Remembering Who We Are

Here’s a question I’m fond of asking – Do you see yourself as a physical body with a spirit, or a spiritual being with a body? The most common answer, usually after a moment’s hesitation, is – as a spiritual being with a body. But my favorite part is to allow an awkward pause to play out after they respond, before I ask them – So exactly how does that work for you? To which they invariably begin to tell me about their intentions to live a more spiritually oriented life, but how they just can’t seem to consistently follow through on those intentions. So then, how can it be that so many are convinced that they are spiritual beings – but can’t quite seem to hold that focus for very long?

Either all of these people are self-deluded in their belief that they are spiritual beings (no doubt, the non-theists conclusion), or they are experiencing a real problem with forgetting who they fundamentally, are. Interestingly enough, not many books or sermons seem to directly address this conspicuously reoccurring amnesia. I’m suspicious it’s because, apart from religious trappings, most people have no idea what it means to be a spiritual being – so the default settings kick in, and they allow the physical world to define everything in their life . . . including who they are.

In the creation narrative, God creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh. What’s curious about this account is that there is nothing in the theology of either Judaism or Christianity, which views God as requiring rest. Theologically, this rest is better understood as a pattern of sanctification (a setting apart) that God specifically hardwired into his creation design for our benefit. This sanctified design feature is then codified by being included in the Ten Commandments, arguably underscoring its significance and grave importance for all time. And if that weren’t enough emphasis, it is the commandment uniquely placed between how we are to engage God (1-3) and man (5-10) . . . and is the only commandment to admonish remembering.

29341802AFB84755B17FF5B54B5DFAC9The Ten Commandments can be viewed as an obligation to an inscrutable deity, or as a ponderous gift offered by a beneficent Father. If you’re struggling to see them as gifts, then I would suggest that you’re likely allowing yourself to be defined by the physical realm. But if you can recognize the profound treasure they represent, in the way they so succinctly define the true nature of things – namely, that God is God and we aren’t . . . then you are beginning to remember. Without them, each of us becomes beguiled by our own self-interest, presuming ourselves to be the only deity worth recognizing, invariably leading us to be at enmity with the one true God (1-3) and with one another (5-10).

Nine of the commandments remind us that we are not God, but it is in the touchstone of the 4th commandment where we find ourselves placed in context . . . and we begin to remember where we fit in. Because remembering who we are is inseparable from our need to worship God – to set aside the physical demands on our life, so that we might have our memory restored, properly calibrated and aligned to the deeper truths and purposes at work in our lives . . . while we bask in Abba Father’s love and grace. It is in the discipline of such a remembering, where we can begin to be who we were meant to be . . . and fully appreciate the shorter catechism of the Westminster Confession when it tells us that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

This is from my Chiaroscuro Collection

Don’t Let Me Forget

Don’t tell me – let me guess
That’s me hiding in plain sight
Peeking from behind my everyday
And that’s you moving like light
Pouring over the hills of morning

Don’t tell me – let me guess
That’s me dressed to kill time
Grinding gears in the middle of my week
And that’s you moving like light
Playing in the tree tops laughing at the sky

Don’t tell me – let me guess
That’s me circling between my past
And present looking for an opening
And that’s you moving like light
Silently mirrored on the face of the deep

Please tell me – don’t let me forget
That’s me set free dancing with you
Moving like light in effortless motion
Pressing patiently against the darkness
Until it disolves into daylight


The Total Perspective Vortex (4 of 4)

Zaphod Beeblebrox, the guy who grew a second head and a third arm as a fashion statement, is the insufferable narcissist in Douglas Adams sci-fi farce “Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. At one point in this imaginatively side-splitting tale, Zaphod is subjected to the universe’s most dreaded torture device . . . The Total Perspective Vortex. Here’s how it works – when you enter this diabolical contraption you are immediately confronted with how utterly meaningless and insignificant your life is when compared with the vast expanse of a seemingly limitless universe. In short, it is a perspective that so inescapably defines you that you are left exposed and vulnerable in the face of such an unflinching assessment.

I have often thought of Psalm 8 as a sort of total perspective vortex. It is nine verses long; 1-3 declare God’s majesty; 5-8 extols man’s value . . . only to reprise in verse 9 God’s majesty – 4 on one side of the equation, and 4 on the other. In the center we find the total perspective question, verse 4 – What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? This is a question that can be answered correctly in two ways, each reaching a conclusion that is 180 degrees out of phase with the other!

It could be reasonably argued of Douglas Adam’s device, if calibrated for the task could be devastating, because our lives are less than a blink of an eye, or a puff of smoke. As a species, our significance is nothing more than a subatomic speck — even the Bible describes our lives as but a vapor, as withering grass, that we are but dust . . . to be returned to dust when we die. Ah, but one could equally argue that we are the dust God breathed life into, and as the breath of God, we bear his image . . . and as such, we are the objects of his infinite affection — that we are his beloved.

imagesWith both truths occupying a razors edge, we discover ourselves for precisely who we are, in the full symmetry of our existence – to ignore either truth is to completely misinterpret how it is we even exist. But there is no place where this particular vortex is more evident than in the New Testament, more specifically in the gospel, even more particularly in the person of Christ. But we find it’s very epicenter, the hinge on which the whole of history turns — in the event of Christ on the cross! So here’s the vortex statement – It was because of you that Christ went to the cross. There are two equally profound, juxtaposed ways of understanding this truth – and both are true!

Lost under an avalanche of our own sin, we are utterly incapable of setting ourselves free, so Christ chose to condescend to our grave predicament – therefore it was our need that placed him on that cross.  Equally true, we are the beloved of the Father, for whom there was no price too great to pay – for it is in the deeper magic of God’s love where our value is given immeasurable worth . . . because he paid that price.

Now you are more than welcome to operate under the guise of your own subjective perspective, assuming what you will – but once you’ve entered into this total perspective vortex  . . . you will never know yourself the same way again. For it is a perspective embedded in the very substance of creation — it is the inescapable truth of who we are. So no matter what your ever changing inner dialogue may conclude . . . this total perspective vortex will be there to humble and encourage you, reminding you of exactly who you are.