By this point you should realize that I am not taking this subject in the direction most people would assume. This is not another Life Coach’s rhetoric on how to land a new career or how to level up your wealth or power. This series is a much deeper exploration of the most desperate aspect of human existence…one’s life or soul.
In our first week we discovered that meaning is mostly missing from people’s life even though it is superimposed upon countless aspects of our existence. We cannot find meaning apart from knowing our true self, our soul, which is transparently grounded in our Maker. The search for self and God cannot be separated and are not distinct from one another. Ontology and theology are almost coextensive.
Last week we discovered that our life has a purpose, but for the most part, we have been misled into thinking that somehow our purpose is the same thing as our vocation. Once again, not knowing who we truly are, but living under the pseudonym given to us by our family, career, religion, or government ultimately leads to disorientation and the loss of self, rather than the perseverance of self and satisfaction in life.
Today we move into the self assessment portion. Do I need to change my life? That’s a loaded question. It’s a question that is usually avoided until a problem arises. Even then, the function of our prideful addiction(s) means that we may only be willing to change just enough to get the pain to subside.
Is anesthetization really our goal? Or should it be healing?
A complete, holistic healing doesn’t usually emerge from superficial tweaks. Usually a major overhaul is required. The dream kitchen only comes at the deconstruction of the one that serves us now and there is usually a period of time without water, power and with much disorder. In life we each come to a threshold whereby we determine if it’s worth the trouble. That decision is likely the biggest one of our lives.
Even if we really like our life, we may still need to change it. In one sense, we must always be working on ourself and striving to smooth out the rough edges. I call that “finish work” or “scheduled maintenance.” That kind of change is reserved for those who have already successfully oriented their life toward True North. These mid-course adjustments are necessary for all of us if we are to keep tracking straight while in the midst of a current which would disorient us.
The change I want to examine is whether our compass is reliable and if we have our life locked on the right coordinates. This is where the world’s largest institutions are all offering their best pitches in hopes of gaining our trust and allegiance. Let’s consider a few of them.
From our birth, our family claims first dibs on who it says we are. Our families shape our identities, values, beliefs, and set us on a trajectory into the world. Family can be our peers and friends, as well as our blood relatives, but it is our introduction into a tribal frame of us versus them. The sentiment behind the institution of family cannot be understated. It is either so good, so big, and so pervasive that it literally overshadows all other aspects of life and demands top priority in our affections. Or it is so bad, so big and so pervasive that it literally overshadows all other aspects of life and captures the top seat in our dis-affections.
Do we need to change our life? If our identity comes from family then our life needs to change. Consider Jesus’ words:
“And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:36-37)
Family is wonderful, important, and to be cherished and celebrated. But if it defines us, if it gives us our identity so that if our family were suddenly gone we would lose ourself, then we must change our life. We must alter course.
The world’s religions are struggling to remain in power. Culturally, there has been an ongoing shift away from mainline religions into a general spirituality. Religion’s main commodity is to give a person a new identity. The ritual and design of each religion is such that we “convert” and begin a new life with a new identity in exchange for our old one. Whether we are Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, or Jew, religion offers a process and lifelong framework within which a person can completely lose themselves forever. Religion teaches this as a good thing and it employs a lot of fear, guilt, and pressure to ensure we don’t question it, argue with it, and to keep our children “safe” within it.
Like the family, Religion functions on the rails of tribal distinction, innies and outies, valid and invalid, right and wrong. Dow we need to change our life? If our identity comes from our religion then our life needs to change. Consider Jesus’s words:
“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12:42-43)
Religion has a place. Every religion at its very best can only be a framework, a container so to speak. A religion is not it’s “contents.” When we over-identify with the container, when we defend, argue, perpetuate, and invalidate we have become lost within religion and would not know who we are if it suddenly ceased to exist. Religion has value so long as it creates proximity to the Contents and does not distract us with the container, but it is rare to find any examples of this and it’s easy to see why. We are lost in the propaganda.
Politics is the new religion. It’s the most popular framework through which our world is being programmed. Both sides of the isle belong to the same beast which pulls on strings which are designed to force us into being named by one side or another. It’s tragic just how lost people are without political propaganda. Most people can barely make it a couple of hours without an inoculation of their tribal feed which in turn summons anger, hatred, and war against people exactly like us.
Do we need to change our life? If our identity if found in the politics of man, then our life needs to change.
“This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:30-32)
These have been just a few of the world’s institutions (principalities and powers) which will seek to give you an identity, a fake ID, or a pseudonym. We may like them, or even love them. We may cherish being named by them, identified with them, or we may even be empowered by them or employed by them. If so, our life is not oriented toward true north and we do not know our true self found in God.
The Gospel is the power which reorients us. It liberates the captive, it opens the prison doors (Isaiah 61, Luke 4:18). The Gospel is not a religion, and the work of the Christ was never to start a new one, despite what may have become of what we now know of Christianity. The Gospel would even deliver a Christian if they have eyes to see. This is not an invitation to convert from or to anything. This is an invitation to complete the work God has started in you, by you placing faith (trust) not in “some-thing” but in “some-one,’ a person, a being, a force, an energy which knows you, created you, and truly loves you. There is more to our present reality.
I have no ritual, no design, no specific path to offer you. That would only be another container to imprison you. I suggest you reorient your compass in faith, and watch how your life transforms.
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34-36)