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.
What is the difference between zero and 153?
Zero is darkness. Zero is blindness and nothing. Zero is neither hot nor cold. Zero holds the keys to hell. If we see life as giving us nothing, zero, then we are giving Satan back the keys to the gates of hell; and he gladly opens his dominion in our lives, behind our back, beneath our blindness. We are Polyphemus crying, “Nothing is killing me!”
Jesus says, “You’ve got it all wrong.”
What happens beyond the horizon? We don’t know. Only the sun knows.
What is the purpose of life?
Jesus says, “Loving me is giving. Loving me gives purpose that eternally calls and eternally satisfies.”
The young get what they want—go where they want. Those are brief satisfactions. They end when the goal is attained. So, therefore, that goal, that frame, must constantly be replaced by another goal another frame. It is eternally unsatisfying. “I’m going to get fish.” Wrong goal. Wrong “why.” Wrong frame. Satan just can’t wait to see those empty nets.
I’m sure Peter would ever reflect; maybe even while hanging inverted on his cross; remembering his nets, full to the bursting with 153 fish, as he helped drag them to shore:
Others will always—eternally—be unsatisfied, eternally dirty, hungry, thirsty, sick, hurting, dying. I will help. I will cast my nets the right way and for the right goal. I will stop being young and become old. I will make myself sicker, hungrier, dirtier, and die, because I know better—Christ taught me better—because I know how to satisfy. I know, now, the goal set before me by Christ: ‘Feed my sheep.’
The lamb that willingly sacrifices himself—sacrifices his wants, his goals, exposes his vulnerability— feeds all sheep, and becomes a new, perfect lamb willing to walk to the alter again. It is living. It is sacrifice.
It is the Way, the journey, that satisfies.
There is one in you. Sent to you. He has always been there. Near you. Speaking to you. He is good. He is right. He has been with you since the beginning. He has been trying to show you how to live, how to speak, where to walk, how to see. Through all your endless changes; from the “one cell” of you, to the mass of cells of which make up you now; his face, his voice has been constant—the rock around which you flow. But there is another: an adversary of the one sent by God. He says, “Enough! You are old enough. You are grown enough. You have sufficient strength and knowledge to create yourself in your own image. Worship what you want. ‘Want’ what you want. Follow rules. Even better, have a morality that you can manipulate to your constant advantage over others. Just know that it doesn’t matter anyway. But, if you suffer—when you suffer—when you feel the injustice and unfairness of this world, when you feel betrayed; it is not by me (I’m on YOUR side)...and certainly, it is not you (YOU are not supposed to suffer). It is God and His creation that are to blame.”
What are the works that God requires?
“The work of God is this:
To believe in the one He has sent.”
John 6:28 and 29
“Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.”
A common complaint of my relationship with my wife was that I was never in sync with her. That is how I would say it to myself. If I was up, she was down. If I was down, she was up. Eventually, I realized that our “out of sync”-ness was not only a sign of a very broken relationship—it was a sign of a very broken person. Sadly, darkly, I saw myself for what I was: a man who claimed to follow Christ, but who actively participated in taking his wife’s joy away. If she was feeling positive and enthusiastic about anything, then to the inverse proportion, I became negative and resentful. And, conversely, as her sorrow increased I could not help becoming more positive and contemptuous towards her weaknesses. Then, afterwards, in an ultimate evil move, I would rationalize and justify my behavior to her and to myself. Lies, lies, lies.
I should have been doing the hard work at the right time. I should have been tending God’s creation in a way that makes life flourish (It is after all my world for which he called me to take responsibility). I should have been sharing sorrows, lifting my wife’s burdens, helping in the low times. And then, just as harvest time arrived, sharing in the joys, being enthusiastic for and with her. This is the sign of a redeemed relationship.