Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “sin”

Does Your Hand Offend You?

The Bible provides rather disturbing instruction to cut off your own hand if it causes you too much trouble. I prefer to interpret that through hyperbole and use it to mean that sometimes you need to do hard things to get better. Sometimes a good thing needs to go in order to get to a better thing. This is a metaphor that surfaces in many stories.

Many years ago, a movie called “Fresh” came out. The story focuses on a poor kid growing up in a terrible inner city neighborhood. With a gift for chess, he played in the local park. He protected his queen more than his king which often brought about his defeat. His love for his queen prevented him from excelling at chess. Eventually he saw that this metaphor in his life. He protected his older sister, the one who “taking care” of him, endangering himself in the process. When he decided to take control of his own life, to create the change needed to escape the tragic life he knew, he found that he needed to put the queen at risk. Could he sacrifice his queen to win the game?

Fewer years ago, but still a little ways back, the season two finale for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” presented a similar conundrum.  Angel, Buffy’s great love, had turned evil during the course of the season. While evil, he had opened a portal to hell using his own blood. For Buffy to close the gate to hell, she needed to use his blood to do so, sending him into damnation. Even though he was evil, she struggled to overcome her love for who he had been in order to do so. Buffy had to kill and damn her lover in order to save the world.

In a more recent movie, “The Beaver”, Mel Gibson plays a man in deep depression who fails at killing himself after ruining his business and his family. As he wakes up from the botched suicide, he develops another personality to help him deal with his situation. He wore a puppet of a beaver on his hand and used that personality to interact with the world. He decided that his life as it was was a complete wreck. Repairing it wasn’t an option. It needed complete demolition and rebuild. Thus, the beaver. Just getting to that point is pretty close to my initial thought. Could I completely redo my life?

But then, the new life created had its own problems, becoming a new wreck. Gibson’s character realizes that he needs to eliminate the new personality. He abandons the person who can interact with the world. Again, a tough choice to sacrifice a big thing for a better thing. But the puppet has become the embodiment of that persona. The only way to divorce himself from the beaver is to cut it off.  He uses a table saw to chop off his hand and the puppet. He lived out that scripture.

How far am I willing to go to create change in my life? Can I give up my addiction to cola to be healthier? To lose weight, will I change my lifestyle? Can I cut out cable to save some money? I know, none of these seem as extreme as the stories listed above, but they are the challenges that I most immediately face. On all three of these points, my hand offends me. But I am unwilling to cut anything off. I trust that I can find the courage to eventually make these changes.

My hope is that I can learn to identify these situations and resolve them when they are a matter of just clipping my nails rather than losing a hand. But that requires attentiveness, awareness and focus. That alone is a significant change, something of a rebuild.

But, to have a better life…

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The Miracle of Prayer

So often I approach prayer as a discipline. I need to do it each day, preferably on schedule. I allot time for it. Usually in the morning before the day has begun. And then I try to fulfill my obligation to actually do it.
More frequently I forget to as it falls prey to other urgent priorities. Sometimes apathy is just greater than the obligation to pray. And, depending on the reason for not praying, I feel guilty about it and vow to do better next time. Or just continue to not do it because it is always easier to not do something than it is to do it.
Then I hear tales of people that pray beyond any sense of what I consider reasonable, great preachers or saints that prayed large portions of their days or prayed extensively before making any decision. Again, this either heaps guilt because there is some intrinsic implication that I have failed because I don’t pray like that. Or I consider those guys freaks and write them off and discredit their experiences. I can’t deliver those kinds of obligations
But how did it end up being an obligation?
The God of all creation, the wonderful and almighty God himself has offered us the chance to pray and somehow we have reduced it to an obligation.
Now, the hard part of writing this is to do so in a way not to heap a new kind of guilt on everybody. The Church has too much of that already. Think how much shorter the road to heaven would be without all the side guilt trips.
What I’m hoping I can do here is change how we think about prayer.
Rather than an obligation, prayer should be approached as a privilege. And this is why.
How many songs have been written about the amazing fact that God loves us and cares for us? How often have we been asked to ponder the fact that Jesus cared enough about us as sinners that he would die to redeem us and set us free from the curse of sin? A holy God called us holy because he restored us through the sacrifice of his son, and by the very proclamation of holiness made us holy.
This is truly the most boggling part of Christian faith. God loves us. Jesus loves us. The Holy Spirit loves. They want to be in relationship with us. They want to be part of our lives and express their love to us. And all the miraculous events of history have been expressions of that from the first second of creation to the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. To even the fact that I am breathing at this very moment and so are you. Expressions of mercy and grace and love of the great and glorious God we worship and serve are boundless.
And he did all that, and continues to do all that for us. He did it for the generations before us and will continue to do it for the generations to come. He does all this for those we love and those we hate. God’s love is abundant. Illogical, perhaps, from a human perspective, but is all the more amazing for that.
And this astounding fact needs to pervade our theology. It needs to seep into practice of faith. It needs to mold our relationship with God and our following of Jesus. It needs to redefine how we relate to the people around us.
The more I grow to understand the depths of God’s love for us, the more I realize that this is truly the greatest miracle of all. I find it far too easy to disdain people I think are below me. Sometimes, I treat them as less than human.
I am truly, significantly less than God, yet he pursues me as a person of great value to him. He does the same for all of us, even those I disdain.
So, in light of this miracle of God desiring to connect with us, to be part of our lives, I want to look at the privilege of prayer. This is our chance to communicate with God. He wants to hear from us. He wants to talk with us, to know what we’re feeling and to speak to us. Everyone of us.
Recall some point in your life when you have been madly in love with someone. Remember that craving to speak with them? To hear their voice? That is God’s perspective on prayer. He’s eager to talk to us. He craves to hear us speak to him. He longs to share his heart with us. Just the very act of raising our voice to speak with him and sharing our heart with him gives him joy. When we pray, we cause God to smile.
God delights in us. And we forget it all the time. He constantly reminds us. As we spend time in prayer we can know this in a deeper way. Spend time with him and you can experience this joy and delight.
And how does that knowledge change us? Not just acknowledging that this is a theological fact, I mean knowing it. To quote the oracle form the film The Matrix, “It’s like being in love. You know it, from balls to bones.” Once this truth moves from a concept and into the reality of our lives, we will live very differently.
We most certainly will pray very differently.
So, I ask, why aren’t we diving into prayer as boldly and passionately as we can? I pray as you ponder that question that guilt will stay far from you and that you can see what really is in the way. The lover of your soul wants to whisper in your ear; run to meet him as if you were smitten with him, longing to spend time with him, aching to hear his voice.
Just like he is pining for you.

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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