Category Archives: Psychology

Broken Glass

Broken Glass

It seems over the years, my perspective on life has often broken itself down into three categories: almost, not enough and oh well. These distinctions depend on the day, I guess. Some days I see the glass half full, focusing on life’s potentials. While other days I see the glass half empty, fixating on loss. Yet, there are days when I start to wonder if the glass really has anything in it at all, feeling the onset of an existential crisis. But then there was Mary. One day, long ago, she decided to break the glass altogether. I grew up well aware of this epoch Biblical account, but I’ve come to relate to her story with a new expanded perspective of how to live. Re-examining Mary’s story has inspired me to re-examine my own and accept that I am a part of a long tradition of transformation.

Three of the four gospels recount the beautifully scandalous tale of how Mary shared with Jesus probably the most treasured thing she possessed – an unopened jar of pure mard, which was an extremely expensive perfume. During a dinner party, she unabashedly broke the bottle’s seal and poured the perfume over Jesus’ head and feet, anointing him as an honoring and perhaps even healing gesture (Matthew 26:6- 13, Mark 14:3–9, John 12:1-8). Yep, and the onlookers were not amused by or supportive of her actions. In fact, they immediately scolded her for such an impetuous act. First, the gospel writers record one party goer accusing her of grossly wasting a valuable commodity. Second, it may be suggested that culturally in those days, a woman performing such an act (especially in mixed company) could have been perceived blasphemous. In ancient times, anointing someone was done by pouring oil or perfume over the crown of the head and letting the liquid flow down the face to symbolize recognition or inauguration of someone in high royal or religious rank. This tradition was notably performed by a high priest. Anointing someone also served as a healing ritual. Applying a medicinal balm or oil to wounds or an ailing person in a formal manner demonstrated a blessed and beloved sign of mercy. Contextualizing the scene from Mary’s vantage point requires spanning further back in history. In the Old Testament, David as a shepherd boy was anointed by Samuel the high priest to be the next king (1 Samuel 16:13). Later, David as king and psalmist poetically described God as his ‘Shepherd’ who attentively anointed his body and additionally restored his soul (Psalm 23:1-3). Furthermore, David declared in his famous psalm ‘my cup runs over’ (Psalm 23:5). David, like Mary, was not shy about what’s in the glass. David didn’t see the glass half anything or even empty. He celebrated its sweet overflowing status regardless of the surrounding situations that begged to deplete his strength. Throughout his life, David was constantly surrounded by trials and threats, which kept him on the move. Yet, he remained confident that “goodness and mercy” would sweetly pour over him “all the days” of his life and that one day every trouble would be washed away by such divine outpouring. He would reach a place he could forever call home (Psalm 23:6).

I can so easily laps into the mindset of seeing life as an overwhelmingly sour experience and not as one overflowing with sweetness. Initially, I shy away from bringing to my mouth the cup life hands me. I get scared that my mental and emotional taste buds will react with an intolerable ability to stomach any sort of sip. So why bother?  But I am, at least, still willing to hold the cup in hand and contemplate its contents. As they say, ‘I don’t have a drinking problem; I have a thinking problem’. During David’s era, a woman accused of marital infidelity was prompted to drink a cup of bitter herbs. If truly innocent, the caustic cocktail would miraculously taste sweet (Numbers 5:11 -31). I’m sure a flinching face after one sip was a dead give-away. I confess, at times, when I bring life’s cup to my lips and sip, the look on my face openly reveals my infidelity of not being faithful to the belief that life was meant to be a joyous journey with a defined destination. As a result, my disbelief inhibits me from appreciating that this life, here and now, is a gift. Instead, my doubt provokes me to anxiously accept my existence on earth as a grievance. I’m just doing my best to hang on until I get ‘there’. Thankfully there are times I can taste the sweetness therein despite the initial bitter drink life serves up. This is a miracle. I’m found faithful and can even toast to the source of life rather than wallow in the stress of it all.

