“Let all things be done decently and in order.”
1 Corinthians 14:40
Internet surfer 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 here and now.
Nevertheless, we do ourselves a large disservice to ignore our own self-created and contained versions of this most unpleasant torture. For indeed, if we’re honest with ourselves, even those pious Christian versions of selves, we 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 Others:
This gets right to our blame focal point. In some circles, that person is called “The Patsy” or “The Fall Guy.” Scripturally speaking, this person is labelled even more succinctly, but perhaps, 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.”
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 gets to the heart of it. We have, I guess, a 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 the livelong day and still...nothing. We are not victorious; we are not happy. And that scapegoat is still breathing and skipping around our lives.
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.”
Well, that’s direct, isn’t it? But let’s go one step further...
“I believe I am in Hell, therefore I am.”
Scripture reached that conclusion long before Rimbaud did.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...”
Self-fulfilling prophecy (emphasis on “self”), speaks to the resemblance we, indeed, share with our Creator by creating, well, anything, self-focused hells included.
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 self-hell 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 source of this form of hell we seem to be marinating 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”
C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”
Or, as scripture puts it...
“...envy is rottenness to the bones.”
“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”
And then, sometimes, we just prefer not to answer the hell question...at all. It’s just this nonspecific, but still, legitimate, torment hounding us. We are 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.”
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.”
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 a 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 version of “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.”
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, “Damned”
Chuck Palahniuk, “Damned”
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 remember as, in our self-created Hells, we might be tempted to believe/blame Elohim for “doing this to us.”
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?
“...is 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?
“... I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
Copyright © 2018 by Sheryle Cruse