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In re de somnium (The dream of Reality)

We’ve all said something like this: “They are their own worst enemy.”

What motivates us to make this kind of observation?  Usually it’s due to individuals who seem to be captive of their own weaknesses which they either cannot see or cannot overcome.

Yet even while we may shake our heads as we walk away from someone who should have known when to stop talking, we must always keep this in mind: we are no different than they are.  There are times in everyone’s life when we are simply unable to determine where we are or what we’re doing.

No matter how aware we believe ourselves to be, no matter how we may even pride ourselves on our ability to understand the consequences of our actions, time and again we demonstrate our inability to often see what is proverbially directly in front of us.  It is almost as if our brains seem to work against our efforts to interpret our circumstances.

There is an old Chinese proverb which says, “If you want to understand water, do not ask a fish.”

Here’s the scenario: your wife has sent you upstairs to get a particular cleaner out of the closet (usually due to the fact you had the audacity to appear to be “un-busy” while she is busily “doing something”).  You are familiar with this cleaner; you know what colors the bottle has on it, you even are familiar with the size and shape of the bottle, so off you go to check another victory off your list!

Unfortunately, the cleaner isn’t in the closet.  You looked.  It wasn’t there.  So, you inform your wife that it isn’t in the closet (usually by increasing the volume of your voice so it will reach your wife who is still downstairs).  After mere moments have passed, your wife comes to you.  Of course, you are prepared for your vindication.  You are confident of your situational assessment.  You are prepared to receive your prize (trust me, this is a guy thing).

Reality, in these moments, becomes simultaneously displeasing and disappointing.  Your wife reaches into the closet and turns to you and places the cleaner into your disbelieving hands.  She then goes back downstairs while muttering an esteem-destroying narrative which further weakens one’s grip on one’s man-card….

So, you are standing there with the bottle of cleaner, attempting to process the reality of your ignominy, and you cannot fathom how you could be so wrong!  And judging by the continued muttering of your wife downstairs, neither can she.

If your inability to have seen the cleaning bottle was a physical issue, this would have been referred to as a scotoma, a physical blind spot in one’s vision which makes one unable to see anything in the center of one’s vision.  Yet very few people have a true diagnosed scotoma; while everyone has a blind-spot in their field of vision, few have the debilitative sort.

The reason our “man” example could not see the cleaner was a kind of scotoma, a mental one.  I’ve done this very thing.  The reason we do not see the very object for which we are searching is our minds have given us an image for which we were looking!  If what our “eyes” see does not match our mental image, our brain immediately dismisses what is before us.

We are seeking.  We desire to find a particular object.  Yet because of what we are thinking our brain says it isn’t there!

It happened.  We’re in the water but we don’t know it.

We have become our own worst enemy.

For the believer in Jesus Christ, this should cause us great chagrin and even alarm.  If our minds so readily dismiss the reality in which we live simply because we have the wrong image of reality, how can we know we know?  How can we avoid being our own worst enemy?

In Romans 8:26, the Apostle Paul informs us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (ESV).

Because God created us and because He knows us completely, He has placed His Spirit within everyone who has a relationship with Him through the Son Christ.  One of the most overlooked benefits of the presence of the Spirit in the life of a believer is the Spirit, who is God, knows what we need—and what we should know—better than we do.

Perhaps we should remember the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the 1990 movie Total Recall: “How do we know this isn’t a dream?”

There is great power and strength in our relationship with Christ!  No, this doesn’t mean we must all live in fear of spoiling our relationship with Him because of what we could do.  A few verses after the above reference, Paul adds that nothing in the list he gives “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39 ESV).

So the next time you are looking for something you know you should be able to find, remember the gift God has given us so we can always find Him, we can always know His will and we will never be able to make any decision which will separate us from the love He has given to us in Christ through His sacrifice.

We will have defeated the enemy within us: ourselves.

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Who?

 

Those familiar with American television most likely are also familiar with the television series CSI which appears on the CBS television network.  The show premiered in October 2000 and has enjoyed incredible ratings success ever since.

CSI: The Main Show!

CSI: The Main Show!

One of the most recognizable aspects of the show is its theme song Who Are You performed by The Who, a powerful rock band which formed in London, England in 1964.

The Who circa 1975

The Who circa 1975

The Who, by any measurable standard, is considered one of the quintessential rock bands of the 20th century.  Even using the term quintessential adds to the already loaded measurement of this group.  The Greeks acknowledged there were four essences in their observation of humanity: earth, fire, air and water.  Yet to describe something as possessing a quintessence acknowledges an experience which is beyond our observable senses.  This is a great description of the music of The Who.

The song Who Are You begs the question of comparative meaning of one woman compared to any other.  The singer bemoans his inability to ever again find satisfaction in any other love after such an existential experience.  The song as a whole depicts the devastation left behind in the wake of such immeasurable love.

I realize there are real people (not that Roger Daltrey isn’t real, but we must recognize the song is a performance for an audience) who longingly wish for an experience of love like Daltrey describes.  While the song is directed outwardly (who are you?), it accurately communicates the raw despair we feel as people when we have lost something we did not know we had; when we have not realized the value of the relationship we have been given.

In our culture, our society, living in the world in 2015, the question isn’t really “Who are you?” nearly as much as it is “Who are we?”

Some of you who are perhaps much more introspective may think, “I do not really struggle with this question in my life.”  Yet if we really examine our lives and our lifestyle, we do struggle with who we are!

For the vast majority, we define ourselves through comparison with others things or people.  While we may be suave enough to not directly reference another person, our self-definition is shaped through our desires and interaction with others.  There are many people who define themselves by external things—clothes, cars, houses, jobs and jewelry!  Yet do we really grasp the fact we are defining ourselves by the temporary and the transient rather than the eternal and the permanent?

At no moment in time do we as a people gain an immediate, visceral understanding of our situation than when we are sitting at a funeral.  At that moment we find ourselves struggling with a deep longing for the eternal; we crave, hunger and long for another moment or a touch from the person who has died.  We find ourselves wishing we could have told them again (to reassure ourselves more than the one who has passed) how much we loved them and enjoyed their presence.  All of the “things” in this world become meaningless and worthless because we would trade everything for another brief moment or touch.

It is then we wonder who we really are.  We are sobered by the fact life is so short.  We long for the relationship which at that moment we may have felt we have squandered foolishly.  What is it that gives us value and meaning?  Is it the material goods of this world?  Is it a designer’s name written on our clothes and jewelry?

At that moment when the world has seemingly stopped and we struggle to breathe again, we come to the shocking conclusion it is not reality which gives us meaning but rather relationships!  A person who knew us, who understood our idiosyncrasies and our obsessions, they were familiar with our pettiness and shallowness, yet they extended friendship and love to us anyway.

In that same moment, we struggle with the longing for eternity, for a time without time, where what is begun will never end.  It is in times exactly like these the philosopher and theologian C. S. Lewis observed, “God often whispers during the times of enjoyment, but He shouts through the times of difficulty.”

I realize there may be some who read this and have no concept of the experiences I am describing; yet there are others who have experienced these very same feelings and they continue to resonate in your life.

What gives humanity value is not what we do (pragmatism) nor what we wear or own (mercantilism, commercialism) and it’s not even what we think (philosophy); what gives us value is who we are.

The Bible says we are “made in the image of God.”  Because God has shared some of His characteristics with us, we have value.  God then chose to demonstrate His care for us and our intrinsic value by sending His very Son to give each of us the opportunity to live with Him forever, eternally.

The very thing we long for—eternity and unbroken relationships—is available to us because “God loved this world so very much.”  And for us to realize our true value we merely have to accept the gift He freely gives!