It’s a mind-blowing story about two frogs. One frog lived in a dank well. The other lived by the sea. One day the frog who lived by the sea visited the frog who lived by the well and tried to explain what the sea was like to the well-dweller frog.
The frog who lived by the well had such a narrow vision of life that he said, “do you mean that the sea is so big that it’s a quarter of the size of this well?” The frog who lived by the sea tried to describe the sea, explain the sea, even drew a picture of the sea. None of it seemed to help the well-dwelling frog’s limited sense of reality. He had lived a certain way, thought a certain way, got accustomed to a certain way of life, and he simply couldn’t imagine anything else. Yet something inside him was curious and wondered whether there was more than he knew.
Finally, the sea frog convinced the well frog to jump out of his comfort zone and make the great journey to the sea. The two new friends went on what was a kind of pilgrim’s progress for frogs. Well, it’s a long story.
The frog who lived by the well was told to keep his eyes closed. And then they hopped, hopped to the top of the hill. The frog who lived by the sea could barely contain her excitement. Finally, she said: “OK. Open your eyes.” And the frog who lived in the well opened his eyes for the first time. He saw the vast luminescence of the sea. And the story ends abruptly. Actually, the story ends with this simple comment: and the frog’s head exploded in a thousand pieces!
It’s a mid-blowing story, like I told you. It’s an old Buddhist tale. It’s a story of challenge and hope for all of us who repeat the same mistakes and live the same scripts over and over. Who are limited by narrow vision. Who are stuck in literalism. Whose minds and hearts are closed to the “more” of life, the “more” of the world, the “more” of God.
Yet, like Nicodemus, are you seeking and searching for something? Is that why you’re here? As we grow older and get more set in our ways and in our thinking, don’t we too, long for a second wind, a second chance, a second birth. A chance to see anew. A chance to get beyond our indifference and risk-aversion.
An old monastic tale tells of a seeker who came to a monastery looking for the purpose and meaning of life. The Teacher said to the seeker, “If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing that you must have above all else.” “I know, I know the answer,” the seeker said proudly. “To find the truth, I must have a single-minded passion for it.” “No, not quite,” the Teacher said. “In order to find the Truth, you must have an unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.”
“You must be born of water and spirit,” Jesus says. But not reborn in a literal way. Born anew, born from above, born to a different truth: a new way of thinking and living.
It’s easy to get stuck in our head. The stock, pat, old answers. The tried and true. The ways we were first taught. And more than anything, the coping mechanisms, helpful as they sometimes are, that shut us down. And keep us from making the journey to the sea.
This past week I read an article called, “If We are Not Just Animals, What are We?” In the realm of science, we do not have a separate soul. Actually, the best of Christian theology affirms Hebraic understanding that does not separate body and soul as if they were two things. Yet we are created in the image of God. There is something in being human that cannot be reduced to nature alone. We are the only creature that doesn’t seem to be content with our lot in life. The only creature that usually wants to be something else or somewhere else but the present moment.
Yet, the wonderful thing about human restlessness is the desire itself–the seeking and the searching. During Lent, seekers all over the world are preparing for baptism, confirmation, and affirmation of baptism at the Easter Vigil. Today, as we welcome some of them to the final stage of their journey to baptismal waters, we ask them: “What do you seek?” The liturgical answer is: “Faith and fullness of life.” I wonder how they would put that in their own words. I wonder how we would put it. What do you seek?
I love that the spiritual journey is meant to be mind-blowing. To open our hearts to mystery, our minds to questions–The “how can these things be? question of Nicodemus. To pattern our journey on the way of Jesus, the way of the cross, the way of dying and rising, the way of transformation. The way of simplicity, compassion, justice. The Lenten journey returns us again and again to our earth-loving, world-loving God who joins us on the journey.
There will be yin and yang to the journey. Sometimes with yin feminine energy that is dark and moist. Like a womb, like the breaking of the birth water, like the vastness of the sea, like human unconsciousness. Speaking of mind-blowing, within our patriarchal scriptures, Jesus uses a radical, maternal birth image in today’s gospel: you must be born anew! At the same time, blowing wind is yang: strong, penetrating and unsettling things. Water and wind, signs of spirit. And the path to transformation.
The mind-blowing, blowing wind of Lent is gift. Often half-alive, running on two percent of what we’re called to be, the story of the two frogs is an invitation. To jump out of our own little well, our own little world. To join this community as we make a great journey together to the sea. To a new way of life. To transformation. To baptismal waters To death and resurrection. To Easter.