Some Thoughts On Belief

You know what I’ve realized? All the really important things in life really come down to only one thing–loyalty. When it comes to belief, it’s no different. Think about it: what’s the big difference between someone who stubbornly clings to a specific way of seeing things and someone who cycles through perspectives throughout the course of his life? It’s the loyalty! Humans will always believe something only for as long as they can find compelling reasons to remain loyal to that belief. Nobody ever said anything about the reasons themselves–those can be anything from eminently logical and calculated to deeply emotional and instinctual. That alone can be the killer or the cure. Here again we are made to observe the staggering and alarming power of that simplest of human powers called CHOICE. Sooner or later, all of us will be forced to realize that there’s absolutely NOTHING we (or “Logic”) can do to circumvent the human capacity for choice as it regards what to believe in and why. Just try convincing someone else about one of those controversial topics we throw around (even while trying to tiptoe silently past them) these days, like homosexuality or politics or religion. You’ll swiftly find your face on the end of the jarring fist of cruel reality: what’s blatantly obvious to you is practically invisible to so many others!

Why? Because, in a sense, we choose what to see and what not to. What I mean is that we can only possibly “see” something when our minds have been reshaped, if you will, or recalibrated in the appropriate manner that can allow for such “perception”. Simply put, if you keep thinking along the same lines you always have, your mind will only ever be able to conceive of things that fall along those specific lines. It’s the difference between one who reads widely and one who hardly ever does, or between one who travels much and one who has never left his own shores. The one’s mind works very differently from the other’s, and the two can never get to each other’s points of view by simply remaining as they are now. But this recalibration of the mind is ultimately totally in the power of the individual himself (and God, but here I’m going off into one of those controversies I mentioned earlier). Because it is the individual who ultimately decides how he will react to his experiences, and thus how his mind will develop and change.

That means that we will, and do, interpret the same things differently depending on where our loyalties lie! More than half the time when we discuss things like homosexuality or politics or religion, all involved parties have already decided to stick to a certain code of belief no matter what, which is why we very often get nowhere. It’s all about the compelling reasons and not so much about the “logic”. Logic in and of itself is not automatically what one could call a compelling reason. Certainly logic is real and powerful, but too often its reality and power play second fiddle to simple human choice. Let’s consider a famous example, the once age-old debate between heliocentrism (the idea that the planets orbit the sun) and geocentrism (the idea that all other celestial bodies orbit Earth). In a classic case of human stubbornness, much of the then world’s most powerful people, including many prominent schools of philosophy and the Catholic Church, utterly refused to accept heliocentrism (and look at us now in the modern world!) for far less than any “logical” reason. It got so bad that poor Galileo faced a startling reality more difficult to come to grips with than his staggering observations about the heavens. In a letter to Kepler dated August 1610, he laments:

  • “My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd. What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times? Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth.”

Here we have people who clung to their own beliefs, completely and vehemently opposing Galileo–all while refusing to even look through a telescope and prove his theories for themselves! Why? I have a sneaky feeling that at least some of them were afraid of what they might see if they had! What’s more, that’s practically the story of humanity. People will believe or not believe something simply because they are, above all else, loyal to a certain code of belief. Time would fail us if we were to search out and list every single occurrence of this astounding phenomenon. Sadly, we all have beliefs that have nothing to do with what you could really call common sense or anything else like that. In the end, belief comes down to loyalty more than anything else. We have those beliefs because we choose to, in spite of anything else that could–or should–challenge them. That being said, it’s not always a bad thing. Logic isn’t all there is, nor should it be. As much as some of the worst things about humanity stem from the irrational, some of the most beautiful things about us spring from what cannot be grasped by raw logic.

“Compelling reasons” really come down to the individual. What is compelling for you often isn’t for me, and vice versa. Also, what compels me in one go may take five or six or seven goes to compel you. I’m hoping I’m not the only one noticing this trend revolving around the individual at this point. Life is, above all else, a personal experience. No one else lives in your mind but you. No one else can walk in your shoes but you. No one else can make your decisions but you. It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. This tiny little thing called “the individual” is really the heaviest thing of all, the primary factor in the game.

You can prove to me that God exists all you want. That alone will do nothing to convince me. You can prove to me that the world is 3 billion years old all you want. That alone will do nothing to convince me. You can prove to me that Santa Claus isn’t real all you want. That alone will do nothing to convince me. You can prove to me that there’s an afterlife all you want. That alone will do nothing to convince me. It works for some folks, it doesn’t for others. Because the same things–or even the same combination of things–don’t compel everybody in the same way or to the same degree. You can show some rich people a video of starving kids in Africa and they’ll snort and make some dismissive comment about how hard they had to work to get where they are and how people nowadays need to stop playing the pity card and waiting around for handouts. Then you can show the same video to other rich folk and suddenly the tears start pouring down and they’re already making phone calls to see what kinds of initiatives or relief projects they can put in place to help those poor unfortunate souls.

And even if and when you do believe something (for logical reasons in this instance), your belief will last only as long as a more compelling argument doesn’t come along to knock your first ones out of the park. Case in point, the shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism. In modern times, hardly anyone exists who would seriously challenge heliocentrism. Why? What sparked the change? The older generations who believed in geocentrism certainly had theories and what they saw as logical reasons supporting their belief. And then came along more compelling evidence. But not without much war and opposition and contention and bad-blood.

But that’s why belief is a revelation! You can’t believe something new using the same old way of thinking. Every single time the mind accepts or rejects a notion, it is transformed–it’s recalibrated. It takes on a form that is totally new. It has to, else it wouldn’t have accepted or rejected that notion. And from then on, it can never be the same again. That’s the mystery of the mind. Ask yourself: what are you loyal to? Your biases will determine your beliefs. And here we encounter yet another nifty problem.

For all my ranting and raving about choice earlier, your choice isn’t always sufficient. Ask yourself another question regarding the mystery of the mind: if we all, as humans, have what is called a human mind (which implies sameness of kind and power and potential), why is it that some thoughts that cross my mind as if it were the most natural thing in all the world never cross yours? I’m sure Isaac Newton was neither the first nor part of only a select few to have had an apple (or any other fruit, for that matter) fall on their head while sitting under a tree. So what made him so special that such a simple accident led to a revolutionary theory of gravity? Why don’t all people who have such an experience come up with the same theory, or at least some other earth-shattering idea? My opinion on that matter is that there is a Higher Power who created minds and thus has a consummate understanding of them, and that this Higher Power directs different minds in different directions as He sees fit. That’s one reason why I believe in God. There are also other superhuman powers that seek to tamper with the human mind for their own ends. That’s one reason I believe in the devil and evil spirits. And I’m also aware those are two reasons why many people out there will think I’m stupid.

But seriously. Your choice alone sometimes just isn’t enough to make a certain mental jump. We all have beliefs we hold now that we actually opposed not too long ago. Try to explain the shift. You were so certain that miracles were a myth not too long ago. Now you find yourself believing. Or You were so convinced that there just has to be a Higher Power out there. Now you laugh at how naive you were. What caused the change? Some new argument? Maybe, but for some people there was no “new argument” involved. And quite often, in these circumstances, the change is more of a grudging acceptance rather than an enthusiastic embrace. So then what?

And then things get more interesting when these two meet. Person A used to scoff at people who believe in the Divine–now he’s a believer in the miraculous and the Power behind it. Person B used to believe in the Divine–now he would laugh in the face of anyone who still believes such drivel. What accounts for the difference in the two?!

