thy will be done

“Thy Will Be Done”

The statement “Thy will be done” is the overarching and simple representative statement of submission. With this statement, we acknowledge that God is God and we are not, and that God’s way and God’s will are better than mine.

For those who accept, submit to, worship and follow an Ultimate Being or God, it’s a simple enough statement, even if it’s not always easy. For most of us, it would be as simple as pulling out of a match with a Professional Boxer – “OK, you win – I’m out! No need to prove whose stronger here!”

But what about relationships between other humans?

“thy will be done?”

It’s easy to submit to someone you know is going to win. But with human relationships, the question of submission gets very tricky. If my will for a situation seems – to me at least! – to be better, then it’s very tempting to assume that “thy will be done” is a mistake, and instead try to find a way for “my will” to be done. This attitude, insisting on finding a way to ‘win’, is responsible for a great deal – or maybe all – of the chaos on the world.

What about situations where ‘better’ is not, or maybe can’t ever be, known? Do we just take turns getting our way? Do we always ‘meet half way’ so that nobody ever purely has “their will” done? Do I seek to let others have “their will” done more often than mine? Who wants to be a door-mat?

Some of this will inevitably be a matter of conflict resolution, patience, getting to know and trust one another, or doing your best and sorting out any arising problems as best you can. But I think that Christ gives us a compelling model to follow…

“Not my will, but Thine be done.”

In the Garden of Gethsemane, preparing himself for his sacrificial death, even though he carried the knowledge that he would rise again, Jesus asked his Father in prayer for another way. At some real level, Jesus was not looking forward to drinking the cross-shaped cup of suffering that he was destined for.

Crucially, he didn’t just push his will down into his subconscious and skip effortlessly into “Thy will be done.” He had the courage to voice it out. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), each in their own way, depict Jesus as being in an extreme emotional state: “exceedingly sorrowful unto death”, sweating blood-like drops in “agony”. Here Jesus meets humanity at our most desperate. He is with us when we are at the end of ourselves, when things are not going our way, when it is painfully and brutally clear that “our will” is not going to be done.

Jesus is neither a rebel nor a doormat. Like Mary at the annunciation, who has a few questions before she will “let it be”, Jesus adopts a posture that is both assertive and submissive. It is the posture of a Servant.

I don’t know about you, but I know my own passive-aggressive tendencies enough to see how much I need to embody the posture of Jesus.

Lord, help me be assertive and honest about what I want, but give me strength to surrender it in order to do what You want, even when I don’t want to do.

beings that have – or havers that are had

(The excellent documentary that got my brain going down this – excellent or not so excellent – train of thought is ‘Consumed: Inside the Belly of the Beast‘) ((And no, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t notice the parallel language to John the Seer in chapters 17-18 of his Apocalypse!))

Erich Fromm is known in large part for his contrast between the ‘being’ and ‘having’ modes of existence, as expressed in his 1976 book (partial preview here), To Have or To Be?  The basic idea is that humans, having estranged ourselves from our environment or the other(s), try to restore this relationship either by way of some kind of dominating possession (‘having’) of the other, or by way of relating to or existing (‘being’) with the other.

The speculative thought I wanted to explore via blogging (one of blogging’s best uses) is thus: Only ‘beings’ can actually ‘have’; and ‘havers’ are actually ‘had’ by the things they think they ‘have’.

The haver is defined by the act of possession of the other, and is thus enslaved to his desire to have this other.  The being, however, is defined by, not possession, but relationship to other (and self), and is thus free of needing to have the other.

It is worth pausing and considering the many things we can desire to possess – the many things which can thus begin to possess us.  Status.  Wealth.  Comfort.  Knowledge.  Satisfaction.  Power.  Relationships.  Affection.  I reckon all of these things are good things which are nonetheless distorted when we seek to found our being upon having them.  i.e. “I am one who has knowledge, friends, wealth, etc.”

I believe the ultimate Being is the Creator, whose ontological (Gk. ontos = being/existence) status is wholly distinct from, and transcendent of, our world.  The Creator did not need to have a creation ((which would make the Creator contingent upon the creation!!)), but rather simply is a creative Being, and thus a) relates to creation as being the Creator, and b) therefore truly has it.

Thus, we most reflect this ultimate Being when our being is grounded by relationship to the other, rather than established by possession of the other.

the beautiful risk

Just saw a review of a book about relational counselling called ‘The Beautiful Risk: A New Psychology of Loving and Being Loved.”  Some snippets from the review:

The author (James Olthuis) says, “Uncertainties, confusion and paradox are appropriate descriptions for our world at the dawn of our new millennium.  Despite unparalleled growth in almost every area of human endeavor, there has not been parallel growth in our ability to know ourselves and get along with each other.”

