An election is about ordinary people being asked a question: "Out of these available candidates, whom do you think is best suited to run the country the way you believe it ought to be run?"
A lot of times, people make the mistake of thinking the question really is, "Who is the perfect man/woman we can put all our faith in to set all the wrongs of our world right?"
This means we often are really excited about "our guy" winning, only to be deeply disappointed in who he actually turns out to be. He passes massive spending bills when we were convinced he was a dyed-in-the-wool small government friend. He bows when he ought to shake hands. He can't seem to get rid of abortion or even encourage reducing it's occurrence even though he sounded so fervently indignant about it on the campaign trail. He wobbles when asked to stand firm in the face of worldwide pressure to do bad things. He comes out in favor of mandatory vaccines when we thought he was staunchly for the freedom of parents to make decisions for their children. And on and on.
Sometimes our ire is justified. Sometimes politicians do lie about their beliefs to appeal to the people they think will be most likely to vote against their opponent. It's regrettable, but true.
Most of the time, it's our own fault. We pick these people out of starry-eyed idealism rather than reading and listening and studying facts.
It's a little bit like today's marriage woes. We've been sold the idea of "falling in love" so long that we fail to see the selection of a husband or wife as the weighing of someone else's true foundational thoughts and philosophy. Romance takes center stage and thoughtful reasoning is left on the shelf.
Which is how so many wives can lament, "I had no idea he was a drinker" or husbands say, "She cares what her friends say more than what I do." People today resort to living together for a while before marriage in a kind of "trial period" hoping to really get to know the other in a real world sense, but romance and feelings are still central and philosophy is not and so both cohabitation and marriage wind up in bitter divorce at least 50% of the time.
Selecting our leaders has become the same way. This is my theory as to why presidential approval ratings so often go from really high to really low when the man himself is only doing what we should've expected if we really listened to what he said while he was interviewing for the job.
We like being romanced by candidates. We like hearing the things we want to hear and joining a Movement, being held up and comforted by a tide of excitement and hope and it's-a-whole-lot-of-us-righteous-guys-against-the-massive-evil-bad-guys mentality.
We get swept up in the speeches and the promises and our own idea of who someone is and totally miss who the man himself really is and what he really thinks, based on the evidence of what he's done with the rest of his life.
Which brings me to this fascinating, bewildering election we're watching unfold.
I've always viewed elections as something I could have a very strong opinion about but not really do much about.
In other words, I can answer the fundamental question about whom I think should lead, but the final overarching answer is always God's. No matter what I think or do, he ultimately chooses leaders and deposes them. So I more or less sit on the sidelines, eat my popcorn and watch interesting developments before contributing my one little drop to the ocean of opinions.
My strongest opinion actually has nothing to do with what candidate to actually vote for. It has to do with my responsibility in how to vote.
Since I believe it's God who ultimately chooses, my job is, as usual, to be answerable to him for every action I take. When I stand before him someday, he isn't going to talk to me about how well (or terribly) I did choosing a leader for my country. He's going to be weighing my heart to see if I loved him first or if I let my feet go where they wanted without his input. My responsibility is to vote for whom I believe - based on whatever evidence I can find, not my feelings - to be closest to what God would want; and, absent anyone even close, to vote for someone who will do the least harm to what God would want. That's what I'm answerable to him for. Not the ultimate decision. Just mine.
My responsibility isn't to long after the perfect candidate or decide any of the options ARE. Unless Jesus has come back and is ruling as King, there is no perfect candidate. And Jesus isn't going to be voted in, so I don't have to worry about it.
It's not to choose the man who embodies my anger the best.
It's not to choose someone I feel most comfortable with when I see him speak.
It's not to be swayed by every manufactured emotion I'm supposed to feel but to judge based on the clearest evidence I can gather.
It's not even to pick someone I feel would be best for our family finances, though that's probably a better reason than choosing someone embodying anger and frustration.
I need to vote for the most good in the most practical way possible. And then leave the decision to God, not being angry or frustrated when the result isn't what I thought it should be.
This is why I read what the candidates say for weeks or months before I ever see them speak on TV. Because you can be fooled by what you see on TV a lot easier than what you read in a man's words. This is why I'm more interested in the overall pattern of their behavior than of their specific stances on issues which may change given the right incentive. This is why I can tell you much more easily whom I would absolutely not vote for rather than whom I would: because my process of choosing works by elimination, like answering multiple-choice questions on a test.
Whether someone is successful or not, if they got there by lying, cheating, and bad behavior, I'm going to assume they will continue that pattern.
If someone overall appears to be seeking good but has done things I don't agree with, I don't necessarily hold the mistakes against them.
If someone isn't of the same religious background I am but I still see evidence of an upright individual doing his best to do what's right, I won't hold the doctrinal differences against him.
If the person I think is the best candidate doesn't end up being an option to vote for, I don't refuse to make a decision because "my guy" isn't in the race anymore. (I did consider this for the first time this year, but my brother has talked me out of it by reminding me that my job is to make a decision based on what's in front of me, not what I WISH was in front of me...)
Voting is not romantic. It's not about what makes me feel the best. It's not about picking whoever says what I happen to be thinking at the time. It's about choosing someone the closest to good among the options I'm presented with.
And that's why - in this primary season - I can't vote for Donald Trump. He's the romantic candidate. But romance alone ends in bitterness, disillusionment and divorce and that's what I foresee happening with a potential Trump presidency. It's not just differing opinions. It's my basic approach to weighing a candidate: good first, ideas second, evidence of life as backup. Donald Trump doesn't factor God into his decisions and so his decisions will not be made by seeking what's good.
Whatever good you think he will do, it will be offset by the evil he will just as casually do because he doesn't understand or value goodness.
Other candidates may ultimately not value good either. But we have evidence on this one. I wish I could plead with everyone I love not to get married just because they "fall in love" and not to vote for a leader because they think he sounds or looks good in the position. Divorce is a bitter, ugly, heartbreaking catastrophe; and so is following a man who doesn't believe in good but in winning.
As Popeye said, "Bad is bad even if it helps ya."
So now I've voiced my opinion. And whatever decision God makes, it's for a good I'm too small to be able to see.
May the best man win.
If you were to ask me to sum up in one word one of the biggest lessons being Mom has taught me, I would say "mortification".
That word has a lot negative connotations but that's because most of us don't like the idea of being taken down a notch or two. Mortification gets a bad rap, though. Jesus himself "mortified" or "humbled" himself to become a man out of love for his Father and love for his Father's Creation. That makes mortification a good thing, if character is allowed to grow or show through it.
