Thought for the Day- Secret Beauty
There are many beautiful things that surround us at all times
But they only become visible when the light shines upon them
To Live Freely: Part Ten
The Unnamed Delusion)
In my last post I spoke about how many of us believe that the right and proper way to live is in accordance with the truth, yet at the same time we lie to everyone, including ourselves, about all the wrongs that we do. We are each a person divided, feeling the truth in our heart, transgressing it in our bodies, and refusing to acknowledge the gap in our minds.
Quite frankly, we avoid the hard truths on such a regular basis that we typically don’t even notice that we do it. The fabrications we soothe ourselves with are so practiced and so regular that they don’t even register. Thus, we might examine the general state of our life and admit that something feels off, that it seems we must be living under some self-delusion, but genuinely have no idea what that delusion even is. How can we make a change if we cannot name what the change that we need to make is?
This idea of knowing the name of our hidden, inner truths has its roots in many ancient cultures. There has long been a notion that if you know the true name of an entity, then you could gain power over it. I have seen for myself that there really is something to this. Sometimes the entire battle has been simply to correctly label the problem that I’m struggling with. Other times, it is only the first battle in the war of a lifetime. In either case, it is always the first step towards overcoming that part of my self.
So how do we identify the real, sometimes unpleasant truths lurking inside?
In many cases we we are so close to the issues that we can’t see them clearly, and we need to be shown them from an outside perspective. That might mean having a deeply earnest conversation with a trusted family member or friend. It might mean soliciting the professional insights of a qualified therapist. Certainly it means getting on our knees and asking our Maker to reveal ourselves to us.
The Great Physician)
Let us never forget that this is one of Christ’s essential roles. During his sojourn on Earth he demonstrated his ability to diagnose the state of a person’s soul. He was able to reveal people to themselves, to cut straight to the heart and show them the truth plainly. Let us consider one example of this, the story of Christ and the rich, young ruler (Mark 10:17-22)
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
At first Jesus gives the man a general answer, listing out all the basic things that everyone is instructed to do. But the man is sincere and earnest and he wants more than this. He does all of these things already, he always has, still he questions what he must do to inherit eternal life.
We aren’t told explicitly the young man’s inner thoughts, but I cannot help but wonder if he was much like the sort of person I described above: knowing that something was off, but not knowing what. Perhaps he could tell in his heart that there was something lacking within him, some difficult truth about himself that he had not identified, and he needed the help of the Master to know what it was.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Jesus respects the man’s earnestness by finally giving him the real answer. The young man was indeed obedient and faithful, but Jesus reveals to him the fundamental flaw still at his core was his love of wealth. That dependency on the worldly things was what still stood between him and God. Clearly it was an accurate diagnosis, too, for the man made no attempt to dispute the matter, nor to correct his attitude. He had been seen–really seen–what was inside and he was distressed by what was revealed.
I do believe that one of the reasons we conceal our hard truths from ourselves is because we know that we won’t deal with the problem if we open the door to it. Part of us has decided that it is better to be forever agitated by “something” feeling off inside, but not knowing what it is, than to know what the problem is and be crushed by our inability or unwillingness to do anything about it.
The secret-keeper inside of us says, “Yes, you are a slave. But you’re not ready to risk everything for a rebellion, so why should I show you who your master is? Better that you just go home and try to forget everything about this.”
Layers of Man- The Wound
One would hope that a man and woman wouldn’t have any secrets from one another by the time they decide to get married, but this is far from guaranteed. Certainly I was guilty of keeping my wife in the dark from all the deepest parts of me. Previously I mentioned that I kept my addiction to lust concealed from her, but that wasn’t all, I was also hiding my wounds.
It may seem a strange thing, but I was able to tell my wife about my problems with pornography before I could tell her how I got hit as a child, and how I felt ashamed for wincing before each blow. Obviously the addiction was the part of my life that made her more upset, the one that directly hurt her, but it still was the easier thing for me to confess to. I never thought that she would despise me for having suffered abuse, but talking about it brought up areas that were still raw and tender. I couldn’t go there without bringing up all of the attached horrible feelings, so I had always stayed away.
My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake - Jeremiah 23:9 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; And unto Adam he said, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; - Genesis 3:16-17
All of us have these deep, soul-shaking wounds. As Brené Brown has said, “Every single person has a story that will break your heart. Nobody rides for free.”
If you listen to the stories of two different people, one might have endured a more horrifying pain for a more extended period of time, but both lives will still hold significant trauma. The hardest thing you have ever had to go through, no matter how small it might seem compared to others, is still the hardest thing you have ever had to go through. Simply by virtue of being your greatest pain, it will warp your psyche and become your personal definition of suffering.
Coming to terms with that pain, and developing our relationship with it, is one of the most difficult things we will ever do in life. Virtually all of us will make mistakes in this arena, and we will come up with flawed reactions that end up causing even more pain further down the road.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives - Luke 4:18 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. - Numbers 21:8
Jesus teaches us that it is good for us to mourn our sorrows, and reassures us with the knowledge that we can be comforted (Matthew 5:4). But there is a clear line between mourning our sorrows and wallowing in them. It is one thing to recognize that you have been a victim, and another to make victimhood your key defining feature.
