We now transition to the third phase our hero’s quest, Vocation. This part of our journey is all about giving back. If we have traveled the path this far we have undergone a tremendous transformation. Now it is time to return to where we started. This phase also has three stages, The Road Back, Resurrection, and Return.
THE ROAD BACK
At the beginning of our journey we crossed a threshold. We made a commitment. At this point we are faced with a similar decision, do we stay in this special world, this world of the spirit, or do we return to the Secular World with the prize we have gained? It is often a choice between a personal goal and a higher cause.
In the Disney animated movie “Hercules,” Hercules finally achieves his goal, he is considered a hero among the gods of Olympus. The gods offer him a choice, to stay among them and be immortal or to return to the world of men.
In Greek mythology Hercules is half god, half mortal man. In the Disney film, Hercules sets off on a journey to become a hero and earn the right to live with the gods on Olympus. But along the way he discovers the true meaning of his mortal nature. When faced with the decision to choose, Hercules chooses to return to the mortal realm for the sake of Meg, the woman he loves.
A better example is in the movie “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” This movie is a notch above the standard horror fare for its theological content alone. Near the end of the movie, Emily, who is possessed by demons, has a vision of the Blessed Mother Mary. Emily asks why she suffers? Why won’t the demons leave her? Mary explains sadly that the demons will remain with her but she offers Emily a choice. The young girl can come with Mary to live in peace free from her bodily form or she can choose to continue to live, tormented by demons.
“You will suffer greatly,” Mary tells her, “But through you many will come to see that the realm of the spirit is real. The choice is yours.”
And Emily, this little slip of a girl, makes the hero’s decision.
“I choose to stay,” she says, “In the end, good will triumph over evil. Through my experience people will know that demons are real. People say that God is dead. But how can they think that if I show them the devil?”
So the hero’s decision, the selfless decision, is to return, to remember the reason we started our journey in the first place. It grew out of a sense that something was wrong in the world and we had within us the means to help make it right.
But we are not completely free of the Adversary just yet. The weaknesses we have confronted, the dragons we have slain, may return to us one more time in a last desperate attempt, to stop us from completing our quest.
In the great Anglo Saxon saga “Beowulf,” The hero Beowulf travels to a kingdom that is under attack by a malevolent figure named Grendel. Beowulf succeeds in killing the creature, and enjoys a hero’s banquet with treasures and titles and offers of lands heaped upon him by the grateful king. But before he can return to his own lands, Beowulf is confronted by an even greater challenge in the form of Grendel’s mother, an even more formidable demonic creature.
Even though we have made a commitment to return, we are very often confronted with a setback, a final temptation, that appeals to those traits of our identity that we have spent so much effort to subdue.
This is the moment in the movies when the hero overcomes that last obstacle. Luke Skywalker on the verge of destroying the Death Star, is confronted by Darth Vader. In the Lord of the Rings the hobbits return to the shire after their great adventure, but have to face the agents of the Adversary that threaten their home.
In our spiritual journey this may be a last appeal to our vanity, or the desire for wealth or power. This is the adversary trying desperately to stop us by reminding us of all those things we once thought were so important, but have now learned that they only served to prevent us from fulfilling our mission. The stakes are higher now. We must survive not just for ourselves, but for the good we can do for others. If we fail, then the knowledge and wisdom we have gained is lost, not just a personal loss, it is a loss to the world. If we fail, others will suffer.
This is our last great test, a final purging of our old ways, and a test to see how fully we have become our true self. It is a time of purification and resurrection. This is the point in our journey where we have finally shed the personality of the journey, and have become the person God created us to be. We have rejected the selfish parts of our identity, that face we created to protect us from pain, and have incorporated the remaining parts into our essence, our true self. If we have truly accomplished this then this final trial is easily overcome, and we find ourselves on the threshold of home.
The final stage or our journey, The Return, is when we return to the Secular World, the ordinary world in which we started. We return to serve others with the knowledge we have gained.
We have changed, we have become more of a person, we have discovered who God meant us to be. We have learned many things, faced many dangers and may have even faced the death of our ego. But now we start a new life with a new perspective.
This is usually the happy ending in the movies, it may even involve a actual celebration as it does in “The Empire Strikes Back” where humans and wookies and ewoks are all having a grand party. If you remember the movie Footloose, a town that forbids dancing at the beginning is turned around by the efforts of the hero and concludes with a senior prom free of the restrictions of the past.
In the movies the hero returns, his doubters are shamed, his enemies punished, and his allies are rewarded. The hero returns to the place he started, but things will never be the same.
In our spiritual journey it is important to see that these celebrations represent three things; change, success, and proof of our journey. We bring the gift of ourself back to others. In a very real sense this is when the work really begins.
Every person is here for a purpose. Every person has been given a unique set of gifts, talents, and abilities to achieve that purpose. We may at some point have suffered under the wrongful impression, that those gifts are for us to achieve a life of ease and comfort. They are not. If we learn anything from the spiritual journey, and all the many ways it has been shown to us, we learn that we are heroes. We are here to sacrifice for others, and we do that, not by using our gifts selfishly, but by using them self-lessly, to help others. How we do that is up to each of us to decide, but it is much easier when we free ourselves of the notion that we are here to accumulate as many toys as we can. When we do, when we find the one thing we can do in a way that no one else can, that is how we change the world.
© 2018 Lawrence Klimecki
Images courtesy of pixabay.com