Monday, September 14, 2009

An Argument Against Marriage and Family

It almost goes without saying that much of the Christian church today supports the sanctity of marriage. Being a married man, I'd have to say that this is a good thing, and I believe in the most worldly of people can see intrinsic value in the mutual love of one another more than one's self. Marriage can be a beautiful thing, and often depicts a picture of God's love for his people.

But lately, I've been troubled by a trend I see rising in the mainstream American church. The trend has begun to claim that marriage and family are instituted of God. Of course the basis of this claim are on a few verses that are well known. The most frequently cited is:

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
– Genesis 1:28

This verse is typically taken to mean, that we should get married and have a family. But if we strip away any prejudice, tradition or any outside context, we find that this verse is not saying much more than "have sex". The whole notion of an organized family unit, let alone a monogamous marriage is void from this command.

It is hard for me to derive such a command for "family" and "marriage" from this, especially since only six verse previous, we find the same command for animals:

God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth."
– Genesis 1:22

If God's command was to have sex and make babies, well we are doing a bang up job doing this independent of marriage or family (pun intended). While not statistically proven, it is joked that sexually active single persons have more sex than married persons. Does this mean that single people are fulfilling the command of God better than married people? I am not saying this to condone sex outside of marriage, as much as to draw a point: that the command of God in this particular verse, outside of any other moral influence (which all came later chronologically) is to have sex and get pregnant.

Of course this command is not the first time that God tells us to "get it on". But we must realize that the command that we love to keep is not always such a good thing. We find in Genesis 6 that our ability to obey this command was the trigger that caused the flood.

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."

The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
– Genesis 6:1-3, 5-6

We won't delve into the whole "Sons of God" part right now, as that is interesting in and of itself. But we find that people were doing exactly what God had commanded, and even getting married to fulfill this command. If we look at the first verse without prejudice, we find exactly what the Christian church ought to be doing. But in the second part of that verse, we find that God was not at all pleased that they were fulfilling His command that way. I'm not sure why, but we do know that in fulfilling the command to "fill the earth", they some how grieved God.

Of course, God had an idea to get things back to normal by hitting the proverbial reset button with a big flood. Of course after the flood, we see the same command crop up again:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth."
– Genesis 9:1

So if there were ever a command that God seemed to want us to keep, it would have been to be a bit frisky. In fact, this command is woven into our very fabric and culture isn't it? Sex seems to be one of those things that we just cannot shake, no matter how hard we try. Why not? It's because sex is one of the few things that fulfills all levels of Maslow's need hierarchy. Sex feels good, and God designed it that way. Let's give Him a shout of praise!

What bothers me the most about those in the church claiming the preeminent blessing of God on the family, isn't that I disagree with family or marriage in any way. As I stated before, I think that it a beautiful thing that God has a lot to say about. But I do have an issue with making it the basis of our faith. One of my fellow church members had posted this comment on Facebook recently:

"Who is man that he should have the audacity to even try to recreate what God has created according to His perfect will: Marriage and family."

Only a brief survey of scripture begins to show that God has a lot to say about marriage and family, and not all of it is always positive! So who is man to have the audacity to call something God's perfect will that does not have a basis in Scripture? The danger in stating things in these terms is that we completely marginalize entire groups of people such as single mothers, or those who have chosen to stay single as a means of doing the will of God. Through this warped image of God's will, we begin to say "If you are not happily married, then you are not in God's will". In fact, saying such a thing is nothing less than placing God into a box so that we can claim to understand him and worship him. It is nothing less than making for ourselves an idol to worship.

But I have talked a lot about this and have not shown you any verses. I'd like to start by showing you one of the few that I found that truly values marriage.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
– Hebrews 13:4

This verse packs a lot of punch. In it's context, it is telling people a series of values. One of these values is respect for marriage. In other words, if someone is married, don't go fooling around with their spouse. The intended audience is less those in marriage, but rather, those that would strive to interrupt it. But by interrupting it, the focus is very clear, that it involves the sexual focus of the marriage "bed". I doubt the bible is saying that frees you up from intercourse in places other than the bed however. It is making a statement to respect the covenant of marriage. That is something that almost anyone can get behind, for even non-believers, or people from other belief systems value marriage in this way.

The trouble is that this is probably one of the better verses to be found, and even then, is not "ordaining" marriage as God's "perfect will".

The first place I would like to start is in 1 Corinthians 7. Many people point to 1 Corinthians 13 as a basis for love, and by extension marriage. But an interesting thing is that marriage in the bible is often times found in terms of "given in marriage". In other words, it seems, that marriage was a contractual property arrangement between a father and another man. Marriage did not often preclude love or mutual attraction as what we attribute to it today. In fact, it was perfectly kosher for a man to rape another woman, as long as he paid up the "bride price" and married the girl.

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
– Deuteronomy 22:28-29

Does this make marriage out to be a holy act, or something required by law? In this context, marriage is a legal arrangement bound with financial consideration that can never be terminated. In this context, marriage is a required sacrifice, and an unfair one to the woman, I would argue. But we must consider the role of women in marriage in those days which many times were that of property or objects of wealth used to forge alliances.

But back to 1 Corinthians 7. There are a number of verses packed into this one chapter that describe marriage as something more as a concession, or a patch for those who can't control their desires. Paul starts off this chapter with a pretty surprising statement:

Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.
– 1 Corinthians 7:1-2

We continue to learn that marriage is a contractual arrangement or property rights. We see that the husband's body now belongs to the wife, and the wife to her husband. They are bound by these ownership rights to one another:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
– 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

But Paul goes on to underscore what he started to explain. That is that marriage, according to him, is a concession made for those who lack self control and would end up sinning. It is argued that Paul is the mouthpiece of God and we can't discount what he says if we are to also support the inerrancy of the rest of the basis for modern fundamentalist beliefs.

