Harry Houdini performed a particular escape trick that went terribly awry. Confined inside a steamer trunk with heavy padlocks, he was lowered through a hole in the ice of the Chicago River. He was supposed to free himself from the chest and then use the chain to find his way back up to the hole. But suddenly the chain snapped, and the chest fell to the river bottom. Without much difficulty, Houdini freed himself from the trunk, but the chain guiding him back was now gone. The chest had drifted downstream and the ice hole was nowhere to be found! Each time he made it to the surface he was met only with solid ice. Tiny air pockets gave him a chance to catch little breaths of air, but still he could find no exit anywhere. He had gone way off course, off script. Panic set in. Getting out of the locked chest was fairly easy, but now the stunt had turned horribly wrong. As everyone watched and waited above, the water was very cold and time was running out.
This true story perfectly illustrates the great escape all seekers must make to be free. Spiritual awakening is the easy part, you wake up as from a dream. The journey begins, only now you must find your way back, back to the place where you originally entered this 3rd dimension of time-space-matter. We went off-course, “into a far country.” The broken chain reminds me of the “silver cord,” the soul’s tether spoken of by seers. Houdini did eventually find his way, but according to him, he heard the sound of his mother’s voice calling to him from the spirit world. He immediately found the exact location of the hole in the ice and escaped barely alive.
The Prophet Jonah. Jesus said this was the only true sign ever given! (Matthew 12:39-40). On its face, we easily take this prophecy to mean his entombment, since Jonah spent three days in the belly of the great fish. But beyond this obvious meaning, why did he say it is the only sign given? Given to whom? Concerning what? When the Lord spoke, it was heard on multiple levels of understanding. Here is an esoteric mystery for disciples only: It speaks of the innermost cave of the heart, the deepest recesses of the soul where our cries of suffering are heard by God, and we are safely guided through the rent in the veil: So small and narrow, like Houdini, the seeker cannot possibly find it alone.
So why did Jonah end up a castaway?
With practice and cunning, we skillfully learn ways to easily defy handcuffs or a padlocked trunk. We become hardened escape artists, overly confident in our clever diversions, forgetful, ungrateful, unsympathetic to others. Rebellious. Then something goes terribly wrong, our performance collapses before our audience. The mask comes off and we hit bottom. Life becomes a shipwreck. This is the sign of Jonah: It is here in the belly of the whale he was actually closest to God!
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord out of the fish’s belly: “Out of hell I cried, and the Lord heard my voice. For thou hast cast me into the deep. I am cast out of thy sight, yet will I look again toward his holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to my soul. Seaweed was wrapped around my head. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord, and my prayer reached thee in thine holy temple. Thou has brought my life up from corruption.” And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited up Jonah upon dry land.
Psalm 69. David says, “Save me God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink deep in the mire, where there is no standing, I am in deep water where the floods overflow me… let me not sink, let not the deep swallow me up… I am in trouble, I looked for someone to take pity, for comforters, but there was no one. My prayer is unto thee, O Lord, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me.”
Copyright 2017 by The Pulpit.