Over-identifying with our pains and obsessing on what happened to us can lead us to reject the deliverance that is offered, because we start thinking that healing means saying our wounds didn’t matter. Even more perversely, holding on to our damage can be used as a way to justify our own misbehavior afterward. Thus, God is offering us to look to him and live, but we first have to choose to stop remaining a prisoner.
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. - Ether 12:27 Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength" - Jeremiah 17:5
The intended effect of our wounds is that in our weakness we might turn to God, who will heal and make us strong. But that requires stepping fully into our hurt, letting it wash over us, and asking for God to meet us in the middle of all that pain. But what if He doesn’t show up? What if we are consumed?
It is natural to have a fear of facing the pain, and thus many of us will never even try to take that step. We instead try to bury our wound. We act tough, we say “yeah, it happened, but so what?” We claim that our wounds made us stronger, that they made us grow a thicker skin. Or maybe we try to deny that they ever happened, changing the subject anytime someone brings the matter up. In either case, we put on a show that the wounds are unimportant and don’t need to be examined, and that we are well and past them, but nothing could be further from the truth. If we really were past them, there would be no fear of bringing them into the light. A tough wall around the wound only reveals how upset we still are about it.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows - Isaiah 53:4 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. - Revelations 3:20
One way or another, wound tends to lead to building up walls. Sometimes walls are a good thing, a necessary survival mechanism for keeping our oppressor out. Our natural instinct with physical wounds is also to cover them up, to shield them from any outside aggravation. But walls tend not to discriminate. Often they keep everything out, not only the source of the pain. Obviously this becomes a problem if we now stand before the physician and we still can’t expose our wound for healing. We need to let the physician in, even if it will initially cause even more pain, so that we can start becoming better.
Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He is reverential and respectful of our pain, so he does not force his way into our wounds. If we absolutely refuse his healing he will wait. If we never accept his help he will never force it upon us. But he really can help us if we will let him. He has felt it, he has borne it, he has descended into it and risen above it.
If we will not let Christ in, then the wound will fester. It will grow and it will infect. Most addicts don’t initially recognize the connection between their shameful behavior and the unhealed pains for their youth, but through time and exploration the links become clear. One of the greatest sources of trouble in our lives is things that we should have cried about but never did.
At the start of this post I mentioned being struck as a child. This pain was most typically the result of not being able to play quietly enough. I was expected to keep entertained by myself, in a way that was contained and non-intrusive. I would try to do that, really I would, but I was a boisterous boy, and I would raise my volume without realizing it, and then I would be hit. A few days ago I mentioned that a key part of my façade is that I try to be a people pleaser, never a bother to anyone. Can you see the connection to that from this wound?
There was also a wound of isolation. I was homeschooled, and any would-be friends were told over-and-over that I wasn’t able to play with them until they stopped asking altogether. As I came into my adolescence I wanted to have meaningful relationships with girls, but I was such an outsider to every social norm that I could never relate to them. Can you see how this wound connects to my addiction for pretend-love-on-demand?
And there were also wounds for being unintelligent. I was pushed to get into college as early as possible, being punished when I did poorly on the admission tests, and being treated as the stupid child for not making it in until I was sixteen. Can you see why I cheated for better grades and made up a façade of being ultra-intelligent?
Our shame is nothing more than a misguided way to cope with our wounds. It tries to alleviate painful shortcomings, but tragically it often does so in a way that only reinforces them. Relying on cheating and lust gave me artificial grades and relationships in the short term, but they further confirmed to me that I wasn’t intelligent or social enough for the real thing.
Our façade is nothing more than an over-compensation for the wound, where we pretend to be all the things that our wounds have told us we are not. In our childhood mind it seemed that we were denied connection and love because of these shortcomings, and so we end up with the false belief that we must project strengths in these areas to be worthy of that connection love.
And so, the wound is a layer deeper than either the shame or the façade, but it is not the true core of who we are either. Defining ourselves based on our wound prevents us from living with truth and joy, same as identifying at the other two levels. There still remains a deeper layer to uncover.
In fact, the reason the wound hurts us so much, is because it is a direct assault at that deeper core. Our wounds put us on such a long and misguided path because they make us forget who we really are. They make us forget our own divine self.
Free Will vs God’s Control- Genesis 22:1-2, 10-12
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son
Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him
Evidently, Abraham was not going to sacrifice his son, no matter whether he chose to follow God’s direction or not. God was going to intervene, and thus funnel Abraham’s life back to the other branch regardless.
But would we say that Abraham did not have any agency in this matter? Did he not still make a decision, and in so doing permanently change something within himself? Though the outcome was the same either way, the exercise still mattered, if only on an internal level.
It is true that foreknowledge would destroy free will, but only if it were held in the same being that was making the choices. If that foreknowledge belongs to a separate being, such as God, than the other may still choose freely.
Consider the example of a game show. Does the fact that the game’s creators already know which prize is behind which door negate the player’s choice between them? Certainly not.