Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Detriment of Certainty

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...”

Proverbs 23:7

I like to play with words and phrases. A particular one recently popped up in my mind: the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve heard this expression before. It denotes largesse, a generosity to not write off a person or circumstance so quickly. As it rolled around in my spirit, its opposite phrase sprung to life: the detriment of certainty.

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

The old adage goes, “there’s no reality, only perception.” And, indeed, isn’t perception a major element in addiction? Genetics, brain chemistry and predisposition factors aside, aren’t we also altered by our personal view of life?

“... ‘According to your faith be it unto you.’”

Matthew 9:29

Doesn’t this influence us as to whether or not we reach for something external?

Faith, be it positive or negative faith, plays its role in self-fulfilling prophecy. Scripture gives us examples of both persuasions. It’s not to judge someone for their so-called faith failings. Rather, it’s to illuminate the reality of our human condition.

We have the capacity for faith, every single one of us...

“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

Romans 12:3

That, I think, may be the first pit stop to where we get off track. Some of us believe we don’t have “enough” faith, we don’t possess “the right kind” of faith and do not execute our faith “as we’re supposed to.”

But we’re all in faith school. Each of us is on some personal learning curve. Many of us have to unlearn some harmful stuff before we even begin to apply a healthier version of this attribute. ALL of this is messy, sometimes embarrassing and frustrating. And no one gets it exactly perfect.

Yet, “the detriment of certainty” can kick around in our brains, convincing us only the bleak outcome is that bankable sure thing for our health, our recovery and every aspect of our lives and destinies.

“The detriment of certainty,” a/k/a, a negative faith perspective, purports it’s hopeless. Scripture tells us human beings can have their tendency to go to the worst case scenario almost instantly.

“...‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’”

Numbers 13:31

“And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size... We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’”

Numbers 13:32-33

“The detriment of certainty” usually has its favorite words uttered, muttered or thought within our sentences: “can’t,” “won’t,” “should” or “shouldn’t” (take your judge-y, situational pick).

We’re all guilty of possessing negative faith. However, it can be a stepping stone to our educational, spiritual experience as human beings, provided we don’t stop and camp at the disempowering site.

And, even though this may sound like exhausting and frustrating news, it is, indeed, good news for each of us. We don’t have to remain stuck where we are. We can continue the transformation process.

Scripture, likewise, also tackles the more positive approach in what and how we believe. This exists when we choose to operate from “the benefit of the doubt,” of our imperfect faith.

 “...‘Go! As you have believed, so will it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.”

Matthew 8:13

“...‘Take courage, daughter,’ He said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was cured from that very hour.”

Matthew 9:22

We are believing something. It’s ever fluctuating. Sometimes, we’re struggling, especially concerning the myriad of issues surrounding our addictions. Sometimes, we can only wallow in the imaginations which declare we are not “enough” to deserve, practice and live healing.

And, if that is where we find ourselves, Scripture has its healing balm of reassurance to even that “perceived certainty...”

 “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.”

Matthew 12:20

Spirituality is never far away from choice.

“... ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ He asked.

‘Yes, Lord,’ they answered.”

Matthew 9:28

Maybe, getting real, without any pretty red spiritual bows tied on, we are not honestly responding with a “yes.” Maybe our choice is the bleak “no.”

And, to that, I say, even that defined “poor choice” is not beyond the Most High’s reach.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Or, if Shakespeare doesn’t do it for you, how about this?

“But as it is written, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’”

1 Corinthians 2:9

Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse

In a celebrating mood...


Thanks To the People...

Monday, May 14, 2018

One Hundred Years in Hell

 “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

1 Corinthians 14:40

Internet surfer that I am, I recently came across a meme which could be described as a drama queen’s motto:

“I don’t want to be overdramatic. But today felt like a hundred days in hell.”

Yes, within the faith community, it is often agreed eternal torment is some kind of reality, even if it is beyond our finite minds.

Nevertheless, we do ourselves a large disservice to ignore our own self-created and contained versions of this most unpleasant torture. For indeed, even those pious Christian versions of us need to admit something hardly “Christ-like” or flattering. Sometimes we like to create our own little Hells. And then we further enjoy tossing others- and ourselves- INTO them.

This reality can be the adjunct to our addictive natures. Or, more disturbingly, this can be the addiction all on its own.

Let’s begin with, perhaps, the easiest Hell of the three we’ll explore: people.

“Hell is—other people!”
Jean-Paul Sartre, “No Exit

Hell is Others:

This gets right to our blame focal point. In some circles, this person is called “The Patsy” or “The Fall Guy.” Scripturally speaking, he/she is labelled even more succinctly, if not more indirectly, as “The Scapegoat.”

“But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”

Leviticus 16:10

Ah, yes. Where would we be in life, were it not for this wonderful creature? Leviticus has all sorts of thoughts on the scapegoat.

“And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD'S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself.”

