Friday, September 19, 2014

Positive Thinking Isn't Enough

The Dalia Lama wrote:

"If your mental attitude is positive, even when threats abound, you won’t lose your inner peace. On the other hand, if your mind is negative, marked by fear, suspicion and feelings of helplessness, even among your best friends, in a pleasant atmosphere and comfortable surroundings, you won’t be happy."

This makes a lot of sense.  In fact, it seems to be so much common sense that my intial reaction is, "No $#@t."  But it misses something significant.  The question is really... do you have an objective foundation upon which to have true hope in the fact of threat and adversity, or is this merely an exercise in positive thinking?

I confess... my hope is not found in the idea that God is going to fix everything for me.  I've been through enough in my still relatively comfortable life, compared to many in other times and parts of the world, to know this. 

However, my hope is found in a God who will bring about what He has promised.  He will be there with me in suffering.  He will not let me go.  He will bring about a new age where everything is made right.  He will usher me into His kingdom forever.

When we have this hope, the inner state of our mind is not so much a matter of positive versus negative thinking as it is about faith versus unbelief.

Still, more comes to mind with this, for I can see how this kind of thinking lends itself to the idea that the goal of life is never to feel negative thoughts.  I agree that we ought not dwell in the negative, for it steals out joy and ability to enjoy the blessings given to us.  However, we should not buy into the false idea that life is going to be happy all the time.  I believe Christians fall into this, too.  We are looking for a theology of happiness, or at last a doctrine of numbness.  But what we fail to realize is that pain, distress, sorrow, grief, mourning, and even things like distrust and fear are normal experiences in a fallen world where our hope is NOT to be found.  This is why our hope looks ahead, ahead to an age to come.  There is no solution to the problem of pain and unhappiness in this life, but what we can have it hope -a hope which enables us to endure while remaining expectant and even joyful for what lies ahead.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Higher Calling

For years, I thought it was my job to endure excruciating situations and do anything to hold my family together.  And I did.

As that fell apart, I followed a call to enjoy things in life.  I let my hair down, I indulged in things I never indulged in before.  Some of it was bad, but some of it was good.  I learned how to have fun -and I became good at it.  I learned that I was capable of enjoying things.  But I also learned that there are limits to this.  Too much can leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth in the mourning, and still that aching hunger is left unsatisfied.

I don't fault myself for these callings.  I still see the first as good.  I chose what I chose for very good reasons.  I suffered for what is right and good.  And I see that being able to relax and have fun and explore the more social and outward side of life is also very important.  On this journey, I found my voice.  And my voice can be loud!

But what I want is that higher calling.  I want to believe it.  I want to see it in my mind's eye.  I want to taste it.  For example, I want to truly believe that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, that my light is precious and worth shining for the glory of the King.  I want that calling to take hold of me so that I am mastered by it, by Him.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Safe Place

There are a lot of things I don't want to share.  I feel like sharing them spoils how special they are in the moment.  Today, I'm having one of those moments when it comes to this one thing.

The world is not a safe place.  But there is One who is safe.  Jesus is the only perfectly safe place where I can go with myself -with everything I feel, with every thing and every way that I am.  Other people can come close to that, and I certainly look for those people to have in my life.  But He is.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Loving Your Enemies

One of the most challenging commands of Jesus is the call to love our enemies.  What once seemed like a virtuous bit of moral sentimentalism or a religious ideal becomes utterly impossible in the wake of great betrayal.

Why does Jesus call us to love our enemies?  Is it just because He feels like it?  Well, I believe the reasons are manifold.  God loves His enemies.  Jesus, the Son, loved His enemies.  And we are called to follow Him. 

But even more practically, He calls us to love our enemies because it is good for us.  I don't mean it is good for us like it is good to run 10 miles every morning, as we peel the blisters off our feet and think about how such a strain promotes good health.  That may be true.  It does build character.  However, I believe He calls us to love our enemies because it frees us.

Hatred of our enemies -holding them hostage in our minds, wishing for their demise, and following ever strand of activity, demanding that it result in utter justice and the righteous downfall of our foe- imprisons us.  We become the punished.  The yoke of hating our enemies is a yoke that casts us to the ground, impedes our life, covers our light, and sours our soul.

But to look at your enemy and be able to let go of all outcomes concerning them, to be able to wish them well and to pray for them, frees the soul to enjoy and receive love and blessings from God and others.

"But how can I do so?  Look at what they have done to me, and what if they do it again?"  Well, don't misunderstand what it means.  Jesus still calls them our "enemies."  We love our enemies.  We do not pretend they are friends who are safe to encounter and allow within our borders.  It has to do with an attitude of the heart toward them, and it manifests itself in action.  But that action is wise action, informed action.  If there is a need to wisely protect ourselves and those we love, then so be it.  But our disposition can still be one of good will, letting go, non-competition, and peace toward them.

Bonhoeffer says you accomplish this when you see them for what they are... people whom Christ loves, for whom Christ died.  I would add one thing.  You accomplish this, as well, when you see how heavy the burden of hatred, bitterness, competitiveness, and tension is to carry.  When you are done carrying such a burden, then you see the peace found in letting them go as attractive.  Then, even when you feel the sting of watching them do what it is they do, you can let it go, entrust yourself to God, entrust yourself to the truth and to the knowledge that He will bring about a day when everything comes to light, let them go, and wish them peace.