The hardness of the ground, dotted with half-buried pebbles, seems so certain beneath my boots — without give, without doubt, without mercy. As the sun sweetly smacks my cheek and cracks my face open into a smile, that same old toying wind winds its way in one ear and out the other: What if you’re wrong?
I know the Bible says that Jesus was “tempted in every way” common to mankind, yet it’s hard to imagine this one. Was He ever tempted to doubt that His Father existed? Was He ever tempted to forget His origins, His eternal beginnings? It seems common enough, but that’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?
But not so hard for me; I’ve been there. Wasn’t it just yesterday?
Distinction Not Separation
Christianity deals in a lot of abstract ideals. Whether we’re talking about praise as warfare, prayer as power, faith as righteousness, or the inner man being renewed as our outer man perishes — make no mistake: Christianity is a heady faith. “Only believe,” Jesus said (Mark 5:36). And, often, those who’ve learned to salt and slay with these abstract mono-isms oversimplify the spiritual and speak in pharisaical lines between the spirit and the flesh.
Have you noticed the shift in the media-airs recently? (Hang with me. We’ll tie this all together in my abstractly concrete way.) Oh, it’s so familiar… like gaslighting the masses. It’s so great — from a purely sociological standpoint. Worthy of observation in the future textbooks, surely. Suddenly, as if out of thin air, even the ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ are crying foul on all sorts of things that republicans and others have been screaming about for a year already…
We’re tired of the pandemic too, the democrats wane into whining… (As if one can simply decide such things with a virus; you can’t, of course — unless it’s been a charade all along. Oh my. [Real illness; a charade of handling, I mean.])
We made a mistake with Biden, some now admit… (There’s rumors of all sorts of ways they might disappear him out of the way [of approval ratings] floating about now.)
I’ve heard the “legacy media” has even reported one or two things accurately lately… (Well, I am biased; full admission here. Call it ‘expert’ issues if you want, but there’s more evidence in favor of my view — mankind being generally wicked no matter his alphabet soup knowledge — than there is in the terrible, no good, very bad belief that people — and especially smart people — are basically good… Jolly Jupiter just rolled my eyes back down to me; thanks, Jove!)
The useful social abstractions used to sell these former things have lost their usefulness, apparently.
When you refuse an operation and opt for faith and someone still dies, the abstract falls apart like me trying to do a card trick.
When you shun the very idea of divorce and embrace the hard shards of showing mercy and, later, still end up betrayed and divorced, the abstract provides the poison now linked to your body like an I.V. by the embedded shards.
When you choose to rejoice and get your praise on because you think the rapture is coming ANY. SECOND. NOW., and, suddenly, the media be gaslighting you like there will be a tomorrow after all, the abstract begins to disintegrate your faith because YOU. WERE. CERTAIN… weren’t you?
When you dance and praise and shout down the heavens, name and proclaim and declare all that your heart desires to see, and the hard pavement of Monday morning slaps you back down to mortal size the next day, the abstract suddenly looks silly in retrospect; you wonder what you were thinking, really…
The ground is so hard here that it makes a hard thunk under my boots as I wear a circle around our local playground. It seems so sure a foundation — no give, no doubt, no mercy. If I keep walking, it will still be there beneath my feet; if I give up and lay down upon it, it will still be there with me too; if I begrudge it and fly away to the moon, I’ll still never forget the first time I fell hard against it, robbed of air.
I’ve been here before, remember…
If I trace the physical roots of the earth back far enough, I soon encounter the abstract absolute: Nothing exits apart from Him, our Creator.
Am I mud or breath? Rib or spirit?
Are we not both?
Whether within the abstracts of worship or the definite of a hike, God’s world and word does not change. And neither does our bodily connection to eternal things.
By faith we understand that the world has been created by the word of God so that what is seen has not been made out of things that are visible.Hebrews 11:3
But if that which is seen was made from that which is unseen, then that which is unseen is the greater.
Son of God & Son of Man
Too often we let what we see, the hard certainties of our earthly existence, spoil, deny, or distort what God has told us about His kingdom and our being in Him.
…for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’Acts 17:28
Nonetheless, it is true that some take this connection and run violently.
There are differing views on this verse, but I’ve seen enough of spiritually-askew folks to be convinced that it holds a negative connotation (as some suggest). Violent people raid spiritual principles for their own glory and purposes. It makes them a lot of money; it increases their fame. But it is a form of violence against God — is it not?
