Clarity, Control, Codependence
If you had a private audience with the Pope—or insert your most revered religious figure here—what would you say? Is there a question you always wanted to ask, felt their perspective would be unique?
Now what if you had a private moment with Jesus? All his attention fixed on you alone. How would you use that time? What would you want to know? Could you boil it all down to one burning question?
Both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman had just such a moment with Jesus. Nicodemus comes by night to avoid being seen. The Samaritan woman comes to the well at noon, the hottest part of the day, to avoid seeing others. Fear and shame conspire to place them completely alone with Jesus for a precious moment. The gospels don’t record their initial questions, but there is a third questioner who we can imagine speaks for them. And for us.
What must I do to obtain eternal life? The rich, young ruler is asking Jesus for life that is eternally alive, fresh, fulfilling, abundant in meaning and purpose. Isn’t that the question? The one you would ask as well?
Each of these three questioners has an identity, a goal, and a compulsion that drive them, as do we. Nicodemus is a teacher of Israel, his goal is knowledge, and his compulsion is clarity. The young man is a person of authority whose goal is having a foolproof plan, and his compulsion is control. The woman is a Samaritan whose goal is connection, but her compulsion is codependence, that any relationship is better than none. Jesus can’t answer their questions until their underlying compulsions are cleared.
Clarity, control, codependence. Their compulsive solutions to life are the evergreen problem, blockages to eternal life.
Carl Jung said that until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate. Our compulsions are not conscious, but they ensure our conscious questions will always miss the point. Jesus never answers such questions, but redirects us to begin making the unconscious conscious, to drop or sell what blocks our view of the truth that is always the answer we seek—regardless of the question our compulsions direct us to ask.