If I say things like “God” and “the devil” in response to that, I’ll find myself in a whole new kind of trouble as far as some people are concerned. But this brings me right back to the real issue: loyalty. Some will think me a fool for clinging to such archaic notions. To them I do it because I refuse to look at things any other way. And they’re not wrong. On the other hand, to me they look foolish because they refuse to look at things any other way. And I’m not wrong. But that will deserve a whole other discussion by itself.

When it comes down to it, our beliefs are really a test of our loyalties, especially in the religious sense. I’m loyal to the idea that there must be a Higher Power. To that end, I can find scores of proofs in everyday life to support my argument. He’s loyal to the idea that there cannot be any Higher Power. To that end, he can find scores of proofs in everyday life to underline his argument. And we can’t get to each other’s conclusions as we are now. Because our minds are each in different “shapes”, if you will, that exclude the other conclusion. It’s like trying to fit a square into a circular gap and vice versa. That’s why 1 Corinthians 2:14 says what it does: “But the natural man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Until a person is willing to entertain a new idea, that new idea cannot take root within him. He will reject it no matter how many times it comes at him. And in the case of a non-believer turning to Christ, that willingness has to come from outside; it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why He has to convict. We can’t arrive there on our own. John 6:44 says no man can come to God without God first drawing him to Himself. And that is why there will necessarily always be conflict between those of us who believe in Christ and those of us who don’t.

Peace,
Walkabwoy

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The One Essential We Mess Up Most

Today I want to talk about an issue that has been very damaged and damaging over the years. To my mind it is the single most important, multifaceted and misunderstood issue we have to deal with in the world, not just today but any day for all of time and history. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it the hub of our very existence in this mysterious realm known as “Life” that we find ourselves inhabiting. What I’m talking about is the issue of the male and the female.

Now, to begin with, there are many obvious threads here since I’ve stated the issue itself. But I want to by-pass some of those altogether. Clearly all life comes from the combination of the male and the female, so in that sense it literally is the hub of our very existence. Clearly we have had a long and harrowing history of the subjugation of the one sex by the other. And clearly we live in a world now where the lines between the sexes (and the genders) are being blurred more and more as the years roll by. In all these ways and more, one can see (clearly) just how important, relevant and vast this issue is. But I don’t want to spend much time on any of these. No; today I want to move beyond the concerns about gender equality and women’s lib and sexual orientation and the right to determine one’s own identity, and get right to the heart of an even more pressing and fundamental matter. Today it’s all about the relationship between men and women; in a general sense, but more specifically in the romantic sense.

Here’s my reason and my reasoning: every conceivable circumstance, problem or concern that the human being faces or has faced over the course of our long history has at its base the relationships between people, and even more so the relationship between the male and the female. I think a little honest reflection or introspection will make that evident. People are the real driving forces of the world, not Nature or the Seasons or the Environment. We prove that day after day, year after year, and often precisely by triumphing over the forces of “Nature”, “Seasons” and “Environment”. And of all the relationships that drive the world, there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of sheer importance. It’s not the relationship between a father and his son, a mother and her daughter, a boss and his employee, a teacher and his student, a ruler and his subjects, or any combination of the above. It is simply (or rather, O that it would be “simple”!) the relationship between a man and a woman. A man and his woman. A woman and her man. That’s about as personal as you can get. That’s also about as horribly perplexed as you can get, unfortunately.

The one thing humanity hasn’t been able to conquer is itself. And this is a great tragedy. After all, if we make the world go round, how can the world be a good and happy place if we just can’t get along with each other? And that’s been precisely the problem with men and women. Here’s the deal: the primary relationship, both in terms of chronology and import, was the one between Man and Woman. God made Adam then gave him Eve. And even if you don’t believe that part of the story, it doesn’t change the fact that the human family started out with a man and a woman–how else would we all have gotten here? And how else have we kept on getting here since? But then the relationship has never been totally or even primarily utilitarian, has it? No, men and women have always had demands of each other that go far beyond that of simply making babies. In fact, one could almost say making babies is incidental. (Almost.) More often than not, our reasons for wanting and having sex have nothing to do with the need for “carrying on the species”–and we have a lot of sex! And, in the end, what we really want isn’t just sex either! Ask those who have lots of it. The thing itself feels empty and old after a while, if there isn’t something deeper behind it. Ask those who have been abused and objectified by it. Sex pulls from something else to get its value; trying to place the real value on sex itself often does more to rob value from the people and things that should have been valued most in the first place. We have specific demands and expectations of each other that go way beyond the realm of concepts like “the survival of the fittest” or our “usefulness” to each other. Those demands and expectations are where the beautiful and the ugly really start to happen in our lives. And far too often things get real ugly, real fast.

Look around. It’s plain enough to see, if only you are willing. All other things spring from the family. The society. Culture. Religion and religious perspectives. Social trends. Fashion. Morality. Economy. All of it starts from the home. How? Simply like this: people drive all these things I just mentioned, and people all come from families. These aren’t concepts that just are, all on their own. Or, rather, they are; but they depend on us to breathe life into them, if you will. “Society” is meaningless without people. So is “religion” or “the economy” or “politics” or “culture”. Wherever you have people, you will of necessity find these things too; but they are always shaped and directed by the people who are engaged in them. And if it is clear that the “circle of life” is real (thank you, Lion King), and that humans come from humans and give birth to other humans in their time in a potentially endless cycle, why aren’t we more careful and thoughtful with our romantic relationships? Because everything reduces right back to the male and the female–and we are decidedly not utilitarian beings.

When all is said and done, love and trust and understanding and respect are what men and women have always craved from each other, and what too often they fail both to give and to receive.

In the way of consequences, the landscape is dotted with examples of what failure can bring. We’re filled to the point of throwing up with statistics. Kids from broken homes are umpteen times more likely to do this or fall victim to that. Domestic violence rates have gone up by X percent. Y percent of wives feel that their marriages are well short of satisfying and are not far from pulling the plug. This many men have restraining orders taken out against them monthly, or that many men have to be dragged into court for child support.

There’s more besides the statistics, too. Women’s lib came from the refusal of some men and women to continue brooking the atrocious attitude that men have generally taken towards women since the distant the past. Feminism was a similar, vigorous response to the general mistreatment of women at the hands of men. Many and varied though the reasons for people changing their sex or sexual orientation may be, at least some people do so in response to some distressing or tragic experience involving the opposite sex. There’s an alarming amount of general animosity between the sexes even now. It’s alarming to hear how some men talk about women or some women talk about men. It really makes you have to stop and wonder sometimes! And all of this goes right back, directly or indirectly, to the entire issue of men and women and how we relate to each other. Especially in a romantic relationship. It’s one thing to grow up around women who tell you all men are dogs, or around men who tell you never to trust a woman with your heart. That’s bad enough. But it’s something completely different to get into your own relationship and “discover” on your own that all your old advisors were actually “right” to tell you that! Something is seriously wrong here!

We’ve gone ahead and created a whole host of monsters, and then we’ve gone and created an arsenal of monster-slayers to try to fix the problem. Except, our monster-slaying weapons are neither wholly efficient (again, look around) nor clinical. Far too many innocent souls get mowed down when we indiscriminately swing that “custom-made” zanbato-style sword around, trying to cut down the various injustices associated with men and women.

Let’s face it–the special, one-on-one relationship between a man and a woman has a much bigger sphere of influence than we’d often like to admit. We were all children once. We should know this well. But we often don’t think about it enough. The first real people we got to observe were our parents. (God help us if one was missing for any reason, or if their relationship was rocky.) That in turn affected how we viewed people outside our little family circle. Naturally, we also got introduced to more and more such relationships between men and women, till we started trying them out for ourselves. We get our first girlfriend or boyfriend in primary school and it’s cute. We get into high school and things get a whole lot more real in that department. And even more importantly, this exposure to others’ relationships and what we learned from it inevitably shaped our own approach to our relational endeavours to some degree.

