“The genius of the biblical story is that, instead of simply giving us ‘seven habits for highly effective people,’ it gives us permission and even direction to take conscious ownership of our own story at every level, every part of life and experience. God will use all of this material, even the negative parts, to bring us to life and love.” Richard Rohr
I’ve said a lot of strange things over the years. Infact, I have a footprint safely, securely and evidently etched in my mouth to remind me of how many times it has been stuck there. Even so, what I’m about to write, for many of you, might be the “topper.” It may go near, if not absolutely to, the top of the list in terms of strange. But hear me (rather, “read” me) out. This post is on what Rohr calls, “The Cosmic Egg.” Though on the surface this might sound weird it has all the substance necessary to not only change your perspective on scripture but also give it a new sense of meaning.
As we proceed, take a careful look at the following illustration scanned specifically
from Things Hidden:
This is how Rohr explains the “Egg”:
“Picture three domes of meaning. The smallest dome of meaning is my private story, “This is me,” “My story.” It is subjective, interpersonal, self-help, psychological language (Ed. Note – culturally shaped by the language of culture over the past decades). It is very good,
as far as it goes. There is a second and larger dome of meaning that encloses the first.
“This is us,” “Our story.” This is where most people have lived their lives…their ethnicity, their gender, their group, their religion, their occupation. The biblical tradition honors both of these domes of meaning. “This is me” and “This is us” are both parts of the narrative. The third dome of meaning that encloses and regulates the two smaller ones is called, “The Story.” By this, I mean the patterns that are always true. The biblical
tradition takes all three levels seriously:
My Story, Our Story, and THE Story.
Biblical revelation is saying that the ONLY WAY you can understand in any depth THE Story is to walk through and take responsibility for your personal story and also for your group story.”
Things Hidden, pages 20-24
Frankly, I found this image EXTREMELY helpful! As a student of and lover of scripture, I need to understand that I constantly bring my little world into the biblical story always at the expense of the meaning of the text. In other words, I reduce the level of the text’s meaning and potentiality to something that I can understand, appreciate, and with which I can agree.
UNFORTUNATELY, that reduces the text and it negates its meaning by making it purely into a collection of sayings that back ME up instead of revealing to me a bigger God and Story that calls into a new reality and life. When MY story trumps THE Story, the Bible is
no more than a mirror for me to enjoy my reflection (the very definition of narcissism)
instead of being the “cradle of Jesus” (Martin Luther’s phrase, not mine) or, better yet, a divinely inspired and created light that illuminates and challenges me with a bigger world. That’s why so many of the followers of Jesus that I know (including myself at times) don’t really “get” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We say to ourselves, “yeah I can agree with
the fact that the bible is divinely inspired” but it isn’t good for in the way Paul says. IT IS ONLY GOOD for being something that affirms ME, my perspective, my view of the world and my comfort level of spiritual formation, understanding and development. We purposely ignore the “correction, reproof, and training for righteousness” stuff because it is TOO BIG of a Story to comprehend and live (we understand intuitively that THE Story is really where life is but we ignore it the best we can because we know that once we acknowledge a larger story, we lose our place on the throne of our lives). Let me put it this way and I’ll move on – we impose our small view of the world and God on the bigger story purely so that we can control, avoid, and continue to live self-focused and self-perpetuating lives.
So, here’s the rub. MY story…YOUR story is not THE story. Our stories are essentially
stories are driven by our own self-interest, perspectives, context, and preferences. To “impose” our story upon the world (especially the bible) is to transpose those stories to “subject” status, in other words, placing them “under” our story of meaning. When that happens, these other stories rendered meaningless at best. Let me say it like this – when our story becomes THE story then WE become God and God is reduced to little more than a servant or better yet slave to our interpretation of the world. We start reading into spirituality, especially the Bible, what WE want to see that is affirming to our
perspective. We turn the bible, not into a revelation of THE Living Word drawing us into a bigger story of meaning and purpose and life but rather we reduce it to a collection of hand-picked snippets that say nothing more than we are right and that OUR story matters more than anything or anyone else’s.
It is vital to know and to live the fact that our story ONLY finds perspective and meaning in THE Story. Once that occurs, we don’t have to be threatened, judgmental or frightened in entering other people’s stories. Their story is being unfolded in a larger story just as ours is…the difference is that they may not have “eyes to see and ears to hear” the larger story. Our story, as it fits in the larger story, gives our story vitality, purpose, perspective (even in times of pain because our pain, tragedy, etc. “fits” in THE Story where there is life and meaning even in the most PAINFUL of sufferings). Hence, it gives us the courage and freedom to share our story and to allow other people’s stories to have meaning EVEN WHEN they are disconnected or ignorant or rebellious of entering or even acknowledging that THE Story exists.
So, this image works for me! It gives my life and your life necessary spiritual perspective that is honoring to and acknowledging TRUE reality but it also frees me (and us) to enter other people’s stories without condemnation, belittlement, or dismissal. So friends, as biblical lovers and students, let’s embrace the text for what it is – a revelation of HIS-Story in which we truly find ourselves and God’s freedom, peace, and purpose.
I know, I know…a little heavy today but necessary deep waters to navigate.