I think this is what James, the New Testament writer, meant when he prescribed having “pure joy” in the midst of suffering (James 1:2 -3). Like James, I’m not denying distress persists. I am simply acknowledging that miracles can and do happen to pull me through the tough times so I can keep moving forward towards the heavenly home sweet home that David referenced. In the psych biz, this process is referred to as resilience. But as a Christian, I prefer to call this experience redemption. What’s the alternative?  Prolonged shame and doubt (and even anger) about what life and others have done to me or what I’ve done to myself and others keeps me shackled to the proverbial bar stool, staring at the bottom of a glass filled with spirits of self pity. But praise God for grace, which intervenes and reminds me that I am in this pilgrimage for the long haul and that I will get there. Martin Luther King preached many paramount words of courage to the pilgrims of the civil rights movements with this inspirational theme. My most favorite phrase he simply and inspiringly spoke was his declaration to “keep moving!” He described the 1960s journey as “carving a tunnel of hope through the great mountain of despair”. He further declared that “if you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk crawl; but by all means, keep moving!” And I footnote his cheer that if you can’t crawl, God will carry you over, under, around or through that mountain.

During a ten-year span, between my mid-twenties and mid-thirties, I had to move living locations seven times. Such a nomadic experience has reinforced the impermanency of things. I never anticipated or intended to accumulate so many addresses in a short amount of time. I also never expected how much I would have to give away every time I transitioned to the next home. Despite my best bubble wrap attempts to preserve what I could not/would not give up, something treasured always broke in the moving process and I would be faced with the sad reality that it was indeed time to let go. All that packing up and moving on proved what is truly permanent and unbreakable – I am alive, I am loved and I am not alone. I possess these three essential identities because of who God is. No one or no thing can ever remove these eternal realities from me. Never, ever!

Let me be clear, I do not like being broken. I don’t like it one bit. But I am broken; and I’m learning to deal – I’m learning to accept (and even celebrate) that I’m part of the ongoing Gospel story of redemption. The artist in me can not deny that without confronting brokenness, no beauty can be resurrected from the rubble. The expansive Byzantine mosaics or the elaborate Gothic stained glass panels would have never been created if pieces were not collected – broken.  The artist’s vision in assembling such masterpieces was articulated at the core through the intentional selection, which often involved further meticulous breaking for pieces to fit. Then the arrangement of such pieces to be carefully placed in specific manners to tell a specific story could occur. This is probably why I have come to love the art of collage so much. Whether conscious or unconscious, collage compels me to rummage among unlikely items and sources to select, cut, trim, position and paste into one united whole a bunch of broken pieces in order to depict a scene or tell a story. Each part serves its purpose whether or not it is overtly identifiable. I, myself, am the same way. I’m a collage, part of a cosmic collage. I’m stained glass in the process of transformation. I’m getting closer to completion. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? I think heaven will be too. The apostle Paul spoke of this hindsight understanding in his famous love passage (1 Corinthians 13). Paul underscored what is worth understanding now – faith, hope and love. One day, I will eventually and fully see the big picture for what it really is. But until then, faith is about accepting that the broken pieces have worth, hope is about acknowledging the pieces will be put together to reveal a worthy artistic rendering. And love is actually doing it and sharing the product (or at least the production process) with whomever needs to be reminded that they are part of the picture too. Mazel Tov!

 

References:

  1. East Window at Bath Abbey, England
  2. Until We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  3. “Keep Moving….” speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

 

The Seven Words – seventh prayer

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Today’s Bible passage and an excerpt 

Read Luke 23:44-49

Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.

More thoughts for meditation

We have come to the end of a week’s journey of praying through what is known as The Seven Words or The Way of the Cross. This spiritual practice is a contemplative prayer method that has, hopefully, helped us this week to move deeper into the reality of what Christ did on the cross to give us salvation from sin and direct access to God. Such forgiveness and relationship, in turn, gives us new connection with one another. Because of Christ, we can live life on earth (and one day in heaven) together, no longer isolated – from sharing resources and supporting each other during difficult times. Because of Christ, we have hope that we will survive and thrive, even in the moment of death.

