Recently I wrote about my childhood dream in which the Lone Ranger shot me. This big dream was more real than any other I’ve ever had. I was devastated to think my hero hated me so much he wanted to kill me and I couldn’t understand why. I had practically worshiped him, Silver, and his trusty partner Tonto; yet he shot me! The injustice of this was intolerable!
One thing I’ve come to understand is that this dream spoke to my childhood image of God as a heroic male and my growing sense that I was unworthy because I was a female. In 1953 America God was a He, history was still about males, and females could not be bosses, ministers, presidents or heroes.
That new awareness was very painful to my ten-year-old heart, and I tried my best to suppress it for many years; but ultimately, belatedly, it forced me to take myself as seriously as I took my loved ones, to search for my truths, and to connect with God in ways that were personally meaningful instead of entrusting this most crucial of my soul’s tasks to others — especially others who did not value me because of my gender. It also inspired my creativity. My struggle to understand and empower femininity and the feminine side of the Sacred Mystery is at the core of everything I write.
A second message of this dream was the inevitability of death. While being alone most of the time I wasn’t in school or church seemed normal to me at ten, my dream said that unconsciously I was feeling very vulnerable and insecure. I could be left alone to make my way through a dangerous world, I could be victimized, I could die. When my father died a few months later this suspicion became a certainty and my trust in my hero/God was shattered. Apparently I knew something no one else did: the heavenly hero everyone thought of as perfect was secretly untrustworthy, unjust and cruel.
I tried to repress this awareness too, but it was nevertheless a bedrock reality that fueled my determination to do everything I could to stay on God’s good side! Ignoring my wounded Persephone, I concentrated on developing my Athena, the brave, noble and wise defender of patriarchy! And I got pretty good at being heroic.
So it was a bit of a shock to realize at mid-life was that I was copying a version of the Hero’s Journey that has worked quite well for males for thousands of years, but not so well for women. Beneath the image of the independent, white-hatted cowboy on a white horse who rides off into the sunset to right the injustices of the world with a silver bullet is another way — the Soul’s Way — of reining in the heroic ego and connecting with, healing and emboldening a heroic heart. In conforming to a mold that wasn’t made for me, I was betraying myself, losing myself!
Here is the message I want to convey: Whether you know it or not, your God-image — your hope for a vital, authentic life of love and compassion and spiritual meaning and healing and wholeness — is shaped by your personality, environment, and experiences. But you don’t have to settle for a dysfunctional God-image or self-image. Acquiring the consciousness to recognize your wounds and complete your soul is the true Hero’s Journey, and anyone can take it.