The truth is, nobody ever enters a relationship as a truly “blank slate”. No, your slate has been in a constant state of active use from the very beginning, through observing and assimilating the experiences of others. It’s just that it gets much more complicated and much more real to you when you now have amassed your own personal experiences. But we’ve seen it happen a million times before–people always enter new relationships dragging some elements of their pasts with them. Some people have to deal with the breaking of their own hearts from a previous relationship. But even when that isn’t the case, people sometimes enter with scars related to what others have experienced, and which have planted doubts, fears and insecurities which are just as real and as potent as if they had been the ones who went through it all. It’s not something to take lightly.

So this is the state we’re in. To put it in terms of an old cliché, “Men/Women–can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em!” It’s odd, isn’t it? For all the hurt and pain and bad blood between men and women, we still can’t help but want each other. The same woman who will cling to radical feminism and profess that men are the cause of all that’s wrong in the world is very often the same woman who has or wants a man in her life! The same man who is bitter towards women and sees them as nothing more than conniving vixens is very often the same man who doesn’t want to be alone! With or without the general misunderstandings and toe-crushing that has characterized the two sexes since the dawn of time, the proof is in the pudding–we still have, and actively pursue, relationships with the opposite sex.

We literally can’t do without it. No, seriously, we can’t! There’s no use even to argue it. Men and women need each other and are ultimately drawn right back to each other without fail every time, no matter what. It has little to do with personal preference, really. It’s biology, but it’s more than just that. It’s emotional, but it’s more than just that. It’s not even something that can ever be fully explained or understood, unless you talk to God about it when you get to Heaven. People have been trying to understand it for millennia. A lot of good it’s done us up until now. We’re no closer to getting it than when we first began. You’re free to favour a celibate existence and you’re free to pursue a same-sex relationship. You’re free to close your heart off from men or women because of their perceived evils and choose to merely flit about from flower to flower like a butterfly. That’s what that little something called Choice is. But men and women were designed for each other. That is why, fly high or fly low, this will always and forever be the presiding trend throughout all mankind.And that is why, despite our best efforts, when we cling to our policy of involvement without emotional attachment, there’s always that one person who brutally challenges or crushes our resolve and puts us off our game. Celibacy, homosexuality and general detachment have always and will continue to bow before the simple magnetism of the male and the female. You will always have these 3 groups in the world, but they will never overpower and outlast the original design. Nature always finds a way, and hope ever springs eternal.

That leaves us with just one problem–the single, solitary essential that we make a mess of the most, hands down. It leaves us with the problem of how to really, truly have a good, meaningful relationship. How do we achieve what men and women were meant to achieve together? How does a man love a woman? How does a woman love a man? That one question–and the various attempts and mis-attempts to answer it over the course of several millennia–has been the single most impactful consideration in the entire world. Success has led to resplendent beauty. Failure has spawned horrifying tragedy. Life is in relationship and people make the world go round. Both people and all other kinds of relationship come from that one, prominent and basic interconnection–that of the man and his woman, the woman and her man.

If we could have gotten this right from the beginning we wouldn’t have needed a women’s liberation movement. We wouldn’t have needed feminism. We wouldn’t have had people shutting down and retreating from each other, and from themselves. We wouldn’t have seen the kinds of atrocities we have seen committed by both sexes, both in the past and in the present. (God only knows what the future holds.) And until we do get it right, we’ll continue to have this constant warfare between man and woman, and this constant cycle of wonderful highs and crushing lows. What we keep messing up is this: everybody wants to love and be loved by somebody, but how many of us really took the time to understand what it would mean–and what it would cost–to achieve that?

 

Peace,
Walkabwoy

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The God Defense? – Conclusion

So where does that leave me? Well, ultimately at 1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”. I want to be always ready to give a reason to any man, woman or child who asks me why I am a theist as opposed to an atheist or agnostic and, further, why I am a Christian as opposed to a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist or an adherent to any other religion. And I want to be able to do it “in meekness and in fear”. I also want to avoid vain and unprofitable arguments as Titus 3:9 says. That’s my personal view.

I think the point of all this, the point God has been trying to get across, is that we should be ready to defend our faith (and Him) with words at any time, but that more importantly we should develop a working sense of when, where and how it makes sense to do so. It’s a matter of perspective. If we stopped viewing God as that divine damsel in distress I mentioned earlier then we would feel less threatened by people and events, and we would also be able to judge when and how to “give a reason for the hope that is in us”. Then and only then would it really be expressing hope. Anything else is contention and backbiting. Anything else is petty quarreling and bashing each other. And also of note is the fact that He will provide the words we should respond with at those times. I hardly think God is anywhere near being the originator of many of the answers and reactions I’ve seen Christians give over the years. In those cases all I hear is anger and emotion and frustration and confusion and ill-will and even faithlessness talking.

I don’t want to be a part of that. I want to understand what I’m really about. I want to internalize and really “get” the fact that people will ridicule me for being a Christian. People will question my intelligence for choosing to believe in a conclusion so obviously false as that there exists a personal, omnipotent, perfectly good God who made the universe and everything that therein is. There’s no use in running from it–people will curse my God (and me). Some will do it in my hearing. Some will do it on TV, on the radio, on YouTube, in articles, in books. And why should I find that so odd? Even if I can’t understand the thing itself, I should be more than capable of understanding where it comes from. Their certainty comes from the same place mine does and has the same effect on them as mine does on me. To them, there honestly is no God just as to me there is one! To them, they are trash-talking a figment of the human imagination, like the tooth fairy or Superman. No harm done! And they are waiting for me to get upset over “some figment of the human imagination” so they can have a good laugh over how foolish and hopeless I am. Those are the facts and I should understand them. After all, it’s very similar to how I, a Christian, view the gods of the ancient world and the gods of the other modern religions–I don’t believe in them and I’m as certain as certain can be that they aren’t real. That’s precisely how the atheist or the Muslim or the Buddhist sees my Jesus–to them, He just doesn’t exist, or in some cases He isn’t who I claim He is!

It’s really amazing how God allows the world to be. Think about it for a second: nobody is ever allowed to always be on top. Everybody, at different times, experiences life from the driver’s seat and life from the child seat in the back. The same thing that places us in a position of superiority or awe over some is the very thing that places us in a position of pity or ridicule in the eyes of others. That’s why people really have no excuse for how we treat each other sometimes! That’s why we should really be able to empathize with each other. We all experience the various highs and lows of life. We can, in a real and sufficient sense, walk in each other’s shoes.

So yeah, people will burn my Bible or put a bullet through it or rip it to pieces and feel not one shred of remorse. People will laugh my “religious talk” and my “disproved God” to scorn. And they’ll feel good about it. Not because they are “wicked”, but because they honestly believe they are right. And we all know what it feels like to be convinced we are right about something. It gives us a tendency to become mighty bigoted. So now it comes down to one bigotry against another. That’s what the Christian absolutely MUST avoid. It’s not a simple issue. Religion, or the lack thereof, is not an entertaining conundrum for two people to lightheartedly discuss over biscuits and tea. Certainly it has that element to it. But at its core it goes far, far deeper than that. It’s a matter of deepest human interest and import, of identity, of  right and wrong, of as vital importance as the blood pumping through our veins. Proof of this is that some of the most ignominious and unspeakable crimes throughout history have been committed in the name of religion or in staunch opposition to it. People don’t kill each other, sabotage their neighbours and destroy whole civilizations over how nice the weather is today or the answer to the riddle “what has eyes but cannot see?”. But the Christian must understand. He must understand that people are not programmable robots. He must understand they are infinitely more complex than that. He must also understand that they are very susceptible to deception and that there are very many smarter and more powerful spiritual forces bent on exploiting precisely that quality. And understanding, he must expect. And expecting, he must choose to love regardless. And loving he must exercise self-control. He must not retaliate when he is attacked, like others do. Retaliation and lack of understanding have been the real cause of the world’s troubles to date.

