Monday, July 19, 2010
Our Own Worst Enemies?
Our Own Worst Enemies?
By Tom Wachunas
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
- Jeremiah 29:11-
The recent blog post by artist Judi Krew (“Me, Myself, and I,” posted Saturday, July 17 at www.snarkyart.blogspot.com ) took me pleasantly by surprise with her probing final question, which was set up by her musings on self-portraiture: “Who is the person or self within their own body and mind?” Yikes. As I mentioned to her in my comment (you know, that little box that pops up when you click on “comments” and which maddeningly few of you ever engage, no doubt because you find the process somehow daunting but really just be patient and follow the prompts – it’s not rocket science - so OK now I’ll shut up about that) on her query, far greater minds than mine have grappled with the question for centuries, providing us with some of our finest – by worldly standards - literature.
Aye, there’s the rub. Worldly standards. But what about the grandest literature of all, the book of all books, the first and - unchanged and unchanging - final Word? So now I’ve tipped my hand. But those of you who know me and have been faithful readers shouldn’t be surprised, even as you may disagree with me. To the rest of you who don’t share my world view, I humbly beg your indulgence. This won’t hurt a bit, other than perhaps some bruising to your intellectual pride and independence.
So then, who are you / we? Where does our awareness of ‘self’ even come from if not an innate, preternatural sense of relationship to a separate ‘other’, and further, to the source of our being? I ask this because I think the answer to the question - ‘who is the person or self within... ’ - is unsatisfying and otherwise meaningless without considering the bigger, ageless question that springs from it: what is the point, the why of me? The ‘who’ is inextricably connected to the ‘why’. Self cannot be defined or identified without sensing a relationship to a purpose, an end, an ‘other’. And here’s where we can really muck things up if we’re not careful, but I offer it for your consideration anyway: we can never truthfully identify or realize our selves without identifying and surrendering to God’s purpose, which existed before our selves. Who we are is all about who and where He – the ultimate ‘other’ – is. Yikes again.
I submit that not only WHO we are, but the what, where, how, and why of us is gloriously written in the Bible. Divinely written, by the hands of willing men completely surrendered to and guided by the Author. That’s the simple truth. It is we, not the Author, who have made that elegant simplicity a complex, apparently insurmountable existential challenge. The Bible. Our purpose and identity – individually and collectively – as well as the Author’s purpose and identity, is laid out in its pages. In seeking to define who we are, I offer this observation from C.S. Lewis: “Our highest activity must be response, not initiative. To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to his desire. To experience it in the opposite way is, as it were, a solecism against the grammar of being.” A fruitless self-sabotage.
Now, I am all too well-aware of the heated howls of protest from atheists and agnostics; the cynical cries of ‘yeah, but…’ from free-thinking, educated minds; the muddied murmurs of “New-Age” and Humanist seekers and teachers; the dismissive whispers of dissent from self-defined “good” people. God said - dozens of times - there’d be folks like this.
Still, my “viable” answer to Judi Krew’s question is not MY answer at all. It’s GOD’s. It’s all there in the Bible. But it can’t be grasped in the convenient, isolated snippets of poetic biblical “wisdom,” or edited, feel-good parcels of “inspirational” quotes from Jesus or Psalms or Moses that have woven their way into the frayed, unraveling fabric of our society. It needs to be fully read, etched on to the fleshy tablets of our hearts, embraced in its totality, beginning to end. A life-time proposition best pursued daily. Food from God. The breakfast of champions. Really. It’s the definitive users’ guide to existence.
When all else fails, follow directions.