When you are a kid and someone asks you “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I bet that no one ever says “I want to be a prophet.”
I had a fellow at a yoga ashram located in a former Jesuit seminary tell me that he thought I just might be a prophet. He felt sorry for me, because he had read about Biblical prophets, and saw that “God put those guys through hell.” I suspected that he saw the same for me.
My name tag at that 2003 retreat was simple. It read “Resisting Calling To The Point Of Self Destruction.”
I have no doubt that what the universe put me through to this point was all training. I have been shaped by experiences, by nature, by family, by scarcity, by challenges. It is the journey, it is my journey.
I know how to hate being a goddamn prophet. I know how to stay cynical, apart and hurt by the calling I resist.
Is it possible, though, to love being a prophet? Is there a way to be a prophet with joy and verve, even after the burning trip that gets one to that place?
The scars, it seems, are part of the price. Everyone who claims to be a healer has them. Often, though, they aren’t really very big scars, aren’t the remnants of a very intense life.
Being joyous while showing those scars — wearing the stains on the outside of your clothes, as Lindsay said — is tough, tough juju. It’s not something you can easily be supported in.
There is no league of recalcitrant prophets. The prophets, though, who aren’t recalcitrant, who are not a bit resistant to their calling are probably not prophets at all but rather just recloaked missionaries, working to build a power base, a following, a sect, a cult.
The thing about propheting is that you learn early that you will always face resistance. If what you have to say is something that everyone already agrees with, something that makes them comfortable, then it is not the message of a prophet.
For millennia now, people who claim to be followers of Jesus have been trying to make his message less radical, less challenging and more supportive of states and empires, but the core message is still challenging us to become more open, compassionate and connected today.
False prophets speak for separation, for building comfortable enclaves outside the wicked world. Real prophets will just piss you off, challenging you to be a better person who makes better choices to engage the wide world everyday. Heck, anybody can easily name at least one prophet who got themselves killed by the establishment for being too damn mouthy.
Prophet pride is not something we hold parades about. Somehow, keeping prophets humble seems important to the world, just so they don’t get too out of hand and messiah like. Making the world tough for prophets is part of the bigger plan; it both keeps the riff raff out and leaves the real prophets with enough wounds that they can really feel their humanity.
People need, though, a bit of grace and joy in their prophets. They need the message speakers to stand up with strength, answering questions (even the very tough and dismissive questions) and offering a bit of confidence that change is possible and that hope is worth holding on to.
Encouragement is what people need, but it is encouragement to leap, to allow the death of comfort and convenience so that the new, beautiful and breathtaking can be born. If people wanted to hear this message, wanted to have this gift, they would already have it.
No, people are recalcitrant to follow an awareness which demands that they become new. Recalcitrance is what humans experience, which is why even prophets have it intensely in their life.
Learning to stand up in the world and, with a big smile, say “Hi. I’m a prophet and I’m here to help” is tough stuff. It feels arrogant, deluded and like you are just asking to be knocked back. Call it guru, seer, what you will, it is all much same challenge.
After all, I know that I am just another human with feet of clay, even if I know that every other prophet in the world was just the same, just human like me.
In other cultures, at other times, there were social roles for people like me, places where we were valued for the role we performed. There I might well have been recruited for service. Today, though, even though I first gave a sermon around the age of 13, society doesn’t have the same values.
I’m not stupid. I know that today many people will hear the word prophet and recoil, a history of religious experience shaping their idea of what a prophet should be or say, what a prophet is not. It is a loaded notion, one people find icky or blasphemous, redolent of some kind of “one truth” out to enslave and oppress us all while erasing real diverse knowledge.
Because that notion is far from where I am coming from — no fundamentalism or one true way here — I resist it too. I know lots of people whose claims to knowledge I find weak or lacking, people I wouldn’t trust with spiritual power.
How simply, though, can one express the notion of being a teacher, a spiritual guide, a visionary, without some kind of blow back?
Do I want to be a guru, a witch, a prophet? No. It’s not the role I would have chosen for myself, but I knew from an early age that roles like famous actress, television hostess and mother weren’t really options for me
I am, to say the least, recalcitrant about the calling and have been for many decades. I have resisted my calling, to the point of self destruction.
Self destruction, though, isn’t pretty, fun, engaging or even useful. Either I have to be someone else, which isn’t bloody likely, or I have to become less recalcitrant and more proud.
Even proud to be a God dammed prophet.