I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am…
– 1 Corinthians 7:6-7

Again, we find that Paul views marriage not as something commanded by God, but by something that just needs to happen as a concession. This is not the encouraging type of thing we would like to hear from the word of God if we hold marriage and family in the utmost.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
– 1 Corinthians 7:8-9

Here again, we see that Paul places a value on not being married, as long as one can control themselves. In this light, Paul continues the theme that marriage is an outlet for passion. To burn with passion in this context would not necessarily be considered sin. As stated previously, to have sex and get pregnant is a command of God, whether or not marriage is involved. So Paul is reiterating that the context for that is marriage.

Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
– 1 Corinthians 7:25-28

Recently I attended a music festival where the one artist had just recently gotten married. She is a well-known Christian artist, and got married to another well-known Christian artist. She read this verse prior to singing a song she wrote about it. The funny thing is that she admitted to reading this verse as a virgin (unmarried woman), and just kind of skipping over it. But now that she is married, she understands what Paul was trying to say. It would require some additional study to determine what the "present crisis" was, but the rest of the verse reads pretty clearly. Marriage creates troubles that ought to be spared if possible. What kind of troubles exactly?

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
– 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

The fact of the matter is that marriage, at it's very core, is something that binds us to the "affairs of this world". In other words, Paul is explicitly stating here that marriage is a worldly concession made to those without a self-control. Indeed, self-control is a fruit of the spirit. Those that marry are concerned about the things of this world and not the Lord's affairs. Marriage, therefore, divides allegiances and places our focus squarely on the cares of this world. Paul's desire, and by extension God's will, is that we could be free from these worldly desires so that we can focus on God's affairs.

While not explicitly about marriage, the book of Galatians extends the teaching in Corinthians.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
– Galatians 5:16-18, 24

So if marriage is purely a human construct designed contain worldly desires, we find that it is not something of the Spirit because that will always be in conflict. In fact, if we are crucified with Christ, we crucify these "passions and desires".

I do not want to harp on 1 Corinthians 7 for too long, but I do want to finish up the chapter. with this verse:

If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.
– 1 Corinthians 7:36-38

What Paul is saying here is that marriage is not a sin. So if marriage is ordained as sacred by God, why would Paul use words to highlight that he is not sinning? Here we find an almost indifference between those that choose marriage over those that do not choose marriage. The last point throws the indifference to the one who remains unmarried however. This is not to be confused as a "command" of God, and Paul makes that very clear through out. But he does want us all to participate in the will of God and that marriage hinders that participation by focusing us on the things of this world.

Of course, to only look at Paul would be a disservice to the rest of the bible. The words of Paul can be weighted based on historical context and the fact that Paul, while one of the most prolific writers in the New Testament, was a flawed human being just like us. Many times I have read Paul and have had a bone or two I'd like to pick with him on some subjects. Most of the time we can dismiss some of these things with historical context. What woman in the ministry has not had an issue with Paul at some point?

But the words of Jesus are timeless and are typically the highlight of modern Christianity. In my bible they are highlighted in red to indicate their importance and life giving power. But there is one verse that Jesus speaks that directly challenges marriage and family as being the perfect will of God:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple."
– Luke 14:26

The words of Jesus here cannot be denied. You cannot have a perfect family and marriage and be a disciple of Jesus at the same time. It just cannot happen. It is like oil and water. In fact, this is the one time that Jesus commands us to hate. So what is God's will then? Is it that we have families and marriages, or become a disciple? Because from Jesus' viewpoint, you cannot have it both ways. Right before Jesus leaves the earth, he commands, or commissions us with a sacred task. If anything is the will of God, surely this would be it:

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…"
– Matthew 28:18-19

So if we are to truly do what Jesus is asking, and make disciples – and if by becoming a disciple of Jesus we must lay down our life and hate our family and our marriage – then what God is asking us to do is nothing less than to teach others how to love God and disown family and spouses. While I like to interpret this verse by replacing "does not" with "is not willing to", that would be adding to the word of God. Jesus is asking us to lay down earthly love to obtain a divine and heavenly love. This is a hard teaching. Jesus' disciples knew that the best option then, was not to marry in the first place, especially when Jesus spoke about the law of Divorce in Matthew 19. If a man can never divorce his wife, then it is better not to marry, the disciples deduced:

The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."
– Matthew 19:10-12

Jesus admits here that it would be hard to not got married, but that if you can accept that word, then you should accept it and not get married. He also speaks about becoming a Eunuch, or sexually inactive, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Would you say that Jesus is advocating marriage in this case? but Jesus reiterates his view on marriage another way:

Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage"
– Luke 20:34-35

Do you want to participate in the resurrection of the dead? Then don't marry. That is precisely what Jesus is saying here. Why? If we correlate this verse with some we found written by Paul, Jesus and also reference Romans chapters 7 and 8, we see an interesting pattern emerging: if you are about the kingdom's work, then you must have your eyes set on the things of heaven and to have your eyes set on the things of heaven means that you cannot be distracted by the things of this world which marriage will constantly remind you of.

I want to remind anyone that has read this far that I am not against marriage and family, but rather that equating them to the will of God is not scriptural. If we look at other places through the bible, we see that God uses imagery of marriage and family to show how he loves us. We may never fully understand the love of God for us, but if we can connect it to ideal earthly permutations of love, then maybe we can get a glimpse. That is why in Song of Solomon we see such wonderful illustrations of love and the romantic longing of one for another. This book was kept in the canonical bible because it can be read as God's love of the church.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
– Song of Solomon 8:6-7

This is the pinnacle of passion in a relationship and one that God has for us. But it must be noted that this passion described in Song of Solomon operates outside the legal context of marriage. Very typically in the New Testament we see daughters being given in marriage or moved around like livestock. Occasional we see someone who really likes someone else. But in this book we something completely different: unbridled passion. But we realize this is no ordinary relationship. It is a new love and a new covenant, but not one based on contracts

We can see that while this young couple is passionate for one another, they are newly wed. Often in this book the beloved is referred to as "my sister, my bride". This level of passion is often times reserved for the teenager and those not tainted by responsibility or jaded by hurt. An informal poll of modern marriage would show that passion is hard to maintain in a long-term relationship. Perhaps God's love for us is a little more new and risque than we would like to think. Perhaps he really wants to sneak up on us at night and steal us away. Perhaps his love is bigger than something that can be contained between two people in a legal contract, but one of true and mutual love. The use of the phrase "my sister, my bride" underscores in the Hebrew the intimate connection between the two. In fact the word "bride" in this context is derived from the word to "make perfect and complete".

