Interlude - Noli Me Tangere
I came across this picture a couple of weeks ago. It’s part of a collection of devotions created by the Methodist Church called Waiting in Wonder, nine days of prayer between Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was said to touch Jesus’ followers.
The picture is called Noli Me Tangere and shows the moment when Mary Magdalene recognises Jesus in the tomb after his resurrection. Jesus appears larger than life and Mary is on her knees, distraught because he was killed. Noli Me Tangere is translated to mean ‘Do not cling to me’, words Jesus is said to have spoken to Mary as she wept at his feet (see John 20:17). He was asking her not to cling to him because he was yet to ascend, and he wanted to ascend to heaven.
As I looked at this photo it struck me that it can represent different parts of us. The part of us that wants to rise above who we are, that wants to evolve and become bigger than we are, that wants to answer the call to fulfil the potential that we sense is ours for the taking. Yes, it can represent all that, but it can also reflect the part of us who wants to cling to who we once were, who wants things to remain the same, who is frightened of what that evolution, that fulfilled potential may do to us. How it might impact our lives and the people around us.
We can use the response of our friends and family as an excuse to not move forward. We can use our lack of financial resources, or lack of knowledge or work responsibilities as reasons and very plausible reasons why we can’t do something or grow into ourselves, but at the end of the day its our decision. The battle is within us, the battle between comfort and growth, between fear and courage, between who we are and who we can become.
It’s ironic because midlife should be a liberating period in our lives. Many people enjoy the opportunity to be who they have been without concern for what others think. This is because they generally know what others think of them and have figured out a way to live with that. At the same time many people in midlife know on some level that they are transitioning into another version of themselves and while a part of them welcomes that new version, they may not understand what is going on. As a result they, and the people around them dismiss what they are experiencing as a midlife crisis, something that has to be got over instead of a natural transition.
Are you in some level of discomfort? Do you know that in order to move forward you need to take a step? It’s not a big step but it has a lot of fear attached. Do you keep stopping yourself? You say you’re going to do it today, tomorrow, in a week, but you never get around to it?
It’s probably something that is going to move you to the next level in your business, or your relationship with your partner, parents or children. It may be taking you in a completely new direction, but you still want to enjoy the comfort of staying where you are. Just a little longer, just until the fear of stepping out to where you want to be, who you are becoming, goes. You want to move forward but a part of you still holds you back?
Noli Me Tangere isn’t an aggressive shoving away of that part of you, nor is it a gentle negotiation. It’s a decision you make that clearly states that you are ready to move forward, to let go of the old, the small and welcome the new, the larger than life. It’s that part of you that is going to act in spite of any fears you may have. The part of you that will hold your hand as you ascend and not wrap itself around your legs clinging and begging you to stay where you are.
It’s not easy to recognise what is happening, it’s easy to justify, to find perfectly good reasons why it makes sense to stay where you are, but once you start forward you can never go back because there is always that voice silently crying Noli Me Tangere, ‘Do not cling to me. Let me go. Let me rise.’ And if you’re lucky, if you have the right support and the courage and the commitment you rise. Sometimes it may feel like you’re being pulled back by life, but maybe there is comfort in knowing that like a catapult, you need to be stretched backwards in order to propel forwards. If you’re okay with that, if you can withstand the pain and anxiety that comes from going back and if you just let go, then you can fly to heights even you didn’t imagine.
Noli Me Tangere
Do not cling to me
Are you ready to let go?