From the very beginning of our children coming into the world, I've learned more through mortification than ever before. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, the arrival of children has betrayed my weaknesses to me like nothing else in my life ever has.
Lots of people have talked about how they were experts in child-rearing until they had a child. It's true. It's easy (if you have un-mortified pride) to think you know everything about the whole process. Until you are actually faced with, say, your child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store. Then you have a choice: pretend nothing's wrong, get mad at the screamer, or be truthful.
I could say, "It's only a phase" or "children just do these things" or any one of a number of excuses. This would instantly let me off the hook and give my pride a chance to live another day.
I could take offense that my kid is being so embarrassing in public ("how dare she!") or pretend I'm a perfect parent and it's her fault she's screaming her head off in the vegetable aisle. My pride might be a little damaged on the surface because I'm embarrassed...but then I just have a hard heart toward my little noisemaker and pretend I should only be embarrassed by what she's doing, not by anything I've done.
Or I could be truthful and say, "This is not good. This isn't necessary. And this is my fault. She's only doing what I've taught her. Time to go back to the drawing board."
And so pride becomes mortified and there is a chance for learning to take place. Doesn't mean learning DOES, but at least there's a chance.
My bubble of impression that I was reasonably clear-sighted, knew what I was doing, and had a deep relationship with God has been burst by the arrival of our children. I'm sure illusions remain. My children are after all still very small. But at least if the bubble is burst there's a chance to build something real.
(And by the way, our two small children are about to become three sometime in May.)
Mortification is priceless.
Not pleasant, but priceless.
Because there is no one so blind as someone who thinks they can see. And parenthood is no place for blindness. Blindness in this arena is catastrophic.
More than anything else, someday I want my children to stand before God and have him say to them, "Well done!" If my pride isn't mortified, it doesn't exactly help them get there. My pride could very well keep them from getting there. They bear their own responsibilities before God, but parents can be a huge stumbling block and can teach things not easily undone. Especially if a parent is blind, hypocritical and arrogant (which might be three ways of saying the same thing).
That, by the way, is not to say that motherhood is all about philosophical and embarrassing moments. It's full of many hilarious, sweet and pleasant moments as well. Such as when Abigail leans over to me and says, "Mommy, why is your tummy getting so big? Are you sure there is a baby in there?" and then puts her face close to my stomach and says, "Baby? Are you really in there?" or when Susannah walks around saying "Where's Mom? Where's Mom?" until she finds me and shouts, "MOM!!!" joyfully.
But I expected those. I didn't expect the level of mortification I've experienced. My pride thought I'd learned things I'm learning I never learned. Patience. Consistency. Understanding. Joy. Courage. Selflessness. Generosity. Humility. And that's the short list.
And now I'd better stop writing and go teach Abigail why picking her nose is not the way she was made to look. Or else she's going to start doing it in the grocery store.
No one said it was a bad idea to recognize mortification is going to happen before it actually does.
Ever wonder what really happened when Eve ate that fruit from the Tree of Knowledge? I didn't until recently. The story seemed straightforward enough to me, but lately Ben and I have been pondering a different element: what it means to desire God's goodness instead of our own.
The way the Bible seems to tell it, the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge was pretty much magic fruit. You eat it, you get the permanent ability to inherently know good and evil just like God does. And that matches a lot of our theology, because we tend to divide the whole world into normal humdrum everyday non-miracle stuff and Things That Only God Could Do. Even though God created everything, we see it all as non-miraculous unless something happens we don't recognize or expect.
For example, we tend to think of Jesus' perfect adherence to God's will as something no man could ever do (even filled with the Spirit as Jesus was) because a man would have to be God himself in order to actually DO God's will. So even as believers we get an out since we aren't God. And Jesus' command to "Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48) is beautifully poetic hyperbole because even with God's Spirit animating us there is no way we could keep that command.
That's why it's easy for us to see this special Tree of Knowledge not as something illustrating who we are today but as something removed from us and not fully part of our life. No one today ever faces the challenge of whether to eat fruit from a magic tree. It's a one-time event, a single chance to get it right, one none of us children have ever had. Sure, we have chances to obey God, but our disobedience is moot because we start off guilty by association and it's not like our little disobedience here or there is going to be the catastrophic event that separates all Mankind from God. We get to look at that moment of separation regretfully but not feel any guilt or responsibility other than the inferred guilt of being Adam and Eve's descendants. If we don't look any deeper than the magic fruit, this story becomes little more than a historical event and a warning about how important it is to obey God.
But it could be something else. It could be a deeply revealing story of Human nature that affects us daily in everything we do.
It could be a story of how we ourselves rebel against God...and how to stop. It could tell us something about what real obedience is rather than simply a rote adherence to the letter of a command.
If we look past the magic fruit that can instantly confer Godlike abilities on the eater, what could the story of Adam and Eve eating from the tree teach us about ourselves and God?
The Underlying Issues of the Bible's Narrative
The Bible seems to narrate a very consistent juxtaposition: the desires and condition of Man's heart versus the desires and condition of God's. For example, just look at God's comment on all of Mankind just a short few chapters later in the story of the wickedness of Noah's generation:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. - Genesis 6:5-6 (ESV)
We hear about Pharoah's hard heart, the wayward hearts of the Israelite People in seeking other gods, the instruction by Moses to love God with all our hearts, the heart of God who yearns for his children...it's always about the heart. The root. The underlying reasons for why people do what they do and why God does what he does.
Since that' seems to be the bedrock of the rest of the Bible, it might be the bedrock of this very first story of Man's interaction with God.
What if the story of Adam and Eve and the eating of the fruit isn't about a magic fruit, but about the difference between Man's heart and God's? About Man's view of things contrasted to God's? As God himself puts it, the "contention" between him and Mankind?
If this is the case, we should get a picture of the heart of Adam and Eve's actions in the matter of the Fruit from the story in Genesis. We should be able to see what was in their hearts to cause them to disobey God's direct command. And we should also be able to see if the same impulse exists in our own hearts.
Our usual view of Adam and Eve before the Fruit is that they were no more able to determine right from wrong than a dog: they were capable of obedience, of following God's commands, but not of reason. The Great Rebellion that separated us from God was the disobedient action of eating the Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, since God is holy and any transgression separates us from him. After eating the Fruit, Adam and Eve absolutely gained the ability Satan promised to exactly determine good from evil...and all their children ever since have been born with this innate ability as well. If we put our minds to it, "deep down" we can always rightly determine good from evil, but because Adam and Eve were disobedient we also bear the sin of their disobedience and can therefore never be right with God because from our conception we've already sinned by inheritance. Because they ate the Fruit, God sees us as sinful - not initially by anything we've done, but because of the sins of our forefathers. We just add to it as time goes by.