“Meekness” and “fear” are the words Peter used. Meekness because of our own humanity. Meekness because we can understand where others are coming from if nothing else. Meekness because we know human frailty and are all too familiar with our own shortcomings. Meekness because we understand that we are only who we are (children of God) and where we are (ones who can exercise faith in Him) through God’s grace and not our own awesomeness or merit. Fear of the God who is above all and judges all, starting with us! Fear of the wonderful way in which He created humans. Fear of the supreme interest He takes in them. Fear of causing even one soul in whom He takes such interest to stray through our own selfishness or pride. In such meekness and fear there is no room for revenge, lashing out, talking down to, ridiculing, blowing up, cursing, using foul language, bitterness, childish emotion or anything else of the sort. There is only respect and love for the other person for the sake of the God who formed them in tender love (and the very God they are now cursing). There is only a stubborn insistence on treating them with dignity no matter how they may trample over ours. And there is only intelligent and diligent research and presentation of facts and arguments, not frivolous and emotional tit-for-tats.

It won’t be easy. It will mean truckloads of turning the other cheek. It will mean bearing the ridicule like (their definition of) an idiot and smiling like (their definition of) a fool through it all. It will mean public embarrassment and shame. It will mean being a target, being a punching bag, just for the heck of it. But it is THE WAY to do this. Peter said it well in 1 Peter 3:17 – “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”

In the end our lifestyles do far more to vindicate our belief in God (not to vindicate God, mark you; He doesn’t need vindicating) than our words or arguments or explosions. Just live: that’s what the greatest Christians have done. That’s what Jesus did. Getting mad at unbelievers and cussin’ them out does more to make them feel justified than it does to defend anything precious. It only proves them right.

Why get mad, though? I mean, sure, if God’s honour is being called into question then it’s only natural to get upset. But why let that bleed into my reactions and, in fact, dictate them? James 1:20 explains it: man’s wrath does not end up bringing about or showing forth the righteousness of God. Quite the opposite, in fact. Ecclesiastes 7:9 warns us not to be quick to get angry, because “anger rests in the bosom of fools”. I sure don’t want God calling me a fool! Let another human call me that. That would just be their opinion and not necessarily true. But if God considers me a fool what do I have left? In the end God cares more about a lost soul than His supposed besmirched honour. That’s why He doesn’t intervene more often. And if He cares more about the soul, I should too. In the end God knows His honour will emerge without so much as a spot or a speck. I should understand that too, even if I can’t see how just yet.

Plus, if I know God–if I really know God–why do some empty words from some ignorant people put me off? In the end, the fact is their words are empty! Do their words or arguments suddenly and magically wipe God out of existence? No? Then why am I so upset? And they are ignorant. They do not know Him, nor do they know what they’re attempting to talk about. Hence they can say anything they want about Him and not feel anything. But if I know Him then I know Him, and nothing can change that. That’s precisely why Christ said on the cross, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing!” And that’s why He spoke the way He did whenever the Pharisees and Sadducees confronted Him. He knew Himself and where He came from. So as far as He was concerned, let them call Him a winebibber or a demoniac or a black magician or a deranged lunatic (all of which they did call Him). They could never put Him off because He knew Himself and He knew who His Father was. Christ had no identity crisis. And that’s ultimately the most important thing–knowing who you are and Whose you are. Mere words or trifling disbelief can never change what a thing is or who a person is.

That is also why Satan is working so hard to confuse people about their identities through physical, sexual and emotional abuse, low self-esteem, sex changes and God knows what else these days. It’s the same concept behind slavery. You can only enslave a man whose sense of identity you have broken. As long as he has an inkling of who he is, he will fight to the death, passively if he cannot do so actively. Nor will he be content to fight passively forever. But as for God, He is not waiting in the wings with bated breath for us to finally finish the age-old argument so He can finally know whether or not He actually exists. God laughs at that stuff. He knows who He is. The sooner I get that, the better. ultimately you can’t prove (or disprove) God to people. But that’s as it should be. Arguments can’t prove or disprove Him either. God is, and He reveals Himself to whom He pleases, when He pleases (Galatians 1:15-16).

If I could prove God to people then every atheist I have ever met would be a Christian right now. And if people could have disproved God to me, I would have given up the ghost ages ago and stopped believing. (What an odd, oxymoronic state of affairs!) God knows I spent much time in high school and then university having many discussions of that sort. I gave many staggeringly potent arguments and heard my fair share of staggeringly potent counters as well. And only some of my hearers were convinced by what I said. Many stood firm even when they couldn’t find a way out of my arguments. But many more respected me because of the person they saw during and outside of those discussions. So they still didn’t believe, but at least they could appreciate me and where I was coming from. Because I could appreciate them and where they were coming from. Many of us became, and still are, friends. Ultimately, yes, God is someone you can argue about, but deeper than that and more importantly, He is someone you live out.

That’s why I’m trying to learn to do it like Him. There are just as many arguments for God in this world as there are against Him. It’s all a matter of perspective. The proof? Simply this: the very arguments I rely on to demonstrate God exists are often the same ones that others use to conclude He can’t possibly exist. And the very arguments others use to debunk faith in God are often the very ones within which I can see God’s hand moving very clearly. Ultimately, especially in the most vital things, people choose what to believe, and in the long run that becomes their reality. Truth is certainly objective at its core; but people are certainly very subjective creatures in many to most cases. And to a limited but still very shocking degree we can shape our own personal worlds to live in. Even in a scientific age we are clearly not at all as logical as we would like others and ourselves to think. People aren’t machines. The same evidence all too often leads to very contrary conclusions in two different human beings. That’s why God’s way is to live Him, to show and tell. And the showing is more important. Eventually the showing will touch deeper than the telling ever will.

What I want is to always be ready with an answer to those people who genuinely want to know why I believe what I do. Facts are there; I should arm myself with them–history, archaeology, science, human nature etc. What I want is to avoid those who do not genuinely wish to know, who only wish for a few laughs or to stir up contention. The world is too full of that sort, on both sides of the divide. That is what Titus 3:9 would call vain conversation. Arguing with such a one is useless; all he cares about is the smoke and mirrors, the chance to pounce and to make sport of. What I want is, at the end of the day, for someone who doesn’t believe to have to seriously think about not what I have said but who and what I am. For only when I carry any weight will my words have any import. Talk is cheap, after all–anyone can talk the talk. Only when my life, my reactions, my attitude, my personality reach people will I truly be representing–“defending”–the God I claim to love. And that’s the only defense He will ever want (He sure doesn’t need it!).

Be ready with an answer 1

Peace,
Walkbwoy

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The God Defense? – Part 2

Watching that video and reading through those comments really woke me up to a few things. Again; because these weren’t new revelations. Things like God doesn’t need help defending Himself. Things like you can’t prove God to people. Things like there will always be people in the world who are your opposite in terms of belief and lifestyle. Things like we should get over these things! Things like we should really give God some elbow room and trust Him more. Allow me to share a few considerations I was having in a bit more detail.

