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The Return Threshold

 


As we come near the end of our weekly series on the Hero's Journey, today we will cover "The Return Threshold".  In this stage, the Hero has succeeded in their quest and now they are coming back to their old world.  Joseph Campbell calls this the "ordinary world".   The return to the ordinary world usually includes some type of challenge.  Sometimes an enemy must be challenged, but sometimes the enemy is the ordinary world itself.  As we have followed the hero's journey we have seen the hero change, what was once important is no longer important.  While the hero has changed, the ordinary world has not.  The ordinary world holds values that the returning hero has abandoned for something greater.  This can cause tension as the hero tries to return as a changed person.

In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we see the Hobbits finally return to their home in the Shire.  Unfortunately in their absence Saruman and his orcs have taken over the Shire and must be defeated and cast out of their old home.  With their new skills and confidence, they have no trouble doing this, but it serves as their final challenge before returning to their old lives.  They took some of what they had learned on their adventures and used it to rescue their old world.  They became heroes in their homeland as well as afar.  Their friends and family see them in a new way and the irresponsible hobbits that left become the leaders of the next generation.  

This example reminds me of Jesus' comment in Luke 4.  The people in his hometown were challenging him to do a miracle among them like they had heard he had done elsewhere.  Jesus responded by saying "No prophet is accepted in his hometown."  Jesus was pointing out how difficult it is for the people you grew up with to see you, as you are, after the change that takes place during the Hero's Journey.  

Many of us experience this with our own faith walk.  If we converted to the faith we experience a life-changing encounter with Christ, but our friends and family still see us as we were.  They doubt our change or invite and even encourage us to do things that no longer match our values.  They are unable to see us for who we are now.  On the other hand, if we grew up in the faith, we still experience a time in our lives when we went from surface belief to life-changing faith.  Our friends and family respond in the same way.  We have left and returned from the journey, but they remained unchanged and it can feel like they are trying to pull us back.

Let's not forget the enemy that we may encounter upon our return too.  Often, after the life-changing faith experience, we return to our old world and find ourselves tempted by our old patterns.  After years of living a certain way in a certain environment, the environment itself can call us back into those old patterns.  This is the final enemy...the one from within.  

Many of us will experience this final enemy over the holidays as we visit our family and our old homes.  Back in an old familiar environment with familiar social patterns we find our patience is not what it should be, we find ourselves caught up in old fights, we bicker, focus on the negative, and lose ourselves to our old patterns.  As you enter these spaces, remember what you have learned on your journey, focus on the good, start with love, and be the change you want to see.  Be patient when they don't see you for who you are because that is part of the journey.  

God, give us strength to be who you made us to be.  Give us the ability to break old patterns and be the change we want to see.  Help us to inspire new social norms and may our actions and way of being call people towards you.  

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