There may be some flawed ideas in this outlook, flaws that affect our ability to actually divide good from evil according to God's perspective, our ability to understand what God really says to us, and our ability to fulfill the good works God chose for us before we were born.
Idea Number One: Man Did Not Know Good From Evil Until Eating The Fruit
The idea that Man originally had no ability to distinguish good from evil gives total credence to Satan's narrative that the ability had been denied to us and we were really no better than animals unless we seized our destiny and made ourselves into God's actual image. When Satan tells Eve that God lied to her, he was saying that God not only lied about the effects of the Fruit but about the very nature God had blessed her and Adam with in the first place. And the terrible thing is...I think we still believe the lie. We credit the fruit for our consciences and the ability to separate Good and Evil, not God's creation of us.
Satan, the great Accuser and Deceiver, has always tried to make this case to us and to God: that God's Creation has terrible flaws and could be perfect if we only did x, y or z. That's what the whole book of Job is really about: the question of whether or not God's creation is really as good as he said it was in the beginning ("if you remove your blessing from Job, then you'll see what a rotten little work he is when he curses you to your face!").
Rather than fall into Satan's premise, how much would this story change if we looked at it from God's premise: that all he made was Very Good, including Mankind? It would take God at his word that he created us in his image and likeness. Adam and Eve already had the ability to divide Good from Evil. More than just Good and Evil, Adam and Eve were made like God: to desire Good. To be unable to do anything that wasn't Good. That's how God said he made us. Not flawed. Not unable to even recognize Good. Perfect. Very Good.
Adam and Eve were created with both the capacity and desire for good, exactly in the pattern of their Creator, and thereby intrinsically given the capacity and desire to hate evil.
What they didn't have was experience. And what was God doing when he walked with them in the evening and gave them a command like, "Don't eat from that tree in the middle of the garden"? If they had no capacity to know good from evil, why would they see even obedience to a command as good?
But if they already had the capacity to look for and desire Good, then God was feeding them understanding and testing it right from the very beginning by giving them a command and then teaching them it was good to obey. He was teaching them as a father teaches a baby, starting with the bedrock of obedience.
Yes, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. Why? Because God had not taught them it was not good to be naked. Maybe he didn't even have a problem with it at that point. If he had, you'd think he would've covered them from the beginning instead of saying everything was "very good". You don't start off teaching your tiny newborn that being naked is bad. You teach a lot of other important things first. You teach love first. You teach trust first. You teach obedience first.
Even with our supposedly inborn ability today to distinguish good from evil with nakedness being presumably evil...why does every child need to be painstakingly taught not to run around naked? They'd all do it very happily if we'd let them. Children do desire good, but they often have no clue what it really is in most circumstances. Neither did Adam and Eve.
But the obvious question is...if Adam and Eve were created to know and desire Good and given the gift of not being able to do anything that wasn't Good...how could they have then done evil by eating the Fruit?
I'll get back to that in a minute.
Idea Number Two: Adam And Eve Could Not Truly Reason Before Eating The Fruit
When Satan presented Eve with the idea that God has really lied to her about what would happen if she ate the fruit, Eve did something she shouldn't have been able to do before eating the fruit if eating it really gives us true knowledge of Good and Evil.
She weighed the snake's words and thought, "It's Good to be wise. Of course we're supposed to be wise! And the Fruit would be good to eat - just look at how beautiful it is and how good it smells. God wouldn't really kill us for eating it because he loves us and he really does want us to be wise. So it's good to eat the Fruit so we can be wise because it's Bad to not be wise."
Eve did not reason like a dog. She did not think "Ooooh yummy! Food!" (chomp chomp). She was attracted by an abstract concept, a promise to be able to better understand Good and Evil, a desire to be wise. She created her own version of good and evil before the Fruit was ever in her mouth. She rearranged the knowledge of good and evil God had begun to teach her and substituted her own.
And that begins to answer the earlier question: if Eve was really created to only do Good and never Evil, how could she then have so quickly done Evil?
By rearranging good and evil to suit herself, that's how. In Eve's eyes, she wasn't doing evil when she ate that Fruit. If she had seen it as evil, she would literally not have been able to do it. It's when we walk away from God's definitions of good and evil and create our own that we are still able to function within the boundaries God gave us - we don't do things we see as evil - and still do evil.
Which brings me to the next thought: the Great Rebellion.
Idea Number Three: The Great Rebellion Was Disobeying God And Eating The Fruit
It was rebellion to eat the fruit, but the actual rebellion, the true Great Rebellion, was the rejection of God's teaching about good and evil. It was the rejection of God's Goodness by believing the snake's lie that God isn't truly good and didn't truly make us as good as he said he did.
It's this rebellion that haunts all Mankind: we want to recreate Good and Evil to our specifications. We cannot deny our creation in God's image: we are all born intrinsically desiring good; but it's corrupted because instead of learning how God sees good, we continue our great-great-great-grandparents' rebellion by convincing ourselves of our own version of good. That's why we can do such terrible evil in God's eyes while thinking we're doing good. If you look at the great evils Mankind has done and still does, it all starts with the conviction that something evil - like sacrificing children to idols - is actually good and necessary. We must make evil good before we can do it or we would go insane. I'm not sure we can even do what we actually believe to be evil. No matter how twisted the logic, evil people have reasons why they think what they are doing is actually good.
Our great sin - the thing that separates us from God to this day - is our refusal to see things from his eyes, to love him enough to want what he wants with our whole hearts. We are wayward and go our own way and create our own version of Good rather than striving to know and understand - no matter how difficult - the author and originator and definition of Good who is God.
The Tree of Knowledge: A Test, Not A Trap
Its easy to wonder why God put a magic tree that could do so much damage in the middle of the Garden like that. I've always wondered why he did. Why put something so destructive right there in front of Adam and Eve?
If this is really a story about the hearts of Mankind, the answer is easier than I used to imagine: because God was teaching and testing the hearts of his newborn children, to see if his Creation would be Good just as he was. And oddly enough, he wasn't discouraged when we proved not to be as interested in Good as God is. Instead, he came up with a plan to teach Good to us anyway. By hook or by crook, he intended to create for himself a peculiar People of his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14)
The presence of the Tree of Knowledge was a test: would Mankind follow God's instructions of Good or rebel and create his own Good instead?