Now while we find that this love between two people is good and perfect, sometimes the marriage involved is something of the world. In 1 Samuel we find an instance where David falls in love with one of Saul's daughters.

Now Saul's daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. "I will give her to him," he thought, "so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him." So Saul said to David, "Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law."
– 1 Samuel 18:20-21

So here we can see that marriage can be something that can be used as a weakness to be exploited. Saul knew that marriage has a tendency to take one's eyes off of other things. If David represented the kingdom of God in that time, then marriage could be used as a way of attacking and weakening the kingdom of God that David was to bring about. But in contrast to this, we find that Jesus was brought about by an act of infidelity when David stole Bathsheba from Uriah. In fact, Jesus' lineage can be traced back to both David and Bathsheba on his earthly mother and father's sides.

Now while God periodically encourages us in certain situations to get married, we must understand the context that he places on it. In this verse, the Israelites who were in exiled are encouraged to marry:

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease."
– Jeremiah 29:4-6

This is almost the perfect representation of marriage and family with it's house and white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a dog. But we must remember that God was commanding this to people in exile in a different totally different kingdom. If we are about the kingdom of God and are no longer exiled, does it pertain to us? In the book of Nehemiah, we see a people who are not to find wives for sons in the land of exile, but rather keeping themselves pure as a nation of God.

"We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons."
– Nehemiah 10:30

We see this kind of tension throughout the Old Testament. We find that people marry, and then other's don't marry. We find many arrangements of marriage, but few instances of falling in love. We find families torn apart by strife and others with severe dysfunction. We find couples who love each other when they are old, and others that can't stand each other. What we find in the Old Testament is nothing short of life depicted by the living word of God. But does any of it declare marriage and family as something in God's good and perfect will? I would have to answer, No.

So in closing, I believe we need to be careful not to put words in the mouth of God. I think it's incorrect to suggest that marriage is the pinnacle of a Christian's life when we are obviously called to abandon the things of earth and seek after the things of God. I think that while marriage and family are beautiful and good representations of God's love, that it is not something intended for everyone and according to divorce rates, not a perfect representation of God's love. I believe that in most cases, marriage is used as a crutch or a patch for dealing with fleshly desires that God calls us beyond. Lastly, I believe that marriage can severely hinder our ability to become disciples and to act as agents of the kingdom of God by taking our eyes off of the affairs of God and placing them on the affairs of this world.

In short, I do not find enough substantive evidence in the Word of God to support the marriage and family as the perfect will of God, but rather the imperfect will of man. The bible shows us that we will always be tempted in our pursuit to fulfill the command of God to "fill the earth" and that we are called to uphold rules and regulations to make sure our zeal for that command does not hurt each other in the process. But if we look beyond the rules and regulations, and into the realms of an open heaven, we can see Jesus who is more than what the relationships of this world can offer us.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


So it's been an incredibly long time since I have written here, and for that I do apologize. Life has it's way of throwing twists and turns at us. It just so happens that my poetry blog had taken precedence over my theology blog. In a way, this is telling to some events in my life. Afterall...

Theology attempts to find the answers, theopoetics attempts to find the questions...

That being said, I do occasionally have these thoughts and ideas and beliefs pop up in my head which I have recently been attempting to communicate as poetry. Sometimes this does not work so well! So I am going to actually write here for a change. Try to contain yourselves.

Did you ever have a word jump off the page at you? Something that just grabs you in an odd way? Today, I was reading some web page, and four, simple letters caught my attention. They just jumped off the page like they were in size 72 point font.


What does it mean to be "void"? It is an incredible concept when you think about it. In a programming language, to return a value of "void", it means that "nothing" is returned. There is no chance of anything every being returned from that portion of the program, so don't even try. It's similar to the concept of "NULL" or "NIL" in that it represents absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Null. Nil. Void.

I doubt it's a concept we can really wrap our head around.

And yet, that's exactly how the bible starts out. It starts out letting us first know that God has and is always with us. He made the "beginning", and he was there. But then, right after he got things started, he noticed something. What did God notice? Well, he found himself a little piece of nothing. The bible says that "the earth was formless and void". Empty. There was absolute nothingness. No light, no dark, no gas, liquid or solid. Nothing. Absolutely nada.

Can you see it?

No. You can't, because we can't even fathom a lack of everything. Perhaps a black hole is the closest thing we can get to this in physics.

But the interesting thing is that a story about creation, starts at a unique place... the lack of everything. Out of "nothingness" is how God creates everything around us. Somehow he takes the nothing, and creates at least something out of it. Simple at first, but it's the basis of everything we know... God created light, and dark. That was the beginning. That was the "bang". That was the Genesis. That was the spark that started this whole universe expanding to fill the void. This was the moment in time that began the creation process that lingers even until today.

God still creates you know. He never stopped. The universe is still expanding. The human understanding keeps seeking inward. Babies are still being born and cells keep on reproducing and living. Even the things we don't comprehend keep working and living. The interesting thing isn't that God is still the Creator. The interesting thing is what he creates with. Nothing.

So when God comes to earth in the form of Jesus, he starts doing what is natural to him: reconciling, creating and healing. But what does he start with? Well, just like God, he starts with nothing. He heals those who have faith, those who have emptied themselves of the world and who believe that God can do something amazing. And that's exactly what Jesus does. He heals them with absolutely nothing. He does it through a touch, a word, and some dirt and spit. When people are at the end of their rope, Jesus is there. He fixes the broken, but he fixes it through and with the void.

