Not I

By: Brian Robertson

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me...."

-Galatians 2:20 (ESV)


The spiritual path and awakening is not something that happens once, contrary to those who proclaim, "Yes, I met Jesus in Detroit in 1987 and was saved..."

Meeting the Christ is one thing -- we can all rejoice for that -- but walking with him is the challenge. The spiritual path is a day to day, minute to minute unfolding that never is completed, here or in the worlds that follow.

Those who seek God in love know that it is not an easy or cheap way to travel. A great Saint was riding along in a carriage when it overturned, dumping her in the mud. She heard God's voice say, "This is the way I treat my friends." Her reply? "Yes, and that's why you have so few friends!"

We have somewhere gotten the belief -- and this is a recent development in religious thought -- that all a person has to do is fill out a basic application: (1) Do you know who Jesus is? (2) Do you accept him as your savior? If you answer yes to both, you're in and everybody else is out.

But the kingdom of heaven is not entered through a simple exam. The way extracts a price -- anything worth having requires action. When the man dug up the pearl of great price in the field, he didn't just congratulate himself and take it home. He had to sell everything he owned -- meaning his ego, his inflated sense of worth, his anger, his hatred, his disregard for those in need -- and only then could he have the joy that he had uncovered.

Stripping those things away is not an easy task. It is humbling and painful. It can bring misunderstanding and rejection from those whom we thought loved us and wished us best. It is to risk the wrath of those who believe that a knowledge of the "legalities of religion" is all that's needed.

This is to be crucified with Christ, to move from our human nature to the nature of the Divine, to be transformed in atonement or at-one-ment within the mystical body of Christ.

Before Christianity was known as Christianity, it was simply called, "The Way." And the way of crucifixion is difficult, not easy. Ask the young, rich man who came to Jesus and asked what he must do to gain eternal life. "Sell all you have and give it to the poor ..." came the answer.

The young man must have been stunned. He knew the commandments, the scriptures. He could quote them at will, no doubt, and was perhaps expecting to be given a compliment for his knowledge, the seal of approval.

But Jesus had a way of finding what each person valued, and that is what he said must be surrendered. To the Pharisees, he challenged them by saying they must move beyond the letter of the law. To those with high social contacts, he said they must go to the sick, the naked. They must eat with tax collectors and prostitutes.

To be crucified is to become totally exposed, to be at the crossroads -- literally -- between earth and sky, right and wrong and inside and outside. It is to open one's self up to the most tender depths, to throw aside all the defenses, the protective armor, and what could be more difficult? It is the emptying of the ego and, as nature abhors a vacuum, it has to be filled and is -- for as Paul writes, "Not I, but Christ who lives in me."

For many people, that moment is not one of a lightning bolt out of the blue. God is not in the business of offering spiritual shock therapy. It is often a gentle and loving process in which the spirit is permeated slowly by the realization that yes, you can trust. Yes, you can have faith. Out of the dark night of the soul comes the brightness of a realization that God's loving presence is neither a gift nor something to be earned or bargained for. It is your truest, deepest most real nature to which you are returning, the Original Goodness that each of us can lay claim to.

And then, day to day in works of love and only in works of love, can one say that it is not I, not the ego, who determines who I am and what I do, but Christ who lives in and through me.