The First Commandment admonishes all adherents: Do not do it as you see it being done about you! There were nothing but “other gods” in those days, and in these. And the First Commandment calls us away from the way our neighbors are doing things to consider for ourselves how things truly need to be done, so that we might do it.
The declaration “Jesus Christ is Lord” was only half of the formula for first century believers. The other half, always implied and sometimes stated, if only under one’s breath, was “And Caesar is NOT Lord!” In this way, the early church carried forward the Old Testament dharma: “Do not do it as you see it being done about you!”
And, of course, this leads us to Julie Strope. Of all the things you could think to say about Julie Strope, never would you say that she did anything the way it was being done around her. This is the single characteristic essential for the salvation of the world, and Julie has embodied it beautifully, and has lived before us as a wonderful example of how it is to be done.
Jesus stood before the Pharisees, looked them in the eye, and asked, “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” And he asked his disciples point blank, “Who do YOU say that I am?” It is the independent judgment of individual human beings that keeps things balanced and sane, that makes the world livable, that enables life. When we stop thinking for ourselves and stop making up our own minds about what is important and how we will live our lives, things take a quick turn for the worse, and we follow one another like unconscious cows down worn paths to the pasture and back to the barn without ever being alive and present in the life we are living.
Who could be alive and present in the life we are living? Who could stand it? Who could be awake and alive for life as it is being lived around us? It seems obvious that we have to make ourselves unconscious—that we have to put ourselves to sleep—just to make it through our days. DO NOT DO IT AS YOU SEE IT BEING DONE ABOUT YOU! This is the spiritual task, quest, path, journey: Bearing the pain of waking up and living our own lives!
Our work is deciding how to live our own lives in the time and place—within the context and circumstances—of our living. This is our spiritual work and our calling, to bring forth who we are within the hard and fast realities of physical existence. This is the work of incarnation, giving the spiritual “I am” physical, tangible, actual existence in the world of normal, apparent, reality. We cannot hand this responsibility over to some external authority, some culture, some group, some guru, some guide, and go where we are told to go and do what we are supposed to do. DO NOT DO IT AS YOU SEE IT BEING DONE ABOUT YOU!
Our life is all we have to work with. It is the only tool at our disposal in the task of bringing forth who we were born, and who we are called, and who we are built, to be. If we just follow the other cows to the pasture and back to the barn all our lives long we will live and die as an unconscious cow.
That will never be said of Julie Strope. May it never be said of any of us! May it be said of us that we made the decisions that were needed to be made in order to live our own life, and may the life we live as our own be the life that is ours to live, the life with our name on it. Amen! May it be so!