Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tale of two houses.

The first woman saw an old house, deteriorated and neglected, and began to dream of fully restoring it to its intended condition. 

The second woman looked at an old house, curled her nose, and took to sketching out her dream home.

The first sought to understand the original architecture, the period's wood and stone, the history of the property and those who had used the house before.

The second comparison-priced general contractors, then went shopping for paint colors, sofas and interior design magazines. 

The first worked tirelessly, patiently restoring the interior and exterior of the house in perfect accord with its former self.

The second changed and updated every interior and exterior surface, painting and modernizing in perfect accord with her tastes and the latest trends.

The first was thrilled to see the house returning to itself after so many years.

The second was thrilled to see her plans becoming a reality.

The first woman, after a great many months, made the house everything it was meant to be.

The second woman soon made the house everything she'd always wanted.

Both women's hearts were good.

But only the first house felt loved.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

God if you love me keep saying no.

This past Sunday I spoke on a swath of Mark 11. There were many thoughts I didn't get to, but this one in particular felt important enough to circle back on.

After seeing the fig tree withered from no more than Words, the disciples were understandably impressed. Jesus went on to explain they had the same capacity for great things, despite their not being the faith heroes who occupied Temple ranks. Then he says in v24, 

". . . I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

All historic misapplication and manipulation aside, it's a strange verse.  I've never known anyone who believes Jesus can be taken literally about our ability to, on a faithful whim, toss geography with our will. Especially since he never himself demonstrated these abilities. Yoda force lifted the X-Wing from a swamp to demonstrate the impotence of Luke's faith and that size matters not. Jesus, being non-puppet, wasn't as much into tricks.

Peter Rollins talks about desire and our understanding of "Heaven" being a place where we are changed. As he points out, there is one peculiar exception to the transformation we seem to anticipate for ourselves, and that is the way we desire. As we are transformed into resurrected beings, free from all that shackles us in our current state, our desire as many of us seem to understand, will remain intact.

I've given this much thought and have noticed how prevalent it is within uncriticized thought about the rewards of faith.

Many of us hope to be someday blessedly free of disease, living in something like a mansion in the sky.
We will experience rest from our toils, enjoying endless luxury.
We will have our health and sanity, and every good and sumptuous thing.*

But it's worth considering that, perhaps alongside the end of suffering there might also, or even more so, be a transformation of our desires. That perhaps part of what a heavenly end to suffering might mean is a fundamental change in how we want. With this perspective we could ask: what would our existence be like no longer believing there's more joy to be found in what's represented by "mansions", opulence and endless supply? What if our bodies, minds and even the way we want all transform to such a glorious extent that we would, in that instant of total transformation, find ourselves as having been, all along, in the midst of the very Heaven we thought we had to escape to before? In other words, what if desire resurrects, and on "the other side" the last thing we would ever want is what our current, unressurected desire thinks it wants now? (!)

The alternative, I fear, may be that heaven is a place where our materialism, excessiveness and immaturity are forever rewarded. I wouldn't be the first to, after a moment's thought, recognize that might be Hell after a few weeks there.

". . . I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

To what "you" is Christ referring? To which "you" is Christ making this promise? The one that becomes anxious when he doesn't get what he wants, even though he doesn't know why he wants it? The one that can't see the whole picture and still has the urge to defend what he knows to be his own broken perspectives on "how things ought to be"? The child who thinks the things it desires are its source of life?

Or does Christ speak to a version of me still not realized. A yet-to-be-born version of me, one that will someday know peace fully, one whose inner wars will have been resolved and therefore no one will be blamed or be given a shred of power over my own joy. One that desires little, for contentment has taken over.

It pains me to say it, but I hope Christ doesn't say yes much to my prayers. Even when I really mean it. Not for a long, long time to come, anyway.

*You may recall a decade back the Islamic Jihadists reportedly believing martyrdom would get them 72 virgins in paradise. This is only slightly different than some Christian conceptions about "what happens to us after we die."