At the age of ten I dreamed the Lone Ranger shot me. This big dream about my hero was more real than any other I’ve ever had. I was devastated to think he hated me so much he wanted to kill me and I couldn’t understand why. I had practically worshiped him, his beautiful horse 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 195o’s 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 in the outer world of ambition, achievement and work.
So it was a bit of a shock to realize at mid-life was that I was copying a surface version of the hero myth that emphasizes external trappings of power and success and ignores the inner life. Beneath the image of the independent, white-hatted cowboy on a white horse who rides off in search of bad buys to kill with his silver bullets is a much deeper meaning that is also the deeper meaning of every authentic religion: True heroism, the kind that lasts and makes a difference in the world, is the ability to rein in the ego, lasso and befriend our shadow, learn compassion, and embolden our true Self so we can care for others in ways that are beneficial to all. In conforming to a mold that didn’t honor my inner realities I was betraying myself and the Great Mystery we call God.
Here is the message I want to convey: We don’t have to settle for dysfunctional God-images or self-images. Acquiring the consciousness to recognize our wounds and complete our souls so we can serve our communities with compassion is the true Hero’s Journey. This is a spiritual path anyone can take.