Once it became clear we were going to be willful, God then put a much stricter teaching regiment in place and began the long, long patient process of revealing himself to us and teaching us what Good really is, drawing those who really wanted to love and follow him into this understanding. Consider his simple reason for choosing Abraham to be the first of the Covenant that we ourselves enter into today when we want to end our banishment and come back into God's Presence:
The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” - Genesis 18:17-19 (ESV)
When Jesus walked the Earth, he set out to teach God's ways and pull God's People away from following their own. One of his most poignant statements was that he did not come to "do away" with God's instructions - create a new Good - but to "rightly do" them - follow God's Good. (Matthew 17:20)
Our focus every day needs to be not on trying to feel around and determine what seems Good to us, but to constantly seek and ask and ponder what God himself sees as Good. Because everything else is a counterfeit.
Why do I write this blog? Why do I write things I know might be troubling? And if I must write, why do I not restrict readers to carefully approved members I trust not to get mad at me?
When we read that we were made in God's image, we think, "Well, our spirits must look like his because he can't possibly have a normal old familiar form like ours". But in almost the same breath, we look at ourselves - spirit and all - as so vile and repulsive that there is nothing redeeming about us except that God just randomly decided to make us into something good under the right circumstances...and even then, he doesn't make us Good, exactly, just covers up all the repulsiveness under a nice clean sheet so he can pretend the disgusting thing underneath is just the covering he's looking at.
This is hard to imagine a truthful God doing.
How can God, the originator of Truth, look at something disgusting and say, "No it's not, it's pure! See, all my eyes behold is the purity of my Son. Nothing else to look at here."
Does God create garbage? If he makes someone whole, is that wholeness just a joke, an illusion?
Or does God the Great Creator make and remake us into something beautiful and wonderful?
I believe God when he says he literally washes us clean. Our sins are actually removed. Which reveals God's Creation underneath all the muck and leaves us with a critical decision to make: how should we now live?
What are we supposed to be if we have been returned to the state God meant us to be in?
When God says that the blood of Jesus "washes" us, "cleanses" us and "brings us back" (redeems), brings us back to life ("you were once dead in your sin but now share in the new life..."), he is saying he is taking us back to the beginning, back to what he originally created...and what he created was something very like himself.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." - Genesis 1:26
We were meant to be like God.
But what does that even mean? It's hard to imagine ourselves being anything like God. It's considered semi-blasphemous to even consider. I stammer over even saying it aloud. How are we normal, average, ordinary people supposed to be anything like the totally alien being we imagine God to be?
I mean, think about it. When we think about God, we think about someone so infinitely Different than us we can't possibly know, understand or imitate anything about him so it's useless to even try. We try and fail to imagine what he looks like. Ask a lot of people what this verse means and they will say something like our Spirits are in God's image and so we have impulses or an intelligence like his...but then turn around and say that man is hopelessly wicked and there isn't a truly good impulse in him. Until recently, I didn't realize I looked at things this way too. But when I had to answer Ben WHY, I couldn't. This dichotomy is seriously confusing.
And to a certain extent, how could it possibly be otherwise? When was the last time I created a star or made a dead person come back to life? What kind of arrogance would it take to even dream of being...well, like God? Wasn't Satan thrown out of Heaven for this same kind of thinking - after all, his big rebellious moment was when he said, "I will be like the Most High", right?
And God said, "Let us make a Man in our image and likeness."
The Hebrew word "tselem" that we've usually translated "image" roughly means something like a shadow. The verse is literally saying something along the lines of, "Let's carve ourselves a shadow." The secondary term "likeness" ("demuth") is almost the same as tselem, but means "a comparison" rather than a "shadow".
So God said, "I'm going to make this creature who'll be My shadow and be comparable to Me."
This indicates something truly miraculous and incredible.
God isn't a mysteriously unknowable alien Thing with weird powers and an incomprehensible motivation for his actions.
God is a Person.
He looks a lot like us.
This is a terrifyingly beautiful idea. It lays a huge responsibility on us. It does not let us imagine ourselves to be obscure and unimportant so our actions or mistakes don't matter much.
If God is a Person we look like, then we are bound to uphold his image if we believe him to be good and worth honoring.
God IS a Person.
He is not an idea.
He is not a ghost.
He is not a collective consciousness.
He is a person who could actually walk in a beautiful garden with these two creatures he called Mankind. He is a Person who could speak to Moses like a man with a friend. He is a Person who likes some things and hates others.
He is a Person he intended us to know and deeply recognize, to the point he has held out the gift of his own Spirit so we could think and act as he would. So that if you see a man or woman possessed by that Spirit, it's as if you are seeing God himself.
Jesus was exasperated with his disciples when they kept asking to see the Father because they kept expecting something unimaginable when he himself, the perfect image of his Father, was sitting right with them and eating dinner with them. His disciples couldn't imagine God eating dinner or having a wry sense of humor. God couldn't look like them. So they kept asking to see something different without realizing the extraordinary nature of the man they followed and the nature they themselves had been given.
Mankind is made to be God's shadow, the shadow of the Person of God. And the amazing thing about a shadow is that it is an image cast by shining light past a solid form. It does not have the solidity and power of the image it is cast in, but it does tell you a few things about that image. A shadow tells you something is there in the light. It tells you what the shape of that something is. And it is bound to follow wherever the solid thing goes.
We tend to think of ourselves as the solid shape and God as the shadow. We hear that God is Spirit and think that makes him this weird ghostly unrecognizable Thing we have about as much in common with as a star. Which is why we have so much trouble with the idea that we are meant to think and act and BE as copies of our Creator. We are convinced - strangely enough, especially when we become Believers - that it's impossible to be perfected into a being who looks like God as Jesus did. We aren't worthy of that kind of elevation, we think.
And we are right to think it. We didn't DO anything to make God decide how to make us because we weren't made yet when he decided it! But that's not the point. God decided to create us and he decided how to create us and he decided what we should look like and he decided how to make it happen. It's not humility to reject this. It's humility to accept it.
"He has shown you, oh Man, what is Good and what YHVH desires of you: to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8 (paraphrased)
Isn't that the whole point of everything God has done? He gave his commands so we would know how to walk as his shadows. Then he sent Jesus to literally walk the direction we're supposed to so we would have a complete picture of what walking like God looks like; and then to top it off, our perfect teacher and example even gave up his life to restore to us the actual ability to walk after him.
