The Crucible, Crucifix, and Chrysalis
"Sooner or later, we all go through a crucible... Most believe there are two types of people who go into a crucible: The ones who become stronger from the experience and survive it, and the ones who die. But there's a third type. The ones who learn to love the fire and choose to stay in their crucible because it's easier to embrace the pain when it's all you know anymore." ~Sebastian Blood, Arrow
I remember when I heard the bad guy in Arrow's Season 2, Sebastian Blood, say that. I was struck quiet for a moment. I think I actually backed it up and played it again. The Crucible is a common image, used by many saints, philosophers, and TV shows. It's that hard time that either crushes the carbon into powder or turns it into the diamond. Every superhero has one of those defining moments, often the death of a loved one: Uncle Ben, Mr. Murdock, the Waynes, St. Rita's husband and twin sons, John Paul II and World War II. For others, it's experiences: Oliver's island, Barry's being struck by lightning and in a coma, Fitz-Simmons being dropped from the plane by a man once called friend, Frodo and Sam taking the Ring of Power across barren lands while being chased by - and accompanied by - enemies, the Prince's time as a Beast, St. Ignatius taking a cannon ball to the leg, Mother Theresa's decades long Dark Night. All of our superheroes, all of our favorite characters, all of our great Saints, had a time where they had to make a choice, to decide if they would crumble or if they would persevere. Those that crumbled faded away or became tragedy stories, maybe even warning signs. Those who persevered, who rose up from the ashes, flamed forth with great light and brought hope and inspiration to many.
Our crosses, our crucibles, can turn us into great Saints, superheroes, people to be admired and looked up to. For some of us, these crosses are dramatic: a family being torn apart by violence or bad choices, the loss of loved ones, devastating health issues. For others, it's the daily grind: that thorn in the flesh we can never quite conquer, that coworker that drives us nuts, that never-ending depression or unrelenting anxiety, changing one more diaper and washing one more dish, being ridiculed one last time, feeling worthless or unworthy of love, dealing with the injustices of the world on a daily basis. Regardless of our crucible, regardless of the size and shape of our cross, we have a choice: Do we let ourselves crumble, turn to ash to be blown away by the wind? Or do we allow ourselves to rise victorious from the ashes?
Or do we stay in the crucible because at least it's familiar? Are we afraid to face the darkness in our pasts, afraid to come to terms with the weakness, the hardships, the struggles? Have we been told, over and over again, that we are not good enough, that we are too weak, that we aren't worth the Resurrection? Do we find shame in our scars? Do we try to hide these parts of our lives, even from ourselves and God? What prisons do we hide ourselves in? What crucibles do we take shelter in. Do we allow ourselves to remain trapped in the tomb, afraid to burst free in glorious light because we don't want to allow the change to happen?
The cross and tomb is our Chrysalis. We must enter it to rise again, it is the place we are remade, our scars healed, but not removed. But we cannot stay there. We cannot shelter in the tomb, letting it keep people away from us. The enemy guards the stone, keeping it from being removed. But the angels desire nothing more than to open it so that we, like Christ, like Lazarus, might emerge glorious. The butterfly has no idea what awaits her in the world. She has no idea what her wings will look like, but she knows if she doesn't leave the chrysalis and unfold her wings, her wings will decay and fall off.
We are more than the masks, prisons, and stones we hide behind. But only if we let ourselves believe it. We must believe we are worth more, that we need not be LaFou, tied to a boar like Gaston. That we don't have to be stifled by fear, by other's expectations, by our own insecurities. Let the angels roll away the stone, confidently emerge with our Lord on Sunday,
So, my challenge to you, my friends, this Easter Weekend is this: Identify the prisons you live in. What are you afraid to let people see? What do you hate bringing to prayer? What scars, wounds, or insecurities have you been living chained by? What do you keep locked in the closet, afraid to even think about? Bring those to the cross, and let them be your chrysalis. Don't let them keep you chained. Let God take them and remake them into something beautiful. Let them be your chrysalis, not your tomb, We are called to be great, to do things even greater than Christ did while He was on earth. So, stop being afraid, stop being meek and timid.
Break free from the ashes with a glorious cry!
"By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going, because they were holding onto something." ~Samwise Gamgee, The Two Towers.