It seems to me that our goal in our Christian journey with Christ is to be converted from the world’s thinking to the way God thinks and to rest in his arms totally. We are so enmeshed in the world’s ways that we often don’t see that there is any difference, because we’ve been so well trained in the world’s ways. They are so engrained in us that we hardly ever separate who we are, who we were created to be from what the world tells us we are and who we should be. We rarely separate out how the world thinks from the potential within us to see how God thinks.
Sometimes it is helpful to step out of our traditional way of thinking and entertain religious and spiritual ideas from a new perspective, so that we can grasp how enmeshed we are. In this post I will offer two different ways of thinking about our journeys and our new identities in Christ. I’ll be using metaphors, a more poetic way of thinking than our usual ways. Metaphors surprise and sometimes delight us; mostly they ask us to ponder how this may or not fit what we already believe.
The first metaphor is about the ocean. I’ve read that all the activity in the ocean takes place in the top 15 feet. All the waves, the choppiness, the storm surges are all on the surface. And beneath this surface busyness are long slow currents that seemingly go on forever. Only a tsunami touches these deeper areas of the ocean.
This imagery invites us to view our lives and especially how we think about ourselves in new ways. We might ask: where am I identified? In the surface busyness or in the deeper stuff of my life? Do I know my deeper self, my soul? Do I access its wisdom?
Do I know the slower, deeper arcs of my life? Or am I just caught on the surface? Do I follow God’s Indwelling Spirit to these depths? Do I know what I was created to be? Has God revealed my purpose to me?
The second metaphor comes from a client of mine who was recounting something Eckhart Tolle had said: There is the foreground of life and the background. It’s in the background of life that the “I” of the “I Am” exists. Here again is a reminder that what is in the foreground of life is the world’s ways. And the foreground of life is reflected everywhere we look—in our friends and family, in our schools, in our businesses and play. It is often found in our churches, as well.
What we see and how we think is very much a product of living in this world. That is why studying God’s word and prayer or meditating, that is communing with God, are the two practices that will bring us out of that mindset to thinking more like God thinks.
When we’re so immersed in the world, we’re also identified totally with the world. What studying God’s word and communing with God can do is to disconnect us, bring a separation between who we are in the world and who we are in God so that we can consciously choose where we want to identify. Of course, the only danger in studying the Bible is to only see it through the world’s eyes.
The questions we might pose based on this metaphor are these: Do I rest in the busy foreground of the world or have I stepped back quite a few steps to dis-identify with the world? Am I aware of the world’s thinking in me or am I still a complete product of the world? Do I have the choice to follow the world’s ways or not? Am I disengaged at all from its ways? Do I only see the Bible’s truths with the eyes of the world or am I willing to go the whole way with him to seeing as God sees.
It’s not that we’re supposed to separate ourselves from the world and live like some recluse, but we are to stand with our God in the world: in the world, but not of the world. Then everything changes: we go from looking good in our “good works” to living out our purpose in love; we go from seeming to be humble to actually being humble, just another human being, no better than anyone else. We are humble because we walk on this holy ground before our God. We become transparent, integrated people who are the same on the interior as we are on the outside—nothing hidden anymore.
Whether we identify with the world or with God—not just giving our beliefs lip-service, but in actually living in a deep relationship with God—is crucial, because it determines what we do and how we do it. The world’s ways are self-centered; God’s are God-centered. The world’s ways are defensive, judgmental towards people who are different from us; God’s are not. I could go on listing the differences, but I think that you get the picture.
Are we to be content with the kind of Christianity that gives lip-service to Jesus’ teachings or are we willing to follow the depth of his teachings and become who we were created to be? This is the key question for us: Do we stay with the hypocritical, looking-good-on-the-surface kind of Christianity or will we truly put ourselves in God’s hands and go where he would take us? Are we willing to live the Gospel truths? Are we willing to really walk the way of Jesus?
Jesus was a radical teacher in his times and still is in ours. To get beyond what the world has made of his teachings means we have to step out of the world’s story in order to access the divine truth. It is no small thing to be able to leave the world’s story behind, to grasp the kingdom and the glory of God and to live as he would have us live.
We need to have a deep enough relationship with the Lord that we will allow him to teach us who he is and how he sees us being in the world. When we are attached enough to God, then we begin to grasp the truth. Until then everything we think and perceive comes from the world, even the world’s take on the Gospels.
[An aside about my writing process: I read about the ocean and the activity levels in it years ago. It was last Saturday(Sept. 19th) that my client offered up Tolle’s metaphor of the foreground/background. As I was beginning to work on this post, on Monday the 21st,
I picked up my I-pad and chose a book to read I don’t even remember ordering: Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. Here is a quote from p. 37 of that book illustrating the world’s point of view:
“This is the story man was born to enact, and to depart from it is to resign from the human race itself, is to venture into oblivion.[At least this is how we perceive the world’s story.] Your place is here participating in this story, putting your shoulder to the wheel, and as a reward, being fed. There is no ‘something else.’ To step out of this story is to fall off the edge of the world.”
The author is referring to world’s view of life, the foreground or the surface busyness.
Maybe you can now see how the Holy Spirit informed this essay contrasting the world’s view with God’s. He points me in the right direction, shows me the way, emphasizes his point of view. How does he work in your life?]
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I following the world’s way of thinking or God’s? Can I even see the difference between the two? What would I have to do to differently to live totally on God’s side?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people who live in the world, but not of the world. May we be clear about what belongs to God’s kingdom and what does not. May we rest in his arms.
My book, Thy Kingdom Come! is up on Amazon in both a paperback and a digital version. Look for it under my full name, Patricia Said Adams, or Patricia Adams. There are three parts to the book: I)Jesus’ descriptions of the kingdom of God, II)his teachings about how we get into the kingdom and III)implications for us in all that he taught. Check it out if you’re interested!
Read the whole blog at bythewaters.net or await Monday’s thru Friday’s offerings on FB. I’m on YouTube at By the Waters with Pat Adams and on Twitter at BTWwithPatAdams.