We are in the image and likeness of God. That is what we were created to be. To have hands like his and a face like his and a heart and will that mimic his.
God is a Person we can know. He has made himself knowable to us.
And that is the great promise, the essence of the Good News Jesus came to tell us.
God is knowable and can be familiar to us.
We have the ability to walk after him, to imitate him, to live forever - not as some strange incorporeal creatures we don't understand, but as living beings in a form we know. God is the end - the shadow-caster - of Man as Jesus is the end - the shadow-caster - of the contract of the Law.
God has hands and he's reached one out to us like a father to a small child. And taking it so we may walk after him like a small child with a father is our great hope for escaping the catastrophe of death. For becoming as we were created to be. Images of God in every way.
And that's why it matters that God has hands.
Branding is a very, very old concept. It visibly confirms the bearer in all the rights and protection of belonging to the owner of the brand. If you're a cow and you have a brand on your neck, it means you belong to the farmer who owns the brand. You live in his barn, eat his food and are treated as his cow. People since the dawn of time have grouped together under a flag and worn special colors on their bodies to indicate the kingdom they belong to and the king whose leadership they claim in return for the rights and benefits he could hand out (land, food, money, etc.).
There are a few brands God himself mentions as a sign (or seal) of his possession. Like a wedding ring, there are signs we wear when we follow after God. The one Ben and I have been pondering this week is the one God grants us when he finds us weeping and mourning at the wickedness we see around us. It's the opposite of the infamous "666" brand mentioned in Revelation. All who bear that brand are destroyed. The ones who bear God's brand are spared and blessed.
3Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist. 4And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” - Ezekiel 9:3
This is a difficult idea. It clashes with the picture we have of a Believer: we are supposed to be at peace. We are supposed to be a Light on a Hill, attracting all men to the glory of God by the Spirit that lives in us and gives us the peace that makes people want to have what we have.
Most people really don't want sighing and groaning and tears. If that's what it takes to receive the brand of God's ownership on our foreheads, it's not an attractive prospect.
Here's the thing, though: I'm pretty sure we don't fully understand peace. We get it confused with happiness. Sometimes Peace is also Sad.
7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. - Hebrews 5:7
I've always had trouble with this passage. It doesn't sound like the Jesus I know. Jesus praying - to me - would be a dignified, quiet conversation. What's with the loud cries and the tears? This does not compute!
37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38See, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” - Matthew 23:37-39
This is Jesus speaking, the one who promised us HIS peace. That means the peace he has to pass on to his followers includes this facet, this great and terrible longing to be able to save those he loved and the grief that comes with being rejected. That is the heartbreak of a parent losing a child. If that isn't weeping and mourning, I don't know what is.
One of the prophesies about Jesus says this:
3He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
- Isaiah 53:3-4
Jesus' peace, the peace the peace he passes to us through his Spirit, is the peace of a Man of Sorrows. It is a sign of being filled with desire for God to weep at certain things. The peace of the Spirit he passes to us will cause us to be despised and not esteemed even as we are filled with sorrow for the very people who despise us.
Because Jesus loved those around him as if they were his children and even he, the Savior, the Messiah, could not save them from the destruction they were bringing on themselves.
No matter how loudly he shouted, how firmly he taught and how earnestly he wanted to gather them away from destruction, he could not. He was filled with the power and authority to rescue and protect them, but he needed his beloved children to want to be saved.
This, then, is how I understand the passage about God branding people with his mark of ownership when they look around, "judge" their neighbors to be committing great abominations, and groan and sigh over it. Because they are filled with love and in the midst of their own peace are also filled with grief and long to make what is wrong right. And they can't, because those they love do not want what they have. Those Jesus loved often did not want what he had, and there couldn't have been a light shining on a hill any brighter than he was.
As confusing as it is, one sign of growth in God's Spirit is also the growth of sorrow at the wrongness we see around us that we cannot fix but we know is completely antithetical to what God created and the good he wants for his creation. It so distresses God's followers that they cannot help but sigh and groan at what they are seeing.
We don't know what generation will be at Ground Zero when the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord comes, but if it comes in our lifetime, we do not want to be found ignoring wickedness or scoffing arrogantly at it while saying, "At least I'M not like those sinners over there!" We want to be so filled with love and Jesus' peace that we are full of sorrow when we see anything that doesn't fit what God meant to be.
And that is how true Peace must sometimes weep.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh." -Luke 6:21b
Dear Fellow Believers,
The Supreme Court of the United States decided this week that we couldn't make a distinction between marriage and not-marriage. The justification is that if two people love each other and want to make a commitment to each other, they shouldn't be denied the "right" to make that commitment.
Many Christians are shaken and outraged by this. A surprising number are not, but many are.
This letter is to you.
When Believers decided we could cross out various parts of God's instructions and state which we were comfortable following and which we could righteously ignore, we set a long stage for us to be in the bind we're in now. We have trouble being able to distinguish right from wrong or have a leg to stand on when objecting to things like men "marrying" other men. The decision this week, based upon relentlessly emotional statements like "when two people love each other", is the logical outcome of our society's abandonment of God's principles and instructions. The shocking number of Christians supporting it while saying, "No one chooses to be born this way" is proof that we in the Body of Christ have forgotten our compass. We can't find North because we have rejected the measuring stick God gave his people. We are going the same way as the rest of the world when we were supposed to stand up and say "no!", to be a light on a hill, to not be like those whose eyes are blinded because they do not know the true Light.
I am filled with grief - not because Unbelievers do things God abhors, but because Believers are being persuaded they cannot object.
Hear me out on this.
When we decided that God's careful instructions could be parsed into categories like "Moral", "Sign" or "Ceremonial" laws and some could be dismissed, we opened ourselves to the argument of which instruction was which. It's now only a matter of opinion which we should keep and which we should ignore. One Christian keeps the Sabbath, another doesn't at all, another says it's been changed to Sunday. We have no clarity because we are using our own standards to judge God and his commandments instead of using God's words as our guide.
By taking it on ourselves to judge which of God's instructions are still valid, we have given ourselves the power to judge God. Once you give men the power to judge God, you've already made all evil things allowable. That is our sinful nature. And by discrediting God's commands, we have no recourse for objection. It's only a matter of time. When God says eating pigs is abominable to him and so is homosexuality, we are tearing down our own foundations when we say, "God's changed his mind about the pigs but not the homosexuality."
But who makes the determination that pigs are now clean but my homosexual neighbors are not?