Jesus’ seventh and final statement on the cross before he died was actually the reality of what it is to truly live, because of his death. It may seem counterintuitive to think this way. In part, it is. As we began our journey this week, we recalled Jesus’ words to his disciples before he endured the cross that “whoever wants to be my disciple must take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). By this, did Jesus mean personal death? To answer this question, we have gone deep this week and are trying to go deeper into Jesus’ meaning, which implies death is needed to live. When the first humanity disconnected themselves from God due to a selfish decision, living life with God openly and freely required an intervention, a sacrifice. We recalled, while praying through Jesus’ fourth statement, that the first sacrifice occurred in Genesis by God to allow humanity to not feel ashamed in approaching God. That first sacrifice began thousands of years of traditional sacrifices of animals, on the behalf of people, to remove sin’s separating reality between us and God. This repetitive bloodshed was no longer needed when Jesus declared it to be so, as we prayed through his sixth statement. The finality of being separated from God was confirmed with Jesus’ final statement when he said aloud, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. Jesus committed his life into the hands of his Maker.

Such commitment suggests two vital things: First, there is an acknowledgement that one’s life belongs to a caregiver. This requires trust in the one giving care – that the entrusted will be cared for without neglect. Second, there is a surrendering of self that has taken place. Because one trusts the caregiver completely to provide care accordingly, there is no doubt present to suggest otherwise, nor competing will to assert another (a better) way of caring. C.S. Lewis described the antithesis of this kind of commitment as “the great sin”. Lewis identified pride as the most significant stumbling block that keeps us from “taking up our cross”. Taking up our cross means we acknowledge Jesus’ death should have been our death. Taking up our cross means to no longer identify with our own attempts to be good, or be in charge or exist on our own; but rather, we identify with Jesus as the best Way to live. Humility is essential to carry this out this way, to carry the cross and follow Jesus. Pride and humility cannot co-exist. We saw this play out in the Garden of Eden, as we reflected this week, when Adam and Eve did not trust God to know best, and then they could not undo what they had done without God intervening. God, through Christ is the once and for all intervention that reconciles us with God and proves God is trustworthy to care for us forever. Jesus declaring his commitment to the origin of his life, before he breathed his last, is our example of how to live. After all, he knew that his last breath was going to be transformed into resurrection.

Suggestions for Action

Pray: “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.”

Use not only Jesus’ words but his work on the cross, for us, be your life identity. Acknowledge that God, your Creator, is the best one to care for you, no other. Surrender yourself, your pride of thinking you know best. Allow God’s Spirit to hold your spirit and help guide you as you continue to walk the Way of the Cross.

 

 

Reposted from Circle of Hope Daily Prayer; Water

The Seven Words – sixth prayer

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Today’s Bible passage and an excerpt 

Read John 19:30

It is finished.

More thoughts for meditation

The sixth statement Jesus spoke aloud on the cross, “it is finished”, is ironically not the final statement he spoke. Huh? What does “finished” mean then? He wasn’t finished speaking, but he was surely finished the work he came to do on earth, on our behalf, to reconcile us with God. As we have prayed so far this week with Jesus’ first five statements, we have journeyed through understanding and acknowledging how we are forgiven, we can be united with God and one another on earth and in heaven, we have a God who is sympathetic to our human experience and we can find complete satisfaction through our connection with God.

Jesus’ sixth statement is a summary that the deal was done. From that moment on, no more sacrifices would be needed to approach God openly and freely; no more blood needed to be shed to feel alive on a daily basis, no more endless efforts of trying to be good enough to gain good standing with God. Jesus hanging on the cross was the final sacrifice that enables us all, Jew and Gentile, to stand before God unashamed, and be fully alive as we were created to be.

To ensure the tangibility of this reality, three of the four gospels record that “the curtain in the temple was torn in two”: Matthew and Mark’s gospel detail “from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). This action was not only miraculously done but monumentally important. The temple included a thick, tall and wide curtain, elaborately woven and decorated, that separated the main area of the temple with the Holy of Holies (an area only the high priest was entitled to go). The combination of historical records that include the Old Testament, the Talmud (a collection of Jewish laws and traditions) and Josephus’ writings (a Jewish historian) describe the veil and its function as pivotal to the atonement process and understanding our relationship with God. The curtain, in form, was described as four inches thick, sixty feet tall and thirty feet wide. Historical records suggest it took 300 priests to erect it because of its weight and that a horse tied to each end could not tear it apart because of its woven strength and thickness. It was a symbolic and literal barrier between the people and God. Only the high priest was permitted to enter and not without much preparation and a blood sacrifice. History notes the high priest would wear bells so the outsiders could know if he was still alive behind the curtain. If he died while in the Holy of Holies, he wore a rope around his ankle that outsiders could pull to remove his body, lest they enter the most sacred place unpermitted and die as well. The veil proved an intense separated reality between God and humanity. Yet, its destruction proved its irrelevance after Jesus’ act of atonement on the cross. Its form and function was no longer needed, no longer required.

