Most of us begin life with the religion of our parents. Just as we are born into the love of our family, so we are born into their understanding as well. It is inevitable that we should be born into some such preexisting nest and that we should begin to see with a borrowed light.
As we get older, we face an inevitable crossroads. As our eyes begin to see for themselves, the torch given us in youth begins to flicker and dim. At some point we realize that the religion our parents gave us now produces more smoke than light. The growing darkness we feel is not a problem with our parent’s teaching, but a result of the fact that we cannot see through borrowed eyes or feel with another’s skin.
Such times of passage can feel like the death of everything we have known and trusted. When a chick breaks through its shell, it is both setting out on its life journey and, also, destroying everything it has known. At this point it must choose between the urge to fly and the urge to return to its nest of origin.
Religion gives us symbols of the exquisite pain of leaving our nests. It tells us stories about the inevitable death and rebirth that true living requires of us. The dying God symbolizes the painful letting go of the mimicked song we learned as children, and embracing the song of nature pulsing within our own heart. The dying savior asks of us whether we will spend our days trying to restore the shattered shell of our past, or find our home in the trackless sky.