You cannot separate the physical from the spiritual, though they are distinct from one another. But there is only One Name by which mankind can be saved. That name is Jesus — not spirituality, social justice, signs or wonders, doctrine, safety first, happiness, excellence, peace and affluence, comfortability, a way that seems right to me, the right politics, the right clothing, the right-speak, universal transcendence, government programs, churchianity, the right worldview, your personal pronouns, or by doing as your told (or not).
Only one name: JESUS.
And only one way: FAITH.
The Offspring of God made flesh. Might we say the Spirit clothed in Flesh? The God-man: distinct but not separate — the Son of God and the Son of Man.
Salting the Body
For some time, my own growth was stunted beneath the belief that the physical and spiritual worlds were separate things under the premise of Paul’s talks concerning the flesh and the spirit. That is not how he argued it, but that is how I heard it.
Sounds like a cool New Age-ism to me. They’ll teach you that you’re only a few mindful breaths and held poses away from this meaningful connection. Well, in short, they’ll tell you there are ways other than faith in Jesus to accomplish such body-soul alignments — right? (I know I’m right; I’ve heard their rhetoric.)
Anyone who has been to a chiropractor knows the value of a good alignment.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.Romans 12:1-2
When dealing in abstracts it’s too easy to fall, like a trapeze artist, into the snare of mental ascent. This is made easier by our American lifestyles and freedoms thus far.
If she look the right way, then she’ll know the right things…Jackie Hill Perry, Educated Fool
But the truth is that, as God’s child, in Christ, you are already a new creation. Is this not for your spirit, soul, and body?
By the spirit, you’ve been “seated with Christ in heaven” (Eph. 2:6)…
By the spirit, “your flesh was crucified” (Gal. 5:24)…
By the spirit, your life is “now hidden with Christ” (Col. 3:3)…
If you are in Christ, dear one, you’ve already been re-aligned. If you’re waiting on anything it’s that “reasonable service” part quoted above in Romans 1.
God bless the day I realized that flesh and spirit were distinct but not separated in service unto God! That is the day that I found just as much joy in helping a child with spelling as I did in the spiritual ecstasy of alone time; the same day I discovered as much grace in my eating habits as in my praise habits; the same blessed day that I realized God loved me no less when I stared out of my kitchen window crying tears with the rain than when I was on my knees in prayer, dancing to retro tunes with my children, or dutifully taking lunch to my husband.
Present your bodies… as holy and acceptable gifts upon the altar of faith.
When we deal only in abstracts, we tend to 1) neglect bodily matters such as self-discipline or 2) pretend we have no sin by whitewashing everything.
When we deal only in fleshly affairs, we tend to 1) deny the spiritual and unseen or 2) find ways to abuse the spiritual (and fleshly) for our purposes.
Neither is pretty in the end. Neither is faith in Christ.
Northern air is dry. Insanely dry. I repotted my oxalis and left it by the window this winter, but the dirt was soon as hard as rock and my plant shriveled and died.
I keep interchanging my finger between the wind of social currents and the Word of God to discern what is the season. That air is dry too; it’s like a dead lead. The Word of God is hard, line upon line; sometimes I shrivel and my heart falls as dead when He speaks.
“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to [another] people who will produce the fruit of it. And he who falls on this Stone will be broken to pieces; but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was talking about them.Matthew 21:23-25
You will fall upon this hard earth or fall upon the Stone: either way, there will be pain…
But how much better to be broken and remade by the Master than to declare oneself a king upon this hard, unmerciful earth!
Eleven little baby oxalis shoots now wave their wee tri-folded heads towards the evening sun as it drenches through the west-facing window of my dining room. They weren’t there before; I couldn’t see them beneath the hardened dirt. Still, they rose.
How can something so simple, so fragile, just doing what it was made to do bring me so much joy? I think I love this plant most for its very sensitive alignment towards the sun. No matter which way I turn the pot, the shoots align themselves towards the sun.
No matter which way the world’s affairs turn, we should align ourselves with the Son.
The social current, like the pot, is moot really. We come, we go, as spiritually-driven physical contractions befall the world, up and down — but increasing in intensity and timing. Still, one thing remains: We’ve already sold it all — remember? — to secure that treasure hidden in a field…
Is it abstract or concrete?