Our Father in Heaven, whose Spirit counsels us, We unburden ourselves before You. Our sisters stand exposed before the accuser who prowls. Our sisters have renounced the evil deeds of darkness; they have submitted their self-condemnation to Your assessment: “Saint!” Now, what shame must they suffer, who are resting in the Christ? They were once as once we were: adulterers, murderers, idolaters, who offered their own children before our preferred Molechs. But you have washed them and joined them into a Bride for Your Son. So we beg You, Father, to comfort and assure! And though we dare not rebuke a lion, we utter Michael’s prayer before You: “Rebuke the one who lunges to tear this Body!” For we suffer where these daughters do. Shatter the man who acknowledges neither the Body’s smolder nor bruise, that Your mercy might be known as we assuredly celebrate coming Justice. Amen.
It happened, as I regretfully suspected to be unavoidable. I have lost a friend. One who lived within the sphere I imagine to segregate my friends from mere acquaintances. She had helped me experience a wonder of beholding a significance we could not understand, as we contemplated the Lord and his participation in the Triune Godhead. She had protested the dangers of power unto arrogance, which binds into pragmatism a neglect of the oppressed. She had facilitated cooperative theological reflections free of vain rivalries. There was a world of ideas to explore, my first year at Bible College. And, she condescended to help me embark.
She had been abused, spiritually and emotionally. From time to time, I see parents who remind me of how I imagine hers to have been: self-righteous, steadfast in cognitive doctrinal propositions, and concealers of emotional chaos. Something of rage reminds me that I have yet to understand God’s grace toward humanity. But perhaps her experience of hardship attracted her to my case. While I remained of little use to the world, so she had shown compassion. But, the abuses she had experienced may have also precipitated her rejection of Christ. Still, we were friends.
I glimpsed this day’s approach with regret. We disagreed from time to time. But I resisted the day when our divergence of perspective would necessitate an act of distancing. I tried to control the situation again. I concealed my public witness for fear’s relief. But fear still encroached from other sides until more relief accompanied my exposure than secrecy.
Some see this as a moment of demarcation. They say: “Now Benjamin has experienced loss for the sake of Christ. Now he bears his cross!” They are celebratory as though my own hand brings about my participation in the rejection of Christ. They are smug as though my own righteousness is justified. These are the same who protest the oppression they perceive leveled against them and remind us of their right to religious freedom. They have no capacity for intimacy with God in public. Their emotions uphold their own causes. They have no need for God, but many uses for “him.”
They do not comfort me. I reject their words of ignorance. I have lost a friend.
“Will You restore her?”
Let me grieve in peace, or join me in this prayer.
To the King with whom I alluded to an illusion of intimacy now eluded:
Your servant Elijah could claim a zeal for you — you alone.
Your servant Job could claim righteousness — and so the epistemic might of collective friends remains subject to ontological right.
And your own lips could beg that cup to pass on.
But I have abandoned my zeal; I condemn myself; I withdraw my will refusing to conflict with yours, let alone submit to it.
Will you not damn Judas? And why does He wish to be damned? Does he have no fear of God? Will you deliver the traitor, or does this comparison flatter me in another replication of vanity?
This vital distinction between power and the abuse thereof.
God is good and powerful; Satan is powerful and the abuse thereof.
When those seeking justice,
fail to love mercy and walk humbly with their God;
They merge power and the abuse thereof — like Milton’s Satan beholding God
“Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Lord, there’s a powerful influence spreading in the land”
“That is my powerful influence”
Saul’s good intentions could not justify him.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression [such as the abuse of power by the powers that be], you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted [to abuse the powerful but innocent and fail to make this vital distinction].” -Galatians 6:1
Hyde here. Jekyll wasn’t a whole man either. I may be twisted, but he was fake. Not illusory nor ideal — but he was legitimately a lie. I am Narcissus. I am somewhat taken with the mad scientist and Van Gogh I see in myself. My emotions are mesmerizing. And I write much better when my emotions overcome the high walls of my inhibitions.
The women who show me love are beautiful and good and true. And I value them primarily for their beauty. Yet, I’m not shallowly sensual. I’ve always seen their beauty on many levels. It is from their humility, gentleness, and courage that their beauty operates most powerfully. It summons my selfishness into inversion. It calls me out of myself while letting me be myself. It often inspires me to be a better man — but only for a while.