Void. It's what we should become. If we want to have God in our lives, if we want to see the creative power of God, if we want healings and provision, then we need to reduce ourselves to the point that we become "nothing" and invite God to hover over us, and to make something with us. We must be that void. If we want God to enter our hearts, we must clear out the clutter and the stuff that we have placed in that void, and to invite God into the void. God always fills a void.

So the point I encourage you to reflect upon is becoming the void. We need to empty ourselves completely of ourselves. Some of us are self-righteous. Some of us rely on our abilities. Some of us claim to know God, but are unwilling to lay down our own abilities. Some of us want God in our lives and wonder where he has gone. He is right next to you. He is inside of you, filling up the void.

You want more of God?
Make the void bigger.

But rid of the clutter, and the junk in your heart that prevents you from making a difference.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Lately, I've been on a sort of adventure in life. Since the summer, I've been slowly walking more and more in faith towards a calling. I can't share all the details of the calling in particular here, but everyday I have more and more revealed to me. But throughout this process, I think a lot of people near have started to think that there may be something wrong. They see that I have changed. My passions are different. My motivations more human now, and less personal.

Through this change I started by asking for God to give me His "heart". I found that within a few months, my heart had changed. I found myself caring deeply for others, more deeply than I had in my whole life. As I lived in this new reality, my joy increased, and the more I lived in my "old" life, the less enjoyment I found. I think that this new perspective has changed me.

Then as I began to walk in this new understanding, I took a leap of faith in a trip to South Africa. Before the trip, I prayed that God would give me His "eyes" that I may see what He sees on my trip. As I was there, we traveled to Mozambique and Swaziland. One night in Swaziland at a church meeting in a tent, I saw. I saw a young girl dancing her heart out on the stage. But there was something "different" about that girl, and I knew it wasn't worldly, but I couldn't put my finger on it either. The heart that God had given me reached out to her in spirit.

It wasn't until Pastor Dave, the one man on the trip, got up to speak. He is considered sort of a mini-prophet in that he gives words to people and reveals truths in their lives. He encourages them like a father. So there he was, mid-sermon on a stage in Swaziland when suddenly he knelt down, pointed at this girl, and gave her a word right there in front of everyone. I finally realized that what I've been "seeing" in people, is what God sees. I only lacked the interpretation. So I prayed that God would instruct me on what to do next.

I walked up to the girl afterwards and told her that I noticed her and encouraged her in the word given to her. She broke down in tears and asked "why me? why is this all happening to me?". I told her simply "God sees you". Do we need another reason? It turned out that she had come from the poorest of the poor, and God had been lifting her up to levels of glory in His kingdom. The latest Word of the Lord was that her voice would be heard throughout the world. Wow. Why? Because God saw her through me, and through Dave.

But it wasn't as if I had some super spiritual revelation hit me over the head. It was a slow and steady walk. It was, is, a walk of faith. That is not a magical transformation, it's a natural one. It is a rebirthing. It takes time.

So lately I realized that the heart and eyes of God are great, but without a way to understand what that means, or what to do with those sightings or feelings, it is useless. So lately I have prayed that God would grant me His wisdom.

Wisdom is an interesting thing to pray for. You must realize that if you pray for something, God will bring about the things in your life to challenge you. Once I prayed for compassion, and that same day, God presented me friends from church whose Uncle died and I was called to comfort them. So evidently when you pray for wisdom, God brings situations in front of you that you are a called to respond to. I say respond, because in most we are asked to "judge", but I found quickly that "judging" is not what we are called to do. In the past few weeks, I had many of these situations - situations that I could not possibly decipher on my own with my mortal logic.

So I am excited about this journey, but also scared. I'm scared because I keep praying and keep hearing and seeing the response. But I keep praying that I keep following, that I will not let Jesus out of my sight or try to do this on my own. I know how quickly that can happen and how powerless it really is. I don't know what is around the next bend, or what I will need next from God in prayer, but I just know that experiencing the provision of God, is an amazing experience, and pray that others can experience this as they too walk in faith, and not by sight.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rules and Regulations

I've found myself bucking the system lately.  This system is one comprised of rules and laws and endless stream of tradition.  This system is the "church" as we know it.  This system isn't working.

Within the past few months, I've wanted a deeper walk with God. I've prayed that he give me His heart, and he gave it to me.  I can't walk into a situation and not feel it as God would. I often find myself trying to figure out these feelings, and searching my motives and testing my actions because of the power of this feeling of love.  He has granted my heart to increase in love for those hurting around me. How do I put that in a box?

Then, before I went to South Africa, I prayed that He would grant me His eyes, that I may see people as God see them, and he granted them to me.  I can pick out the lost and hungry and hurting in a room. I can look into their eyes and see their soul and watch their heart cry out. For those of you thinking, this is "BS", I can tell you that this is a terrible burden to bear.  It's like you walk around and see half the people with a sign over their head with what is keeping them from abundant life.  But the sign is very fuzzy and I can't read it without getting really close.

I've discovered that these two gifts of God can easily get me into trouble. So I have prayed for God's wisdom as well. It doesn't help to feel and see, if you don't know what to do!  This was a recent addition, but I believe I am in the transition period of receiving this gift through the journey He has been taking me on.

This past weekend has kicked of that journey in the full.  I won't go into any details, but I've been confronted by one in the ministry about my love and connection with those around me.  In particular, we had a disagreement over how close I should get to those who hurt.  As a backstory, I've been counseling people one-on-one over chat for a while now, and predominately women.  I have also been called to be a father to the fatherless of some of my youth, both girls and boys, but particular girls (most likely due to raw statistics in that area)

The issue that this fellow ministry friend brought up was that I should NEVER be alone with a woman. NEVER drive in the same car alone with them and NEVER talk to them without another person present. I respectfully disagreed with these rules.  The kids I counsel would NEVER trust anyone else with what I have been entrusted with, would NEVER see me as anything but a friend, father and counselor because I and God would not allow it and I would NEVER leave a youth alone if I felt they were endanger.  Quite frankly, I don't think this person has dealt with non-church kids on a level that is required in this day and age.

