Romans 8:38-39

Reading the August 1st entry from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, I noticed something in these verses that I didn’t before. Read the whole thing first.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [ESV]

What is it that I noticed? Paul is sure that neither death nor life will be able to separate us from the love of God. Life cannot separate us from the love of God. Sometimes I am convinced that things suck and I’m tired of it and wish God would decide that it’s time for me to go. There’s a faint sense, at least in thinking of what I would be like if I were convinced that God loved me much, that I am tired of life because I think God doesn’t love me hence this is what he’s giving me. Conventionally, death sounds something terrible, but sometimes for Christians, life is what conventionally sounds something terrible if, you know, we get to be with God in death and free from this world. I’m not sure this is an orthodox or accurate interpretation of the verse, but to those who think like me at times, here it is: even sucky times of life do not mean we are separated from the love of God.

I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast sprit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.  – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.  – Clive Staples Lewis

Eros will have naked bodies. Friendship naked personalities.  – Clive Staples Lewis

“Oh!” but they will say, “it is ridiculous — a man trusting in God.” But you do no think it ridiculous to trust in yourselves.  – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Untangle

When I had to sort through some thoughts, emotions, and behaviour I couldn’t understand or control, my mother, a psychologist, recommended I try breaking it down based on Virginia Satir’s model of personal analysis. Being a thoughtful sort of confused person, I was extremely excited about the prospect of analysing my confusion, but my mother warned me to try it first and see if it helped before getting so excited about it. Well, one year on, I say it did help, for it certainly made even me consider more facets than my mind usually gets to. I was forced to be rational about something I really wanted to be on an irrational rampage about.

Sometimes there are ways that we have concluded we should be behaving or even ways we can’t help behaving, or sometimes we know the ways we should be coping, or how we think we should be feeling, perceptions we don’t realize we have, expectations we want to be true, yearnings we wish we didn’t have, and a self we perceive ourselves to be based on circumstances or assumptions. Letting that fester as an indistinguishable mess is like letting weeds consume your garden; the plants that you want to grow will not be able to grow. The behaviours or feelings you want cannot grow, and the yearnings you have may not be realistic or you may not even have admitted to having them.

Although I don’t think Virginia Satir meant this to be religious (rather, the submerged iceberg smacks of Freud’s subconscious), I find it a helpful way to figure out what and how to confess and pray. Facing a blank piece of paper draws a blank, but having categories like this is like filling in the blanks. Wherefore confession if you don’t see your state clearly?

Satir Iceberg

The iceberg metaphor in the Satir model… in a bilingual poster!

Faithlessness, or why I need friends

This is one reason why it’s good to have friends. While I fall into self-pity, coping mechanisms, and do-it-yourself reliance when what I need is to rest my mind in the stability of God’s word, when I want to encourage my friends, I often turn to biblical encouragement. I’m too lazy to give myself the good stuff, but you can’t just give other people crap. In the meantime, this conveniently nourishes my own soul. While I am still faithless like this, it is good to have friends.

 

Then and Now: King David

I am studying 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, and the Psalms with some friends according to the projected chronological order of the chapters, and it has provided some opportunity to dwell on King David’s life a bit more.

Then: David’s enemies of war from surrounding tribes and nations and within his household (e.g. Absalom).

Now: Few of those in the Western world  have many personal political enemies but we do have family members or co-workers, or others we don’t get along with.

Now: Sometimes our enemies are the ruts of thought we get into, our emotions, and our habits of mind. Depression consumes us, or hopelessness, or lust, or anger, or envy, or obsession.

—–

Then: David ogles Bathsheba and commits adultery with her.

Now: People ogle others in pornography, or even on billboards (those get quite pornographic these days), people commit adultery with themselves in masturbation, and people still commit adultery with other people they are not married to.

—–

Then: David kills Goliath the giant when he taunts Israel and disrespects God.

Now: We remember this story and tell it to children in Sunday school all the time. It’s a good one alright!