Leviticus 16:7- 11

The blame game has been in place for a lon-n-n-n-g time. Scripture points, I guess, to our fundamental human need to affix blame outside of ourselves, in the name of “making things right.”

We may not acquire two bleating goats these days, but it is quite handy to have a person, place or thing in mind which is the “reason” why we are miserable, struggling or not what we deem we should be in life. Pin it on the scapegoat.

Only, upon doing that, cliché reality alert, we avoid accepting any kind of responsibility for OUR contribution to said mess/unhappiness.

What is the familiar principle? Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It doesn’t happen. We can drink our scapegoat beverage all day and still...nothing. We are not victorious; we are not happy. And that scapegoat is still skipping around.

So, perhaps, we ascertain then, we have constructed the wrong Hell to fulfill our lives. And that leaves the door wide open for our next option...

Hell is Our Own Minds:

 “Hell isn't other people. Hell is yourself.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Well, that’s direct. But let’s go one step further...

 “I believe I am in Hell, therefore I am.”
Arthur Rimbaud

Scripture reached that conclusion long before Rimbaud did.

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...”

Proverbs 23:7

Self-fulfilling prophecy (emphasis on “self”), speaks to the resemblance we, indeed, share with our Creator by creating, well, anything. And, unfortunately, I suppose, self-focused Hells are included in that.

Here, we confront our addiction for self-pity. You have it; I have it. We all can wallow and sometimes, that wallowing overtakes us to such a point where, yes, “we feel like Hell.”

But, in all of this “feeling like Hell,” some of us soon find ourselves deviating from this torment to another, more nebulous form. Perhaps we do it because, come on, we get tired of blaming ourselves and believing we are the rightful cause to every agony that ever existed.

So, we look for another, supposedly, less painful form of Hell to be marinate in.

Hell is Vague Other:

And, like the many forms we fill out in life, we eventually check this “other” box option. The amount of confusion, ridiculous desperation and embarrassing shenanigans all ensue as we careen into the clueless unknown of vague Hell and why we feel so bad in it.

Much of it, not surprisingly, hinges on old favorites like jealousy, envy and the promise of happily ever after disorder...

“We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.”
C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters

Or, as scripture puts it...

“...envy is rottenness to the bones.”

Proverbs 14:30

 “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”

James 3:16

And then, sometimes, we just prefer not to answer the Hell all. It’s just this nonspecific, but still, legitimate, torment hounding us. We stall at another unflattering location.

 “A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.”

Job 10:22

It is here where we discover-or avoid- the truth we enjoy a painful dwelling place. This reality, however, does not have our Heavenly Father as the Entity granting us His Power of Attorney. Instead, it’s more like this...

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

John 8:44

If that doesn’t sting, it should, at least, make us squirm in discomfort. I know it comes across as offensive, especially concerning those of us who are nice, well-behaved, good Christian girls and boys out there. I don’t know of too many believers who enjoy being called the devil’s spawn.

But again, scripture cautions our overconfidence...

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

1 Corinthians 10:12

And, if our “Hell is Vague Other” demonstrates one thing, it’s the delusional arrogance which demands our unrealistic expectations be flawlessly and completely met BY that “other.”

(Setting- ourselves- up- for- disappointment- launch- sequence activating in five, four, three...)

“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”

Proverbs 27:20

There’s nothing like the equation, entitlement plus unrealistic demand equals perpetual frustration.

 “What makes earth feel like hell is our expectation that it should feel like heaven.”
Chuck Palahniuk

I’ve often heard the concept that The Most High sends no one to Hell; we, in fact, are the ones to volunteer to go there ourselves.

Again, this emphasizes the geographical place of eternal damnation. And, let’s face it, no human being has a lock on that exact actuality.

But that statement makes much more sense as it applies to our self-created Hells here on earth. WE willingly sign up for any combination of these three types of torment.

That needs to be remembered as, in our self-created Hells, we might be tempted to believe/blame Elohim for “doing this to us.”

Oh, really?

How, then, do we explain The Most High of 1 Corinthians 14:33?

“...not the author of confusion, but of peace...”

Or, The Most High of Numbers 23:19? not a man, that he should lie...”

And, come on, what do we come back with concerning Acts 2:27?

 “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

Are we more interested in worshipping our own miseries instead of the Creator of all?

Are we addicted to our self-made, excuse-endorsing Hells?

Are we so Hell-minded, there is absolutely no room for The Most High to be involved in our lives?

We have to get real with ourselves.

Is the misery we’re experiencing conveniently pinned on some exterior torment designation because we just don’t want to change anything in our lives?

Is our Hell- of any variety- easier than doing the work of facing truth, changing our disordered and addictive patterns and embracing accountability?

Yes, we have an all-loving, all-knowing Creator and Father. That, however, still does change another, just as real, Truth: we are given choice.

 “... I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Deuteronomy 30:19

Are we choosing our Hell, choosing to stay in it for any length of time, all because it’s more desirable than dealing with reality?

We need to answer those questions.

Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse