False Dichotomy

Photo: shinealight, Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo: shinealight, Flickr via Creative Commons

I’m not sure where or when exactly I picked up the idea that in order to be a spiritual person, in order to follow Jesus, parts of my humanity had to be amputated.

I believed it about my intellect. Somehow I came to believe that asking certain questions, about sexuality or gender or the environment or war, was in itself an act of “the flesh.” God would someday come to show us that all of our intellectual efforts had been for naught, that what seemed foolish to us was really God’s wisdom. After all, His thoughts are higher than ours.

I believed the same thing about my emotions. My desires, affections, passions were all tainted by the smears of sin. I couldn’t trust my intuition or longings as they came from broken places within my soul. After all, the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things.

I believed it about all the “secular” things I loved. Media and story and art and music created by unbelievers carried messages of death and hopelessness, hedonism and godlessness. These were avenues of sin into our lives. After all, the devil comes as an angel of light to deceive even the faithful.

It’s as though we believed that there is this sixth sense through which the Spirit of God would communicate to us. It wouldn’t be through logic or reason or education. And it wouldn’t be through our intuition or passion. The “spirit” of a person was separate from the “soul.” One was of God, the other was the remnant of our sinful nature. One was to be sought (though I never understood how), the other was to be crucified. Daily.

We never asked the question, what does it mean to be redeemed? What does it mean to have the mind of Christ, or to have the fruit of the Spirit grow within us? Can our faculties be changed, purified, transformed? Can I actually love God with my mind, or my heart?

For years I believed that in order to faithfully follow Christ I had to lobotomize my mind and shut down my heart. Eventually the effort became too much, and I gave up. As repressed questions flooded my mind I began to pursue God down all those avenues of inquiry. Amazingly, He was found there. As I allowed all the emotion to bubble to the surface, the hurt and confusion and longing, I realized that what I’d called desperation for the Lord was actually plain old depression. As I pursued healing through counseling and changed thinking, rather than clamoring for more prophetic words from apostolic youth, I found that the heaviness lifted and the face of Christ was visible beyond the haze. I raised the lid on all those sinful hidden joys – “secular” music, art that displayed the human form, fantasy and science fiction. Jesus was waiting to whisper truths to me in the pages and lyrics and brushstrokes in ways I’d never heard in the pages of the Bible.

I’ve found Christ in wholeness, in embracing all the bits and parts and pieces of this human experience. I’ve learned that there are myriad paths to search for Him, and that He’s faithfully found down each one. I’m starting to believe that He doesn’t care how we search for Him; He’s overjoyed that we search at all.

Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite. Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody….For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction. Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing; and let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.

Among the hills, when you sit in the cool shade of the white poplars, sharing the peace and serenity of distant fields and meadows – then let your heart say in silence, “God rests in reason.” And when the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and thunder and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky, – then let your heart say in awe, “God moves in passion.” And since you are a breath in God’s sphere, and a leaf in God’s forest, you too should rest in reason and move in passion.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


1 Comment

  1. Michael Tunis said,

    February 20, 2014 at 8:32 am

    “I’ve learned that there are myriad paths to search for Him, and that He’s faithfully found down each one. I’m starting to believe that He doesn’t care how we search for Him; He’s overjoyed that we search at all.”

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