Many contemplative or psychological-leaning pastors and writers, including myself, like to use the Easter story as a model or metaphor for our inner journey, the death of the False self and the rising of the Authentic Self. The story, of course, is more than just a metaphor: the stark palpability of our own suffering is just as real as that of Jesus of Nazareth was in the Gospels. And while many congregations love to re-iterate the ubiquitous Christian narrative of salvation through Christ’s atonement on Easter, us contemplatives often do the same thing with stories and lessons of personal transformation. Some ways I’ve heard it presented:
Death of Ego Presence of Soul
Loss of Certainty Embracing Unknowing
Well, you get the idea. We suffer. Christ suffers. We rise, Christ rises. After the storm, there comes the rainbow. After painful tears, a serene smile. It’s perhaps the most universal model of human experience, and yes, it is truly AMAZING that it was actually lived by God Incarnate on earth.
But, I can become secretly exhausted with the repetitive re-runs of Easter sermons and feel like I must conceal this fatigue, as this is the highlight of the Christian calendar. I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about Easter all week long, yet everything I kept thinking about writing was some tired variation of things I’ve already written. So I needed a new spin on it. And instead of sharing only my new spin, I began with the process of arriving here:
The philosophical/theological question of free will is one which I have always left open-ended. It attempts to provide a logical answer to an experiential question. This falls apart somewhere along the lines of the dialectic, showing us firsthand what our scripture already told us: we will never completely know the mind of God. But engaging in a contemplative meditation on issues of human choice versus divine sovereignty can yield wonderful epiphanies in the psyche and spirit. This non-literal perspective, though, doesn’t stop top neuroscientists and theoretical phsysicists from answering the question in well-formed presentations. And I am constantly surprised how so many, especially in recent years, continue to come down on the side that there is no free will. Certainly, when high schoolers read American history and learn of the Puritans’ belief in the Elect and non-elect, chosen and condemned, it no doubt counter-converts many Americans to holding to free will like a life-preserver, coming to believe in personal choice and personal responsibility. "No one will decide for me if I am Elect or not, I can create my own destiny, thank you," many Americans might think. And yet, neuro-philosophers often maintain that we are pre-wired for everything that happens to us.
There may be no concrete answer, but for this Easter, the holiday that celebrates resurrection, I began to think “what kind of resurrection would I want? what do I want it to mean?” A simple opening into deeper unknowing no longer entices me the way if first did, but a new sense of will and freedom does sound nice. Perhaps, then, the crucifixion could be the death of what the ancient Greeks called Fate (the playing out of our old patterns of behavior from developmental wounds of family, childhood, and socialization) and the resurrection of Destiny (the capacity to decide for ourselves what shape our lives take). The death of fatalism and the resurrection of free will. Rather than be bound by old patterns of past narratives, Easter offers us choice: A choice and a freedom to live the way that we, our souls, want to live….which is ultimately what God wants, too.