To manipulate, I imitate what is good. In pseudo-humility, I confess through boasts of analytic awareness. Its not hard to overcome denial when everything is plausible. And confession is an intimate act that invites reciprocal self-exposure.
A normative state of compliance assumes the value of every person warrants their equality in relation to insignificant entities such as truth and justice. I am a citizen of that state, so even my enemies tend to like me. My most aggressive acts often pass unnoticed; I secretly celebrate subversion in its most subtle forms; my insubordination is strongest in my compliance. You can’t help but trust me.
Even cynical assassinations of my own character only gain me accolades. Many people are too busy to push against my walls and to recognize the duplicity of my heart. Who want’s to tell the nice guy that he’s what’s wrong with the world?
Blessed are the pure in heart, but I’m both frigid and loose. This is where I Hyde.
My premise in brief:
Prostitution of our depravity
exhausts authenticity, tolerance, and empathy,
fostering longings for justice and truth,
goodness and beauty.
So my depravity, I prostitute
that you may despair of your precious virtues.
Poem 1: Usurper Acid am I Not agent of grace Rejecting the gifts provided Supporter am I Concerns do I raise To temper your initiatives Corrosive-laced sweet I pass lips in peace Compliantly, I kill my masters Poem 2: Arrogant I'll earn it, I don't say I know I've received grace But I'll carrot myself with receipt Till my ways are higher My own feet to the fire And Christ's desire for me is misplaced That's it! I now exclaim New techniques I explain: His love will certainly claim my heart But control I retain (or frigid I remain) His love is a two-lane And I will not release my own part.
Can you taste bile? Or does this arrogant usurper evoke your precious virtues? Authenticity, tolerance, and empathy bind human horrors to one another. Let us long for something more beautiful before we are damned together.
Instead, long for justice and truth, goodness and beauty.
Lord have mercy
from the place of your faithfulness!
But don’t let us think You are compromising
like a pragmatic politician saying “this for that”
or a free-market trader
thriving on the shared glory of collaboration.
Au Contraire: “in You there is no darkness.”
The State cannot correct the Church through coercion [threats or force] but only through demonstration of a better submission to Christ. Then, the Church, in recognition of Her shepherd’s voice, should follow.
But should “[the church] do wrong, [it should] be afraid, for [the state government ] does not bear the sword in vain.” (Romans 13:4).
Paul, the author of Romans, lived and died fully aware of an empire’s capacity for both order and tyranny. He saw their power and influence; he saw them through their prison bars on multiple occasions. He would eventually see their reflections in an executioner’s flashing sword.
He did not endorse the abuse of power or authority when he said: “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Rom. 13:2). Thus, sometimes, the Christian engages in obedient resistance to the authority God has appointed.
Two applications come to mind.
- When the state demonstrates a better submission to Christ through “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father,” the Sheep hear their Shepherd’s voice and obey Him by visiting “orphans and widows in their affliction.” Hopefully, their familiarity with God’s written word inspires the sheep also to “keep [themselves] unstained from the world,” as they creatively discover better ways to serve and disciple the orphans and widows among their neighbors. (James 1:27)
- When sexual abuse happens among the members of the Church, the incident is reported to the governing authorities and the survivor is shown the small, informed community’s regret. They are never abandoned to grief but always accompanied in mourning, so that the survivor is never alone in his or her suffering loss. Later, the Church can respond to the criminal’s repentance with forgiveness, examination, correction, instruction in righteousness and the possibility of eventual reconciliation. Perhaps if the survivor consents, the offender may even rejoin the assembly.
May the Church be eager to hear its Shepherd’s voice and willing to resist what God has appointed where obedience demands it.
The simplest distinction my mind can reason is this: I should care for people rather than caring for how people evaluate me. But, my ears cannot hear this distinction. All I hear is “you shouldn’t care about people.” So, I take a second look, and my second look carries emotional polemics: “he’s an individualist and doesn’t care about the community,” “he’s self-sufficient and doesn’t think he needs anyone,” or “he’s indifferent to those he tramples over.” These polemics identify the “healthy” person as arrogant and selfish.
I haven’t stopped “caring for people” yet. I imagine that it must look like cussing someone out. It must look like abandoning my friends. It must look like identifying a goal and destroying anyone who restrains or resists my efforts. But, my mind can reason a simple distinction which my ears cannot hear: “stop caring about their evaluation of you.”
