The past is a cloud. A memory. A collection of thoughts and ideas as immaterially vast as it is materially insubstantial. An eternal memorial whose sole purpose is to help me live in the present. It is NOT a place I should live or even can live. For who can live in the sky?
My past permeates the heavens, looking down to inform my present; but it is not my present. In the same way my reflection on my experience, is not my experience: it is a reflection.
The “great cloud of witnesses” in the Book of Hebrews is a list of great and awful acts of faith from the past. It is both my personal and collective cloud. An "I" cloud. A storehouse. Not a dead and dusty one. No, it is a living storehouse on whose contents I may gaze and to whose clamor I may listen. But only if I lift my eyes and listen honestly, with the proper attitude--with my feet firmly on the ground of today--does this great cloud of yesterday look down and proclaim, judging each act of my faith. It floats above my ever-present life praising and condemning. This cloud is a thriving witness of my life—not the other way around. I am not to drift upwards and away, bearing witness to yesterday's artifacts while turning my back on today. Otherwise my vast and light cloud condenses and ossifies. Then I become trapped in my cloud-turned-sarcophagus; and together we plunge into the sea.
I am not the past. I am alive.
The most damnable condemnation handed down to me by this immense shouting, screaming, bloody, struggling, joyously cheering cloud of witnesses from the past was this:
That I failed to recognize my present.
I was the brood of vipers to whom Jesus proclaimed: “The Ninevites will condemn this generation!" Jesus stood directly in front of me; but I could not see him.
To live in the past, to be defined by the past, was to become stuck and stagnant—to become memorialized. It was to become incased in stone, instead of contemplating the terrible and marvelous monuments of the past while shouldering the cross in the present.
But miraculously I, a being completely paralyzed in the past, was able to shoulder my mat and walk home. A miracle of strength only made possible by the Forgiveness of Jesus. The man-child fish who swam to the bottom of my soul and set me free.
What are the problems that arise as a result of “And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better”—the prophet’s final verse of the chapter?
Or said another way, "What is the problem of a “stable future?”:
The chosen one begins to think he has time to sleep, to lay around, and to dream.
“Desiring” seems grow, not shrink.
One stops paying attention.
One begins to trust in the predictable and benevolent future (society as king and father) rather than a benevolent God.
One begins to fall in love with the little he knows more than the great he doesn’t.
One begins to bargain with a future that is too easy on him, too lopsided in his favor. (If it is barely necessary to give to get something in return, then what? Then all there really is…is getting).
All these result in a relationship with life that increasingly runs in only one direction: “my own way.”
This is a bargain with the man in black. Changing (or exchanging) anything into what one wants—is a nasty game. That is Man’s game. Earth’s game. That is Satan’s “stone into bread” game. That is: “giving to get.” Of course that game encourages “want.”
Morality CAN NOT have an ulterior motive! Even to God; or rather, one’s idea of God. A “reason” kills it. “Because” kills it. “Why?” kills it—what does one mean by “why?” Who is asking? This does not conflict with Victor Frankl’s excellent philosophy, rather it more deeply establishes the profundity of it.
The “why” , the “because,” the “reason,” and the “motive” is the ego trying to sneak a peak at at the other side of an equation that can’t be solved by logic. They are ways of sneaking a peak at the face of God. It is to be set free by trusting in a voice or a touch, then immediately asking what His name is. But far more troublesome than not being able to see the other side of our choices, it is in “expecting an outcome” that exactly makes the result one wants NOT HAPPEN. The motives must be subsumed, even more, must dissolve into the highest—that which is always and completely outside of “you”—OR the sacrificial system runs TOWARD ruin, death, exile, and hatred of life (hell).
“Getting” must be far secondary. It can not be equal in any equation relating conscious awareness to giving. “Getting” happens.
It just “is” or “does” (“life is like a box of chocolates...” is correct). It occurs secondarily. It can not be directly looked at, or “expected”, (much like quantum behavior) or somehow everything gets screwed royally up—and reality and truth (God) will have none of it. He can smell what you’re up to.
There is giving...and there is life.
There is responding.
“If you are good, won’t you be accepted?”
“Why do you say ‘good’?”
The last chapter of Genesis concludes the story of life. It deals with a question. Maybe the ultimate question: Do you trust life? Or do you mistrust life?
For the anxious man, the obvious answer is to be generally suspicious of life because it is out to get him--to hurt and kill him. And his healthy suspicion of life keeps him safe from...well, life. If the suspicious man wants to live--and by "live" he universally means “a long time"--then he will bend all his attention in service of safety, protection, and security so as to remain alive.
So if the anxious man's fundamental view is that life can not be trusted, and since God IS life, then the dark secret beneath his ground is that God can not be trusted. And because this man is made in the image of God, then his God’s fundamental view must obviously be that man can not be trusted.
Again, if you are suspicious of the life God gives you; it is only fitting that God must be equally suspicious of the life you give him.
But wait…that can't be right...because all relationships are built on trust. Truth, trust, is PRECISELY what binds two into one—moreover inextricably defines it: two things bending and flexing, opposites moving and dancing, juxtaposed voices singing in harmony. This is a reality that, technically speaking, can not be broken. The only way to break it is to hide that reality under the darkness of an idea; a thought; an illusion: the only one I can trust is me.
