Do Not Be Afraid

Death and Resurrection: Week 1

Do Not Be Afraid
Friday, November 16, 2018

I am aware of the phrase “true self” occurring only once in the Bible. Paul used the words to describe what he was desperately trying to locate in the midst of some major trials with his false self. He wrote of it in a telling way: “When I act against my own will, then it is not my true self doing it, but sin which lives in me” (Romans 7:20, Jerusalem Bible). Somehow, he knew there was a part of him that was authentic, steadfast, and true to its God-given and loving nature.

Paul then contrasted the true self with what we are calling the false self and he called “sin” (7:14-25). It is the self that is always passing away. This is our cozy image of ourselves as individual and autonomous, as separate from God and everyone and everything else. When this “separate” self is all we think we are, no wonder we are afraid of dying. Because this is all we know and have—if we have not discovered our soul, that is. The false self is terrified of death because it knows the mental construct that it calls “myself” is indeed passing away because it is merely self-constructed and fragile. The false self has no substance, no permanence, no vitality, only various forms of immediate gratification.

Whenever we are fearing death, whether physical death or the loss of some egoic attachment, we are in our false self at that moment. The false self is not really bad or evil, but just inadequate to the big questions of love, death, suffering, God, or infinity. God allows and uses all our diversionary tactics to get us to move toward our full and final destination, which is divine union—and thus wholeness. That is how perfect and patient divine love is: Nothing is wasted; even our mistakes are the raw material to turn us back into love.

The True Self will surely have doubts about the unknown. But the True Self is the Risen Christ in you, and hence, it is not afraid of death. It has already been to hell and back. The Risen Christ in us knows that it will never lose anything real by dying. This is the necessary suffering of walking the full human path. That is what Jesus did and why we are invited to “reproduce the pattern of his death,” each in our own way, so that we can also take our place in the “force field” of God’s universal resurrection (see Philippians 3:10-11 and Acts 3:21).

In Thich Nhat Hanh’s words, “Enlightenment for a wave is the moment the wave realizes that it is water. At that moment, all fear of death disappears.” [1]

And in Stephen Levine’s:

But water is water, no matter what its shape or form. The solidity of ice imagines itself to be its edges and density. Melting, it remembers; evaporating, it ascends. [2]

So do not be afraid. Death to false self and the end of human life is simply a return to our Ground of Being, to God, to Love. Life doesn’t truly end; it simply changes form and continues evolving into ever new shapes and beauty.

References:
[1] Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ (Riverhead Books: 1995), 138.

[2] Stephen and Ondrea Levine, Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying (Anchor Books: 1989, ©1982), 194.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 142-144.

Image credit: Woman Knitting (detail), fancycarve.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
There is a thread you follow. It goes among
Things that change. But it doesn’t change. . . .
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
—William Stafford

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