talk of their extraordinary gifts; their musicianship, their writing, or drawing. Or, sometimes it’s simply the way they were able to relate to people with a certain kind of light that gave access into something warm, something eternal.
And those are just the empaths that I’m talking about. I know very few people well that don’t get down once in a while. Really because of the complex nature of modern life.
So, where’s Jesus?
I’m very concerned that Christianity is a closing door. As a student of history, I suspect that it was never really open. Or that it hasn’t been for millennia, since Constantine grasped the obscure cult that it was in AD300-ish from the woodpile of forgotten ideas and made it acceptable to practice in the kingdom ruled by Rome. I am grateful to him for that, if nothing else. I wouldn’t know anything of Jesus if he hadn’t done that. It didn’t mean anything to Constantine, not really. Most believe he became “Christian” on his death bed. But its practice helped to satisfy a certain subset of the people he ruled. It was able to be used to keep people in check, to make them well behaved and easily governable.
These are good traits for your people to have if you’re a dictator. (Or a President, for that matter.)
Looking at Constantine’s legacy, there is actually nothing else I’m grateful to him for. And it was his ancestor, Cesar Augustus, that hunted down, tortured and squashed the practitioners of my own indigenous people’s Pagan Northern European religions a few hundred years earlier. Theirs was a religion that I undoubtedly would have loved to have known more about, yet that only survives in the odd, semi-authentic (read: inauthentic) practices and teachings of modern “Druids.”
Druidry, then, is dead by oppression. Christianity has become inaccessible via acceptance as a state religion.
Why do I say it’s inaccessible, when it’s all over the place? We have a Vice President that identifies as Christian. It’s the religion of the American masses. Most American Christians would say it’s the closest thing we have to a state religion. I’d agree with them.
I’ll float this idea: Christianity has little to do with the teachings of Jesus. I could talk all day long about Church-sponsored genocide and rape. About Christianity as an excuse for slavery. About its role in the rampant greed that is destroying our planet. About the standard Christian philosophy that we are separate from Nature and from one another. About their passe’ idea about the nature of time and the absurdity of a “God of love” that is willing to punish for eternity. None of these ideas, by the way, were taught as they are today by Jesus – at least not in the Bible.
None of them.
Furthermore, if you want to be a Christian, you increasingly either have to check your brain at the door and believe the earth is 13,000 years old, or admit the Bible is inaccurate in places, or come up with some other apology for all the ways that it disagrees with modern science. I mean, 1+1=11 only works for so long for people who are sincere seekers of truth.
Which brings me back to my original question. With all the suffering in the world, where’s Jesus?
There are more details to the story, but there’s an old tale about a beloved statue of Jesus that was damaged by vandals in a European city a hundred or two years ago. His arms were broken off and he stood there like the Venus de Milo, with hands no longer available for healing. The Christus marks of crucifixion no longer there, either. The story goes this was tragic until someone had the idea to put up a sign that said, “I have no hands but yours.”
If we can believe the gospels, at least the amalgamation of their message, Jesus was a servant. He was a beautiful man, a holy-man and healer that loved people in spite of personal danger he faced from the religious teachers of the day, and the ruling Romans that just wanted a well-behaved populace.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
Jesus has no hands but ours, especially today. And the rulers of Christianity are not the doors to Jesus. He cannot be found or known by simply going to church, or by memorizing scripture, or by – my biggest pet peeve of all – “confessing his name.” Jesus can be known in one way, and in one way only: by living as he lived.
I don’t mean we all don white smocks and walk around jobless and heart-led, although I wish I saw more of that. For most of us, it’s just not that easy. There are commitments to honor that are, in fact, honorable. These days, in order to embody Jesus, in order to bring him here, we take him with us to the jobsite, we need to engage him as we live. Not as Christian Bible-bangers, but as humans. We do that by standing up in those places for greater ideals. We defend a more soulful and sustainable ethic because we know that by doing so we further connection to all of life, and not just human life. It becomes less about belief (a sinkhole of energy) and more about healing. It’s about acceptance without precondition. It becomes about the precious nature of every moment and every being, human or not. In these moments once embodied, we transcend separation which is the great myth of our existence. This is one place that gratitude thrives and greed dies in a fiery wreck. Here, no one suffers needlessly. Not the poor, the indigenous or the lemurs of Madagascar. And our actions have nothing to do with getting people to church, or making them believe in Jesus. We do it because we love like he did.
To my empath friends out there, I would say this is also your calling. Here, I’d like to remind you of something called a “shamanic call.”
A shamanic call is literally a matter of life and death. In indigenous cultures, one so called must follow that path. Rejection can mean sickness, severe misfortune and even death. The “wounded healer” is the name we’ve applied to those who feel/are broken before capitulating to their particular mission. Sometimes they don’t even know exactly what it is until undergoing an “ordeal,” often alone in the wilderness. Once it’s known, it must be embodied. This is true for all those who have their life work laid before them, even outside indigenous circles within the neo-shamanic movement popularized by such names as Harner, Ingerman and Villoldo.
I can’t tell how or why this is the way it is, but it appears to be the case. So, Empath, trust me when I say that there are tools you can use to determine your call and to stop taking on the world’s pain. Find them. The agony of the world will be there without your direct engagement. Just because you can feel it, it doesn’t mean it’s a good or helpful practice to do so without wisdom and even protection. In fact, that alone is often an egoic structure itself.
Instead, learn to give that pain away, to process it. It will give you wisdom you can use to go serve. One way to start immediately is to find someone in more pain than you – the homeless were a favorite of Jesus’, or the sick, or the lonely – and let them feel love, your love. This is the greatest, and maybe only, gift you have to give.
In this way, by healing our beautiful, soulful selves one day at a time and stepping into our callings, we will create the rest that we, and the earth, so desperately need.