What is it that brings that sense of bliss, of wholeness, of harmony, of peace? It is not lying on the shoreline, watching the winding river flow by. Just as a salmon is meant to return to the source of its birth, to swim against the tide that would pull it away from its destination, so are we meant to return to the source of our creation, in our work, in our play, in everything we do. When you remove a salmon from the cold stream, it lies on the ground, fights and flops a bit, and gasps for life. It is an exhausting journey to swim against the current but that is what the salmon is meant to do, to deplete itself in the river, not on the shore, to give itself to its purpose… and life continues even as, and because, it makes the journey.
It is odd for us knowledge-hungry people that we too often fail to pursue, to seek to know, who it is outside of ourselves that draws us. Where do those lightning strikes, clarifications, epiphanies, awakenings come from? We know they are not from ourselves. Yet, it isn’t particularly because we don’t want to know or that we refuse or reject the idea that something more than us exists. We stand on the shore not necessarily because we don’t believe that Someone or Something is larger than us… but because we do not believe that whatever It is, is good. We do not believe It cares, that It is personal, that It is worthy. The most common reason that people give me, and for whatever rhyme or reason complete strangers start conversations and talk to me about these things frequently, is that they see the bad things in the world and they won’t trust anything that would allow that. Religion appears to be the root of all evil. And whatever is the Something, we often perceive it through our human understanding of religion.
Whether or not all ill can be traced to religion, it is akin to blaming a faceless company for spilling oil in our oceans. It is a relatively new concept to personify corporations and to hand them human privileges, to hold them accountable but not the people in them. But there is no such thing as a ‘they’ or ‘them’… there is only you and me. People are the ones who do much of what we see in the world, in the name of the ‘best interests’ of the company or family or God. But it is you and me all the same. We have set in motion what we deem evil, the toxins that grow cancers in our bodies, the depletion of resources that leave many starving and impoverished, the slavery of the vulnerable for the perverted needs of the powerful, the disruption of the seasons and flow of nature.
Generation after generation of people have laid down their lives for one thing: freedom. Our hearts are often moved to action to protect and preserve the freedom of individuals and societies to choose their actions and their destinies. It is a virtual given to highly value our freedom to live how we choose. It breaks our hearts when others are imprisoned, stripped of their freedom, chained into an existence in which they have no choice. Is it not clear that if there is a God, and this God has any semblance of good or wisdom, that the freedom we hold so dear would be an essential part of God’s relationship with humans? Would we truly be able to respect someone who allows for no free choice? Yet we hate the consequences of human free choice and we want to find someone or something to hold responsible because our world is out of control. We want free choice when all is paradise but we don’t want it when it wounds and destroys.
There is one way to harness, to humble, to discipline freedom. It is when we submit our freedom to Love that we begin to see, to feel, to touch, what paradise was meant to be. Love is uncompromising, yet ever patient. It holds true to its nature and lets those it desires turn away or yield to its tender bonds. You don’t love a little bit. You love or what you are doing is something else. Freedom separated and unyoked from Love runs amok and is a distorted image of its original intention. Freedom without love finds its focus inevitably returns to individual gain. The chains of what we give ourselves to instead are crushingly heavier than the bonds of love. We find that instead of being spent in the river of our purpose, we go to extraordinary measures to figure out how to make the dry shoreline meet our needs. But it never will.
And so in this distortion, we too often use our freedom to dig deeper into the shore, gasping for air and feeling a bit impotent, forgotten, angry, resentful at how hard it is to exist. But when we lay down our freedom at the feet of Love, when we say Yes and leap into the stream, a different life awaits. It has challenges and joys all the same, but we are where we are born to be, and that changes everything about the experience.
No matter what we do or accomplish in our life, we have a common destiny… to freely choose or reject Love. To stand on the shore with what comfort we can muster or leap into the water of the unknown and find out what it feels like to live as we were designed, to discover if there is Someone or Something there to meet us. The shoreline is always there if the river turns out to be folly.
It may be crazy, but it may well be the one best thing you ever did. Leap. It definitely was the one best thing that I have ever done, no regrets.