—–

Then: Another man, kills Goliath’s brother Lahmi (whom we can only assume to be almost as big as Goliath by the description of the weapon he used). David’s nephew kills another giant with polydactyly (6 digits on each hand and foot) when said giant taunts Israel. Yet another man, Sibbecai, kills a Philistine giant in war. Famous people and not so famous people often do similar things, but some are less recognized than others.

Now: We still mostly remember the giants of old and the giants of today, skipping out on the recognition of normal people doing extraordinary things. Not everyone gets a book written about them, and many have just a line or two of recognition somewhere, but there are still commendable and significant things happening with otherwise “insignificant” people.

Computer Programming and Secular Fiction

A friend of mine expressed recently that he wishes he had been more efficient about solving a problem while he was programming (that is, computer programming).

As I lie awake realizing I should have taken a sleeping aid until I’m fully over some jet lag, I turned this thought over in my mind, realizing that this is precisely my sentiment towards the way God’s plans seem to hash themselves out whether on the grand scale of history or in my personal life. Why couldn’t he have been more efficient? Just save us and be done with it, for goodness sakes. As God, could he not have taken out the several wrong turns or daft moments his people had/has/will have? But of course, mistakes are often the greatest teachers. Even as I think this I begin to think fondly of the (mild) troubles in my life..!

When I learned briefly the basics of programming in Python, the instructors gave us a function design recipe. When you create functions to do calculations for you, there are steps to follow in their creation. You consider the outcomes you want, the parameters you need to have, the description of what you’re doing, and then actually write the function. But wait, there’s more. Then you test it, and often there are things to tweak. Usually, the better the initial planning, the fewer tweaks you need to make. But with more complex calculations, there are bound to be more things to consider and more things that can be overlooked. As I learned how to use a programming language for the first time, in order to learn how the language worked, it was actually more helpful for me to purposefully make some mistakes and see their results than to just do the exercise and move on!

What is that but a suitable metaphor for how God could want to purposefully let us follow him in an inefficient manner? Fail, fail, fail and keep at it. It is probably so that we learn better deeper fonder. After all, he has always been preeminently interested in the state of our hearts. Haughty or humble? Hard or soft? Unwilling to change, or ready to be renewed?

Metaphors are great because it lets someone perceive something they do not already understand. Another friend of mine once illustrated this finely: you can’t say that those steps on the hill we’re going to walk on today are just like the ones on the Great Wall of China if I haven’t been to the Great Wall. But after I walk on those steps, the metaphor is useful. Then I’ll know what the steps of the Great Wall are like because I’ll know one half of the metaphor.

This is why this article about the importance of reading fiction rings true. Reading good fiction is no less important than reading good theology because these creations are our connection to the minds of this world. (And I suppose this encompasses good movies, good hobbies, and other worthy pastimes that may otherwise be deemed worldly.) I have quite the list building up of literature I must read. Silas Marner, here we come. (But first, sleep.)

Event Planning 101

  1. Never completely trust an “I wanna go!!!” Save yourself the heartache. Don’t get excited until you’re all on the road / at the party … etc.
  2. Asking “Do you want to go on a road trip?” is the same as asking “Do you like road trips?” It gives you no indication of whether the person will actually go on a road trip with you on any day you suggest.
  3. Instead, ask, “Do you want to go camping at Location Alpha with myself and so-and-so from the umpteenth of Mayvember to the impteenth of Apruary? It’ll cost $300. We’re leaving by 19:07 and returning by 15:29.”
  4. Remember that your friends are still your friends, even if they keep bailing on you. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Sometimes, I feel that righteousness alone would not actually be that hard. (Now really, it is, but let us conjecture for a short while.) That would be to claim, perhaps rightly, that you are in the right and have been wronged and there’s no argument about it anymore.

But to have righteousness with grace and mercy and peace is another thing completely. To be in the right but not to boast, or be proud, or seek to dishonour others by pointing out that you were in the right (unlike somebody), and not be easily angered, and yet after that to keep no record of wrongs, and then following all the aftermath to still want to trust and hope and persevere? This is where the Bible gives us a far far higher standard than to merely be righteous.