God doesn’t need help defending Himself. One of the names often used in the Bible for God is “the Lord of hosts”. Some versions render that “Jehovah of armies” or “Jehovah of Heaven’s armies” or even “the Lord of the angel armies”. If that’s who God really is, why on earth would He need anyone’s help waging a war for His honour? Last I checked, angel armies don’t only vastly outnumber anything we have here on Earth, they’re also on a totally different level! A single angel once decimated an army of over 185,000 men in one night. So they wouldn’t even need the numbers! They also outnumber and overpower the demons of Hell, by the way. We keep being told Satan only managed to take one-third of the angels with him when he fell. And in John’s vision of the End, a single angel, apparently so commonplace as to not even warrant being identified, grabs hold of the great Satan himself (gasp!) and confines him to a pit. Not two angels. Not a battalion. Just a single, solitary angel, alone and unaided.

On top of that, God is the one who dispenses power. Psalm 75:5-7, Daniel 2:20-21 and others tell us He is the one decides who gets to attain power, who gets to keep it and who loses it. Power is His to dispense with as He sees fit. That being said, He is perfectly capable of keeping things under control. If Christians truly believed or understood that, we would get less ruffled by many of the things and people we have to contend with on a daily basis. But that’s pretty much the issue, isn’t it? We really don’t come close to understanding it and too often we don’t really believe it though we claim to.

You can’t prove God to people. That is an inalienable and timeless truth. It’s also something we often need to learn the hard way. And it really shouldn’t be that difficult to understand. We’re all human. If there’s one thing we should all know (and actually do know at least on a subconscious level), it’s that humans can be extremely stubborn. We literally decide what to believe, and what to do, often with nary a passing glance at the “facts”. We’re all guilty of that, and often too. Very often. So often, in fact, that it’s become a reflex, something that more often than not we’re not even aware that we’re doing! Why else do people have tons of sex and then get all bewildered when “suddenly” they find themselves with an unwanted baby on the way, even while having used “protection”? (Fact: Sex was meant to produce children — no human device or invention has ever succeeded in fully negating that simple truth. Everything eventually fails given enough time, the right circumstance and even the right “accident”.) Or why else do people just float along on the job like a dead leaf down a river and then complain when other people “unfairly” achieve the promotion or accolades they were after? (Fact: If you just float along and put hardly any effort into anything you can hardly expect to be recognized in a positive way and then advanced. People respond to excellence with praise, not mediocrity.) Yup. Humans have a disastrous knack for forgetting, being ignorant of and even deliberately disregarding some very important things, often just at the moment they matter most. We all do it. And very often, if we’re honest with ourselves when we look back, it’s more a result stubbornness than accident or unfortunate circumstances.

That said, maybe I should revise the statement. You can prove God to people. Some people, that is; and some of the time. The proofs work for some people. For others, the same proofs (or even better ones) either honestly confuse them more and give them even more questions, or simply invoke within them more rebellion and stubbornness. You never can tell. But in the end it’s all the same: namely, God is revealed, not proven. The things that resonate most with us as humans are most often not the things that were proven to us with words, but the things we actually “saw”, the things we just “got”, the things that “dawned on” us in one fateful moment. The things we can’t really trace afterward because we don’t know where exactly they came to us from. One of the oddest things I’ve noticed is that neither the Bible nor Jesus Himself ever attempted to prove God to anybody. The Bible says in two places that fools say in their heart, “There is no God”. And then it promptly moves on from the point without even offering a rebuttal. And as for Jesus? Well, He didn’t even go that far. So neither the Book about God nor God-made-flesh felt it necessary to offer anybody any proof of God. With them, you either believe or you don’t. Hebrews 11:6 puts it succinctly: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” If you come to God at all, you must believe He is, that is, that He exists. That’s all, folks!

There will always be people in this world who don’t share our beliefs, sometimes even insofar as to be our polar opposites. Always. One example of this? The theist vs the atheist. Polar opposites in terms of beliefs. One sees God in everything. The other sees that everything literally kicks God out on His ear. We also have other such differences in belief the world over. One person believes marriage is beautiful and strives toward it. Another believes it’s the spawn of Chuckie, the bane of any relationship, and should be avoided like the plague at all costs. One man believes all his kids should come from one woman and live in one home. Another sees it as something of an achievement to spread his seed abroad via a variety of women in a variety of places. One woman believes feminism is the liberation of all women everywhere and clings to it. Another despises the term and all it stands for. And to each of these people, their beliefs make perfect, logical sense. Crazy world we live in, right? Welcome to life.

That’s why no one can take any of this lightly. People’s beliefs aren’t things to be shrugged off. They carry more weight than that. These are the concepts that literally anchor people and guide them throughout life. They are not things you simply trample over. They are things you respect even if you find them utterly stupid. You respect them solely on the basis that they are part of another human being, however misguided you find that human being to be. They are part of what makes that person who they are. And they are also what makes you who you are. They are not easily parted with, as you yourself should know as a fellow human being; and having to part with them can be a source of trauma. So be patient with people, if not with their beliefs. We keep thinking we got the way we are, that we achieved our own “enlightened” state, through some superior quality of our own. Nope. Nothing could be more wrong. We could have been like that person we so scorn, and worse even.

We should get over these things! Simply put, how do you change another human’s mind? Anyone who has ever cared to try will find that it’s not as simple as it sounds! Surely there are some people who are easily swayed in this world. But there are also others who are more like a pillar of pure steel. And easily swayed or not, everyone has a few things they would sooner break over than bend. So it really is no use getting upset over the fact that some people simply can’t see some things. That would leave you with a lifetime of pure bitterness and annoyance — I’m talking every second of every day, because that’s how often people miss “the truth” we so embrace! We will always have such people in the world. It’s so easy to forget but, for all our self-assuredness, we are that very person for someone else! So there’s nothing for it but to let folks be folks. Certainly, do what you can to educate people and all that. But don’t expect it to work like a charm — it won’t! Do what you can to fix the problem, but leave room for humans to be humans, for your own sanity and theirs as well. Because you are that person for someone else! That’s why the Word said not to judge. You can only do so much and no more. We’re all different. We won’t ever all be the same — get over it!

We should really give God more elbow room. Seriously. He’s earned it, if for no other reason than that we are completely useless in this and many other departments. So give God some elbow room! You’ve tried and failed. So now let the Master work. You know what one of the most mysterious things about God is? It’s that He has gotten over it! He doesn’t take it to heart when people do or say or believe certain things. He even laughs about it for a time. Check out Psalm 2:1-4. While we are down here blowing a gasket–both theists and atheists–He is up there laughing at it all. Verse 5 comes in only later. There is an appointed time. But until that time, God is quite fine with sending His rain on both the just and the unjust, both His lovers and His haters, both the wise and the foolish. He has gotten over it. Why else do people get away with so much, or indeed think they’ve got away and are home free? God knows what He is doing. He knows people too, and precisely how to handle them. John 2:24-25 tells us, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.

God isn’t in the habit of sending threatening lightnings across the sky or slapping people into next month every single time someone does something He isn’t a fan of. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says it well. So does Psalm 50:21. God isn’t a loudmouth like many of us on either side of the divide are. And that leads to all sorts of things for us, chiefly confusion and laxity. It’s not easy to see why God takes the stance He does. But that’s why we should give Him room. He knows just what He’s doing. We’re the ones who don’t. And that’s why our overzealousness often creates more chaos than it fixes. But the even more amazing thing is that the chaos we create still can’t undermine God’s plans. In fact, it hardly prevents the very people we’re trying to defend God against from turning right around and trusting Him later in their lives. That’s another reason why God doesn’t get all flustered over every little thing. He knows. He knows how to reveal Himself to people in any and all circumstances and regardless of any and everything else. Or any and everyone else. He knows who will change their minds, when, how and why. And He’s patient, unlike us. He loves giving chances.

