It is one of the great oddities of New Testament scripture that Jesus already knows what the Pharisees are thinking, but is amazed and surprised by what a Canaanite woman or a Roman soldier thinks. One is “ye of little faith!” and the other “ye of great faith!”
Often Jesus is disappointed or angry at man’s unfaithfulness; but he never seems truly surprised, in the sense of being amazed. But God himself will stop in his tracks in utter amazement at a faithful heart.
I thought I wrote something especially fine last week. But it was, and is, nothing compared to my brother’s most marginal note at the farthest edge of his roughest draft. It is only now—so late and so old—reading the writing on the wall through spectacles and impatiently scrawling on my own, I see he sharpened himself in the spirit world, a world filled with angels and demons, saviors and satans, since youth. He trained against Leviathans and behemoths, wielding his sword over the tallest heavens and under the deepest hells; his words honed breaking chains, his wit a thing drenched in fire and blood, both edges of his truth gleaming in the sun. Whereas I walked away from this world at the same age into a world of dollars and cents and molecules and atoms; believing in the smallest things because I believed they could not be split. But they could be split. And it was exactly this splitting of the smallest and falsest truths where all the energy was released; enough to destroy everything or enough, when harnessed, to power chariots of fire.
The desire for proof is not the same as the desire for truth. The desire for proof is actually the opposite of truth.
One’s desire for proof stems from knowing it pleases his intellect without the trouble of needing to believe. But belief is knowing the pleasure of God without needing intellectual proof. Strange as it seems, proof is actually cheating. In demanding truth prove itself true, one willfully cheats on the troublesome test of faith. Intellectually, one would happily prefer knowing the ruby slippers on his feet take him home right at the start rather than go through the trouble of the Wizard of Oz. But that’s a cheat because intellectually knowing how to go home isn’t the same as going home. There is only one way to go home. And the only way to prove it is to believe.
If what most informs (proves/justifies/solidifies) one’s faith in life is what happened or might happen rather than what is happening, then one has buried their head in the sand or is chasing the wind. Never is one’s sail filled with the wind. Never is one with the wind, at once resting and moving.
The good life is something a man doesn’t count on. Rather, he bets on it. Because if a man counts on it, he—in the most essential place—risks nothing. Obviously. Because he has it all figured out. The answers are all known. It has all been arranged and explained. Everyone agrees on the plan, encouraging the simple math. “2+2=4!” A high school diploma plus a college degree plus a 401k equals the good life. Therefore, the counting-on-it man is, quite simply, an accountant. Living by theory, but no great theoretician. Speaking about hypotheses and art and worth, but no originator of hypotheses, art, or anything worthy. Claiming things he never paid for. He parrots and copies. In the game of life this man places no great bet upon the table. He is merely a technician applying the most rigorous science to his faith while keeping the most rigorous faith in his science. His is an existence lacking in wonder or amazement. Where the only surprises are bad ones. When what he counts on doesn’t happen, he will stand in awe of his calculations, but because they are miscalculations, it will be an awful awe. He will become a tale of all the good that never happened.
To put it another way: Anyone counting on the good life as a reward for his sacrifice, nullifies the sacrifice. In essence, there is no real sacrifice to his sacrifice. In its essence, its aroma is foul. Because from his point of view whatever he sacrificed FOR was already his. “See, it’s already written down in my book,” he says tapping the page. “I risked 2, then I risked 2 more. And 2+2=4!”
But this is the opposite of risk. His sacrifices are always bloodless. His life is not a bet, where everything is on the line and he MAY YET win, but rather a safe and secure transaction on an alter loaded with expectations and assumptions and limp second fruits; where the only thing sure to be in short supply is Abel’s pleasure.
If there is no real risk, there is no real life. In reality, if there is no real risk, there is no reality. Because to really live is to risk it all.
On the day a man is born, he is born neither a blank page nor a completed instruction manual, he is born an adventure. It begins on page one with “Once upon a time…” and is followed by page after living page typed today, written a thousand years ago, chiseled ten thousand years ago, spoken ten thousand years from now, and sung forever. “And will he win? Will he love? Will he fall? We he rise? Is it a good one? Is it a good life?” You may ask.
“Don’t count on it." The man smiles. “Bet on it.”
Sacrificial systems stabilize society. Anywhere there have ever been humans this has been true.
But almost as soon as they do, they destabilize, because the system and all within it fall under the spell of a simple but powerful illusion:
Sacrifice must have a reason.
To sacrifice, to give, to do anything, to release energy in any form must have a reason. And the reason is so reasonable. The reason is getting. Not only that, the reason is in itself a getting. Therefore the motive force in the universe for giving energy away is getting. The math is: "If I give, do, say, release x...I'll get y." And the corollary: "I will sacrifice a today"...why? for what reason?..." for the promise of b tomorrow."
In the beginning, this divinely straightforward equation, as clear and simple as the bite of an apple, sits comfortably in the pit of our cosmos propelling existence into the future. But before long, a sacrificial/societal system emerges which exists for one thing: itself, as it consists entirely of individuals who also exist for one thing: themselves. By flawless arithmetic the soul is hollowed in exchange for oneself, and a waste of technological gadgetry is ejected all around. And yet we know as we stumble over enlarging piles of science and circuitry that some vital miscalculation has occurred. Some essential variable has been left out of our chronic transactional machine. And everyone, captivated by the math, yet unaware of its entropic effect, drifts like sediment towards zero.
Inevitably the stable society which, by definition, promises a benevolent future to its inhabitants, grows into a transactional god ninety cubits high. A thing of solid gold demanding each bow down to the sound of its drums and sacrifice if he is to receive its gifts.
