HOUSES OF WORSHIP
Religion is About Seeing the Rabbit
In “Sayings of the Desert,” there is a story from the Desert Fathers about a young monk who asked one of the old men of the desert why it was that so many people came out to the desert to seek God, and yet most of them gave up and returned to their lives in the city.
“Last evening my dog saw a rabbit running for cover among the bushes of the desert and he began to chase the rabbit, barking loudly. Soon other dogs joined in the chase, and they were barking and running as well. They ran a great distance and alerted many other dogs. Soon the desert was echoing the sounds of their pursuit but the chase went on into the night.
After a little while, many of the dogs grew tired and dropped out. A few chased the rabbit until the night was nearly spent. By morning, only my dog continued the hunt. “Do you understand,” the old man said, “what I have told you?”
“No,” replied the young monk, “please tell me father.”
“It is simple,” said the desert father, “my dog saw the rabbit.”
In my journey as a pastor I quickly realized that religion has a lot to do with how we see life. It seems that lately our culture tends to see life from a point of view based on fear and insecurity. Even some religious perspectives remind me more of barking dogs that simply respond to others barking, instead of realizing that the spiritual journey first involves “seeing the rabbit.”
I am reminded of Mark Nepo’s words from his book “The Exquisite Risk”:
To journey without being changed is to be a nomad
To change without taking a journey is to be a chameleon
But to journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.
If you are reading this, you must at least be interested in what is “a religious” perspective on life. One of my books is based on the old good news/bad news joke. An airplane pilot announces over the intercom to the passengers, “I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that we are lost; I have no idea where we are. The good news is that we are making excellent time.”
The book is titled, “Lost but Making Excellent Time: Transforming the Rat Race into a Pilgrimage.” In our fast-paced culture, we are definitely going fast, but we sure can get lost and fall victim to barking voices causing us to be fearful and insecure.
According to Marcus Borg in “The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith,” one may have any of three worldviews:
• Hostile: One may see the universe as hostile to us. We can expect bad things to happen, and we must be constantly on the defensive.
• Indifferent: One may see the universe as indifferent to us. We still need to be on our guard because things happen without regard to their effect on us, for good or for ill.
• Gracious: One may see the universe as gracious to us. We can relax. At the heart of the universe is goodness, compassion, beauty, joy. This view needs to recognize areas of hostility (criminals do exist) and areas of indifference (hurricanes have no regard for humans), but the overall bent of the universe is gracious.
I invite you to pause and reflect upon how you see life. Healthy religion invites us to be spiritual pilgrims who pay attention and walk the journey, realizing that life is a gift. If we do so, we shall “see the rabbit” and be grateful.
Dr. Jody Seymour
Jody Seymour retired after serving Davidson United Methodist Church as Senior Pastor for 13 years and being a pastor for forty-six years in the Western North Carolina Conference. He is the author of six books and resides just outside of Davidson with his wife, Betsy.