God has not given good and evil instructions. If we find any of his instructions good, why would we then discard others?
The reason, one everyone I know including myself has used, is that some of God's commands are for us but some aren't, and if we try to keep the ones that aren't we have cursed ourselves. But it's very difficult to understand who has drawn the dividing line between the good and the cursed.
Many - including me, in my heart - have cited Paul's writings when saying it's actually evil to regard the body of God's instructions as still valid. The problem with this is that by accepting any of those instructions as good, we have invalidated this whole point and set ourselves up as the judges of God's Law. Paul himself never divides the commands into groups of what we should and shouldn't follow. He differentiates - as Jesus did - between the Laws of God and the Traditions of Men, but when he says "The Law", he never condemns part while clinging to part. If he's really speaking of God's instructions and condemning them as evil for Christians to follow, he's calling ALL of them evil. If this view of Paul is correct, then we can't say even the 10 Commandments are still valid without a lot of mind-bending roundabouts.
So do not do the easy thing, the thing I always took for granted we should do, and retreat behind Paul's difficult writings to say we can't possibly follow God's Instructions. Because if Paul said that, we're free to commit murder now. Without the whole validity of God's Instructions, there's nothing to say there's anything wrong with men "marrying" men or women "marrying" women or a father "marrying" his young daughter or a woman "marrying" her favorite horse.
Since it's ridiculous to suppose Paul really advocated murder or adultery, it's time to give up the untenable position that we in our power and wisdom can do what even the Apostles personally taught by Jesus could not: we cannot pick and choose which of God's commands are just and holy and which we may ignore.
That thought is what catapulted me out of feeling at ease with my attitude toward God and made me realize I have been content not following him with my whole heart. I realized with this one statement that I had allowed myself to choose how much of God's will I was content with.
It's not God's Instructions themselves that are the dividing line between the holy and profane in our Christian, God-fearing hearts. It's the attitude that we have the right to examine all God's words and decide which we will follow. Not which we CAN follow. Which we WILL.
If we keep giving ourselves that right, we'll increasingly find there is no evil and perversion we can truthfully object to because our only foundational reason will be, "I'm not comfortable with homosexuals marrying, but I am with eating pigs, so one is permissible but the other is a clear abomination."
That isn't a good reason. My comfort level is not something anyone else should have to change their behavior for. To demand my neighbors conduct their lives just in ways I personally approve is tyranny. It is only when a person believes in conducting their life according to the ways of our Creator and expect others to do the same that we have any moral, justifiable grounds for objecting to any disgusting behavior.
If we love what our Creator loves and despise what he despises, then we will no longer be hypocrites but will be able to firmly and consistently stand for what God defines as right. It's no longer an opinion. It's based on Truth, the Truth of God.
Until then, we can't in good conscience criticize homosexuals by saying, "that's a sin because God said so." They have every right to come back with, "God said eating shrimp is a sin too."
"Come back to me with your whole heart," God tells his people over and over. If we want to see evil beaten back, if we want to see perversion stop invading even our churches, we must repent of the arrogance we are showing toward God and accept his direction alone instead of trying to invent our own.
If we want to know our Messiah when his feet hit the ground on the Mount of Olives sometime in the perhaps-not-so-distant future, we have to be willing to give up our right of picking and choosing what we will do for the sake of our love for him.
It's still not too late.
30“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 32And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls." - Joel 2:30-32
I remember writing in my blessing book a few years before meeting Ben that it had finally occurred to me that getting married would mean becoming part of a new family and leaving mine behind. I was probably going to have to change, because I noticed that's what happened when people got married: they changed. I was scared about it. For some reason, I'd always assumed my future husband and I would carry on exactly as my family did with no breaks in thought or action.
Back at that time in my life - late teens to early twenties - I also had an extremely harsh view of other people and tended to categorize them more as a series of identifying boxes than as living, breathing people. If you had suggested to 20-year-old-Me that I would marry a man who had been a Christian less than three years, had grown up in the public school system and graduated from college, was attending a Pentecostal church faithfully every Sunday and who got excited about reading non-canonical books like Jasher and Enoch, I would've told you in no uncertain language that you were talking to the wrong girl. If you threw in that I'd agree to marriage after spending plenty of time alone with him and without either father's in-depth involvement or prior consent (oops...), I would've been even more shocked.
Back then, I was going to have a strict courtship overseen by my father, I was not even going to hold hands with my betrothed, who would be a good homeschooled boy hopefully working with his father and ready to move into his own house that he'd been diligently saving for since he was fourteen, and we were both definitely going to be 25 or younger.
(These were not my parents' ideas, by the way - I picked them up by reading all kinds of stuff that seemed wise and prudent to me. I've since observed that my way of thinking at the time really didn't take people themselves into account.)
In spite of all my careful imaginings, I really only made one request of God when it came to the nature and person of my possible husband: I asked for him not to be what I dubbed "a Loopholer". I wanted a man who wanted what was good with his whole heart and wasn't looking for loopholes to get out of doing what God considered good.
But I did just sort of assume my Mr. No-Loopholer would fit the picture I'd made of him, homeschooled and all.
Meeting Ben scared me to death.
Not because Ben is a frightening individual (unless you've lost to him for the twenty-five-thousandth time at chess). Because I knew from our five hundred pages of emails he sure seemed a lot like the man I'd asked for but not the one I'd imagined. In many ways, he was nothing at all like what I'd imagined. And I knew if I married him, things were going to Change. Yes, that's with a capital C.
For the first couple months we went out, I think I had a knot in my stomach the whole time. I was afraid. I was very afraid. Afraid of making such a big decision and what could happen if I chose poorly. Afraid of how the details were going to work out. Afraid that Ben didn't make enough money to support a family. Afraid of how much it was going to hurt if we decided NOT to get married. Afraid of things Ben thought were important that were uncomfortable and strange to me. I had never pictured fear as such a big part of the deciding-to-get-married process.
One of the things I kept asking God over and over was for him to make his plans overwhelmingly obvious to me, to make marriage to Ben impossible if it wasn't a good idea. For most of my life, I would say that I have prayed and God answered through circumstances. But one day, I think he actually answered me in words. I was only half awake, but I was lying in bed looking out the window and thinking about the day and I said some small prayer about how I didn't know what to think when it came to all the things about Ben that weren't what I'd pictured. And a small voice in the back of my mind said, "I've given you exactly what you hoped for. Stop being so scared!"