Suggestions for Action

Since the onset of sin (being disconnected from God), the human experience has been bent to feel ashamed, afraid, alone, forsaken and wanting for more. There are most certainly moments you have experienced these feelings and have thought that you are not good enough and have desperately wondered what can you do to be better. Let Jesus’ words on the cross speak, on your behalf, to such feelings and thoughts of isolation and insignificance to redeem your experience in a way that permits you to feel forgiven, confident, brave. Satisfied, alive, loved and not alone. Let the work Jesus accomplished on the cross be your redemption to declare victory over all that seeks to make you forget what you were created to be: alive, loved and not alone.

Pray (anytime/anywhere): “It is finished.”

Use this phrase to confront each and every feeling and thought that overwhelms you and inhibits you from believing that you are anything other than alive, loved and not alone because of Christ. Speak these words with authority, because Christ has equipped you with power over fear and death.

The Seven Words – fifth prayer

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Today’s Bible passage and an excerpt 

Read John 19:28 – 29

I am thirsty.

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus made seven distinct statements while he hung dying on the cross. This week’s daily prayer time has been a journey of allowing Jesus’ final statements on earth to be our statements, our prayers. We are using Jesus’ words to help us live more abundantly in the reality of who God is and who we are. We are also using Jesus’ words to help us develop a deeper relationship with God and each other. Jesus’ first three statements reveal how attentive and interactive God is, through Christ, to cultivate reconciliation with humanity. His fourth statement, however, acknowledges, from humanity’s perspective, that our relationship with God is broken. In that moment, Jesus’ humanity reflects our human nature of feeling alone, regardless of who or what surrounds us. Likewise, his fifth statement reveals humanity’s ubiquitous need for nourishment to survive and thrive. Jesus voices that he is thirsty and there is nothing he can do about it, as he hangs on the cross. He is completely dependent on another to help satiate his dehydration.

We can only imagine the internal thoughts Jesus had as he was dying. There is the suggested sentiment that “his life flashed before his eyes’, meaning he recalled various moments/memories that characterized who he was. As he uttered these three words, “I am thirsty”, did he recall meeting with the woman at the well? Did he remember telling her how he, Jesus the Christ, was the Living Water and that whoever drank of him would never thirst again? Did he remember the poetic plea of a psalm he most likely learned as a child that declares: “as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God? My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1 – 2). Certainly the deity of Jesus was well aware of the desperation the psalmist declares on behalf of humanity – that is why Jesus came to earth, to respond to that longing and fulfill it. Psalm 42 questions, “When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2).

Did Jesus reflect on this line? His last statement on the cross, which we will soon pray in a few days (as our own statement) acknowledges that meeting with God has occurred. But until then? Jesus hangs on the cross, fully human, and fully aware of the oppression of being distressed and dissatisfied. Later in that same psalm, a more direct series of questions are asked both by onlookers to the psalmist and the psalmist himself to God: “Where is your God?” (verse 4b) and “Why have you forgotten me, God?” (verse 9b). We have already observed how onlookers near Jesus, as he was on the cross, asked this question and we have prayed with Jesus, himself, to ask God directly the same thing.

Jesus’ human expressions help us connect to our own human experience. If we are honest with ourselves (and with God), we experience dissatisfaction on a daily basis. The mere function of consuming food and drink satisfies our metabolic processes to keep going. Our stomachs may growl to get our attention that we are overlooking such need; and our mouths may become dry and our throats may even begin to burn, as definite clues that we are in need of water. We tend to these needs; otherwise, our bodies will begin to malfunction. In extreme situations of deprivation, death can occur. Jesus’ death was on our behalf – so that like the woman at the well, we can drink up Jesus’ salvation and be fully satisfied, forever. We can dive deep into his water, as the desperate and downcast soul depicts satisfaction in Psalm 42: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. All your waves and breakers have swept over me” (Psalm 42:7).