But what about the God of reality? The Jesus of “you will always have later, but you will never have right now again.” What about the God whose pleasure descends as light and fire today upon a living alter bloody with faith--which is sacrifice beyond reason? What about the God of spontaneous, simultaneous, and coexistent sufficiency? When the proper sacrifice is made to the God of reality: which is to give pointlessly, give unreasonably, give only for giving itself, give all, and give best, expecting nothing in return—then stability does not abound...love does. And then not merely a stable society manifests, but rather a Promised Land gushing with milk and honey.
Faith is not rational. It is irrational.
Faith is not reasonable. It is unreasonable.
Are you ok with that?
Faith is not “seeing is believing.” Faith is “believing is seeing.”
Faith is not intellect.
Faith is not walking around triumphing over sins you never committed.
Faith is not security. It is not “safety first!” It is not something to hide behind.
Faith is not something you carry. It’s something you swallow.
Faith is making a choice without knowing what comes after. Which is the opposite of control.
The modern Christian man’s delight in a 9 year-old child’s “decision for Christ” and the associated “baptism”—and I claim this, not as theology; nor any other kind of “-ology;” I only claim it as a human being—is a feeling less like delight and more like relief. The relief of something finally finished rather than finally begun. The relief of catching a child just before he tumbles out of the golden arms of paradise into the painful rationality of adulthood, rather than the delight of letting a child go; of watching him fly brightly on his own; plotting his course courageously and with spirit across a jagged landscape. There seems a desperate relief in this strange “decision”—a finality. It reveals something about us, below what we can see. Perhaps, having ourselves forgotten the way back, it is our unconscious, last ditch effort to trap the child in the sinless land. Perhaps, although too frightening to ponder maybe, perhaps we are welcoming him with open arms into the trap in which we ourselves stepped. Or possibly it is a vain, blind, inverted attempt to scrape the last vestiges of golden light into his pocket; maybe one day to find again and gain his way back.
“Enjoy your cake!”
"A warm welcome!"
--In reality, freezing the child before he steps out of the Kingdom of God rather than into it.
All the anxious adults ply the children with axioms written on the ancient door that separates them. Axioms written in runes the adults themselves no longer understand and no longer speak. This door, at which all have gathered yet none understand—the children on one side, the adults on the other— opens upon the broken kingdom of religious rationality, rather than the Kingdom of God. And the parents, the grandparents, the prophets, and the priests lean close, whispering to the children through the door, “Can you hear me? I know you’re in there! I can feel you just about to come out! Do you trust me? You do? Then, just say the words. Did you say the words? You did? Well then, you made it!” And as the children, now “accountable,” step into dusty and fearful arms, the exit from Paradise clangs shut. And the words “NO WAY BACK” glow briefly in the moonlight before fading into inexplicable symbols once again. With strange relief, the family turns and walks away.
When you’re in the zone...
which is the proper mode of being...
which is the mode of Christ’s being...
...the target is huge. The bullseye enlarges to encompass all of you. You suddenly stand at the center of the magical fire. You can’t miss. Shoot.
Do not miss the transition points:
"This is what the Lord said to me:
Go and stand at the all the gates of Jerusalem.
Say to the people, 'Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath Day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath. Keep it holy..."
This is a continuation of a previous thought regarding Christ--he whose life is indescribably described where two lines cross— as the invisible fulcrum on which all things pivot. He IS the Sabbath. He IS the doorway.
Jeremiah is making the connection that the Sabbath is an invisible door.
The Lord warns in Jeremiah: Do not miss the invisible transition points--these Sabbath Doorways. See them. Separate them clearly and with devotion: keep them holy.
This inability to maintain an attentive eye towards the relationship between things—to keep it holy—is a constant mistake committed by those who struggle with God. The unseen relationship between two worlds IS ALSO the doorway between two worlds, two realities, two stages of thought, two paradigms, two levels of consciousness, two lives. These transition points are thresholds. They are not simply a tether between one work week and the next or between outside the city and inside the city; they are an invisible door--a quantum wormhole hidden behind the wardrobe. A rift transporting between what is above and what is below, between heart and mind, intellect and faith, faith and works, emotions and reason, material and spiritual, a part and its whole, and a whole and its parts, and so on… They are a doorway to new and more accurate visions of the many worlds you inhabit. In them and through them you discover which world is greater and which is lesser, which world is outside and which is inside, and which world sits within which. And so God does not take lightly the mistake of ignoring the background in lieu of the foreground, or vice versa, ignoring the foreground for the background. You need to see both. Regularly, rhythmically, cyclically—at the frequency of life, you need to see both. But if you never find the doorway between two worlds, then you are forever trapped in one. So what now? How can you find a door you can’t see? For it is only by seeing the doorway as separate from your current reality—by keeping it holy— that you may truly walk through it.
Jeremiah hints the answer to seeing invisible doors is related to not carrying a load--unburdening, letting go-- as you pass through. You can't bring anything with you. He describes these holy transition points as the Sabbath and the city gates, and commands the people not carry a load on or through them respectively.
He warns! He raises his voice and his fists at the city gates! He warns that your constant resistance—your consistent pushing or pulling in one world—allows these vital thresholds to other worlds to slip past unnoticed. If you push-on through, then you miss the keyhole. If, for example, you never put down your load to crossover from the outer world to the inner, then you will miss the threshold; never even realizing your sandaled foot passed for the briefest of moments through something called an inner world at all. In your constant striding from peak to peak, stepping right over the valleys, you will notice neither the heights at which you walk nor the depths beneath your feet. If everything’s resistance against a load, then the Sabbaths fade away and everyday is Monday. And, then, there really is no change. Jeremiah warns: when you carry a load from outside the city to inside, then no matter which gate you cross, you never really enter it. It is only in unburdening the weight of…of whatever, of “being you,” that you may see between, see how things relate, that you may see clearly the invisible door and walk into the city of God.