Now I've been struggling with this whole topic for a while, and honestly, this person's wisdom is good, don't get me wrong. I've actually am trying to get myself out of a place where others could see something happening that isn't that would compromise my ministry.  But here's the thing that I can ABSOLUTELY promise this person... I cannot stand back and watch people hurt.  I can't do it.  I now have the heart and eyes of God and the burden in that is that I see your hurt and their hurt and cannot help but to reach a hand out to heal.  In fact, I really don't care if it looks "good" or not, I don't consider the consequences... I value loving others above making myself look good.

1 Corinthians 10:24
Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

So my focus is to build you up, and to build them up, and more importantly to figure out how to heal you so that the cry of your heart can be comforted.  So yes, I will go out of my way for you, and bring you food and water when you need it.  I will hold the door and ask you how your day was and even offer you a back rub in a public place because "that's what Jesus would do".  Plain and simple.  But yet, my motives are constantly questioned, my relationship with that person constantly reminded. Can this world not see a glimmer of perfect love and think it's something it's not? I tire of that world. I hate that life.

Luke 14:26-17
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Instead, I get a litany of rules and regulation and standards and best practices written by men to control men. I get these recited, page after page, the levitical nature of a church trying to control and to put the power of God in a box. This has bothered me ever since I heard it, not because I disagree with the inherent wisdom (again I'm taking that into consideration) but by the fact that you, the church, are trying to protect others from this love that God has for them. How am I to touch the world when you make me to wear oven mitts just in case I might get burnt? Isn't our God more powerful and mighty than that? I think so.

And so I've been praying that God would answer this and reveal to me some kind of confirmation that I'm not crazy.  This person has recently told me that I need to seek help because evidently this thing welling up within me is not of God.  I am taking this person's advice and working on increasing the number of men of God with whom I communicate, but I still wanted more, I needed to know that my desire to reach out and touch the world one-on-one was not a deception. And of course, God answered.  He does that for me. (Thanks God!)

I was chatting with the husband of one of my friends from camp. He's a pastor out in Pittsburgh and he reassured me on a number of fronts, and provided some ideas on other fronts. But he mentioned a verse about how we shouldn't even produce the "appearance of sin". I wanted to look up that verse so I could read more (it's good advice) and I was doing a keyword search. I think God had a different verse in mind for me this morning:

Colossians 2:20-26
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Bingo. This is what I believe. I take the bible at it's word, and take God at His word.  I can give you other verses that say this in other ways, namely Romans Chapter 8.  We no longer operate under the law, we operate above the law (cue Knight Rider theme song)

The church has lived in fear.  Fear that something bad could happen if we dare to love the world as Jesus intended. We make rules and regulations and boundaries to "protect" ourselves from ourselves and then we worship those rules and judge others on how well the abide by them. I have news for you, church... that's not Christianity, that's something not of God.

In fact, if you really are ready to do the work of the Kingdom,
you better come to terms with an important axiom: 
Love is inherently dangerous

I'm not saying that wisdom is not good, but if it inhibits people from getting the love of God and the good news, then I will use my own wisdom that is granted to me by God.  Why? Because all their rules in the world are not going to stop someone with a sexual immorality problem from not having those thoughts, but the love of Jesus and the power of the Spirit can heal that man or woman COMPLETELY. Of this I am sure because that was the ONLY way that I was cured. And to say otherwise denies the power of God. If that is your religion, than I don't want it. It is powerless and useless and should be thrown away.  But what I seek is relationship with the Living God, the God who has filled me up with Living Water that wants to flow all over the place. So I apologize if you get a little wet from the Super Soaker. Blame God, I'll give you His number.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Learning To Love Perfectly

Lately I've been chatting with lots of people. Well, less chatting and more or less counseling, consoling, and generally giving advice. I tend to pray for these people a lot and carry them in my heart. Typically these are youth who I've come in contact from various venues, but now always youth. But as I communicate with them, I undoubtedly get a word to speak over their situation. Sometimes that word becomes somewhat of a theme that breaks through in lives. So I would like to share this little "epiphany" I had.

We all desire love.
I think this is a generally common principal for all people. I am involved in a lot of social media groups such as Twitter, Twinkle, Facebook, MySpace, and have found that there is a lot of "crying out" for love that occurs. Sometimes it's a single mom just trying to make ends meet and deal with her kids. Maybe its a college student wanting someone to be proud of her. Other times, it's the high school boy wanting to talk to "sexy girls". It's a shame nobody ever taught him how to be a decent guy, I feel kinda bad for those boys. Or it's a high school girl "wanting to chat". These are all calls for love, for affirmation, or for someone just to take an interest in their lives. Everyone one of them is desiring love, and nearly everyone one of them is looking for it in the wrong place.

We are all capable of love.
This is another generally accepted principal as well. Most people invest huge amounts of time into finding love in other people. I observe my youth group. They constantly worry about how they look or smell or act or say to attract the opposite sex. They worry constantly about finding their parent's acceptance or affirmation. It is such a confusing time for most of them. Once again, they try to find their source of love in other people, and those other people constantly let them down. It seems that to our hearts, their is love to be had in people, and yet it seems to be a bait and switch routine. So what is the problem with seeking love in others then?

There is an order to perfect love.
This is the discovery I think I found. We all know that God is love. We also know from Song of Solomon that God chases after us. In fact, the whole body is a love story of a God who is madly in love with His people (aka, the Bride). He transcends into the realm of the physical to be with us and to reconcile us to himself. Whoa. Mindtrip I know. But the most interesting thing while Christ is doing all this impossible stuff is what he says. He is very specific when he gives us the command above every other command.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these. – Mark 12:30-31

We've all heard this command I'm sure. But what I find particularly interesting is that there is an inherent order of operations at play here. I don't think that it is an accident that certain things are given order as represented by the placement of words. I believe that there is truth inthe general concept yes, but also in the way we are to carry out this command. I believe this because the more I see love at play in the real world, the more I see a specific pattern emerging, and that pattern is written down as the spoken words of love Himself, Jesus. Let's take a look.

