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Refusal to Return



The last cycle of The Hero's Journey begins with what Campbell calls "The Refusal of the Return".  In this stage the hero has finished their quest and won their award, but now they are faced with the idea of returning to their place of origin.  They struggle with the idea of leaving paradise, or sharing their wisdom with their old community.  After being changed so much, do they even still belong in the place they came from?

In The Lord of the Rings, after Frodo has tossed the ring into the fire and the battle is won, he is so tired he wants to give up, there is nothing left driving him to return home, so he lays down and prepares to die.  Then, when the party regroups in Gondor, they linger there for a long time before each returns to their homeland.  Finally, when Frodo does return home, he is uncomfortable, he feels out of place, and wants to leave.  He has changed and realizes that he no longer belongs in the Shire. 

After Christ's resurrection he met with Mary first.  When she reached out to touch him he stopped her and said "Don't touch me, I have not ascended to My Father."  Jesus knew that it was time to return to heaven, from where he had come, but instead he lingered with the disciples and taught them for 40 days.  

Notice that in both of these examples the Hero of the story does not actually refuse, but it is more of a reluctance, or a slowness to return.  I notice a similar pattern with people who are doing interior work on their mental health, religious trauma, or even expanding their awareness on things like racism and other forms of oppression.  There is a slowness to return to their old environments, a reluctance to share what they have learned with their old friends or their families.  There is a recognition that the old world will never understand the new them.  They express the same exhaustion that Frodo experienced as he lay down to die.

God, give us the strength to return to our worlds with the gifts that you have given us on our journeys.  Help us to share what we have learned with people who will never fully understand until they go on their own journey.  Give us patience with them when they don't seem to get it.  Help us to be gentle with ourselves and others.  Remind us that we may be the trigger experience that sends them on their own journey to wholeness.  Amen.    

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