In dark to
I just had a moment where I thought, “If I’m not a writer, am I anything?” meaning “anything of value.” I have an attachment to being a writer, or being a something, and attaining my idea of life. If I am not a writer, a thinker, an artist, a good father, someone who can control his addictions and his time, someone who can think without worry, who can find what he “should do,” who can understand, who has some unique skill or calling or benefit, who succeeds and is known for it, who doesn’t care about success or praise, who has useful and profound and beautiful thoughts, who hasn’t been found out as a failure in all these things—if I am not these things, am I anything?
But you don’t have to be anything. That’s just the message of those who disbelieve in their own innate and unchangeable value and who share that disbelief with others. Who disbelieve in life itself and have replaced it with what is death itself, the removal of life and the addition of toil, karma, earning, requirement, law, deservance, value by accomplishment, independence—which is just dependence upon things that are not life and cannot win it.
You are loved by your heavenly father; you are loved by God, who is life, who is your life, and you are his. And you are his. You are his. Because he has made you so, and not because he innately needs us, you are his life. He has made himself dependent upon you—not because he needs anything you have but because that’s love. In love, you are dependent upon the object of your love (see George MacDonald’s “Consuming Fire” sermon). Like the father of the prodigal son and of the elder son, you are wanted and chased after by him. You are drawn and taught and welcomed back with eager and open and warm and gratuitous and unbreakable arms.
So, if I am not a writer, I am loved by God, who is Life and whose love is to us life.
If I don’t know and choose the right job, I am loved. If I’m not qualified for any job that promises success or value, according to the unbelieving world, I am loved. If I’m not qualified for any job at all, I am loved. If I choose the wrong job, the wrong fit, the one that I will quit or fail at or leave, I am loved.
It almost makes you want to abandon, to avoid the world and its system of success, to not be led into it, if that were even possible. But your placement isn’t so much to stay in the right system as it is to be wherever God is with you. And he is with you with the rest of those who still need him, wherever they are. Right? “I learn so much, I remember who I am in my poverty (of all the things that are not God but that I feel like I need). Please keep me here.” Is that not “deliver us from temptation?” Is it not asking to be “the poor” in “blessed are the poor?”
Part of me wonders if persons typically associated with success—often persons that started young whatever successful activity they are now vocating—are merely addicts of whatever it is that they do. That is, they have reward circuits that allow them to get in a dark flow for that thing (https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/07/the-machine-zone-this-is-where-you-go-when-you-just-cant-stop-looking-at-pictures-on-facebook/278185/; also Generation Wealth on Amazon Prime Video), that make them keep wanting to come back without end, that disable them from what would be more healthy activities. Maybe not, but if it’s not love, it has to be something like that, yes? I, at least, apart from love, can’t stick to something unless I’m addicted to it, it would seem. I just get bored and then curious about something else.
So I’m being reminded that the result of salvation is love and that loving is what I’m called to do. Loving. It’s the godly and essentially life-giving equivalent of “Here’s more money than you can imagine. Go spend it freely.” “Here’s the answer to death, itself. Go do it as much as you want.” I mean come on. We could be commanded to do worse things, yes? Anyways, I remembered that my big push to write was “writing is a good way for you to love.” I’ve been having some issues with my lack of motivation to do good. But it’s because of a lack of love. And that of course starts with knowing that I’m loved. So, you’re loved, and if you write or don’t, the reason for it, whatever it is, is love.
Kinda scary that to the degree that I’m godly I can do the thing(s) that I want to do most when I’m ungodly. Talk about a brilliant and devious temptation.
And one final thing. Had the thought this morning that I wonder if the toil promised to Adam was more of a blessing than a curse. It’s the toil that teaches him he needs God. It’s lack of toil (i.e., success, abundance, security) that poisons us with the lie that we need nothing and nobody.
We’ve fallen in a well, not the high seas. These aren’t carracks and caravels but the lashed-together collections of bodies, bobbing us about in the darkness. And if there’s a rope out, it’s not the sailor but the bobbing body that’s more apt to put his hand to it.
Give us this day our daily bread.
I was taught that this refers to what we need to learn. But isn’t it what we need in order to live? Not bread alone but every word of God’s, and Christ, himself, fully embodying and revealing that Word. But surely this also includes
wait for it
Sustenance, air, water, clothing, friends and family: whatever we need, as determined by God, just like the birds and the flowers, who don’t have storehouses or barns. At every moment, they depend on God’s provision (or withholding).
How different is modern American security? We idealize careers, we develop our CVs, we invest. All cultures sell their own flavors, but we sell Independence. “Need no one.”
But don’t go off to the woods just yet. Our assumptions need changing. Give us today whatever we need—food, friendship, capacity for love, ability to learn from our mistakes, changed assumptions…
Don’t we depend even in those things that secure us? Investments require stable markets. Careers require healthy minds and bodies. Commutes require that the gravitational forces that keep our tires upon the ground remain constant. We depend upon a sovereign and graceful God, who holds all things together.
And after praying for our bread, do we believe that he’ll give it and that, after the day’s provisions, we can say, “We received what we needed?” Do we depend even for that? Don’t we? Doesn’t Christ provide all things for life and godliness, so that all provision has as its core the death and resurrection of God? And while we were still sinners, did he not already give it?
Indeed he did. Give us this day our daily bread.
God, give us a break, please.
But what you have is better. I’m sorry, but it’s for the better. I’m sorry not because I’m doing it but because I know you won’t like it.
God, send us back to Egypt. We at least had food there.
You have what you need here. In fact, you live not by mere food and shelter but by my very word. What you have is far better!
But we cannot bear the desert!
I don’t expect you to. But through it you will learn that you depend upon me. And you will learn to depend on me.
We find, though, that they lacked the faith for such dependence. Israel would fail. Like all mankind. Like me. Only one would succeed, and that’s why we need him. Christ succeeded, and on him we are dependent. Even when we do not depend upon him, we are dependent upon him. And he is faithful. Such that even when we want to return to Egypt, God keeps us in the wilderness.