29 Mar Chapter 11. Overcoming Our Egos
But Deliver Us from Evil | Meaning
When pride is overcome, we cure a symptom of our separation from God, but not its root cause. We are like the frog born at the bottom of the well, who is unaware of the larger world that exists beyond the walls of its home. These walls are what psychologists have come to call the ego, and the well itself what Jesus (lacking our modern lingo) called the pit, where the fire (i.e. our desire) is never quenched. 1 It is what some have called our “original sin”. Yet “sin” is the wrong word. For sins are connected to choices. And we did not choose to be placed in the well — although it is our choice whether or not we remain there.
The well is better described as our original condition. And Jesus’s entire ministry was about teaching us how to overcome it. Asking people to abandon their egos though is a tough sell. Because while we know that egoism leads to pride, hate, violence, theft, adultery and every evil under the sun, 2 we also believe that our egos define who we are. We think that if we lose our ego, we will lose our identity; and we are offended by those who suggest otherwise.
The offense we take is registered in the Gospel of John during the story of the Last Supper — the last fellowship for Jesus before he crucifies his ego, abandons the well, and experiences full consciousness in Christ. At the dinner table, the disciples cry out against the “harsh doctrine” they are being taught. 3 Their shock, however, is not over the eating of the flesh and blood of the Son of Man (as those are just metaphors), but that in becoming “united” with Christ that they will lose their sense of self.
We, like the disciples, consider our egos as being solid and permanent. That is a devilish illusion. For if we look back upon our lives, we find that the person we identify as “me” changes as we grow. The middle-aged woman and man often looks with strange fascination toward the person they were at eighteen, just as the senior citizen does toward their middle-aged self. Sometimes we cannot even believe the person we were yesterday!
These changes are all evidence of the Holy Spirit at work, as it pushes us to recognize the vast kingdom that exists outside the well in which we live. When we overcome the well, we don’t lose ourselves, but expand our realities of place and self to include joys and experiences that were beyond our imagination. We leave our ego identity behind to discover our soul’s identity, 4 which is ever growing and limitless.
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Meaning of The Cross, Crucifixion & Resurrection
Our journey out of the well is symbolized by Jesus’s teaching of the cross, and the Gospel writers’ depiction of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. Whether Jesus was actually crucified or not is a matter that can be left to personal belief. What is to be recognized is that even if Jesus were not crucified by the Romans, we would have had to do it ourselves for the sake of the gospel story. Because in order to understand the profound depth of Jesus’s renunciation of the ego, we need a crucifixion parable to guide us.
Parables are able to provoke that “aha” experience we get when we arrive at (‘turn’ toward) an answer on our own. 5 That is why in The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life, my goal is to inspire as many questions as answers — so that every reader can begin to discover new answers on their own. The whole reason why self—help books so often fail is that they steal the “aha” from us.
Today’s gurus tell us too much. They analyze too deeply. They forsake the parable and metaphor for unrelenting “straight talk”. Our ministers often do the same thing. Fearful of confusing congregations, they talk in simple, direct language that all can understand. Yet Jesus’s entire ministry might be defined by the confusion he causes. 6 Even when the disciples cry out with relief that at last Jesus is speaking plainly, 7 we know that they remain pretty mixed up — still unable to understand the living Word beneath the literal one.
For centuries, we have been reading the parable of Jesus Christ as a plain spoken story, instead of one that is rife with mysteries 8 and hidden treasures. 9 Few of us search beyond Jesus’s literal crucifixion to discover its larger symbolic meaning: that we must place our egos on the cross and allow them to perish in order find the greater life of the Spirit. That Jesus wanted us to view his crucifixion as a metaphor seems obvious. Why else would he say that we must pick up and carry our own crosses, if we are to have any part of the kingdom he is entering? 10
Jesus chooses the cross and crucifixion as his symbols for the journey out of the pit because the process is so difficult, so rife with psychological suffering. Letting go of our ego (and all its expectations and desires) can be as painful as when a parent is forced to accept the death of a child. And many of us refuse to accept Christ’s call.
The tenacity with which we cling to our egos regardless of the consequences is illustrated in the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus is described as driving out “foul spirits” from two men. These spirits will do anything to survive, and (since they must leave their current hosts) beg to be driven into a herd of pigs. Jesus grants their request, but shortly after they enter the animals, the swine rush down into the sea to drown. 11
We, too, often choose drowning (i.e. dying in sin), 12 rather than let go of our egos to pick up a new life in Christ, our spiritual self. Weak in faith, we don’t quite believe that a life of joy and unexpected riches is waiting for us today in the living hour. Be of good cheer, Jesus says, for I have conquered the world. 13 And, happy we should be — for by laying down his life (as his ego would have it) to pick up a fuller life with the Father, 14 Jesus has delivered himself from evil (the ego’s tomb), 15 and unlocked the kingdom that is the inheritance of each one of us, as God’s children.
Read Chapter 12: For thine is the kingdom, the power, And the glory, forever, amen. (Understanding God Time)
- It would be better for you to enter the kingdom of God with only one eye, than to have both eyes and be thrown into the pit: 48 Where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched. — Mark 9:47-48
- For it is from within, out of the hearts of men, that there come evil thoughts: unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, 22 Greed, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, haughtiness, folly; 23 All these wicked things come from within, and do defile a man.” Mark 7:21—23
- On hearing it, many of his disciples said: “This is harsh doctrine! Who can bear to listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, aware that his disciples were murmuring about it, said to them: 62 “Does this offend you?” John 6:60—62
- He must become greater, and I less. 31 He who comes from above is above all others; but a child of earth is earthly, and his teaching is earthly, too. He who comes from heaven is above all others. — John 3:30—31
- To you the hidden truth of the kingdom of God has been imparted; but to those on the outside, teaching takes the form of parables, 12 That “though they have eyes, they may see without perceiving; and though they have ears, they may hear without understanding; lest some day they should turn and be forgiven.’ — Mark 4:11-12
- Peter said to Jesus: “Explain this saying to us.” 16 “What, do even you understand nothing yet?” Jesus exclaimed. Matthew 15:15-16
- “At last,” exclaimed the disciples, “you are using plain words and not speaking in proverbs at all. 30 Now we are sure that you know everything, and need not wait for anyone to question you. This makes us believe that you did come from God.” 31 “Do you believe that already?” Jesus answered. — John 16:29—30
- “To you,” answered Jesus, “the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given, but not to them. — Matthew 13:11
- The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which people find and hide again, and then, in their delight, go and sell everything that they have, and buy that field. — Matthew 13:44
- If anyone wishes to walk in my steps, let them renounce self, and take up their cross daily, and follow me. — Luke 9:23
- A long way off, there was a drove of many pigs, feeding; 31 And the foul spirits began begging Jesus: “If you drive us out, send us into the drove of pigs.” 32 “Go,” he said. The spirits came out, and entered the pigs; and the whole drove rushed down the steep slope into the sea, and died in the water. — Matthew 8:30—32
- Jesus again spoke to the people. “I am going away,” he said, “and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin; you cannot come where I am going.” John 8:21
- I have spoken to you in this way, so that in me you may find peace. In the world you will find trouble; yet, be of good cheer! I have conquered the world. — John 16:33
- Whoever wishes to save their lives will lose it, and whoever, for my sake, loses their lives shall find it. — Matthew 16:25
- As soon as Jesus had got out of the boat, he met a man coming out of the tombs, who was under the power of a foul spirit, 3 And who made his home in the tombs. — Mark 5:1—3