Letter to Ptolemy

If God is the sun and we are the earth, how wonderful to know that we are the ones with the moody weather and awkward tilts and furious spinning, while the sun remains to never cease shining its emanations through our clouds and fog and rain and clear skies all the same. 

Note to self: Time heals.

I want you to know this: time heals. If you’re in a situation of a tough life transition, dealing with something like a messy breakup or mourning a death, I want you to know that this is true—or can be true. When I felt like life kept spitting me in the face, I didn’t like to hear that the passage of time was going to be the best healer. In the society we live in, time takes a long time when we’re used to instant gratification.

But today, I found something that made me realize it was (maybe painfully) true. I found a bunch of post-it notes near the back of the clutter on my desk—I had known they were there, but I just hadn’t looked at them in a couple weeks. And so I read through about 30-something sticky notes scrawled with royal blue permanent marker every uncensored thought that had come into my head when I had sat in my dimly lit room feeling more lonely and empty than I had ever felt in my life. What I held in my hands was a pile of curses, fears, lies, and desperations. I read through them all and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief; although those feelings were very real at the time I had written them, I could sense that those curses, fears, lies, and desperations had—for the most part—left me since then. To know that my soul had begun to lift the shroud of darkness gave me hope.

If you are in the same sort of place I was in—do this. Get a pad of sticky notes and a marker, find a quiet place, and write like nothing else matters. Write everything out—no filters allowed. If you’re a person that is cautious to use profanity, (as I was), just let go and use it; if it’s already in your mind, it might as well be written on paper. You have to get everything out there so you can release it.

What you write might scare you; it scared me to see what my emotions looked like written down. But after you’ve exhausted your mind and your hand, take the notes and put them away somewhere—in a box, a drawer, whatever. Then leave the room you were in; physically making yourself walk away from your thoughts will distance them from your mind. Go do something—go exercise, go to a store, start some homework—but what I’d say is the best approach is to meet up with someone you trust and talk to them about how you’re feeling or just do something with them.

And the next day, go do something again. You have to fight by making yourself do things and connecting yourself to the people you love if you are going to survive. And also search for answers—find out how to heal, read about how other people have found healing, too. Lay in the middle of a field and stare up at the night sky. Talk to God or something. You may believe he’s checked out of your life for now, but if you pay attention, you might find him in more places than you’ve been aware (even if it’s in a friend or in sunshine).

A couple weeks, a couple months later, take out the notes and read them—all of them. See for yourself the ways you have changed since then, the ways you feel or view things differently—and for the things that maybe haven’t changed, know you still have time to figure these out. But my hope is that you’ll find, as I did, that time—paired with the willingness to keep walking every day and keep seeking counsel and love from friends and keep looking for answers—heals. Take heart.

A broken truth

“Dear God, why should I think you’re good in a world that’s falling apart?” –Showbread, The Fear of God

Suffering.

Babies starve, the helpless are raped, and hearts break. And where does our good God stand?




It is a broken truth. I refuse to believe that God is not good, but that also means I must accept his hand in suffering. Whether or not God ordains suffering or simply allows it for his manipulation, I do not know. I do know these few things, though: that the goal of my life is not to be happy, it is to flourish–to live my life with strength and potency as I proclaim the love of Christ. And though I would never wish suffering into being, if my desires get in the way of this true flourishing, and suffering is the only way to drive me away from them, I cannot curse God. I know without doubt that the small sufferings I have experienced in my life have shaped me into a stronger person.

Last of all, I know this: I would much rather have God, the one that went through the ultimate suffering for the good of saving me, be in control of my suffering than an evil force. I want to be able to look up in my weeping and see my Lord’s hand stretched out to me, to see in his eyes that he knows the way to guide me through the darkness, and trust that his end is the good.

The fallacy of independence

Where do we humans get such notions in our heads like “I don’t need anyone, I can do it on my own…I am an independent person!”? And I know people think like this, whether they know it or not, because I often have this mindset.