It was then that I think I finally started seeing that Ben really was a pretty wonderful man without part of me hanging back and objecting. That even though his life was something I'd never imagined, it was something I was ready to be a part of. It was going to be different than what I'd grown up with, different from what anyone else I knew lived, but it was going to be good. Because Ben loved good. And he didn't look for ways to excuse himself from doing what was good.
Being married has changed me. But they've been good changes because they were all done for the sake of good. It's taken time for some things to feel normal and not uncomfortably strange, but there was one thing I forgot when I was worried about having to change: that it wasn't something I was going to do alone. It's not a matter of Ben being an inflexible standard I have to conform to. We are looking for what is good together and we are changing together. That makes the path out into the unknown a lot less scary than I thought it was going to be.
And that would've been a very encouraging thought for 20-year-old-Me.
My family is probably going to groan about this post. We've had a long tradition of enjoying superhero stories and movies. We like fantasy and science fiction and time traveling and other such stories. We cut our teeth on Lord of the Rings (the books, not the movies) and even stuck with the Smallville series (in spite of the wearisome number of "skip" scenes and episodes) for seven seasons until we finally gave up. We look forward to a great good-versus-evil flick.
That's actually why I was a little shaken by a documentary called The Replacement Gods.
Brief alert: the beginning of this documentary deals with the ancient legends of early cultures and as my sister says, "I just learned way more than I wanted to about other gods".
However, what the documentary points out is we already know these legends but just don't realize they've been redressed for our age.
There are a few things in the documentary I don't agree with and I'm pretty sure I don't see theologically eye-to-eye on every point with the filmmakers. But the documentary makes the point that Satan is called the Great Deceiver and he has a couple of goals, one of which is to destroy God's Creation and the other is to set himself up as God. In the process of reaching those goals, he has been very successful at using every generation's version of mass media to propagandize his point of view; and you can trace it down through all recorded history to our day.
Matthew records Jesus having a strange and pointed conversation with his disciples about his second coming and about the things that will happen to help those who love God to recognize it. One of the first things he tells them is this:
"For false christs [saviors] and false prophets [people who speak the words of God] will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand." (Matt 24:24-25)
God's Elect - those serious about following God and loving him - can be made to confuse bad for good. To buy into a false good and make real good appear wrong or strange or evil so that we turn away or even fight against it.
I'm not saying every good-versus-evil story is twisted so it's not really good or evil. But I am saying that we have to be really careful to know what good and evil are according to God so that we don't buy false versions and get fooled into following a false Messiah. God has a standard of good and evil and we need to know it by the Bible not to get sucked into a different definition.
Personally, I think this is the most frightening thing about life. My relationship with God isn't a fearful one. But this idea should be scary. There are people sincerely wanting to follow God who have and will buy into Satan's lies about good and evil. And they are not people who want to be bad.
There’s going to be a day when Jesus comes back to Earth and all the nations are going to fight against him.
19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. - Revalation 19:19-21
A lot of us aren't going to recognize Jesus when he comes. A lot of decent people are going to fight against him (unless we really think all those armies are completely made up of orcs and goblins and other scary bad guys). If nearly all Mankind is involved on the wrong side of this battle, it's dumb to think our family will just avoid being on the wrong side. We are just as gullible as anyone else - maybe even more so.
20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Satan has always wanted Jesus’ place and position, both as King of the Earth and as God’s Son, the inheritor of God's power. He is also known as the Great Deceiver, meaning he is very good at taking a truth and twisting it just slightly to make it totally backwards. His goal is for us to think he is good and God is evil. And woe to anyone who trades sweet for bitter and bitter for sweet. When we do this, we lose the ability to understand where we're going and what we're doing.
So here's how superheroes fit into the mix.
All movies, art, stories, etc. are essentially propaganda dramatizing a point of view. Every movie or TV episode is telling you something. Superhero stories more than anything else in media are always about epic clashes between super-good and super-evil with the fate of the world usually hanging in the balance. Pretty spiritual stuff. And we are entertained, fascinated, edified and walk away feeling good about good winning.
But does real good truly win? Can drama teach us something that isn't true?
Our Messiah doesn't look much like the usual superheroes. He has unusual abilities, true, but he pointed out they were the abilities every man filled with God's Spirit should have. He was a teacher, not a warrior. He was characterized by authority in his words and humility in his circumstances. He did not wear a cape and have chiseled features (Isaiah says there was nothing about him that should have drawn us to him), but he was perfect according to God in his words and deeds. He willingly died, not exerting any super power to come off the cross. He is going to come back to cause the last war we call Armageddon rather than trying to prevent it. He is going to destroy the world. He did not have a nice romantic sub-plot to his life (though plenty of people have tried to invent one for him) and the Bride he laid his life down for is actually a Kingdom, a place referred to as the New Jerusalem, the City of God.
On the other hand, common threads going through superhero stories are of people with powers nobody else has who spend all their time trying to save the world through their own might and who all have flaws to keep them from being perfect so they can be "approachable". They are a capricious, attractive, angst-ridden bunch who manage to "come down off the cross" any time it looks like they might be crucified. They always get the girl, save the day, defeat the bad guy unequivocally and awe anyone who sees them in action. They are captivating and we have many dramas in books and movies detailing their exploits.
This dramatic storytelling is nothing new. It's very old, as old as humanity itself.
The tale of Gilgamesh is probably the oldest one we know of, a story being told right after the Flood about the flood and the survival of Humankind. It’s a drama because instead of the real facts about a righteous man instructed by God in how to survive (all the glory going to God), Gilgamesh was so wise and powerful that he figured out to build an ark and survive the Great Flood all by himself and did all kinds of fantastical deeds in the process. He was pretty much a god himself rather than a humble man being given instructions by a great and wise God. He was a Superhero, the first one recorded in history.
In ancient cultures, heroes were “gods”, fictional beings stronger than humans with unusual powers over things like weather, peoples’ minds and the laws of physics, while still being flawed and prone to error and downright crazy capriciousness and cruelty. They have illicit romances, family feuds, splendid uniforms and fan conferences (also known as temples, priests, and worshippers bringing sacrifices). They have always had a great draw. People all through the ages have been thrilled and entertained by these dramas. The pantheon of gods was invented for the worship, solace, entertainment, and moral direction of the people inventing them.
And we are told in Scripture that these false gods were backed by evil spirits and were dangerous because they turned people's hearts away from God and toward evil. These gods and their ways taught people that bad was good. They blinded their followers to real good. This was a Satanic thing, these false god claims and cults. It was all to make people worship him instead of the true God.
