Today’s Word: ‘Riddle’ as in… I have one for you: “What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?”
In this classic riddle presented to Oedipus Rex by the Sphinx in Greek Mythology, Oedipus Rex was the first one to solve it—all the others who failed were eaten by the Sphinx—after which she threw herself down a chasm.
Wow. And I thought I had test anxiety!
The solution: Humankind.
As a baby, a human goes about on all fours (“four legs in the morning;” morning = infancy) until the child learns to walk (“two legs at noon;” noon = childhood) well into adulthood (“three legs in the afternoon;” afternoon = adulthood). Such is the picture of transition.
Now from Greek Mythology to the Scriptures: Themes of Change and Transition leading into the Wilderness are found in many biblical stories.
The central human figures in the Genesis poem move from paradise through guilt and shame toward a new point “East of the Garden” the direction of renewal.
Sarai and Abram move from Abram’s home country through the wilderness toward a land that God would show them.
Job moves from “having it all” (large family, huge flocks, strong name), through utter desolation (catastrophe, death, grief, loss) on toward restoration.
Jesus moves from childhood (teaching in the Temple at 12), through adolescence and young adulthood (a carpenter) toward his ministry in adulthood.
But the most significant picture of change and transition, however, is the Exodus. The Israelites move from oppression in Egypt through the unknown Wilderness toward the land of promise. In each case, people have grieved faced their losses, let them go, ready to move into the second phase—wilderness: that confusing in-between place where people are no longer who and where they were, but not yet who and where they’re going to be.
For most people, this wilderness is very uncomfortable. Yet, it’s also known as a place of exploration (adventure?) because it explains the movement that must take place.
Really? How puzzling!