When you’re dead,
what is everybody else to you but dead.
And you a son, dead to a father who can’t see you anymore,
become a father, dead to a son whom can’t be seen anymore.
What is Christ?
What is Christ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Is he the father?
He calls himself or he says about himself that if you have seen him you have seen the father. Or is He that which helps you realize your need for the father, for repentance? Is He that which causes you to repent? In that sense he is neither the father nor the son who stayed home nor the son who went away. He is something else entirely. He is the need.
"Why are we celebrating?"
The servant answers but the father explains: "The celebration IS because the son that was dead is alive. The son that was lost is found."
It seems a strange answer. But actually it's a strange question. And the father sounds a bit stumped by the other son’s asking of it. As if the son had asked why rain falls down instead of up. The father says there really is nothing more to say. It is simply a matter of gravity.
But unlike the way the father talks of the son who was finally found, the way I and my puritan brethren often talk of alive and found, in essence: salvation, is exactly like the son who was never lost. We talk about salvation until it ends in an argument, not a celebration. A puritan hears music and dancing inside where he should be, but never dances, because he doesn’t know how. Somewhere along the way the puritan becomes lost in his own found-ness and dies in the midst of his own life. Somewhere along the way he forgets what found sounds like and stands deadly still in the dance of salvation.
And so the puritan becomes his brother.
Now apostate, the puritan stays in his anger, that place outside of joy, while the father pleads for him to come in.
A verbose historical figure remains, through his own words, alive even when he is dead. But as one reads through John Calvin's own words, one becomes gradually unsure if John Calvin was ever alive even when he was alive. One gets the strange sensation when reading, for example, his explanation of the decretum horribile, that while damning a large chunk of the world to Hell may have been difficult for John Calvin's God, it was rather easy for John Calvin. To read him very long is to find a man who perpetually seemed not so much a stranger in his homeland or at home in a strange land, which are both perfectly Christian discoveries, but rather that saddest of all men: a stranger in a strange land; which is a man who isn’t at home even in himself.
John Calvin’s view of Christianity is like a rather poetic robot’s view of Christianity, or Mr. Spock's view of Christianity. It is a view of Christianity by someone who never fully grasped it, not because he never knew what it meant to be a Christian, but because he never knew what it meant to be a human.
Evolutionary Tenets (or “How to Survive”):
These tenets may or may not be a great way to make a giraffe, but they are a great way to make a monster.
Religious Tenets (or “How to Live”):
These may or may not be a great way to make a giraffe, but they're the only way to make a savior.
Look at Abel. Why is his face like that: contented and joyful? He does not suffer like I. He can’t.
He hasn’t endured what I have endured. This wrenching pain in his back or this hacking cough in his lungs? Or all these sneering looks in his streets? Of course not.
He doesn’t get these constant gripes in his stomach. He doesn’t get a single bug bite. There is no way. I’m sick of his smiling. There is only one reason he can smile like that: existence favors him and not me. It hands him the easier and better life.
So why—years later—alone, brooding and brooding in my murderous heart, does a question float in from the dark edges of my mind: “How is Abel?”
How is Abel?!
I have just annihilated him with my heart. Again today and again yesterday and again for a thousand years! How should I know? Who cares how he is?! Who cares where he is?! Who cares who he is?! I don’t think about him except only to hate him. Why would you ask me that? What about me? That is the only question to ask! I give! I care! But nobody gives to me! Nobody cares about me!
There is no Abel! He is nothing to me! Leave me alone!
1 John 3:11-12
"For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous."
“Making a choice” is when there are two things before you but you only get to choose one. It is the spoiled brat in you who thinks he can have both. It is the Cain in you who thinks he can have both.
At the fork in the road, you can’t continue down both roads at the same time or splits you in two.
You can chose hate or love. Not both. You cannot both hate your enemy and love yourself at the same time. Why? Because they are both you.
You cannot both nurse your resentment for life’s rejection and enjoy peace in its acceptance at the same time.
