Finding Yourself In The Cave
There is this scene in Star Wars Episode VI - Return of the Jedi where, as part of his Jedi training, Luke Skywalker enters into a cave where he ultimately confronts his greatest fear.
I was in high school when the movie came out and had not yet really discovered Plato's Allegory of the Cave, nor had I read any of the great literary critic Joseph Campbell's work on the hero cycle.
I just thought it was shocking and pretty deep that when Luke discovers a vision of Darth Vader in the cave and then defeats the dark figure only to discover his own face behind the mask. "Coooool!" I seem to remember exclaiming when I saw it.
Little did I know at that time just how fundamental that very storyline is to the way we come to know and understand ourselves. It's also a wonderful illustration of how when we finally find the courage to turn and face our fears, we often find our own faces staring back at us.
I mentioned the author and literary critic Joseph Campbell a bit ago, here is something amazing he wrote about this very topic:
Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was dreaded, has become the center.
As I was reading this, I got to thinking about something that Jesus taught that was kind of the inverse of this analogy. Jesus didn't use the image of a cave to teach this lesson, but there was something in his story that touched on the idea of facing your fear and finding yourself.
He told the story of a man who stumbled upon a buried treasure in a field, reburied it, and then gave everything he had to buy the field so he could "discover" the treasure later in his legally purchased property.
Jesus said this was like the kingdom of God---this guy who sweated it out hoping and praying that the buried treasure in the field he was buying wouldn't be discovered until after the deal was done. It seems kind of weird, and somehow kind of shady, right?
The fact of the matter is, that kind of thinking made sense in the first century. The crowd wouldn't have gotten caught up in what we consider the weirdness of the story and would have found their hearts pounding as they waited for the "gotcha!" moment when the guy lost everything he had and was left with nothing but a field.
Then Jesus doesn't really resolve it that well. He just says the guy gave everything he had to buy the field so he could unearth the treasure. He doesn't offer an epilogue where the guy digs the treasure up, opens a restaurant and hotel, maybe a golf course.
You're kind of left hanging with the question, "Would you overcome your fear, and risk losing everything in order to gain more than everything?" This is like the story of the cave in that it's a story about surrender, and facing what you dread and fear the most--it's about losing everything, becoming irrelevant, and maybe even experiencing death itself.
Only to discover that the very thing you dreaded isn't the last thing.
John Lennon is attributed with this bit of amazingness: Everything will be all right in the end. If it isn't, it isn't the end.
And sometimes you need to enter the cave, you need to surrender everything, you have to be willing to risk it all for the sake of the buried treasure within you.
Because when you do, you will discover your heart's desire. You will also find that the person you have always longed to be is right there, and has been all along.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.