You know how sometimes you have a dream where the feelings are so real that, even after you wake up, they linger?. If it’s a bad dream, you hurt. It can be very intense. I had one of those dreams this week, and it…was…very…intense. I have them regularly, though not frequently, and they hurt. I felt betrayed, frightened, bewildered, and abandoned. The feelings were so real! I couldn’t go back to sleep, but, as I lay there pondering all of these feelings, embracing them, and wondering where the dream came from, I called on some things I had read recently. I thought to myself, “Wait! I am not my feelings”. So, I began to detach from the feelings, and just observe them; trying to figure out what was behind them, not to mention the dream itself. I eventually realized that my love for this person in the dream transcended whatever was going on with them, and began to set aside the bad feelings and focus on the love. Then I felt something inside me open up.
As it opened up, I recognized that I had been closed off. It’s as if I had been in a venus fly trap of sorts, all curled up, protecting myself from the feelings of attack that resulted from the dream, completely unaware that the entire purpose of the fly trap was to devour and consume. But the attack wasn’t real. When I began to detach myself from the feelings, I could see that the attack was an illusion, and that it wasn’t about me at all. It was only a dream. And even if it hadn’t been a dream, it still was never about me – it was about the other person. THEY were the one having a problem. As I began to open up, I realized that I had shut myself off from the Holy Spirt, and thus from Christ. Now, though, opening up, I began to feel peace again. I began to be me again; open, loving, and somehow incomplete without them.
As I’ve pondered this experience now for a couple of days, I’ve realized that our ego is like that venus fly trap. When we live in fear, or pain, or jealousy, that fly trap closes off. We’re protected, indeed, but we’re also separated, and dying. Our spirit is closed off from the Lord, and from others. And – oddly, somehow – even from ourselves. The powerful thing that happened as a result of this experience with the dream is that I felt myself opening up that trap. I did not want to be in there. And I began to realize that staying or leaving was a choice over which I had complete control. I’ve practiced that control for the last couple of days, and I’m learning to exercise it. I’m learning to recognize when I’m closing, or closed, and I can trip myself open and say, “No – I don’t want to be closed. I want to be open!”
This morning, as I was praying, I took it a step further – kind of in a vision of sorts – I don’t know, these things are so hard to describe. I saw, and felt, myself climbing out of that fly trap – pushing it open; first with my hands, then both arms; peeking out, then gradually climbing out further; feeling more courageous and more forceful; prying and forcing, and then holding it open with both arms and both legs, as if I were climbing out of a small hole or a large bathtub. I could feel, though, that it was ready to spring back at any time. The force was still there, like a spring, ready to snap shut at the slightest relaxation, the slightest slip. In other words, I had to physically hold it open.
In this state, I realize that I have 3 choices. I can either just surrender, and let it close on me again, in which case I’ve wasted my effort, and I’ll have to struggle my way back out should I later change my mind. This could easily happen if I give in to the illusion of a threat, or an attack, or some other manifestation of fear. I’m reminded of an addict who has gone through days, weeks, months of sobriety, only to fall right back into the abyss.
Choice 2 is that I can maintain this state; holding the trap open. I could immediately see how this could be very tiring, and exhausting, and ultimately a losing effort. The trap could snap shut on me at any time, and then, again, I’m trapped by the ego.
Choice 3, though, is that I can leap out of the trap. If I leverage the strength and position of my arms and legs just right, and then let go, the force of the trap will propel me into the open, forever free of the fly trap. Exposed, vulnerable. No longer would I have the ready protection of, the warm, comfortable…NO – the consuming, destroying, smothering protection, of my fly trap ego. But I would be free! Free to love. Free to explore. Free to know. Free to be…
But am I really so exposed and vulnerable? Is this leap not exactly what Christ envisioned when He said “Come unto me,” and “Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. Did Christ not promise, through the glorious example of His life, death, and resurrection, that He is “the way, the truth, and the life”? Are we really leaping from the trap of the ego into danger and risk, or are we simply exchanging the promise of death for that of eternal life? Are we not then partaking of the fruit of the tree of life?
It takes a lot of courage to leap free of our ego. We’ve lived in that trap all our lives. But it’s so clear to me that we must. We must learn to recognize that fear – the fear that shuts us off from our true selves, from Christ, and from each other – is an illusion. We are love, and there is no fear in love. This fear is created, perpetuated, and utilized by our ego – the natural man – to validate itself. This illusion that we need to separate and protect ourselves from other egos is Satan’s great lie. But that is the only reality that the ego has. We alone give the ego life, but only out of fear.
Yes, it takes great faith and great courage to repent of the ego – to leap from the illusion of comfort and safety into the illusion of danger. But leap we must! Not into danger, but straight into the arms of Christ. For there can be no venus fly traps in Zion.