In the parables we are to ask ourselves who we are. In the parable of The Good Samaritan, are we the robbers who beat up a lonely traveler (are we the gossip who ruined a person’s reputation, are we the guest at a restaurant who refused to tip the server because of ego, are we the person in a conversation who refused to listen to the truth of a story…)?
Are we the priest who walked on the other side of the road (too consumed with our own agenda we couldn’t afford the extra minutes, too consumed with our judgment that we couldn’t give grace)?
Are we the Levite who walked on the other side of the road (too worried about defiling our clothes or our reputation or our energy with another’s grief)?
Are we actually the Good Samaritan who actually notices, bends down, puts an arm around the wounded, and sets out to find respite and healing for the man?
We would like to believe that we are the Good Samaritan. Heck, the last thing we want to admit is that the are the one that put the man in the gutter. Or the one that walked away.
But, I’m thinking about this parable in a different way…
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And I have said this so many times before, and I’ll never stop saying it: we must know ourselves. Self awareness is a fickle bitch. We can’t always see ourselves with complete non-biased objectivity. It’s hard to see ourselves in the full spectrum of beauty and horror that is our reality. But we must try. We must try. We have to try!
So, going back to this parable…. What if all these characters in the story are actually us and not an “other”? What if we find ourselves in the pit of despair or grief or horror or shame. And, while we remain there in anguish, feeling as though we will die or actually longing that we could die, we move through stages in which the help we need must come from self. Those of us who have endured the heaviness, the isolation, the emotional pain. That inner turmoil becomes self-inflicted and visible wounds. We cannot bear the sheer volume of bleak blackness, we mutilate our bodies in the attempt to exorcise the demons within. We are our own robbers.
The priest, who is us, cannot pray. Cannot cry out. Cannot express the overwhelming oppression that is anxiety and panic and depression. The part of us who should be able to call out to Creator for help is incapable of offering breath, incapable of voice.
The Levite, who is also us, cannot stand to see ourselves in such depths that we avoid looking. We refuse to admit to others that we are hurting. We cannot bear the shame of what darkness lies within us that we reject our own truth. Anger and resentment and disgust at the person we are in this moment swirl like a maelstrom in the mind. Vile words against self explode from the tongue and choke the throat. And, as a result, our isolation and despair and desire for the respite of death increases. Incapable of seeing our own desperate depravity, we deny self. We avoid even the shadow of self. We close our eyes and clamp the mouth while, to others, we appear holy and whole.
And then, the Good Samaritan, the one who is bi-racial, half-Jew half-Gentile, meets us. That part of us with one foot in the muck with us and one foot in the garden. That part of us who recognizes the grief of the present and remembers the freedom of what can be. This part of us reaches within, whispers to us what we so desperately need to hear, and we are carried to health.
What if this parable is about self awareness and healing that can only come from facing our own fragility? What if this parable seeks to tell the story of one who has been there and who is no longer there?
What if we have met the enemy, and the enemy (and savior) is us?