Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 5

image used under Creative Commons license, photo by Roger Barker
Galatians 6:7-8 (KJV)  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 

The reality of life is that we all have some form of pressure.  It's what comes next, as a result, that's a measure of the quality of the "gem".  Yes, there are some who are so flawed that the pressure breaks them.  But most of us come through the pressures better than when we went into them.  That's not to say that all of us recognize the sources of the pressures.  Nor does it mean we all come out at the same grade of gem-like quality.  And, for some. it takes longer under pressure to start to show any quality.

When you're a teenager, there can be enough angst for an army.  The world is a very unsure place and most teens have no clue how they fit in, yet.  Some may even wonder if they fit in at all.  There's a very unique maturation process that combines stretching the limits with self protection.  Our children use that period to define who they are, how they think, to create a set of values to live by.

I have to repeat something, here, that I've said briefly, before.  Psychology says that teens don't think maturely until the late teens.  I'm not so sure that it's that they can't as much as they just haven't been allowed to.  After Noah and the flood, we don't see the Bible mentioning people living multiple hundreds of years.  Something had changed.  Lifespans were relatively short compared to today.  We're starting to get closer to 100 only because of improvements in sanitation and medicine. And, even today, a Jewish boy's coming of age (Bar Mitzvah) is at the age of 13.  There wasn't the exploration of a lot of facets of life.  That 13 year old needed to be prepared to work a trade and create a family and heritage of his own.

Proverbs 6:6 (KJV)  Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

Somehow, while modern society still values work, the emphasis shifted to the mental, rather than the physical.  As a result, the late twentieth century and twenty first century teens have been in this educational cocoon that gives them more freedom to explore, greater opportunities to learn, but less preparation to think at 13 or 15.  Maturity becomes stunted and delayed by the values of society. Experience gets replaced by education instead of the two working together to allow the child to become the adult they were designed to be.

I experienced that more than most.  My parents, because they loved me, were very protective. Because of my physical limitations, education became more important.  But, while God had given me a little extra between the earlobes, I was still shooting for "cool".  That had its blessings, as well as creating attitudes that would later create some big problems in my life.

I discovered Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg,  before the hippies even existed.  I learned to question pretty much everything.  And I discovered how much I love jazz.  Maybe because it was both "cool" and it was different from the norm.  

All of that led to a huge spiritual quest.  I saw Christianity, in all its flavors, as an outward show.  I wasn't about to align myself with such hypocrisy.  Remember, I had two things that filtered my perceptions.  I was in a religious experience that included a great deal of legalism, some of it in the form of rituals.  And I was deep in that mental, emotional cocoon that was intended to protect, but did more to prevent growth than to protect.  So, what I thought I was seeing in others may have had some basis in fact.  But there was no way I was properly capable of interpreting what I saw or of properly dealing with it in terms of discipling myself or others.

That spiritual quest started with a very wrong spiritual assumption -- that all religions were equal. But like modern society, I assumed equal somehow translated to "better than Christianity".  I rapidly eliminated many of the eastern disciplines as being too far out there.  Islam was too close to Christianity and, in some interpretations, too violent.  I eventually narrowed it down to Buddhism and, even further, to Zen.  And, with good old 20/20 hindsight, I now recognize that was God working in my life.  Here's a concept to meditate on for awhile.

Christianity tells us that Satan counterfeits God's work to create false religions.  But the Bible is clear that, by the time the world ends, everyone will have had an opportunity to recognize God, whether they are evangelized or not.  Which means that not all the spiritual beliefs other than Christianity are false.  Just because they don't use all the same names and terminology we do doesn't mean they are necessarily false.  We need to be discerning.  Remember Paul teaching who the unknown God really was.

One of the things we need to remember that Judaism and its Christian offshoot were eastern religions.  The Bible saying the Magi came from the east wasn't contrasting eastern  and western thinking.  It was saying the Magi were different from eastern  Judaism.  To a certain degree we've seen Christianity modified to fit western thinking instead of western thinking modified to fit Christianity.

When John 3:30 (KJV) says, "He must increase, but I must decrease.", emptying ourselves of ourselves is a foreign concept to European thinking, but well understood in eastern thought.  What Christianity gives us is the safe, correct way of doing it.  Replace self with Christ.  Nature does abhor a vacuum.  If we don't replace self with God, something else will try to fill the void.  One of the Christian buzzword ideas is that we have a Christ sized hole in our spiritual hearts.  I believe that's true.  And it requires Christ to fill it.

Think of a kids' puzzle with holes of different shapes -- a star, a square, a circle, and an oval.  They all are the same thickness and they may all uses the same amount of material.  But each only completely fills one specific hole.  Any other piece may allow a small segment into the hole,  but there's still lots of empty space and not all of the wrong piece will get in.  Which part does will effect what's in and what gets left out.  

With a Christ shaped hole, only Christ can properly fill it.  Anything else may give us some spirituality, but not enough.  And that Christless spirituality could be not just insufficient, but radically wrong.  Looking at that gem at the top of this post, the wrong result of pressure and trying to fit something else into a Christ shaped hole can, at best, only be murky.  The proper pressure and letting Christ increase into that void will have us allowing all the spiritual light through that God sends our way.  How's our spiritual hole being filled in?  And how much light shines through us?

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