Never give a straight answer to a crooked question.
Never give a straight answer to a crooked question.
We do a young person great harm when we fail to prepare them for the onslaught of vocational idolatry described in the previous post. A vocation – no matter how wonderfully unearthed on a reality tv show – becomes a vice when we offer no gratitude or glory to the voice of all vocation. And thereby hangs a tale of how a great archangel who was enjoying the experience of using his vocational gift to bring grace and joy to others, then had a great realisation; to the effect that he was being ‘used’ and not allowed to reach his full potential. It was his vocation after all, and despite what his parents might say, he was a victim of exploitation.
You could say that he ‘grew up’ overnight and got a feisty attitude, which lead him on an astonishing journey of self discovery, an unearthing experience really. And it all started when he was unearthed one day on a mysterious radio show. The manager of the show offered to be his mentor and enabled him to see that if his creative talents were not to be squandered on the ambitions of ‘Another’, he needed to be rid of his naive scruples and to cast aside his present Manager who was using him for His own glory.
‘You could be the greatest!’ he told him. ‘Even equal to The King himself.’ So, in order to make the break, he decided to ruthlessly express himself by constantly telling everyone that this was ‘all about me’, a mantra he would repeat loudly every morning when he looked in the mirror. Finally, having realised that the so-called ‘voice’ behind vocation was only a figure of speech and not a real person, he got over his naivety, matured and took himself much more seriously and responsibly. He was determined now that he would be the first ever original musician.
Tragically (and I use this word advisedly), after this falling out with his owners he had a different kind of fall and became the first ever ‘devil’, a word that means ‘one who throws, slanders or accuses; harrases or worries.’ It seems that, having made a dog’s breakfast of things, he had to justify himself and to ‘cry victim.’ We all know the type: far too concerned about their own problems, and conversations become incessant autobiographical monologues. GK Chesterton described the problem this way: ‘The devil fell through force of gravity.’
Many years later he was discovered up to his old tricks again, harrassing and worrying a young woman in a garden and urging her to ‘look out for number one’. Unfortunatley she was never the same again and ever afterwards had a tendency to also worry that she might be missing out on something, and to harrass those who were content and even to slander those who loved her.
A Christian becoming suddenly popular—aka a ‘darling of the media’—in their vocation, who is also hoping to publicly acknowledge their gratitude to God, needs to prepare themselves for a sophisticated juggernaut of secular ‘spin’, which has a virtual armament of jokes, knowing yawns and looks that can neutralise any word of praise that is publicly offered to a foreign god in this land supposedly birthed by secular, democratic capitalism. Outrage about this is water off a duck’s back since everyone here is convinced that aeons ago in the primeval prologue of post-modernism a great battle happened in which the Mother God Christiania was torn asunder and gave birth to a shining new baby called Enlightenment who mated with Democracy and gave birth to a brood of new gods. These gods are best represented on our screens by a kind of triad of symbols: The Goatee, the Clown and the Red and White Giggle. Just in case you’re wondering about this take on our origins there was a fresh update in TIME Magazine Feb 13, 2012 by Rana Foroohar who, writing about the gathering of world leaders at Davos, said: ‘It came into sharp relief at Davos, that the core ideas of the enlightenment—free market capitalism and democracy—going hand in hand to create the best society, is evolving.’ Evolving into what?
Been listening to John Powell's sound track for the Bourne Supremacy today. Having watched the film a couple of years ago, it drifts me easily right into the scenes and allows me to enjoy the story more by feeling than by seeing, which—and this is no criticism of the visuals—frees me from the particular details of the actual movie and in so doing takes me through what I think of as the door of forgetfulness where this is not just a film, it's another universe where I am lost; unable to remember who I am. Then there's something—a menacing face searching the crowd; searching for me. And there's a movement. Suddenly I'm running hard, racing through streets in a little jeep with my girl, still not knowing who or where I am. A shot is fired. My girl is hit and we're careening off a bridge into a river. The enemy still chasing, chasing and chasing and me underwater trying to pull my woman from a drowning wreck of a vehicle.
This is so like what happens sometimes when you go alone to an ocean or a desert late at night and let yourself listen and be taken in through that door of forgetfulness. Here though you are not coming just to be entertained. You are coming to both work and play and perhaps be given a dire warning or maybe even make a confession or two (not that you look forward to that bit). The work is usually that of intercession and the play is up to the great Overseer. It is of course not always exciting, but it is always beautiful and dangerous with a sense of invitation. So you go and you need to go with your hand in the hand of the Messiah, your spirit filled with the Paraclete and your entire self inside the everlasting arms of the Great and Loving Father.
'Why?' is a good question and a dangerous question. Be sure to ask yourself why you are asking 'Why?' On the one side it's true that it opens windows, deepens understanding and forearms us against the wiles of evil, enabling us to internalise truth and engage our mind as a support to our will so that we can better succeed in the cultivation of an obedient life. But the danger with this question is that rather than coming from a place of genuine curiosity it is coming from a desire to avoid responsibility: the motivation of our lower self-centred nature. Or it may be planted there by an evil spirit who was once enticed into asking the same question themselves and then lost their place in heaven as a result. That sounds ridiculous when you put it that way, clearly it was not some accidental wobbling mistake. The question may have
merely been the starting point or the ending point of this journey to perdition by the once-was angel.