One of the chapters is entitled ‘the Central Relational Paradox’, describing the way we disconnect and connect with others in ways that attempt to minimise personal risk.  This book offers a challenge to take the beautiful risk, to be open to vulnerability and growth, and to a deepening of connections at all levels of being.

modesty and attraction

Modesty isn’t (on one hand) wearing body-hiding, beauty-suppressing clothing to prevent even the possibility of someone having any kind of attraction.  Nor, of course, is modesty (on the other hand) wearing body-flaunting, beauty-distorting clothing to ensure every possibility of every kind of attraction.

Modesty and being attractive are not at all at odds with each other.  Proper attraction between two people happens through attractiveness of various kinds – i.e. an attractive personality and attractive attire.  Being attractive in the truest sense is to act, speak, behave and dress in a way that fosters healthy mutuality and relationship with an other.

Prudism is unattractive in the passive/negative sense, because it witholds the whole person from an other.  Exhibitionism (used here to refer to the opposite of prudism) is also unattractive in the active/positive sense, because it forces too much of the person onto an other.

Therefore, the problem with immodesty (whether the immodesty of prudism, or the immodesty of exhibitionism) is not that it is too attractive, but that it is not attractive enough.

on publishing words

technology has changed the way we use words…

if we restrict a quick analysis to the major modes of communication used now (we could include ancient writing, but will not at the moment), we could make some brief observations about the different kinds…

  • journals, encyclopedias and textbooks – characterised by their scholarship, which (lest we forget) is basically interaction with the thought of others.
  • published book (with proper publisher) – a sustained statement (or argument or story), which was likely researched, drafted, revised etc.
  • magazine article (decently respected mag) – a shortened version of a larger argument or conversation – again, research and refinement, etc.
  • newspaper article – an even more condensed piece, yet still some research and refinement needed.
  • website or professional blog – considered statements for whatever purpose – the more refinement the better, etc.
  • personal blog – more off-the-cuff thoughts – “research” = (often) googling
  • Facebook status update – 99.3% of the time, time-wasting, boredom-prolonging nonsense (i.e. i had “this” for dinner, etc.)
  • twitter updates – humanity has gone too far :)  nobody needs to know what you are up to that often

teleology & ethics

The word ‘teleology’ (from Greek τελος ‘telos’ – meaning ‘goal’, ‘end’, ‘purpose’ or ‘that toward which things tend’) is not a street-level term.  However, the concept of a purpose, goal, function or ‘end’ to things most certainly is.  It’s a common as anything.  Teleology is blindingly relevant.

Continue reading “teleology & ethics”

the power and fragility of the imagination

The effects and pervasiveness advertising is a good example of both the power and fragility of the imagination.

We are (almost always subconciously!) actually affected by some hyper-loud voice telling us something in the ad-breaks of whatever TV show we’re watching or by some image we see on a billboard, in a magazine, etc., etc. ad infinitum…  That is how fragile our imaginations are.

And we act, behave, decide, spend-time/money, choose, etc. ‘out of’ our imagination.  We buy ‘this’ or ‘that’ product based (often) on nothing but our imaginitive affection for it…  That is how powerful our imaginations are.

This is a double edged sword.  Great strides in medicine, architecture, physics, art, education, etc., etc. have been made because someone ‘imagined’ a different way.  Also great pain has been caused in marriages, families, communities and nations because one or more people ‘imagined’ that that woman, experience, possession, ideology or whatever would be desirable, fun, cool or powerful.

Take an affair for example.  They don’t just ‘happen’.  A man/woman must first enjoy the company of someone other than their spouse.  Imaginitive step after imaginitive step are taken.  And boom – there you have it – an affair.

This appreciation of (and respect for) the power and fragility of the imagination is what should drive all concerns about things like pornography, boobs-on-bikes parades and modesty, etc., etc.  Sooooo often, they are often driven by what seems like an assumption that if we could just get the laws sorted out to how we think they should be, people will behave like we think they ought…

…leaving the power and fragility of the imagination (the heart of the issue) untouched, un-dealt-with, un-appreciated… and not solving any problems whatsoever.

wisdom for a divisive issue

Obama’s recent statements on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, remind us all (like it or not) of the immensely divisive issue of abortion.  The article says… Continue reading “wisdom for a divisive issue”