It’s always been kind of a mystery to me why the Jewish people as a whole did not recognize their Messiah when he came. One of the several things that seems to have happened - judging by how they reacted to the idea of Jesus the Teacher as Messiah - was they liked the "superhero" stories of their day and expected their Messiah was going to be the superhero to beat all superheroes. He was going to march in with supernatural power and destroy all the enemies of the Jews just like Superman. Only better. If Zeus was the king of the gods to the people around them, their Messiah was going to be even more splendid. Take that, all you Gentile oppressors!
Instead, Messiah was a humble working man with a normal family who did some interesting miracles but certainly didn't out-Zeus Zeus. What a disappointment to people conditioned to expect a hero who looked like Hercules.
Today we have become more sophisticated (we think) than to offer animal or children or grain sacrifices to “gods”. We know those old gods aren’t real and we aren’t going to bother butchering some kind of animal and burning it up to make a god happy so we get rain for our vegetables.
(It could be argued we look at Science that way, but that’s a different discussion.)
So the old deception making Satan the good guy had to take a new form for our present generation in Western culture.
It isn't hard to trace where the old gods went. They and their legends became more sophisticated and lived on.
It's not even a secret. The superheroes of today in our Western storytelling struggle with people wanting to call them “gods” and they have to come up with a different explanation for the powers they have. “I’m not a god, just an alien from another planet who has all these powers Humans don’t!” or “I just got bit with a radioactive spider and I can do all these powerful things now” or “I’m just evolving and that’s natural that Humans would evolve into something more intelligent and powerful than we used to be.”
This is so we don't get uncomfortable with the idea of looking up to false gods. It's perfectly okay to "idolize" (and that's a commonly used word) an alien from another planet with wonderful powers since he's not called a god and we all know it's a story, so it's just fun.
But in story after story, we're being taught to accept the leading of powerful beings who we sense don't have a complete grasp of morality but are so awesome that we have to support them because ultimately they're going to save the world. And we don't want our familiar world to be destroyed, right?
Through today's superhero stories - re-tellings of the stories of the gods of ancient cultures - we are learning to be familiar with god-like powerful people fighting for the future of Humankind against an army of also awesomely powerful beings who want to take us over and destroy the Earth and set up a new Kingdom in place of the kingdoms of men. It's being taught that it’s everyone’s duty and highest calling to change and save the world. That's really the underlying theme to the superhero mythos: that we ordinary humans must take on special powers to fight against any force that would overtake our world and remake it.
The problem is...that's exactly what Jesus will do when he comes back. And if that sounds unpleasant or wrong, the storytelling of warped good and evil is doing it's work.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. -Ephesians 6:10-13
There is a strong desire in the comic-book-writing community to bring back the old religions, drawing their new mythology from all the old mythology that goes back as far back as written history can find it. The pantheon of gods is the treasure trove for the story lines of comic book characters. We are being taught to see the characteristics of those ancient gods as admirable and heroic because they are presented in a way that is entertaining and really grabs our attention. Even if we continue to worship our God, it's possible for us to get flaws in our recognition of him just like the Jewish people expect their Messiah to have the characteristics of the ancient mythological heroes to this day. They missed him when he was standing in front of him, so why do we think we wouldn't miss him standing in front of us when he comes back? We are not more holy or wiser than they.
And that is why it might be wise to be very careful of the New Mythology being built today, because it can make us start having a hard time knowing the difference between darkness and light.
If we want to avoid being taken in by a counterfeit Messiah, we really need to learn to recognize the characteristics of the real Messiah and not be fooled by anything else. To not make heroes of people who carry Satan's characteristics and devils of those who carry the Messiah's.
Today is a typical Sabbath in Spring.
My two little munchkins are up early because they have gradually settled into a schedule of needing to go to bed around 9 or 10 which means they wake around 7 in the morning. After years of being night owls and getting up a little on the late side, Ben and I are adjusting to the new normal and generally go to bed ourselves soon after the girls do.
Of course, on Friday night we have a tendency to stay up later because we have this inner sense that we can just sleep in tomorrow.
Though we have been carefully teaching that the seventh day is special to God and we rest to remember how he made the whole world and rested the seventh day, our girls see no reason why they need any more rest than the ten hours' sleep they just enjoyed. For now, sleeping in is either a thing of the past or something done in shifts.
I've tried just being totally unresponsive as two wiggly little bodies are climbing all over mine, but when they are determined to wake Mommy up, they can be as persistent as a hungry cat and I'd have to be dead exhausted to sleep through it.
So I often get up and let Ben sleep since he not only sleeps sounder but seems to need more than I do (when I'm not expecting, anyway).
Today turned out to be one of those pearly gray days which are warm and still in spite of the occasional rain, so I brought the girls and our sourdough pancakes outdoors. Mom and Dad Turner aren't home so I am borrowing their covered patio to sit in since it keeps raining. The girls are exploring, their usual pastime outdoors. Abigail wanders around collecting sticks and pinecones and talking to herself while Susannah crawls around investigating and trying to eat things like woodchips and a piece of sidewalk chalk Abby left behind.
"Did you notice it's raining?" I say to Abigail.
Typically absentminded, Abby probably hadn't realized it. "Oh!" After a short pause, she grabs the umbrella and walks out to stand in the rain. "That's why we have umbrellas," she announces, peering back at me from under the edge. "So we can walk in rain."
There's this strange undefinable thing that happens somewhere around this age. It's not just the new language skills that let her announce her thoughts, but the interaction that comes from sharing thoughts together. A wise person I knew once told me that all activities you do with someone else are most important for the conversations you can have with the person you are with. Conversation - the sharing of thoughts - shapes and changes minds and relationships and those are the only things we take with us into eternity. As a task oriented person, that kind of perspective isn't easy for me to grasp. But with marriage and motherhood, I'm beginning to understand the weight of it more fully.
You wouldn't think that little conversation with Abby was profound, but it is. Because for just that little bit of time our minds were connected and sharing a thought. Not a huge one, but something. That happens hundreds of times during the day as Abby is learning to think and reason. It's the process that will eventually give her the mind of an adult and the capacity to solve much bigger problems than how to stay dry in the rain.
She's still a baby. But since her new nickname for me is Big Woman (she is fascinated with the fact there are Men and Women and there is some difference), I call her Little Woman. And I realize I'm probably going to turn around tomorrow and realize she's getting married.
"Yes, that's why we have umbrellas," I agree. "Now don't poke Susannah's eye with it or she'll get hurt and cry."
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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