So beware the way you ask this question because that journey from the feeling of the question to the forming of the question in your mind to the actual verbalisation of the question can invoke the grieving of the Holy Spirit at any stage. Do not be surprised, now that you know about this, to find that the Spirit is sometimes 'at your elbow' immediately and urging you to not even allow the feeling of certain kinds of questions at certain moments. The reason of course is that God has a long memory and remembers that day, the hour and the very moment when the serpent placed the question in Eve's mind.
Howard Hendricks says, regarding this shirking instinct, that we should, 'Learn to do things that failures don't like to do.' No one likes to do them anyway, it's just that in the end these things will only be done because someone loves God and their neighbour and does them out of obedience: naieve obedience or informed and persuaded obedience (that has asked 'Why?'), either way it's obedience—curse-breaking, power-unleashing obedience.
The tree in the garden was one of those moments. There was no obvious reason not to eat the fruit other than out of obedient love for God. 'Why will we die?' could have been an excellent question for Adam and Eve to put to God, and it might have made a difference to the outcome of the temptation. We can only speculate, perhaps they had already asked.
We see the same in human relationships: the child asks 'Why?' and a golden forearming/forewarning moment is won or lost forever; the employee asks 'Why?' and an excellent forearming/forewarning opportunity is won or lost forever. The psalms are full of great agonies and blessings that came from someone approaching God with such questions.
There is much wisdom in not doing something unless you can see a good reason for it, but that can also be a trap for a proud mind—an intelligence trap is the term for it. This is where the luminous-minded undividual, who has been the bane of teachers and parents for years, begins to swagger their way through life like a prize fighter, shooting down one opponent after another. As the years go by they find their niche in a research lab, a hospital or as a lecturer at a university. Here they are able to contribute quite significantly, but along with their settled state there will be a bunch of dumb ideas fiercely defended by the barbed wire and machine guns of their steel-trap of a mind. You can't help suspecting that they know intuitively that these are ridiculous but enjoy having them
there as bait for unwary individuals, because argumentation is now a favourite hobby. But like any hobby it can feed something deeply selfish and harden their heart. The soldiers playing dice at the foot of the cross were enjoying a gambling hobby and the added benefit of a powerful negative emotion called 'apathy', which sheilded them from the horror of what they were doing.
So, what was once a beautiful mind in our lab/uni inhabitant, has become skeptical in the full lifestyle sense of the word. But 'skepticism has been described as 'the father of ignorance', and in it's responsible fear of 'simple obedience' misses a deep truth and falls from an intelligence trap into another much deeper and deadlier trap where witticisms are no longer a joke.
For … one who has never learned to do something out of simple—what might be dismissed as 'naïve'—respect and love for another (eg:their parents or their wife), and will only ever do something because they personally can see a good reason to do it, invariably finds that those good reasons revolve around their own ego. The concept of temptation itself is a nonsense term in that kind of universe. Unless of course we are talking about what some regard as the temptation to be overawed by superstitious fears about God and heaven and hell. What was once called a temptation is laughed at since temptation is synonomous with this feeling that 'I'm entitled to this, this perfectly
normal thing, so get the hell out of my way and let me have it.'
Ravi Zacharias tells of a famous journalist (now a believer) who explains that he was brought up in English academic society to see this world as nothing more than 'nature red in tooth and claw' and anyone who thought otherwise was a victim of weak and fearful superstitions—never able to grow up and know the real joy of manhood in a beautiful, wild and free universe. 'Anthropomorphic religions reveal man at his weakest, not his best,' says Joseph Ratner in his introduction to The Philosophy of Spinoza. 'Man's true granduer is shown when he transcends by his own power of mind his insistent human desires. He can then stand free before the Almighty (aka 'God' as a synonym for nature). He may tremble but he is not afraid. For his strength of soul is grounded not in the external world but in his own ideal.'
The English journalist was a product of such thinking and early one morning, whilst bathing in a river in India, he noticed a naked woman bathing further upstream. Filled with all these feelings of being a free spirit, alone in the universe, he plunged his way through the water over to her to see what fun might be had, but as she turned he realised that half her face was eaten away by leprosy. In an instant his supposedly mature, ethical and honest philosophy was exposed as a sham.
George MacDonald says, 'The only door out of the dungeon of self is to love thy neighbour.' He also says, 'Don't talk to me about what you believe or don't believe. Ask yourself this question: “What have I done or not done out of obedience to God in the last twenty-four hours.” What we believe is important, but you can't help wondering whether there's something devious at work when we behave as if our actual stated philosophy or theology is in the end going to be what matters most of all.
‘You will be dead so long as you refuse to die.’
(Lilith p.157 — George MacDonald)
There are things that are meant to break your heart but if you don't allow it, they may well break your mind, and if that doesn't happen both your mind and your heart will turn to stone and you will become a tough guy.
Be careful if you say you are a follower of love. Which love are you talking about: Self love? Free love? Agape love? Agape love is always practical. It can’t help itself. It has work to do. If you follow it, it will take you to where its heart is, at the very gates of hell—thank God.
‘Beyond a certain point, complexity is fraud’ (PJ O’Rourke) and, I might add, it has a name: obfuscation, which means to deliberately bewilder or confuse in order to hide a weakness. Next time why not just say, ‘I’m not sure,’ or, ‘I don’t know.’
“What I meant was, if Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best. There are just some kind of men who’re so busy worrying about the next world that they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”
(Miss Maudie in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird p.52)