So with all this on the playing field, wouldn’t we be better served trying to play Saviour-of-the-whole-world a lot less and trying to learn how to really love people a lot more? How about we let God be the Chief of Defense and stick to our own guns?

 

Defending Truth

Peace,
Walkabwoy

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The God Defense? – Part 1

I was on YouTube recently watching a video. It was a parody of MythBusters. The myth to be busted? “Does God exist or not?”

So, like I said, I watched the video. It was absolutely ridiculous. Nothing remotely odd about that, though. I mean, it was meant to be comedy. And indeed it was good for a few laughs. I didn’t find it roll-on-the-floor funny but it did have its moments. It also goes without saying that it did have its moments where it totally lost me. But I knew what I was signing up for before I even clicked it, didn’t I? This is a world full of human beings. That means a world full of opinions. Trillions, maybe even quadrillions, of them. Heck, the zeroes could go a hell of a lot higher than just those. And that means there’ll be a whole host of those opinions that simply do not get along well with mine, not even in the slightest.

On a side note, if people genuinely understood this simple reality, the world would be a much better place to live in…

But anyway. I watched the video and, in the midst of whatever else, I could see the comedy. And naturally the video got me thinking as well. How do you, as a theist, watch anything with the words “God” and “exist” included anywhere and referring to each other and not find some food for thought? Now you have to think thoughts like why you believe what you do, why others don’t, what you would do when confronted with someone whose beliefs are totally opposite yours and generally how to live, not only with your own beliefs but with the countless others who don’t share them. Also, one couldn’t miss the fact that, in a video debating the existence of “God”, the focus was immediately and exclusively placed, not on the Olympians nor the Asgardians nor a general conception of the divine nor any of the ancient pantheons nor even Brahman or Allah, but on the Judeo-Christian God. He was the only one to make an appearance in the discussion. His story and Holy Book were the only ones on stage. (They even sent a bullet through a Bible.) Disprove Jehovah and you disprove any and all possible gods, it seems!

At the end of the video I was about to move on when I was seized by a sudden interest in the comment section. No way possible that there wouldn’t be a host of them, was there? Surely not on a video like this. And one never knows what one can find therein. I like reading through people’s opinions and reactions. Very often I see something I’d never seen before, or something otherwise useful to me on an intellectual level. So I scrolled down. But I was already mentally bracing for the firestorm to come.

Those comments, true to form, were a real wakeup call. They were funny in and of themselves, to be honest. And they were very interesting.

Once again I was reminded that many people, even without an overarching or structured belief in God, still have some very notable amount of respect for God. People who would not describe themselves as “religious” were upset or saddened by parts of the video. That was refreshing. And naturally you had people identifying as Christians commenting too. And just as naturally you had atheists tuned in as well.

The thing that jumped out at me most, though, was the sheer magnitude of disparaging remarks about Christians “triggered” by the video. Although, to be honest, when I read through the comments, those “triggered” Christians were pretty hard to find! Most of the comments by far were about how these people were looking forward to seeing a lot of these “triggered” Christians getting all upset about a video that just “disproved” their God. I mean the vast majority. Even more interesting, though, was the fact that I wasn’t the only one who noticed this. Quite a few of the people who left a comment noted just how high a percentage of what they were seeing was from people who were rubbing their hands in glee over the number of Christians they were supposedly about to see blow up. There were, to be sure, some of these “triggered” Christian folk around in the commentary section, but nowhere near as great a number as the other comments would have led you to believe. Not even close.

And that got me thinking: I’m a Christian. I certainly wasn’t “triggered” by that video. But isn’t it a bad thing that so many people expect it of us?

Isn’t it a travesty when so many people can claim to know exactly how we will react to something, and when that reaction is decidedly negative and a cause for even more ridicule leveled against us? Isn’t it a failure on our part when people can’t even respect us as people anymore, to say nothing of respecting our beliefs? I find it sad. The internet is full of things that don’t agree with the Christian view. Unfortunately it is also filled with Christians who react to those things in a way that brings even more ridicule their way. I’ve seen it. We probably all have. Many times what we see from Christians both online and in the physical world are not reactions that inspire our respect because here are people who understand what they’re about. Many times what we see is the type of reactions that make us do a facepalm and strike us as childish, emotional and indeed easily “triggered”. The result is that the Christian’s disapproval isn’t something to take seriously anymore. It’s something to be waited for with bated breath and then laughed at, like children in the playground teasing that one child because it’s such good fun to get them all riled up. It’s a source of entertainment. Or it’s a source of disgust. “Righteous indignation” is fine but isn’t there a point where it ceases to be “righteous” anymore? Aren’t we the people who claim to have a heavenly Father who is “slow to wrath” and “swift to bless”?

Is that any way to defend God?

Better yet, does God need a defense? Seriously. It’s something to really think about. We’re all tempted to defend God. For us, it’s a badge of honour, especially for those of us who claim to truly “know” Him and “love” Him. It’s perfectly fine to not want to see the name of God slandered or His image tarnished in any way. But is God some divine damsel in distress marooned at the top of a tall tower and guarded by a massive, vicious, fire-breathing dragon, and Whom we need to save by charging in with swords slashing and guns blazing?

And what does our defending amount to anyway? I learned something from a certain wise old master turtle while watching Kung-Fu Panda some years ago. He said, “One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.” I’ve never forgotten those words (though I have often forgotten how to apply them, or even to apply them any at all). Too many times our zealous defense of our divine-damsel-in-distress God wins for Him precisely the things we had hoped to save Him from — the mean old dragon chars us black and then proceeds to gloat over the unfortunate Prisoner with taunts and jeers and sharp ridicules that are actually worse than what would have been had we not decided to undertake such a rash battle charge. But that’s only natural. We’re defending the wrong god. The right God doesn’t need our help. He is no divine damsel in distress.

I’m by no means saying we shouldn’t feel zealous about the honour of our God. But zeal without wisdom, knowledge and understanding is pretty much the worst thing a human could possibly fall into. Both history and the Bible have proved that time and again. What I’m saying is this: God needs no defending. He is not waiting in the wings, hardly daring to breathe and mowing down His fingernails with His teeth in nervous anticipation of the moment we come to our verdict and announce whether He’s really real or not and whether, should He be finally and authoritatively pronounced “real”, He is actually good or evil. But I’m also saying this: God does defend Himself; and He uses us to do it! The only problem (for us) is that He doesn’t do it on our terms, using our methods. In fact, God downright refuses to defend Himself our way. He certainly doesn’t get “triggered” like we so often do. “My thoughts and My ways are not yours,” He tells us in Isaiah 55. And that’s also why so many atheists can feel as if they’ve “won” the argument, and why many agnostics remain agnostic. Because God is up to something totally different.

So what’s God up to? And how do we fit into it? Those are questions no one can answer with any certainty. Isaiah 55:8-9! But we’ve never been left without some information or without clues. And that’s what I’d like to get into now. Let’s consider a few things for a bit.

God doesn't need defending

Peace,
Walkabwoy

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The Fear Paradox – Some Thoughts on Success

Human life is an inscrutably odd mix of various, often contrasting elements. One such inscrutably odd element is fear. Fear is special even among the others of its kind — it contrasts itself in extremely peculiar ways. What I mean is chiefly this: we fear the possibility that we will fail miserably and embarrassingly at something very important to us. That cripples us all too often and prevents us from doing anything at all in the end. We also fear the possibility that we will succeed at something very important to us; and that so well that we couldn’t even ever have imagined it. That cripples us all too often and prevents us from doing anything at all in the end! Fear is its own paradox.