You cannot both nurse your resentment for God's rejection and enjoy peace in His acceptance at the same time.
What do you do when God rejects you?
I don't know. I guess you'll make your choice.
It took me a long time to figure this out, but I chose Him anyway.
Those who mourn and repent will be saved. Those who don’t will be destroyed.
Those who mourn and repent for all the detestable things going on inside the temple will be saved.
The one out of seven—the writer—the marker—will mark the foreheads of those who mourn. And they will be spared. The other six are warriors who will pursue and destroy everyone else.
Similar to Cain’s mark, in a way. Tied to Seven and Multiples of seven.
It also connects to Paul’s Road to Damascus/ lightening bolt experience. A question lurks within: Is it a curse or a blessing to be spared? To see. To see your blindness. To be blind. To live knowing of your murderous heart. It is to be Cain. “Why did I live?” It is to be Paul and suddenly know, as if struck in the head with one of Stephen’s stones, of the detestable practices inside your own temple.
It is to be marked in the head with a lightening scar. To be the boy who lived. To be this thing that cannot be killed from the outside. The mark brings with it seven-fold mayhem and seven hoarcruxes of death. The blood soaking in the earth moans and screams in your ears.
What is this mark then?
Is it a mark for life or death?
Both, in a way. The ego, my divine mark, as such, can not be killed from the outside. It may be flattened, squeezed, shattered, shrunk, and kicked; but it cannot be killed. Yet my strange invincibility also chains me to Death; brings death to the world; both the Death I cause and the Death I escape. What to do with this marked thing? This monstrosity of consciousness. Touched by hate, and love and choice. Marked in a place visible to myself in a mirror only. What now? This mark! What to do about it? What now?!
There is only one solution: Death.
Death to the undying ego--death to the undead.
But since the almighty God himself has protected the bearer of this mark, like Job, from outside asphyxiation by Satan, the only possible death left to me is death by oxygenation, conflagration, immolation, and explosion; death by life, death by Christ--a death by my own voluntary choice.
Only by laying down, only in letting go, only by a Way hidden in the pattern of flaming blades swirling over Eden, may the marked one become finally and forever accessible to his Savior—Breaking the chains of death. Bringing Life in the Savior. Bringing life to the world.
What is the mark?
It is a mark for redemption.
I hate these bars.
I hate these chains.
I hate history.
Ok, but why hate? Why hate the thing you stand in the middle of?
Why not love? Or at least accept, which is the same thing since by any standard a good definition of love must include acceptance of a thing despite its limitations?
Bars, chains, and history just are. Limitations simply exist as a reality.
When Paul said—“I am exactly where I am supposed to be. How could I be anywhere else?”--
prison doors opened and chains fell off. This is the way to freedom.
When you hate your history you become the most hateful history.
Just ask the Bolsheviks.
Watch your feelings.
Why? Why does watching help?
It helps you to see your own backside. Your underside. Your blindside. It is so helpful to have an early warning system revealing what is going on beneath what you can see about yourself. It is like having a second mirror to see the very back of you—those parts you never see otherwise. “Huh. I never knew that was showing.”
But, first, even to be asking this question—even to be considering a second mirror— means that you realize you might have a problem.
I can see this now about myself, but the progression for me was that BECAUSE I wasn’t paying attention to feelings, mine or anyone else's (hypocritically, feeling the utmost contempt for feelings), the underworld was brewing with snakes. I was calling forth my own destruction. Actualizing my underworld into Being. What I am trying to say is that because I spoke into my world contempt, blame, frustration, and resentment I was actually reverse terraforming my paradisal Earth into an alien landscape of Mars--making it uninhabitable. And to make it more tragic, specifically, at the time my internal reasoning would be I was showing forth behavior based on justice, rightness, truth, respect, and superior knowledge. (Hear any God in there? Any spirit fruit?) I was actualizing wickedness and destruction behind my own back, in my blindness and ignorance, AND suffering because of it. It wasn’t happening to me (as I continually claimed). I was happening to it!