So what is the proper vision of life?
The anxious man claims:
“The best thing I can do with something I have a relationship with (a system, a morality, a polity, a person, a faith, a view of the world, an idea, a God) is use it to tell me whether or not life is behaving as I expect. It extends the vision of my eye over an ever-sweeping arc that pays attention to this suspicious world so I can be a good ruler of the living; rather than a good savior of the dying. My world, and hence God’s world, is made up of rule followers and rule breakers. That’s it. Obviously what I can not see can not be trusted."
If the suspicious man asks himself, What is going on behind my back?
His basic assumption is: It can’t be good.
He is like Jacob in the last chapter of Genesis ordering his beautiful son Joseph to spy on his brothers. He does not trust the world--he does not even trust his own children. "Brotherhood may be a fine dream, Joseph, but brothers need to be watched."
If this is your view of Life; then this is your view of God. And your philosophy of life is a kind of totalitarianism.
But that is not God’s view life... or you.
God is truth. Which means God is trust.
God is life.
Trust life. He trusted you with His.
…to understand the Old Testament idea of the Judaic God and sacrifice as different from all others. Sacrifice crosses all cultures, barriers and continents. The idea is so fundamental to man that it simply pops into existence in the earliest chapters of Genesis without preamble or explanation. It is treated as an a priori concept. Somehow humanity—mankind—human consciousness—Adam’s spawn—had awakened worldwide to the idea that sacrificial behavior (“give up something now for something better later”) is linked to survival. But to whom, to what, how, and why? Out of all gods to whom sacrifice is made, the Hebrews miraculously discovered only one way works for life and eternity: God is invisible. He MUST be. Otherwise He is simply an image made by man, even if the image is in his head. Man shouldn’t even name God, which is to say, even concepts, thoughts and ideas of God are already wrong. He is the God that we CAN’T see. When the Lord says “They ascend for acceptance in Mine alter” (Isaiah 60:7), He speaks of the only alter in the world with NOTHING where an image should sit to watch—an empty seat—a holy place for one only with the truest heart to fill with the Glory of the Living God.
There is Living God and living man. A relationship marvelously and purposefully beautified in the enfleshed Jesus at the culmination of redemption. God and man. No image in between the Cherubim who cover their eyes. A mirror for each other. The most perfect reflection of God requires wiping our conscious mind as cleanly as possible. To see. To see what can’t be seen.
I destroyed my own city walls in darkness. In blindness, I self-destructed. The anger of the Lord had smitten me. Eventually the walls were repaired--but not by me.
Who repaired them?
But only as I began to wake up to my brokenness and see the world with new eyes--see it as God does—with love. I saw the healing that is possible if I ministered to others in their sickness as Christ did. And it was ONLY then that my broken city walls began to be repaired.
In the healing of others I am healed.
Now I understand that my Temple of Beauty is not desecrated by the world, but beautified by it. As brokenness is redeemed, glory shines round consecrating all within its glow.
The idea in Isaiah 60 is that the protection and security we really want in life (the city walls) are best achieved and maintained, not by arrogantly hiding behind false walls, but by shining forth the Glory of God like the noonday sun in a dark world. It is His love pouring outward from our temple towards the world that protects the temple on all sides. God’s love and light is both vanguard and rearguard. The gates can now stand open in every moment of life, in every reality, on the other side of every choice, marching into every future and promised land. And the enemy we once walled off with exhaustive effort—piling and plugging stone after ugly stone into every defect—become friends and fellow workers repairing our crumbling walls without any effort of our own.
John’s not saying, “No more revelation!” Everything is revelation. He is saying the exact opposite. He is saying, “No more reason!
Enough! You’ve got it! The whole story! Quit quibbling! Now live!”
The Lord teaches Isaiah to be a lightening rod: Isaiah has received instruction well from his experience of suffering. Daily he has learned to accept it willingly like a sink does water, like a lightening rod does the bolt. Because he did not turn away from these powerful strikes, but stood upright in their midst; he received them without damage. There seems to be no end to the hits the lightening rod can absorb with no effect. Instead of receiving shame and disgrace, which was the destructive intent of his suffering, he receives understanding. A daily lesson on how to be sustained without disgrace or shame.
“Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.” (V10)
But the ones who don’t trust anymore and rely on their own knowledge to escape their darkness; they will lie down in torment."
Seeing your own eyes limits your sight. Hearing your own ears limits your hearing.
Being self-conscious limits your ability to be.
The gradual development of self-consciousness is almost by definition enculturation. Enculturation is one’s gradual ingestion of the surrounding culture until they become like it. It requires willing participation in the game. A child does not start out self-conscious but becomes so. It is when one begins to know that he knows, thinks, and judges that one forgets how it is he knows, thinks, and judges. He forgets from where his golden gift came. He breaks Samson’s rule and “lays a hand on his head.”
It is when you think you know truth—that you don’t.
It is when you know that you are the judge that you lose the ability.
It is the difference between feeling enslaved by your responsibilities in the world and feeling free to keep the temple and everything in it.
Are you weak? Are you enslaved? Are you pushing the millstone round and round?
Then…you are also blind.
It is the easiest thing in the world to transform a mole hill into a mountain,
but somehow impossible to make a mountain budge one inch.