We have to love God first.
This is the most crucial step, and one that we often times completely forget. We try to fast forward to loving others, and just happen to forget to love God first! This is this first commandment. So before you read verse 31, let's get verse 30 right. What does it mean to love God? I think the vast majority of people think they love God, but I think it's all in their heads. In otherwords, it's an intellectual activity. It's like trying to will yourself to love someone. This doesn't make any sense. It's like being obligated to love someone and just looking for the logic as to why you continue. It's like constantly searching for the reason to love someone. But we find this is backwards.

The verse above is mentioned in three of the four gospels (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27). Each time, the way we are to love God is spelled out in detail. Most importantly we find that we must love God with all of ourselves. We must love God with our heart, soul and mind. We must love God with an order of operations.

With all our heart.
Think about love. Do you remember those days when you were madly in love with someone and it made absolutely no sense? Maybe you know a young person who is in love. The ability to overlook faults, distance and compatibility? The kind of love where you just want to seek after that person? You know what I mean, that person envelops your consciousness to the point that he or she is all you can think about. That person is "in your heart". They consume your heart. The pull on every emotion you have and you live for them. Well guess what... that's our first step in loving God. We need to just fall completely in love with the God who chases after us no matter how many times we screwup. We need to give Him all our heart.

I think it's important to note that we shouldn't try to first rationalize God before we love him. Think about this in the real world. If you are a man and a woman is thinking of loving you, what would you think if she asked how much you made before she married you? Or what if you are a woman and the man asked if you could cook or if the women in your family tend to get fat or ugly. That's not love! Yes, the person has every right to think of these things, but that is trying to invent love with the mind. It is not unconditional. It is love that is being withheld and reserved.

So our first step is something for us to do. It is something for us to risk. How many times have you seen someone in love just act like a fool? Loving God with all our heart is an outward pressing of our emotions towards the object of our desire.

With all our soul.
This is the next step in our process for loving God. What is a soul exactly? It is the part inside of us that communes with another being. We frequently hear about people finding their "soulmates", and that is typically that person with whom you have so much in common, you can nearly read each other's thoughts and finish their sentences. There is such a closeness in a relationship where souls are involved. Do you love God with your whole soul? Do you share His thoughts and desires?

I think for most of us, we never get to that pace of perfect soul bonding with our God. We keep him at a safe and convenient distance, or we take him with us inside of that convenient little box we place him into. Interestingly enough, God will stay far away, or be available in that box because He desires to be as close as we allow Him to be, even though He desires to touch the soul of our being. Our second step is to let God in to a place where we commune with Him on a soul level; where we share His thoughts, see what He sees, and generally can finish His sentences. That is what God desires.

Loving God with all our souls is an internal commune with God. It is a connection that is formed between us and the creator of the universe where we become one. It is something that we cannot explain with our human intellect.

With all our mind.
Most of us live a life where our mind gets in the way. I know I do. I have a saying that I keep for such an occasion. "The greatest chains that bind are within our own mind". But that is because we let the grey matter jiggling in our skulls control our lives by leading with reason and doubt.

When it comes to loving with the mind, it can be a tricky thing. In order to truly love, we need to engage with our mind. We need that intellectual connection with the object of our desire. We need to know for real and for certain that the love is there. But purposefully reserves this form of love until after we have learned to love God with our heart and soul. Why? Because true love is not rational, but once the mind is engaged into a transformed life, it can be a powerful thing.

God doesn't want us to blindly love Him either. My whole life I have been taught to love God. I know a lot of bible verses, and have studied the scripture. I have been to countless sermons and read books on theology. But no matter how much I cram the knowledge of who God is, or try to rationalize God, I was still left short of something. But then somehow I accidently began to experience God and love him with my heart and soul first. I fell madly in love with God for no good reason. But now, my mind is engaged in loving Him. Now, doing His will becomes the only thing in life that truly makes sense. It is an altering experience.

So we must remind ourselves that loving God with our mind is important, but it is third on the order of operations list. If we try to love God with our human intellect, we will never truly experience God. When we love Him first with our heart and soul, and then engage our minds, that's when the really cool stuff happens.

With all our strength.
Strength is mentioned in two of the three gospels, and I figured that it was an important element. Whenever I discuss this topic with some of my youth, I combine mind and strength into a general "body" concept. It seems to me that the body functions on it's own three part system comprised of the mind, mouth and actions. So it's not surprise that strength is mentioned in conjunction with the mind.

One of the verses places strength last, and the other one places it before the mind. I think the order of operations at this point is adaptable for different people. For me, I know it is difficult for me to engage my body in something if it does not first make sense. Others have no problem laboring towards something based on love. But strength is one of those things that finishes our concept of perfect live that is attainable only if we first love God.

To love God with all our strength means to make this love tangible. In other words, loving God is not a simple mental exercise, no! It means getting off our duffs and actually sweating and putting physical labor into that which Christ has called us to. If you are reading this blog post at this point, I have a secret for you. Christ already called you, but its a matter of you responding to His call.

Not only should we make our love for God tangible with sacrificing of our time, talent and bodies to God, but we should do it with perseverance. To use up "all our strength" means doing something until we are exhausted and hungry. Imagine the difference in this world if we could tangible love God.

Wait a second. How can we tangibly love something that is unseen? Good question! Luckily Jesus provides the answer to us, but also the second half od this verse leads neatly towards the "how" part of our love for God.

Love yourself.
Where a lot of Christians get mixed up with this verse is that they "fast forward" to the "love others" part and skip over the important details. We've already covered the fact that we should love God first and foremost. I believe that's because with out loving God, and consequently, receiving that love from Him, we will always be loving others on our own power. This kind of love will not last. We need an eternal and true love that only comes from God.

But the other part that we miss out on in that verse is the "me" aspect. We are to love others "as ourself". This means that the magnitude with which you are capable of loving others is directly correlated with how much we love ourselves! Too often, we Christians, believe that loving ourselves is selfish or prideful, but the bible makes clear that we need to first love ourselves before we can help others. We are only able to love ourselves because God has first loved us. We can only love ourselves once we have irrationally and rationally fallen head over heels for God. At that point, he gives us the ability to love ourselves.

