Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Toward Freedom: Prologue
I wrote this series of blog posts on the Ransomed Heart forum. The first one, "Conflict, Control and Life," was a reaction to the typically hard-edged writing by others on that site. On second, third and fourth thoughts I didn't publish it. I thought it was too inflammatory. I backed off a bit, rethought what I wanted to say, and started the "Toward Freedom" series as a daily look at what I was doing in trying to reach the freedom God promises.
Blog posts just disappear into the word-choked aether. Do I want responses? If not, why bother writing? Then I got into self-judgment and stopped writing, swamped by a series of big waves. God kept me from drowning but there wasn't much energy left. Much has happened since the last entry here, though, and I want to continue the story.
"Toward Freedom" took on some freedom of its own. Not daily, by any means, but I still continue it.
Prelude: Conflict, Control and Life
"The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever." (Henry W. Baker)
This is for the quiet ones who know something isn't working.
Conflict is an unbroken thread that runs the length of human history. Two or more groups disagree over resources--be they ideological, physical, financial--and decide to force their own way. The stronger team wins in the short term. Longer term--months, years, generations--the defeated party husbands its strength and memory while the other side forgets. One day there's a reversal. Look back into history as far as you care to, and you can see that in most cases conflict bred only more conflict. Called into question, the pointing fingers recede into mirrored infinite regress.
I grew up with a two-year-older brother who was bigger and stronger than I. He liked to pick fights. I learned to give up early so he'd get bored and go away. Time became my friend; resisting or rolling over led to the same net result, but the latter was less painful. My brother would quickly become disgusted and go off to do something else.
Sometimes rolling over and waiting don't work. The years leading up to World War 2 were years of attempts to extend peace, but the apparent peace was just a curtain across a stage on which Adolf Hitler was building the set of a new world order. Waiting suited Hitler as he built the tools for his storm of war, and this storm looked likely to consume the world before it ended. Who knows? Hitler would probably have self-destructed within decades but the damage would have been irreversible. War is always bad, but this one had to be fought to maintain a world that human beings could live in.
What values are worth fighting for? I take a very laissez-faire attitude toward things: so long as your actions don't hurt me, fine. I'd like to think my actions and statements don't hurt anyone, and occasionally might even help. What do I do, what should I do, if someone is espousing advice that I believe to be wrong and misleading? I believe that alternative voices are essential because the more different directions from which light comes, the more likely truth is to be perceived in all its full-rounded detail.
Christianity as a system has much to regret. The people made by God to know him as a father have turned that father into a fuhrer-like authority figure whose rules one flouts with great risk. The rules always vary by milieu: some say you'll go to hell if you watch movies, others say you must whip yourself, etc, etc, take your pick. Like father, like son, damage perpetuating itself down the generations, reproducing pain and sadness.
Human beings are necessarily rebellious; if we weren't, we'd be like some type of ice denser than water, and we'd sink into lively lakes and freeze them from the bottom up so solidly there were never be a thaw. The common element is that the rules a leader enforces are always the ones he's good at, and thinks everyone else should follow for their own good.
I accept God's leadership because he has proven himself to be a good leader. He's a good leader because he demonstrates, in every action, Jesus' model of being a servant. He's not, however, a rule-following subservient sycophant sucking up to my desires. He presents truth not as a whip but as an invitation to discovery of what a lively human being can be, and is delighted when together we find new areas to explore. New to me, anyway. His delight is real.
I don't offer advice very often because I know I can be wrong. I've made mistakes and will make more. I am committed, however, to making my own mistakes and learning therefrom. I would advise anyone reading this to question everything they hear about being a Christian. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you sort out truth from tradition. Theological arguments are guaranteed dead-ends but truth is important. God's light will illuminate the darkest and gnarliest of tangled beliefs if you invite him to help find the way, but one can follow all the rules without any help from Jesus.
Having God sensibly present in your life is not a nice luxury. His breath and light are essential. There is very little truth without his illumination, but you need to find out how you perceive his presence and participation. There are no standard prayers and only the one requirement of loving God with all your heart and mind. You control how close your relationship with God becomes; his arms are open to you, inviting.
Some interpretations of history state that control is an illusion. That's false. People make decisions and those decisions affect events. The problem is that some take the wrong lesson from this, saying "If I can control this, I can control everything." Even Hitler soon found the limits of his control; the more tightly he tried to control his armies, the more the machinery went out of control. In 1942 the wheels came off and the ensuing slow wreck was an escalating expression of desperate ugliness.
So, control is an illusion. But... illusion is a form of control in itself, useful for keeping people in line. Truth is in the middle, a balance: many things I don't control, but many things I do control. Control can choke just as easily as it can bring needed structure to life, and only God's hand is deft enough to help me find a path that balances between the extremes.
What am I trying to sell here? Simply this: freedom. You've turned to Jesus to find life and freedom. Keep your eye and heart on him. Accept no substitutes, even if they are all shiny and organized and illustrated on a bullet chart backed up by Bible verses. Truth's hallmark is a certain amount of squishy messiness. I'd have everyone learn to celebrate that while they follow Jesus dancing into their future.
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)