Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “healing”

Theoretical Magicians

I just started reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Magic was once practiced widely. Then some magicians began documenting what they did. Others then started commenting on what they learned from those documented accounts. Then others started writing histories from the documented accounts and the commentaries on the documented accounts. Still others ended up writing commentaries on the histories and commentaries that came before them. Fewer and fewer people actually practiced magic because all their energy was spent learning about what had happened, the right way to do things and more importantly, the right way to document and discuss magic. It became a purely academic pursuit.

Imagine if the same thing happened in our world with medical studies. If fewer and fewer people actually practiced medicine or researched medical advances, if doctors only studied medicine.

Or engineers only studied their craft but never experimented or created.

Or if theologians only studied works by other theologians and histories of people living out their faith. And if those theologians only learned about faith but never lived it. Oh, wait, that one is real. I’m doubt Susanna Clark the author of that novel intended this direct comparison but it seemed quite obvious to me.

In her story, a magician starts questioning why they don’t actually do magic and gets ridiculed. These things don’t happen anymore. The proper approach to magic is academic study of not the vulgar practice of actually doing magic. Then someone shows up who actually does magic and ruins everything for those who are convinced that their academic experience is the only experience.

When John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard churches started asking questions, he faced similar resistance. He wanted to know why we don’t do the stuff Jesus did. Why don’t Christians (followers of Christ), practice the things he did – healing people, casting out demons, raising the dead? Armies of theologians rose to explain that these things don’t happen any more. A good Christians studies accounts of these things in the past; they don’t make a mockery of their faith by trying to live it out.

The Vineyard movement was born out of people doing the stuff while others were telling them not to. They certainly weren’t the only ones doing it, but it was what they did and who they were.

I personally experienced this when I helped get some of Wimber’s books translated into Turkish.  Word got to a church in England that books about God healing people were being distributed for free in Turkey. They immediately reacted by getting a book translated into Turkish that proved that miracles no longer happen. They needed to block this heresy. In the meantime, the pastor of the church distributing the books arrived each morning to find people lined up around the block waiting to get healed, to have demons expelled, to see God do something powerful and personal in their lives.

These people in turkey accepted things like miracles, healing and demons. They fit their world view. Their experience and expectations allowed for the supernatural to play out in their everyday lives.

In Shakespeare in Love, Geoffrey Rush plays Phillip Henslowe who keeps insisting that the play will take place despite everything stacked against it. When questioned how he knows it will happen, he states, “I don’t know; it’s a mystery.” No one felt too comforted by this. They all wanted more certain answers, assurances that things will have specific, defined outcomes.

I think that situations like Wimber’s questions, the reaction to teaching Turkish people to expect miracles, the desire to see practical magic tend to push against that feeling of control. If we do not have clearly defined measurable results or expectations, we can’t know if things worked.

The preference of theoretical rather than practical pursuits of theology and magic desires controlled output. People feel safer with that. If someone starts actually doing magic, that causes problems.

If people in Turkey start experiencing miracles, much of merely academic theology becomes questionable.

Where is the practice? The real? The amazing?

I’m like that kid in The Incredibles waiting for something amazing to happen. I want the practical rather than the theoretical. If that is you too, start looking for it. Start asking the questions of why we don’t see it. Open your eyes to see if you can find the eternal in the everyday, if you can find the miraculous in the mundane.

Jesus promised that those who seek will find. Take a shot a t seeking and see what you find.

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Healing

A friend of mine told me that someone asked him if his reluctance to get involved in church again was merely licking his wounds. He had been hurt by church people in the past and felt tentative about diving in again. It wasn’t until later that it started bothering me.
Why should anybody care if he’s licking his wounds? For some reason people expect us to move on from our pain, almost pretending it doesn’t hurt. The response is to allow us to feel hurt for a little time and then start pushing us to not hurt anymore. They seem to be eager for us to stop hurting. Once our pain bothers them, it becomes a problem. That’s when we get accused of just licking our wounds.
But why do dogs lick their wounds? Because they hurt. It is their natural response to pain.
What if we are licking our wounds because we still hurt? What if it takes a year for my friend to no longer feel hurt and get involved again? Can that be acceptable? Or is that too long for us to feel comfortable with and decide we need to start pushing him recover faster? It seems that the time frame that it needs to heal and move on is decided from the outside, by someone not experiencing the pain.
When is it someone else’s place to determine that you are no longer in pain? you are the one experiencing it. You are the one that will determine that you are beyond it.
When you hurt, you hurt. That’s all there is to it. When you are done hurting, then you are done.
When I dislocated my shoulder in college, I discovered a whole new realm of pain. I didn’t need someone to tell me I was in pain. I also didn’t need someone telling me to get over the pain as if I could just will it away. Granted, you can function through and beyond pain. It is still there though.
The helpful people worked with me to find solutions to ease the pain. I iced a lot. I took pain medication. I learned to sleep in new positions. I wore a sling. I carried my books in the other hand. A friend taught me how to open doors in a different way to not injure myself more. Any of these things could have been categorized as licking my wounds. I was dealing with my pain, relieving the symptoms, protecting my wound. Had someone suggested that I carry books with my injured arm because I was just licking my wounds otherwise, I would have punched them with my good hand.
I did however, push through my pain. I continued to play football with my injury. This is what we expect of people: to stop being hurt and move on. I was able to perform well enough to contribute to my team. I didn’t disguise my injury though. They knew what was going on with me and they accepted that.
The downside? I aggravated the situation. My shoulder continued to dislocate. Every game. One game it came out of joint and went back in three times. All of this caused further damage to my shoulder, making it more unstable, causing the injuries to happen more frequently.
Sometimes pushing through the pain gets things done but it makes things worse.
Eventually, I had to take some action to heal. Ending my football career helped some. Getting my shoulder surgically reconstructed helped more. However, that included a lot of pain too. In fact, when I first woke up from my surgery, I thought I made the worst decision of my life. My pain was worse. The healing hurt more. And I complained about it. Someone could have easily told me to stop licking my wounds and they would have been put on a list for vicious vengeance some time later.
The therapy I needed to help recover from the surgery was terrible too. Just trying to learn to move my arm again proved difficult and excruciating. The healing process can be just as painful as getting hurt. It was close to a year before I started feeling like my shoulder had the strength and stability the surgeon promised. The constant pain eventually faded.
Just because there aren’t visible to slings to wear when recovering from an emotional injury, it’s easy to take for granted that the person isn’t really hurt. But I cannot judge your pain and you cannot judge mine. We can offer help to ease the pain and maybe even help heal. We just need to remember that more pain may be involved in that process.
Pain sucks. Only you know when you are done hurting. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should be done.