Many of us live lives of unforgiveness, but that unforgiveness is to ourselves! How can we forgive others if we cannot forgive ourselves? How can we convince others of the power of God when we have not allowed that power to change us? This is a huge and important step in loving others. If we are not able to truly love ourselves, then we cannot show perfect love to others because we will constantly be looking to acquire that missing love from others.

So if you are not able to love yourself, you need to look at your love relationship with God. If you have fallen in love with God with your heart, soul, mind and strength - then maybe you need to fall on your knees and repent of everything in your life that keeps you from God. Then, you need to "receive" His love back.

Love others.
Love is an interesting because it increases as you release it. The bible calls on us to love others, in fact, this is the most important thing we can do as Christians. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, expresses that without love, we are nothing. But to get to the place where we can truly love others and obtain that perfect love, we most follow the steps. If we fast forward directly to loving others, we will constantly fail. Why? Simple. We will be looking for love in others and be incapable of loving them in a selfless, unconditional way.

Remember how we are suppose to love God with all our strength and how weird that seems? Well, loving God in a tangible form comes when we are able to love others on this earth with this true and perfect love from heaven.  In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus teaches us that loving the "least of these" is the way that we show love back to God. Fortunately for us in an unfortunate way, there is always a "least of these" category of people on earth.  Once you have fallen madly and deeply in love with God, and then yourself, find these people and pour into them that love until you don't have strength to do it any longer. At that point, God will fill you with His strength. In our weakness, He is made strong.

The love that Christ calls us to is agape. It is selfless. It is unconditional. It is the kind of love that God has for us and it is intense and powerful. There is power in this kind of love. Power to transform lives and to heal wounds.  The other lesser forms of love can come after it, but if we can love each other in this perfect way, we will have an abundance of love - we will have an abundance of life.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Trouble with Transparency

I'm not sure about you, but this New Year has brought with it some exciting changes and challenges in my life.  For starters, I have realized exactly how divergent my two aspects of my life have become.  I realized that what I feel in my heart had become torn from what I think with my mind.  In fact, this separation has been, probably for a good part of my life, the reason why I am viewed as passive aggressive.  I can think quickly and give nice, pat answers to things, but as a decompress that moment, my heart and mind take more time to process.  Suddenly I am faced with the interesting dilemma that what I had said or agreed to do is no longer inline with how I truly feel.

I'm not sure if I'm alone in this department or not.  One thing I know, is that I prayed from my spirit that my heart would be "true".  I've discovered now that this means an alignment of what I feel and how I act.  The trouble is that this is harder to do than it seems!  Sometimes we feel incredibly upset at someone and want to lash out at them.  Do we repress those feelings? Do we simply communicate with our lips what is overflowing in our heart?  What if we hurt people? How do we handle them?

The answer is simple.  To become transparent and live a life of integrity and authenticity.  And while the answer is simple to say or write in a blog post, the living of this simple truth is less than simple.  I want to look at transparency and how it applies to our lives in modernity.

Transparency is a term that our society will fast need to come to grips with.  As the information era progresses, and social networking venues increase, our awareness of each other is multiplied.  Each day, I get updates from good friends form my entire life, as well as cries for help from complete strangers.  I see embarrassing pictures posted and inner secrets shared through song and poetry and blog posts.  I can chat with them in real time from across the global.  I feel like I know these people better than I ever could have in real life.  Sounds like a good thing right?  Well, yes and no...

Last weekend some fellow high school classmates had a mini reunion.  I desperately wanted to go, but had already made other plans.  As I was looking through the pictures of people, I saw a few people tagged in the photos without Facebook accounts.  I friended the girl who posted the pictures and asked her if they had Facebook accounts.  I wanted to contact the one girl since we sang together in chorus and Madrigals.  But my new acquaintance informed me that she does not have a Facebook account because she is a teacher and it is frowned upon in education.

Then I take a look at so many in the younger generations that have no problem living their lives and exposing their deepest most hearts on the web in places like MySpace and Facebook.  Then parents join these social networks and freak out by the content and level of expression their children express.  Even my own wife has had this issue.  She may have a bad day, or have a deep and dark thought which she expresses through Twitter.  Inevitably, her mom (also on Twitter) will call her immediately to see if everything is alright.  The more I witness this interaction, I realize that sharing these things isn't wrong, it's just that our parents are experiencing incredible culture shock.  They have never been witness to this level of transparency.  They have never lived in a society constructed of so many glass walls.

But transparency is the key to living an authentic life of integrity.  So often, the Christian church has been seen as utter hypocrites.  Why?  Because they portray a level of perfection and polish that is most of the time a facade.  We all mess up and are all tempted.  But if we go out and have a little too much to drink and cover that up and look like the perfect church goer on Sunday, are we not a hypocrite?  Our message can only last so long when our heart and actions are not in synch with our beliefs.  Our hearts are not "true".

There are two options to resolve this conflict.  The first would be to stop drinking and live a life of perfection.  Of course we all know that this is just about impossible, if not for drinking but the countless other vices that we all work against like soaring gravity or holding back the hands of time. In fact, the bible pretty much sets us up for this failure. Well, not intentionally, but more or less clarifies the point that we will fail. The law shows us how unworthy and unrighteous we are.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- we are all professional screw-ups.

So what is the alternative?  Simple, it is to live an honest life.  That we try to do what we ought, but not hide that which we naught.  I'm not going to be ashamed of what I've done.  I laugh about it.  I don't condone certain activities.  I tell people where I have messed up and encourage them against traveling the same roads.  We are all in this life together, why can't we simply learn from each other instead of pretending that we have everything together?  I think this is the truth that the younger generation has brought to the wise.

Moving forward, I plan to speak what is in my heart and do what I say.  I have been writing poetry as an attempt to release those inner feelings at the risk of hurting or concerning others. But this is me, and if you are my friend, or if you love me, you need to love all of me.  The polished and perfected parts as well as the rough and tarnished spots.  In all, in shapes who I am as a living, breathing, organic human being and not a plastic doll of a man.  Be prepared to discover all of me, and I hope that you do the same.  Together we can share in our humanity, and learn to become better people in Christ.