Those snakes came out of nowhere (the underworld), to bite, to sting, to choke me to death. And they were my snakes, I could see a familiar pattern on their scales. I got what I had been asking for. It was long before I could see it is what I needed--what I "wanted," in the exact sense of what I lacked.
Or another way to say it is I fell though, smacked my face, bloodied my nose, and knocked out my teeth, way at the bottom. Bang! Scraping myself with potsherds.
Thank God! Look up!
“Who am I? Who are you? What is truth? No, no no! After all these years, I don’t seem to know anything. Now, finally I see it. I feel it. Now, finally, I am truly afraid.”
And God says, “Now we are getting somewhere. Now your fear is properly oriented. This is the beginning of wisdom. Obviously. The beginning of wisdom must start at the most terrifying place; a place called: ‘I don’t know anything.’ Where else would it start?
Now, watch. Listen. Be quiet. Do you hear that? It is your heart beating. Isn’t that awesome? You are breathing. The lights are on. Can you hear the hum? The sun rises and it sets. Fog rolls in from the bay. These things happen by forces you don’t understand and relate to you in ways you don’t understand, but are vital to life. Watch your feelings. Here comes your wife. What will she see when she looks at you. What will you be 'full of' that you give off. Let’s try again."
In the hush of night; in the wilderness of Zin I ask:
What is life age-to-age? What is life age-during?
Is it knowing what to do? Is it having a valid plan for the future? Is it a clear grasp of good or bad, right or wrong, power, will, choice, transaction, and relationship? Is it understanding the Plan of Redemption? Understanding how to make it through? Understanding change and rigidity? Understanding that life flows just beneath the surface? Is it knowing the map says the promised land is just over there.
It is obedience. Obedience to an infallible guide precisely outside my fallible understanding. It is the simple obedience to speak. To speak life. Is it really that hard to speak with tongues of flame? To yield my will to another’s, to His, is a life-giving force that opens not only the door barring my way; but every door beyond it; in the same moment winning the battle within and creating peace without. To speak from obedience to what my Father says in my heart is far greater than speaking from myself: rashly wielding my shepherd’s staff; my powerful, but limited understanding—my trusty gift from God.
The water flowed in Zin. I was right. But it wasn’t the joyous replenishment I wanted. The spring somehow throbbed bitterly from its crag. My friends, my strangers, and my children drank quietly from their cups. “Your welcome!” shouted I, leaving them to their empty skins and jars.
That night I watched the unnamed waters as I pulled up stakes to leave. The waters ebbed with my contempt as they drained into the desert, carrying with them the promised land.
What is life age-during?
I travelled far that night through Zin. Yet no matter how far, the thinning line of those distant waters shown red in the fire of my God.
“...because I spake not from myself, but the Father who sent me, He did give me a command, what I may say, and what I may speak, and I have known that His command is life age-during; what therefore, I speak, according to the Father hath said to me, so I speak.”
The mysterious plant at the end of the book of Jonah touches him literally—literarily. It connects to the fragile, fleeting nature of his own existence. The plant is Jonah’s fragile ego growing above his head—this plant he cares so much about. A distinction is being drawn between caring for this fragile I and true caring. My furious mental labor over the lava lamp, ameboid outgrowth of Me requires that I encapsulate and float away from my world and think about what I observe. It is a separate, alone, thinking kind of effort—a brooding, straining, selfish kind of caring. True caring—true effort and labor in God’s cosmos— is a connection; an intertwining of two broken things: my life and my world.
But all I want to do is sit and look at the world—at that great city of Nineveh—as an outside “objective” observer, and not burn while I do it. Yet there I sit in frustration and anger. My head burning. My flimsy, little structure can’t keep up with the heat and the sun. My own mental effort, my own thoughts even burn at the loss of the little relief I have for a moment—that little shade--at the “wrongness” of its leaving—at the exigency of the plant which was there when I woke up and disappeared while I slept.