Christ Figures

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my discovery of the Incarnation Figure as an archetype in storytelling. There are obvious connections between this and the Christ Figure that w are so familiar with given that the Christ that the figures tend to emulate began being Christ through incarnation, the embodiment of something greater in than our world in our world. But the difference that I pointed out is that Christ Figures tend to have death and resurrection or sacrificial element to them and Incarnation Figures don’t always express that.
As intriguing and powerful as Christ Figures can be, I find them troublesome at times. I have seen too many Christians try to grade a story’s value on the presence or lack of Christ Figure. If it has one, it’s a good story, if not it fails. And this is whether the story is told well or the characters are believable or if there is any suspense to make us care what happens.
The other problem I frequently see is when a Christ figure is imposed in attempts to co-opt a story and make it a Christian tale. Take “The Matrix” for example. Certainly there is the element of sacrifice on Neo’s part as he stays behind to let the others escape. And there is something of death and resurrection. But did he really die? OR did he simply, finally understand the Matrix well enough to know that he didn’t have to die there? To me this story is more about faith and finding out what can happen when you truly believe more than it is about a Christ figure and the redemption that follows.
People often describe Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings as a Christ figure. Again there is a certain validity to that in terms of his death and resurrection. But as much as he is a Christ Figure, he is also an Odin Figure, at least up until the resurrection point. It’s almost as if Gandalf starts as Odin and finishes as Christ. And that’s not much a of a stretch given that Odin is a bit of Christ Figure himself, sacrificing himself unto himself.
But my favorite example of the failings of the overstressed Christ Figure is Hell Boy. In the second Hell Boy movie, the story follows the typical Christ Figure arch, as he sacrifices himself to save another, descends into the pits to eradicate the forces of evil and save all the Earth. Powerful stuff. But how many Christians stumble on this because he is a demon – and not just any demon, Satan’s son who’s true destiny is to bring ultimate destruction on the Earth? Is such a character an acceptable Christ Figure?
I think this is one of those examples that parallels the story of the Bronze Snake from scripture. God commanded Moses to make a bonze statue of a snake. This statue heals anyone that looks at it. The odd part is that most times that snakes appear in scripture, they are symbols of evil, demons or Satan himself. Jesus later tells us that the snake was an image of him. The image of evil expresses the ultimate good. Perhaps Hell Boy falls in this same category.

Incarnation Again

I recently discovered a new (for me) archetype in literature: the incarnation figure. This may be something that has been around for ages, I have even seen it before without recognizing it, but recently I became aware of it.
Many people would simply call this a Christ figure since the Christ story begins with incarnation. God became human and entered our world as one of us, bringing the Kingdom of Heaven with him and changing how we understand the world, bringing power to change the world. However, your typical Christ figure dies as a sacrifice to save another or as an innocent dying in a punishment undeserved. Christ figures have their own beauty power and problems that I’ll discuss another time.
But incarnation, I love it. It’s something of wonder that I’d like to see more of. Now that I’m aware of It., I find it’s part of some of my favorite stories. I once read an article about “The Shawshank Redemption” which claimed that Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins’ character) was a Christ figure. It just didn’t fit for me. Now I can see him as an incarnation figure (and thus partially a Christ figure), which makes more sense. He was truly an innocent man in with the convicts, sharing his different way with them. So much of “The Matrix” is incarnational with Neo, Trinity and Morpheus entering a different world to try to change things. Even “Monsters, Inc.” was a tale of incarnation with Boo drastically and permanently changing the world of the monsters by being part of it.
What unveiled this archetype for me? Soulstic, the second novel in the Devouring teen horror series, written by Simon Holt. The truth is the incarnation side of things appeared in the first book, Sorry Night, I just didn’t know what I was experiencing yet. Reggie, the main character in has the ability to descend into the minds of those possessed by the Vours, evil demons that feed on the fear of humans. They trap the soul of the possessed in a landscape built of their worst fears. Reggie enters this fearscape and helps the soul find the means to overcome their fears, escape the possession and ultimately kill the Vour. A great image of what Jesus did by becoming human and showing us how to break free from sin.
Now that I’ve discovered the incarnation figure, I have my eyes open for it and seem to find it everywhere, like the movie “Where the Wild Things Are.” And I’m glad.

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