Friday, April 9, 2021

Wholeness: Foundation of Identity

There is an episode of the Flintstones where Fred becomes a rock star for a week. In the show, we see a group of teenagers swearing allegiance to Fred since he's the latest thing that understands their problems. Granted this scene is an exaggeration made for laughs. However, for it actually, to be funny, there needs to be a thread of reality behind it. Teenagers are indeed apt to wrap their identity around anything that acknowledges a feeling that the world will not, or their parents actively try to quench. The reality of it is anything but funny though.

Adolescence is often a confusing time for teenagers as they grow into and try to understand their new feelings. This can be compounded greatly when parents refuse to roll with the inevitable changes. There is far more to this stage of development than we give it credit, so we shouldn’t just blow it off or scoff at it. We are all born with the eight basic emotions, yet as teens, the eight higher emotions emerge. So our emotional spectrum doubles at this critical time. Do most parents realize this?

Maybe on some level, parents don't really want their children to grow up. We want them to remain good boys, and nice girls, since we know exactly what they will have to face as adults. As futile as it may seem to fight it. Maybe we just want to force them down the path we wish we would have taken. Which often produces the opposite result we want. Maybe on some level we really do believe in a one size fits all path to prosperity, and are trying to impose it on our children. Regardless, These are all too common mistakes that most experience from one end or the other, if not both. Which can stunt our sense of identity.

This is often the genesis of teens looking to something else for the acceptance, approval, and validation we all crave. Which ultimately leads to all the cliques that public schools often revolve around, which serve as substitute families. As social philosopher Eric Hoffer once said, "When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." So at that critical time of self-discovery, we break ourselves into factions, imitating a group of people who have no better sense of self than we do. All bound together via some rather superficial element of pop culture. The irony of it all is; it's done in the name of "individualism." Maybe this is why the word unnecessarily has such a negative connotation in the Church. Naturally, this is not a very good foundation for identity.

As a long-time adult Christian educator, I can assure you this very poor start in life can linger far into adulthood. Most are motivated by mere survival, comfort, and convenience; not an "abundant life" as Christ indicated. (John 10:10) Not that we have any idea what he means by that. Yet, we wonder why so many succumb to the mid-life crisis and try to go back to that time before our life went off course. To reclaim what we lost, our sense of identity. Not that these mid-life crisis behaviors ever achieve that.

One other big issue in identity is the world makes it all about self-indulgence, fame, fortune, comfort, and convenience. The church should be showing people what it means to really live, not just avoid the fires of hell. By helping people find their individual role in the body of Christ. Revealing who we are in the creator, as well as the wholeness we can have in Christ Jesus. Yet since we get so hung up on the singular dimension of holiness that is righteousness, we aren’t doing that. So we don't seem all that "set apart" from the jr. sr. high school experience we all endured that has lead to our emptiness.

There are ills in the world, and the church has answers. Yet, it doesn't seem like it when we try to skip over the process of holiness, to jump to the result of it. The church has problems right now too, and the solution is right under our nose. But, we can't see it because we just aren't going deep enough, and only addressing the surface. It is time for the church to step up, and ironically enough that means taking a step back. So we can embrace the full spectrum of holiness again.

The Visual PARABLEist

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. ” -Jeremiah 1:5

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

A girl seeing a distorted image of self in the mirror

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Wholeness: doubt

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: -Luke 24:1-6

At the Easter service I attended, the pastor pointed out that the women taking spices to the tomb of Jesus was a sign that they did not believe Jesus would be rising from the dead, as Christ said he would. Then posed the question, why did those closest to him doubt this? A valid question for Easter Sunday, but another valid question we need to pose to ourselves beyond Easter is, why do we still doubt Jesus? It seems rather evident that many often still doubt that they can be forgiven. Many still doubt that they can be delivered. Many still doubt that they can be made whole again. With such doubts, it is no wonder that we continue to seek life among the dead. 

Why do we always think of ourselves as an exception? Why do we think things like this only happen to other people?

It would seem that faith has a big role in our wholeness, just like most everything else in our Christian walk. I would advise that you honestly ask yourself, do you believe your wholeness is a priority to God? As well as, do you doubt that you can be made whole again? If yes, then really consider the why behind it. Then have a heart to heart with God about this.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. -Hebrews 11:6

I also challenge you to specifically ask God, what does that mean for you? For some, you may have never even considered the concept of wholeness before now. For others, you may have very specific ideas about your wholeness. Especially if you have a physical ailment or limitation. Will you still have faith, if God defines it differently than you do? Will you still earnestly seek him, if God is more focused on your heart than your flesh?

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”-1st Samuel 16:7

A sad person being enveloped by a patient God that the man can't see.