Most of us are familiar with that timeless quote that goes something to the effect of, “our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are actually powerful beyond measure…” etc. It’s a beautiful formulation of the human struggle against fear by Marianne Williamson. All of us have felt that niggling, pricking sense of acute apprehension that, if we go through with this move or that one, we may actually succeed and have people knowing our names and be sought after and depended on and all of that. And all of us have felt, far more often than we would have liked, that debilitating terror that saps the very vitality from our limbs and makes us go numb all throughout our bodies and minds at the mere thought of having to face some dreaded reality. Here we have the two sides of fear. It is true that we fear the light. It is also true that we fear the darkness.

But, you know, that gets me thinking: doesn’t it then become apparent that human beings weren’t designed to be merely ordinary or median? After all, it’s not success that we fear — nah, we can handle that just fine, thank you. It’s unprecedented, overwhelming success that’s our problem. And it’s not failure that we shy away from — it’s glaring, epic failure. Particularly in the things that matter most to us. We fear either extreme of the continuum, and so most of us live our lives decidedly in the middle in most of the things we attempt. Hmmm… Food for thought…

Let’s focus on the light side for a bit. We all say things like, “If I’d known this is how big it would have turned out, I would’ve done this from the get-go!” Well, I beg to differ. I believe if people could see the scale of their success from even before they started down their path, more than half the world’s great achievements would never have come into being. Maybe that number would even have been reduced to zero. Back in high school I used to hear people make the joke that Bill Gates made $6,000,000 in his sleep every night. It probably wasn’t just a joke. But if a young Bill Gates had been shown a fleeting vision of all that he would have become (and in particular that one day he would have been making 6 mil in his sleep every night), he likely would have snorted, shrugged, shook his head at himself and dismissed the whole thing as a crazy daydream of his (cue: Just My Imagination, Boyz II Men version) and then we would never have had Microsoft and all that came with it and has come from it since then. I believe that is true because I’ve had my fair share of what I’ve termed “crazy daydreams”, and I know everyone else has, too.

It’s not just about the level of success, either. It’s about the level of challenge and pain that we’d need to push through to get there. Oh, and the level of opposition too! That alone would be enough to finish Bill Gates and the rest of us off. Isn’t that part and parcel of why we deem certain things “crazy ideas”? Isn’t that why we decide some things are just “too hard” or “too much work”?

I think what makes certain levels of human achievement even possible is the natural, gradual progression. It’s literally all about the process. Maybe a 10-year-old Gates would never have been able to take his own success seriously, as I described above. Because at that point there was nothing but the vision. It would seem ridiculous, unreasonable; it was too far away. But give that same Bill Gates another decade of constant work and experience and suddenly the same ridiculous vision transforms into a crazy idea that just might work! Countless smaller, “insignificant” victories have set the stage for the audaciously spectacular! Suddenly 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 starts to make sense in a whole new way! It’s amazing how tiny victories and amounts of experience change the human perspective on what is possible and what isn’t. It’s amazing how they redefine and restructure the domain of fear itself. It’s like they actually rewire the brain. We start to believe when we make certain small steps. And it actually helps that, the whole time, we can barely see farther ahead than just beyond our noses!

But that’s also one reason why I believe true success simply comes — it’s not something that yields merely to being pursued. Sure, you can pursue it and then achieve it. People do that all the time. But just as many people do precisely that, working very assiduously, and still fail even then. The greatest success is the one unlooked for. It’s the success that comes from doing what you’re passionate about without regard for what you can get out of it. It’s the success that follows you instead of the other way around. It’s a date with Destiny. I’m talking about the kind of success that gave rise to women earning the right to vote and own property, emancipation of not only the Africans and their descendants in Europe’s slave trade but of numerous similar groups since, the invention of the airplane and the reality of wireless communication across countries thousands of miles apart via something as simple as WhatsApp. All of these came from people who simply did what they were passionate about without regard for profit, and destiny met them and blew their dreams up bigger than they could have dared to hope.

They couldn’t see past their noses, but that actually helped. Because every little step toward the goal gave them just enough courage to handle the fear that they could see immediately around them. Those same steps could never have sufficed to handle the fear even 5 steps ahead! That’s ultimately why humans can only live in the now. Try as we might, we can’t have our futures now, we can only have our nows now. And that is as it should be. We couldn’t handle anything surplus.

And that brings me back to my earlier thought: we weren’t meant to be merely ordinary. That’s why fear operates the way it does — it’s actually a challenge to push past it and get beyond the median! But how do we do that? In a word, diligence. We’ve seen it too many times to count, right? People who keep at what they’re doing, one tiny step after the other, no matter how slow the going is, are the people who really live in this world, rich or poor. Those are the only people who ever find the “secret” to besting the fear paradox. They’ve learned the secret isn’t really a secret at all! And, really, the only way to be diligent is to focus on the now and not so much on the future. There needs to be a delicate balance here. Have your future always in mind. Always have a clear vision of where you want to be. But the future is the future! Now is where you are and what you have. You have to live now if you ever want to create that future. You have to keep pressing now. It’s one thing to have a future goal in mind but it’s another to have the wisdom and discipline to understand that that goal — that future — starts right now! Too often we comfort ourselves with thoughts of that future we aim for and then use that very thing as reason to procrastinate, folding our arms and doing nothing. We should look at the details around us and work at them. Seeing the “bigger picture” was never about ignoring the details for the big things. It’s always been about being able to see how those details come together to make that picture. So what small thing can I do now? What skill can I develop? What do I already have that I can now perfect? Like Moses, the question to each of us is, “What do you have in your hand?”

And as we keep focusing on what we can do now we’ll see one of the most incredible mysteries of life unfold right before our eyes. We’ll see our very understanding of ourselves and our potential change. It won’t happen drastically. It’ll all happen very gradually. Although, the realization itself may be very drastic indeed! I can’t forget the day I realized — very suddenly — that I wasn’t just some guy struggling to play the piano by ear or compose music anymore. Quite suddenly I became aware that my ears had developed to the point that I could pretty much figure out any song in a very short space of time, and that my brain now had constant elevator music playing inside it that I was simply itching to write down! I was even performing music and composing for others. And that erased all the fear that I had been feeling up to that point! Naturally, new and more potent fears attended this realization. But if it happened once it would happen again, right? All I have to do is keep working at it. The rest will fall right into place. The cycle will repeat itself. And it has, without fail.

The future usually invites us to entertain all kinds of fears. The unknown is, after all, the one thing we probably fear most. And that is why only those who have learnt the “secret” of trusting God will ever really have peace in this life. That’s the ultimate fear buster right there. If God holds the future and I’m His son, His friend, then what do I have to worry about? He is the one who coordinates it all. It’s so beautiful how He makes all the fine details come together. Even our flaws, our fears and our failures turn to gold in His hands. Remember, the people we admire most in this world are by no means perfect. Far from it. They’re all people just like us. If God could make something out of their mess, you can bet your last dollar He can do the same for you and me.

Fear 1

Peace,
Walkabwoy

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Bitter Strength

You know, sometimes it’s really hard following God. Oh, wait — never mind. Scrap that “sometimes” nonsense. It’s pretty much ALWAYS really hard following God. And by “following” here I don’t mean believing in Him or committing to His ways, etc. No, I mean something far plainer — or at least what one would imagine to be plainer. I’m talking about keeping up with Him and His plans; being able to follow the action play-by-play, being able to sense a clear path, keeping up with the action so you understand what’s going on. I mean plain old being able to get what He’s up to in our lives and how it’ll all work out to be awesome in the end.