Friday, January 9, 2009


It's been a while since I've written on this blog.  This is due partially to the holidays and writing on my other blog - The Deep Forest.  So, apologies to those who have been wondering where all the wonderful content has gone.  Luckily for me, there are about four of you.  So without further ado I bring you a new insight.

For a while now, my friend Fran has been contemplating some deep and philosophical stuff.  Yesterday, all of the questions that float in his head began to coalesce into a substantial outpouring of ideas.  I have to give credit where credit is due, because this blog post originates from contemplating the questions he revealed.  Take a look at the original post, although it is not required reading.

One thing Fran brought up was the notion of the consciousness, soul, identity and the meaning of life.  Yes, these are topics that have befuddled humankind for centuries.  But my friend has this amazing desire to solve these riddles and a pretty good noggin' to make it happen.  As he poured out what was rampaging in his head, he unraveled some truths that I'd like to highlight.

Life is Knowing God
This is an interesting point that he brings up about what life is exactly.  Outside of breathing, eating, and generally consuming resources, what is the measure of a man or woman? How can one say they have truly lived if they take their bodies, memories, belongs and experiences to the grave?  Through works of our hand or our offspring we live on in memory, but very rarely are we remembered as who we truly were.  Fran noted that Jesus defines eternal life as "knowing God".  There are other portions of the scripture such as 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul writes of knowing God face-to-face.

In pondering this paradigm, I came up with an answer to the good 'ol "meaning of life" question.  Are you ready for this? Here it goes...

Life is Learning to Know God
Bear with me here.  We often times wonder why life "has it out" for us.  We have this notion that things should be easier.  We blame God for bad things that happen to us and spend most of our time frustrated with politics or people problems.  But, what if life - defined from the time you are born until the time we die - is simply an incubation period in which we learn to know our Maker deeper.  As we walk through this physical reality, perhaps these forces shape and grow a soul inside of us just as our environment and upbringing shape our body and mind.  This is all for the endgame of doing what we are intended to do... commune with God.

My friend also began to split a human life into various parts.  To simplify, I believe we are comprised of four basic aspects... body, mind, soul and identity.  Fran splits things a little more granular than I do, adding consciousness and memories.  For simplicity's sake, I lump both of them under "mind".  As I evaluated each of these aspects, I realized another truth.

The Soul is the End Product
Our bodies are physical entities made of meat.  I mean, we are 70% water and a few dollars worth of chemicals.  It is a shell that allows us to exist in space and time.  With our body we are able to move around and transcend distances.  We can roam the world in three dimensions.  Thanks to the fourth dimension of time, we have a finite period of time on earth.  Without time, we would have no movement.  Our bodies exist only because of these dimensional limitations.  We would be hopelessly trapped in a bad Star Trek episode.

Our minds also dwell in this time/space matrix.  I can remember what happened yesterday and use that information to "predict" what will happen tomorrow.  I recall people's attitudes and change my actions accordingly, often times with prejudice.  I can share memories of my childhood or recall lessons learned.  In all actuality, or minds act as a way to steady our bodies in an ever changing world.  Sort of like a buffer against the harsh whirlwind of time.  If we did not have memories, consciousness or experiences... our lives would fall apart.  With our minds we remember the past and perceive the future and rarely consider the present, but they allow us to exist in time and space and not be ripped to shreds by it.

Our identity is merely a reflection of how people perceive us at any given time.  Buddahism has the notion that "you can't step in the same river twice".  In otherwords, the river is in a constant state of change.  The only reason it looks the same is because it doesn't move from it's physical boundaries.  We too are in a constant and dynamic state of change.  All of us are flying around the sun at incredible speeds.  We experience new things every day that shapes us.   Our cells are constantly dying and regenerating.  It is only a miracle of God that we retain any semblance of "sameness".  Our identity is just the lingering memory of ourselves as perceived through the eyes of others.

Souls are Precious Pearls
So what is a soul then?  A soul is the end product of the process of living.  As we traverse this physical reality on a temporal plane, relating with God and others, everything around us is changing.  We experience pleasure and pain, sun and rain, hard times and good.  Life is a chaotic, unpredictable state of messiness.  But yet, there is a part of us that stays the same.  There is a part of that we keep and that cannot be altered or taken away.  It grows inside of us but it can't be viewed on an x-ray because it is not physical or temporal.  Our soul is something special.  Our soul is a gem.

Someone asked me if I knew why pearls are different from any other precious stone in the world.  I was at a loss for a response.  They told me that pearls are different because it is the only precious stone that is birthed out of pain from a living thing which must die to give it up.  Ouch.  Think about that for a little.  Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a pearl of great price.  Why did he make such a comparison?  Why did he use a pearl in His metaphor?

I think that the soul of a man or woman is absolutely beautiful.  It is birthed from the pain and the trials in our lives.  It grows in us on top of our weaknesses with the utter desire to know God.  I've seen the beauty of this pearl in the eyes of special people in my life.  I love looking into their eyes.  I can see the hurt and I can see the painful trials, but what I see is beautiful because I know that inside, a soul is forming.  It glows in a swirling opacity of deep crying out to deep.  It is in us desperately striving to commune with other souls, and with ultimately, with God.

Death is Only the Beginning
Lastly, I understood that the soul is the end product of life.  When life ceases, the soul moves on to be with God forever.  This brings new meaning to death because it is the point when the pain ceases, and the jewel is plucked from it's containment shell and set free to be drawn to it's sole desire.

The question I have for you is... what is the desire of your soul?  Are you living your life in a way to grow that soul into a beautiful work of art that has been bought at a great price?  What will the pearl diver see when he or she peers inside?  Will you let your pearl glow to others around you?  Will it's joy dance before the Lord like the smooth finish of a perfect orb?  Will it's desire be to adorn the crown of the King of Glory?