Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spiritual Things

"The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit? "
- Prov. 18:14

I've been struggling for the past month on this last entry, not quite sure of how it should be approached. I guess it's because I'm still in the early stages of putting the principle into practice that I have difficulty molding it into words. I don't feel very qualified to speak on the matter. Like a dog imitating its master, I'm a comical misrepresentation of the truth. Yet, I feel so strongly on the need to address this subject that I can't go another day without trying.

I'll start this thing off right and apologize now. Then maybe you can forgive the hodgepodge of thoughts to which you are about to be subjected should you actually elect to read further. Maybe I'll just put it up for a little while and delete it once I confirm how foolish and ignorant I really am. For what it's worth, I'm sorry. Someday I might figure it out and be able to draw up an addendum. I'll probably just end up arguing with myself. Here goes.

I had a dream last night. Or maybe it was a thought. Or maybe a dream of a thought. I thought I dreamed I had a thought once upon a dream (I hope that isn't copyrighted by any major animation studios. Can't you feel yourself getting excited already? Aren't you motivated to return to whatever you were doing before you started reading this? I know I am.)

I dreamed I was blind. Surrounding me in all directions were the sounds of others in desperate need. I faintly remember an earthquake and the ash of debris suffocating my every breath, but all my thoughts were dominated by the sounds of pain and despair about me. I tried to reach them. I tried to help. I crawled stubbornly over indiscernible masses of concrete, wood, metal, and glass. But every time I felt myself getting close to someone, they fell silent. Like some perverse game of "Marco Polo", I found myself wretchedly stumbling in circles. Lost. Helpless. Everywhere around me, I could hear the cries of those with more dire needs than my own.

It got me thinking. About life. About how we interact with one another. About the absurdity of our efforts. About how we turn simple relationships into a masquerade. How the act of co-existing becomes a carnival of functionless lights and sounds; a purposeless panoply of self-indulgence.

There is more to man than the physical. There is something inside that cries out for recognition. An aspect of personhood dwells within, which is more than the sum of its bodily function. For all the intricacies of the known biological process of thought, we sense that there is more that takes place than the simplistic firing of synapses. Science has yet to fully understand and explain in clear terms the fullness of consciousness. Its shortcomings, however, do not negate the fact that there is more to man. 

How does one attest to that which is intangible when everything by which we evaluate our existence is distinguished through the senses? It is difficult enough existing in this physical realm, providing for the basic needs of survival, let alone deciphering and attending to the person within.

It seems facile to bastardize our spiritual nature by cohering together a lump of fleeting emotions. While easy to describe our nature with love, fear, anger, joy, anxiety, guilt, serenity; it amounts to merely painting the fringes of a portrait. Emotions are not our soul. Emotions are a response of our spirit to outside influences. They have the potential to reflect an aspect of our spiritual nature, but they can also be deceptive and misleading. Evaluating the experience of life simply by emotions makes us subject to the fallacies of our own perception.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" 
- Jer. 17:9

Ideally, if we take the time to discipline ourselves, we can control our emotions. Admittedly, this is profoundly difficult to do. However, the wise amongst us somehow manage to reach that point where they are not subject to their emotions, but rather, their emotions are subject to them. Which then relates emotions as subject to our true selves. Worshiping emotional responses in our lives fails to recognize our true spiritual nature. It is an oversimplification and one we as a society blindly overlook.

Yet, we accept this oversimplification. We focus on how we feel. We seek out ignoble desires. We perceive blindly. We treat each other as though a veil shrouded all our vision. We forget to step into another's shoes and walk their path with them.

The older I get, the more I tend to build layers of protection around myself, sociably attempting to "master" how I present myself to others. Occasionally, this can manifest honestly through sound wisdom and allow for reaching out and connecting with others. More often, we use this ability selfishly to deceive, to hide, to protect ourselves from the discernment of others. Or worse yet, in an attempt to control the perceptions of others. But these deceptions only separate us from one another. It might shelter us from the hurt that can be perpetrated when our closeness to others gets abused. The tradeoff is that it quarantines us from any real fellowship.

The physical and spiritual worlds end up getting separated. What once lived in harmony has the wedge of selfishness and sin driven between them. We prioritize the here and now; what we can control and influence. The spiritual things become hard for us to perceive. They are elusive, hiding amongst a thick fog of our own apprehensions; present but intangible. So we ignore them. We focus on the fog. We do not give credence to that which God calls us, to the attendance of harmony in the merger of the physical with the spiritual. We become blind, aimlessly pursuing desires that can never satisfy the calling of our inner self. 

But we still catch glimpses of the spiritual nature of our souls. We know that there is more to mankind. It is this inner identity that God is attempting to perfect. It is those innermost aspects by which we are defined that the potter is molding into a new creation. Stubbornly, we refuse His touch. We seek out that which is our basest selves and do not pursue the process of peeling away our layers to expose the hidden nature within. How can we destroy the old man and don the new when we surround our true nature with layers of lies that allow us to deny its existence? When we allow ourselves to perpetuate the old way of thinking?

The World is lying to itself. We are lying to ourselves. We project an ownership of reality when we're all just grasping at fragments of a shared dream. There is One who sees all. One who knows the truth of all things. When we are silent enough to allow His Spirit to speak to us, we can glimpse His truth. When we see things through His eyes, we can look past the masquerade and attend to those spiritual things in the fullness of His compassion. To do so we must know Him as we are known by Him. We must love Him as we are loved by Him. We must abide in Him as His Son's purchase allows His Spirit to abide in us. We must fear Him in all His glory and power. We must run to him as little children to our true Father.

Then we must reach out to one another. We can easily attend, especially in the affluence of our nation, to physical things. We can donate to good causes and send out missionaries to do the work on our behalf. But that's not the full extent of what we were called to do. We were called to live in communion with one another. To reach out to one another. To love. To guide. To admonish. To nurture the spirit. To minister to the soul.



Somewhere, there is harmony. Somewhere my physical and spiritual sides stop struggling against one another and focus instead on the things that are meaningful. The purposes that last beyond this life.

© 2011 Seth Alan Jackson