While I know that humans are “interdependent” and whatnot, I find avoiding an independent mindset a difficult task for me. Yesterday, though, I decided that the notion of independence is rather silly.

As I was riding my longboard back to my dorm, I began to fancy it was my “modern-day” horse, since longboarding is this car-less college kid’s method of travel these days. Anyhow, that thought turned into the realization of how dependent I was on this piece of wood with wheels under it. See, I’m the type of person who looks at the clock and says, “25 minutes until my next class on West Campus? Sweet, I’ve got time,” and then says 15 minutes later, “Oh, I better get movin’!” Therefore, the expedience of the longboard is rather important to me.

Everyone is dependent on something, especially in this age of technology. Just stop and think about the fact that when we flip a switch we expect a light to instantly destroy the surrounding darkness, or that we don’t even think twice about drinking water from the tap. Think about what your life would look like if your car broke down, if your cell phone fell into a deep body of water, if your refrigerator stopped working, if your house burned down, if your laptop got stolen, if the internet everywhere crashed, if you lost your key to your dorm room (for some of us, that’s a constant reality), if the microwave stopped working, if the local supermarkets closed down, if you lost all of your prescription eye-wear, if your roommate ate all of your pencils and pens, if cows ceased to exist, if every printer in your vicinity ran out of ink, if all of our purses and handbags were raptured, if someone sang so high that mirrors everywhere shattered…and the list goes on.

And, of course, those are just material entities. What about people? Say everyone you were even slightly acquainted with died, then see if you can tell me you don’t need help from anyone.

What about what is intangible? Like justice? Or hope? Or kindness? I don’t even want to think about what the world would be like without the human instinct that drives us to try to love.

The truth is, the average human is a dependent mess. So why is it so hard to admit that we need a God to depend on, too? “I don’t need God as a crutch”–why, because you can’t fit one more crutch under your arm?

In the beginning…Part Three

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, saw it was good, but then he had to destroy everything with a flood because humans messed it up. Right?

Well, nothing is that simple.

In my Bible class, the professor directed us to look closely at the pre-flood world and the post-flood to help us draw conclusions about what significance the great flood in Genesis really had.

As we examined and discussed, the stereotypical idea of God–a powerful deity angry enough to wipe out his unruly creation–started to become increasingly false.

In the pre-world flood, after the expulsion from Eden, what was the first major event? The murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. God responded by saying:

“‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.'”

Cain complained he would be killed…

15 But the LORD said to him, ‘Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.’ Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.”

According to Jewish law, Cain was not really punished; he should have suffered death for committing murder. And in Genesis 4: 23-24, a similar story takes place, when Cain’s son Lamech was also protected from death after he murdered a man.

But note how God said the earth swallowed up Abel’s blood, and therefore the ground became cursed because of it. In this pre-flood era, God seemed to put less emphasis on personal guilt than on the fact the earth had become defiled through bloodshed. Genesis 6:11-13 follows this concept:

“11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.'”

From these passages, it seems God cared more about the affects of sin rather than sin itself; the people weren’t simply horrible sinners, they were killing each other and defiling the land by the bloodshed. I think that is the real issue God has with sin–as much as we would all like to believe sin is personal, it always ends up affecting another.

Therefore, the rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights.

After the land dried up enough for the inhabitants of the ark to come out, God established a covenant with Noah (Gen 8:20-9:17), saying first:

“I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

God continued to tell Noah and his descendants to “be fruitful and multiply” the earth, and prohibited them to eat the blood of an animal or commit murder, at penalty of death.

At a close glance of this new covenant, each element favored the human race’s existence; rule 1: have lots of babies, rule 2: don’t eat raw meat, rule 3: don’t kill each other, and if you do, you will die so you can’t kill anyone else.

I don’t know what you’re seeing here, but this is what I see: a God loving enough to be willing to clean out the earth and give it a fresh start to keep his creation from corrupting and destroying itself any further.

End of Part Three.