Unfortunately, we are not the merely cognitive creatures, as we relate ourselves to be. Relationships are interactive: giving and receiving, asking and answering, talking and listening, offending and suffering offense. I may have the cognitive insight necessary to change a mere mind. But I do not have the relationship necessary to experience change.
I will never be the assertive man who ignores his wife. I will never be the rugged cowboy who proclaims the self-sufficiency of a self-made man. And for now, I remain, the generous person who blindly denies his selfishness.
Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner, unable to please the Father without faith. The pendulum of morality swings wide in rejection of evil, so that the perpetrators are shamed and I join them in a new way. But you never rejected sin in pursuit of pleasure. No. You rejected sin out of a long, suffering obedience. But I still want to be a good person more than I want to be united to You.
I don’t mind being this vulnerable. Pseudo-virtues can be perverted. Voluntary vulnerability retains control and does not encroach on what is denied. So applaud me. I’m accustom to it. Or, if you want to help, pray in alignment with Hebrews 4:13: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
I placed the dusty light-toned smarties across my daily schedule. It may not have been the most sanitary. It may have been covered in pencil lead. But I had a system. And I was self-controlled. My flesh had not yet morphed into the indulgent form in which it now groans. But my sin nature had already plotted. It had big plans in this little boy.
Bathroom stuff done. Check.
Spelling done. Check.
Math was difficult. Worth about 3 smarties. Check.
So was grammar — and science. But I loved reading and history.
I’d pop the smarties to reward myself. And, yes, sometimes home-school students can finish their work by lunch. Afternoons in the sunshine entertained my little self playing soldier among our trees. I had a system. It worked for me. Me, my hope, and I.
It didn’t work for others. They lacked discipline. They indulged now. I knew a secret to productivity.
But it faded. School got hard. I realized that I couldn’t be satisfied pleasing merely myself academically. I had to exceed the expectations of others. Each paper I wrote had to be a masterpiece. And they never were. I tended to turn them in dissatisfied, fearful that they were inadequate. My grades weren’t good enough to persuade me otherwise. I just logged a lot of hours in my perfectionism. So, I lost my reward system. It no longer worked for me, my hope, and I.
But part of my thinking persisted: some tasks we face are more enjoyable than others. The opportunity to do the more important (and sometimes unpleasant) task replaced my smarties, but I was still my own motivator.
I became a deadline-dependent student; I worked until the opportunity passed.
If I did less than my best, I might be condemned.
If I did my best, I was justified.
If I tried my hardest, I excused myself.
Still a perfectionist, during college, failure started to bring relief. I could burnout and persist anyway. But when I failed, I could rest. And even last week, failure brought relief to me, my hope, and I.
I was my own hope. My own rewarder. My own unsatisfied judge.
But, once, I installed a piece of vinyl siding as though working for God, and not for men. Then I forgot about it and returned to college. “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence inspired me because this monk would wash dishes to the glory of God, and bend down to pick something up in the same way.
I can no longer be my own hope. Even my own comfort disappoints me. It’s not worth fighting for. I can still be me, but not alone, nor to serve myself.
My repentance is:
Lord, because You decide what my most important task is, I will stop using it to reward myself for accomplishing all the little jobs that distract me from obedience. And I will obey you first, come what may with the rest.
And my prayer is:
Almighty Father, your glory is matchless. Please strengthen me to worship You. And , through the Spirit, deliver me from this particular evil, as surely as, in Christ, you have delivered me from evil ultimately.
A Prayer for the Saints in a time of turmoil:
God, give me a way to walk, that I might walk in it!
Hindsight is now vague! Status quo remains.
Baby/Refugee: persons died today.
But, where is Your way? God, where is your way?
Christ, give me a way to walk, that I might walk in it!
Lazy “at church” people, each on the world’s worn paths.
Liberals, Conservatives, justifying their tasks.
Concerning your answers, the Bride forgot to ask.
Spirit give me a way to walk, that I might walk in it!
My troubled soul to true peace and quiet rest, Spirit Counsel me
My eager heart to wisdom and insight, Spirit Counsel me
My passive hands to loving action, Spirit Counsel me
Holy Triune God, give me a way to walk, that I might walk in it!