I have heard it all my life,
A voice calling a name I recognized as my own.
Sometimes it comes as a soft-bellied whisper.
Sometimes it holds an edge of urgency.
But always it says: Wake up my love. You are walking asleep.
There’s no safety in that!
Remember what you are and let this knowing
take you home to the Beloved with every breath.
– Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Last night, I had a dream that I lived in a house right above the ocean. I remember watching the waves pound onto the shoreline time and time again; I was mesmerized for hours by the roar of the waters overpowering all sound. I felt terrified and awe-struck by the force of the ocean that I asked myself, where is my energy?
This past week, I felt like I am moving through my days like a working zombie. I move from classroom to classroom, text message to e-mail to meeting. I have not stopped to call my family in too many days. At my core, I have invested my energy in to-do lists, rather than prayerful obedience; I fallen asleep to the inner voice that directs my steps. My inner voice, the one that speaks in dreams, is waiting to revitalize my energy and carry me to unexpected dimensions – if I would just pause to listen.
The wilderness, whether in dreams or reality, is my wake up call. I need to spend time outside of human civilization to reawaken to the beauty underlying everyday moments – from breathing to walking upon solid ground. In the wilderness, I see existence as a miracle embodied in my every breath and my very own blood. I wake up to realize I am part of the great I AM that lives, pulses, breathes through every particle in the universe. My identity is one with the Beloved.
What is identity? In conventional terms, we often define ourselves by how society views us. My identity as a woman is impacted by social constructions of patriarchy. My identity as a student is shaped by Davidson College’s vision of academic achievement. My identity as an American is constructed by culturally relative ideals of individualism and “success.” So often, these forms of my identity, defined by others, become the dictators of my action.
To wake up, then, is to realize that societal definitions of our identity are fundamentally masks that keep us subdued and complacent with underlying systems of injustice. When I act to conform to others’ definitions of “the ideal woman” or the “perfect Davidson student,” I deny my inner freedom and dignity as a free person. I am blind to my own competitive spirit trying to “catch up” to everyone else, to prove I am “worthy.” I have surrendered my life to a force of power that keeps me alienated from my true self, which then alienates me further from my community, the Earth, and God.
When I spend time in the wilderness or in prayer, however, a fundamental shift occurs in my thinking. I become present to the life that is within me and around me. I hear the voice that speaks: You are one with the Living God. You belong to no one but Christ, to the Light of the Divine. When I spend time in prayer, I learn to recognize my truest needs and longings: I eat when I am hungry, yell when I feel angry, and dance with wildness when I feel imbued with energy. Then, when I enter back into interactions with others, I can listen to their voices and look into their eyes more carefully. Even just for a moment, I am able to know and embody God’s love at the core of my being. From this place of knowing life’s inherent beauty, I then move to question how I live in society.
God’s voice calls me to unmask, to see clearly, the systems of structural sin that I participate in daily when I act from a place of conformity. Prayer opens me to realize that when I speak about God as a man, I am conforming to patriarchy’s denigration of the Divine Feminine. I see that this perpetuates the alive and powerful system of sexism, as women across the world suffer from domestic violence, hierarchical impediments to political power, and denied access to education. I realize that my resource consumption is astronomical compared to the rest of the world, and the Earth is screaming to us through massive typhoons and rising average temperatures in the Southeast. My actions are part of a giant, sticky web that keeps me asleep in its grip.
These problems are not the result of any one individual’s actions, but all of us are part of the system, and we need to be aroused awake toward conversion. God’s voice calls to us, wakes us, converts our hearts toward our true power as instruments of the Divine. Conversion frees us of our numbness and indifference toward suffering; it empowers us to unleash anger, grief, and lament toward injustice to be transformed as creative energy. Conversion frees us to act from a place of inner conviction, to honor the sacredness of all life, through our unique gifts, passions, and aspirations.
How do we awaken to our deep inner capacity to affect change? How do we open ourselves to conversion, to unmask the false layers upon our consciousness? From my experiences reading liberation theology this semester, I have learned that the Powers in the universe, the systems of injustice, are too great to overcome on our own. The message of the Gospels proclaims that God alone has the power to overcome death, and Christ is alive and active as our Liberator. Christ is the One who gives us the strength that we need as a collective body to wake up together. Together, we are empowered to work for justice through the message of the Resurrection, and we see new potential for society as illuminated by Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom. Jesus calls to us:
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
As we create a new collective identity as a society, we each must awaken to the voice inside of us, calling us by name. Beloved child of God, you are here for a purpose to serve the Universe. You have the creative potential of the ocean deep within your being. Tell me, what is holding you captive? What sets you free?
I leave you with a quote by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”