Nothing so complex as walking in His ways yet.

Fortunately (and sometimes extremely unfortunately, we’re convinced) we don’t get a copy of God’s playbook. We just get to take our positions on the field and make the best of what we do see and do understand in trying to navigate this ginormous game called “Life”, with just a liiiiiiiiittle bit of (perceptible) help from Outside. It’s fortunate because, were we to ever be gifted a copy of God’s aforementioned “playbook”, the vast majority of the world’s greatest achievements would never have even drifted near the pages of history — the journey required to get there is just too hard and too scary! We’d straight up tell Him, “No, God! You’re not getting me to go through all that even if it is to get to a point as awesome as that! Forget it! I’m quitting while I’m behind!” It’s unfortunate because, come on, we all generally feel (very strongly, too) that we should at least understand why we have to go through this — it’d make it all more bearable, we tell ourselves.

Cases in point: Joseph on his way to becoming Pharaoh’s almost-double; David on his way to becoming King of all Israel; Thomas Edison on his way to the light bulb; Henry Ford on his way to automotive success; Gandhi on his way to a free India; Beethoven on his way to classical mastery; Charlie Parker on his way to jazz lord status. Walt Disney on his way to Disney World. If these guys and millions of others throughout history had been given an inkling as to what awaited them on their journey, it would be interesting to see just how many of them would have gone on to make the history books, and for what!

Once upon a time I had a dream. I nursed the dream for months. Years. I agonized over it. The dream finally started to come true. And I dreamed some more. Time was drawing me ever closer to a moment of truth upon which all of my dreaming hung and around which all of my deepest desires revolved. I did everything I knew how to do. It was hard. It was a whole lot of uncertainty. It was nights of fervent prayer, days of existing on a razor’s edge. And then the moment came and was gone. And I? I stood staring blankly out into the distance, stunned. Shell-shocked. Incredulous.  Embarrassed. Powerless.

True story — that moment happened this morning.

And now here I am, feeling like Joseph in prison, or David in exile when God promised him the throne, or Edison wondering what on earth he could have got wrong this time… The not-so-cliche-at-all feelings of watching a dream — THE dream — slip away just as it seemed within reach…

It’s moment like these you most want an answer. Moments like these you most feel the need to be able to follow the play. Moments like these you positively ache to understand where He’s going with all this.

Especially when it all seemed set up so perfectly! Prayers were being answered. Circumstances were changing around. Even some fine details were lining up to the tee. Spirits were running high. Anticipation! Excitement! Hopes! The countdown to blast-off! And then…disappointment. Hopes dashed. Rocket explodes. Spirit cast down.

It’s like poor Tantalus — doomed, at least for the moment, to grasp at something precious only just beyond his reach…

This was supposed to be it! Why, God? Oh, please, why? What went wrong? Where did I go wrong? Did I mess up? This was what I wanted above anything else… And so the questions buzz around in your head, begging for expression, begging for release. But you hold them in, you restrain yourself. For the sake of not seeming weak when you break down. Or for the sake of not getting up into God’s face.

  • The wind and the waves shall obey My will
    Peace, be still. Peace, be still…

What God? Was that You? What are you saying? Peace? Be still? You’re still in control? Even though I can’t see what You could possibly be up to? Even though it hurts so much?

But, see, that’s just it! In my bitterness I find strength! Even when I’d rather not, I find it. God gives it. And I mean He GIVES IT, whether I like it or not. What do I mean? Only this: for all my questions and for all my desire to rail and let loose my turbulent emotions I find myself thoroughly rebutted and held in check by one simple idea. Is He not God? Did His eyes suddenly become blind so that He can’t see? His hands shortened so that their power is diminished? His ears heavy so that He can’t hear so well anymore? I build up arguments in my head. Arguments of emotion and expectation and hurt and disappointment and confusion. And He simply says, “Peace, be still. Sit back and watch Me work.” I want to say, “But I don’t understand!” But I cut myself off in the middle of the thought. Hasn’t He proven Himself infinitely wiser than me? I want to protest, “But this is what You told me would be mine!” And again I’m cut across by the response in my own head. And don’t you think He knows that? Don’t you think He sees? I want to throw a tantrum — and I find I can’t. It’s that bitter strength. That infuriating, annoying, sanguine, blessed bitter strength.

Because that’s precisely what it is — BITTER. I’d much rather be fragile and feeble. I’d much rather be left to my sense of hopelessness. I’d much rather feel sorry for myself. That would add some sweetness to the situation for a while. But I can’t. I’m not allowed. I have to be “adult” about it. Ever been comforted by your mom, your dad, your sibling, your best friend, your lover when you’d much rather be left to wallow in the sadness? You want to be left alone but noooooooo, there they are hugging you and putting your head on their shoulder and patting you and reassuring you and being all loving and gentle and kind and understanding and sensible — blecch! Well, like I said, that’s just what this is. That’s what God is doing. And that loving and gentle part makes it that much more bitter. Shout at me! Please! Let’s argue about nothing and everything! Let me be a spoilt brat! But He won’t let it happen. You feel the strength and the peace seeping back into you, and you hate it and love it all at the same time. Hmm… Maybe I should have called this “bittersweet strength”.

For all the pain, here’s the reality: God is God. God is good. God’s plan is superior. God’s timing is superior. God does what He does (and doesn’t do) out of love. You can trust Him to have your back. You can be sure He’ll turn this around for you, and make it several times bigger, better and more secure. Hasn’t He done it before? Hasn’t He been doing it every day since Man first breathed breath? So why doubt Him? Why fear? Why worry that He won’t work it out and won’t turn it around and won’t rescue you from this pain and embarrassment and anguish and fear? Yes, I know (TRUST ME!), it’s hard to keep sight of all that. But if you’ll only allow yourself, you’ll see it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. God doesn’t make promises and fail to keep them.

David had his period of tears and constant danger and unrest. It didn’t last. God brought him to the throne. Joseph was pretty sure God had abandoned him a few times back in that pit and in that prison. Later his own mouth confessed God had had a reason to stage all that elaborate series of events. And he sure reaped more than his fair share of the benefits! Edison most certainly told himself scores of times that that last time was it; no more trying. God gave him the satisfaction of seeing the dream come to brilliant life. Gandhi had too many uncertain moments to count, going up against a superpower virtually on his own, and unarmed at that. God granted his passive resistance more firepower than Britain’s most formidable weapons of warfare. Beethoven had a rough time of it in so many ways. And those rough times birthed within him a sound he could have gotten in no other way and that still holds the world in awe a few hundred years later. Charlie Parker knew what it meant to be down and out. And that gave him a drive and a soul that boggled the minds of his contemporaries and subsequent generations. Henry Ford must have felt like the world’s biggest failure when he went bankrupt, and that more than once. One day his cars were being bought and sold almost everywhere and he reaped the benefits. Walt Disney had a vision and when he shared it he was told it could never work. Hundreds of rejections must have left him feeling drained and depressed. Look at Disney World now!

If God could use their down-times to do something on that scale, can’t He do the same for me? Won’t He? “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever.” That’s a very telling statement.

As for me, I want a testimony. In fact, I’m waiting for it. Delay is not denial. God loves to show up, and show up BIG! He promised me double for my embarrassment in Isaiah 61:7. He promised that if I keep on believing His Word, even when it seems silly to, I would come out on top. So I’m going to wait on God and watch the Master at work. I’m bustin’ out the popcorn, sitting down on the comfiest couch and getting a front row seat to the action. God is working — I don’t want to miss a thing!

Shhh! Keep it down! God’s on!

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Peace,
Walkabwoy

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