“But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:21 NASB
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." –Dr. Howard Thurman
Oh, I have a feeling I am in way over my head on this one. My husband even headed the other way when he heard I was having a theological discussion with myself. Nevertheless here I sit in my safe little space pondering some pretty big questions. What is truth? What is authentic? What is God’s work?
I am also wondering about our human nature to go for either simplistic answers and/or responses that are so convoluted there is only argument without conversation. I continue to be profoundly affected by those who dismissively reduce Christ to the simple statement, “All you have to do is believe" and imply the rest is gravy. I do not choose to throw the Christ-child out with the bath water, however, mustn’t we look at the paradox of life? Things (e.g. life, truth, religion) are immensely simple AND oh so very complicated.
So, what does it look like to practice truth? How do you or I define “truth”? Who am I? How can I be a better person? Am I a horrible person? Pondering the existential questions of life, can they all be simply answered by turning outward and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior? It helps – at least it can – and it can cause much more guilt and shame if we feel like we're not getting it "right." Shame taken on as being evil, bad people when we don’t measure up or feel happy all of the time - when the rest is not “gravy.” Does the judge come from without or within?
Today’s reading John 3:14-21 is about the light and being willing to look into the darkness. What of those who refuse to look inside, fearing there is nothing there? It is fear that keeps us from looking. Why are we afraid to look at the core? What if nothing is there or what if it’s all darkness inside? What if we think it's all goodness and it's not? Who is the judge?
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world.” (John 3:17) We already do that for ourselves. Richard Rohr says, “Much of patriarchal Christian interpretation has been trying to avoid pain; it thought birth pangs were unnecessary. That’s why we couldn’t hear Jesus.” Sometimes we have to look inside and that can be terribly painful. It’s reminiscent of the pangs of childbirth. Is it easier for women to make the connection between life and pain? It is often easier to focus on doing and being successful (whatever that means) than looking inside ourselves. What if the real self is nasty and ugly? What if it is the depraved sinful self that fundamental Judeo-Christianity sells? Or...what if it is good beyond measure. What then? What if it's both?
John 3:21 offers, “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” It all seems to be about defining what truth is. A few years ago in a workshop designed for personal healing I noticed that as I came closer and closer to remembering my own personal truth, I intuitively reached for the light. My arms raised of their own accord as in flight – a sense of being lifted from the ground – moving toward the light. It may have been a dimmed old light bulb, but even with my eyes closed I was moving and reaching toward a brilliant light. My own light shining and love flowing through me and out of me – permeating every pore, vessel, atom of my body. Filled with light. To me, this is eternal life. End without end. It is truth.
I have decided this will be a two part series...so check back in for the rest of these ponderings. In the meantime, feel free to ponder alongside. How do you define truth? Light? God's work? Authenticity? Other thoughts?
photo from musee d'orsay 3.08