The musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” was playing on Broadway during the time when my spiritual beliefs were maturing. The play was powerful but very controversial.
Its creators, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, seemed to take a bit too much creative license when it came to telling the story of Jesus and the events that led to his crucifixion. To believers, the narrative was more “cruci-fiction” than biblical fact.
I was raised Catholic, and although I had attended Catholic school during my primary and high school years, I was blessed to have had a family and teachers who were very progressive. They believed that the best “religion” is the one that allows us to believe in a personal God … a God whose relationship with us evolves as we evolve as spiritual beings. A religion that’s meant to guide us through life, rather than something to be discarded when we go into the “real world.”
And so, even though “Jesus Christ Superstar” was way off in terms of biblical history, I saw through the controversy and found my own truth. I was also very much into music in those days, and the soundtrack was amazing.
One particular phrase has stuck with me throughout the years.
There is a scene during which a crowd of people surround Jesus, asking Him to do for them what He has been known to do for others.
“See my eyes I can hardly see my purse, I’m a poor, poor man. I believe you can make me well.”
Jesus, although He is clearly uncomfortable, says nothing. That is, until the human part of him overtakes the God in Him and he exclaims …
“There’s too many of you; there’s too little of me. Heal yourselves!”
Bible scholars point to the inaccuracies in the script, while those raised in strict Christian traditions are offended that Jesus would even think — let alone speak out loud — those seemingly cruel and selfish words.
“Heal yourselves!” is not something their Jesus would ever say.
But Jesus was also human, and I find comfort in the possibility that a very tired and frustrated Christ could have said those words.
Of all the lines from the songs I remember from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” ‘Heal yourselves!’ comes to mind every time I am frustrated or overwhelmed when too much is expected of me. It’s that point when I want to run away and be by myself to recharge my battery.
How many times have you tried to comfort someone, to give them advice, to teach them by example, to offer words of encouragement … only to be met with cynicism, or worse, to be attacked for the very act of trying to help?
Heal yourselves! So I can heal myself. That’s not selfish. In fact, it’s the very opposite of selfish.
We are told to love others as we love ourselves. But if we don’t love ourselves enough to take care of our own needs and heal our own wounds, we won’t be able to love or help anyone else.
In a secular example, everyone who has ever flown on an airplane knows that you put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on others. If your pass out from lack of oxygen, everyone will too.
And every lifeguard knows that the way to save a drowning person is to stand close and let them get so tired of fighting that they surrender to the help you’re trying to offer. Otherwise, you will both drown.
The power to heal ourselves, the road to spiritual fulfillment, the journey to carrying out our purpose, and all the answers we seek live inside each of us. Reminding others of that fact is part of our purpose. But pausing our growth for the sake of others helps no one.
“Heal yourselves!” the Jesus of “Jesus Christ Superstar” said.
It may be the kindest advice you can offer anyone.