Suggestions for Action

Pray: “I am thirsty”.

Let these words resonate in your soul. Then, as you sip your morning coffee or keep hydrated throughout the day (whether stopping at a water fountain or filling up your cup/water bottle) let your thirst be quenched by continuing to pray: “Deep calls to deep”. Let the experience of being human as well as being satisfied by God be your prayer.

 

 

Reposted from Circle of Hope Daily Prayer; Water

The Seen Words – second prayer

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Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read Luke 23:39 – 43

Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

More Thoughts for Meditation

We have begun to pray using the statements Jesus spoke while he hung dying on the cross. The seven different statements he spoke provide us with not only perspective of his experience in that moment and his rationale for why he had come to earth but also offer us purpose for how we can experience life and even give us the rationale for why we are on earth. Jesus came to give us life – life abundantly. His first statement, which we likewise prayed yesterday, requested God’s forgiveness for our arrogance and ignorance us from experiencing vitality and oneness with our Maker. Jesus’ second statement on the cross is a declaration of that connection and its infinite reality, not just as a possibility but as a palpable actuality.

Jesus was executed as a criminal for claiming to be king and the anointed Messiah. He was placed among other convicted criminals (who could have been sentenced to death for any number of crimes, ranging from petty theft to murder). The punishment of death in Roman times was a sadistic public spectacle. Such display of ‘this is what you get for screwing up’ was as much a warning to all who passed by to mind their Ps and Qs (or else) as well as an excuse to openly ridicule someone else for getting what they deserve (an underhanded way of making the spectator feel more superior and righteous). According to the Gospel account, the scene that surrounded Jesus’ second statement involved ridiculous taunts from the other criminals towards one another as well as from the onlookers. A criminal hanging next to him “hurled insults at him’ (Luke 23:39) that not only doubted and even denied Jesus’ true identity but did the same for our identity as well. However, another criminal hanging on the other side of Jesus chimed in with the proposed truth about who Jesus was and who we are/who we can be.

This provocative scene plays out as one may see internal tensions depicted with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Each side making statements about identity – what to believe about ourselves and God. The irony of the tension Jesus was caught between was that neither side were “angels”. However, only one of the two criminals accepted his true identity of needing salvation and acknowledging the true identity of Jesus as being Savior. It is vital to note in this scene that Jesus does not respond to the taunts of the insulting criminal but directly responds to the one who requests a relationship founded on compassion. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”, the criminal asks with dying breaths (Luke 23:42). Though Jesus hung dying, too, this man believe that Jesus was indeed king and a kingdom was still possible. For that belief and for his request, Jesus gave him eternal life and not just a memory of connection but the actual reality of it. That was the reason Jesus was dying, after all – to eliminate death’s sentence and condemnation of life.

Suggestions for Action

Do you experience hearing those same voices Jesus heard – telling you either that your life is a joke or that your life has value and eternal meaning. Remember how Jesus responded in such moment of tension. Use Jesus’ words to remind yourself of who you really are and how Jesus is relating to you.

Pray: “Truly you (Jesus) say to me, today you (Jesus) are with me. I am part of your eternal kingdom.

 

Reposted from Circle of Hope Daily Prayer; Water

 

Ink Blots (Part 1 of 3): The Art of Focusing

Ink Blots Ink blots

It is suggested that when we are born, our visual acuity is about eighteen inches. This focal capacity is quite significant, since that is approximately the distance from a baby’s gaze (as they are cradled in someone’s arms) to the face of the one holding them. Not until a few months old, does a baby develop the ability to focus on something farther. Is there really a need to see long distance any sooner? Babies are completely dependent on another to keep them alive, fed and not alone outside of the womb – focusing on the face of someone who is ensuring their success to thrive (up close and personal) seems pretty intuitive. If you have ever held a newborn, you may be well aware of how they stare at you, as if peering into your soul. Maybe they are. Babies have been documented to prefer looking at soft lines of facial features, loving expressions and gentle emotional cadences. Every culture has been observed to care for their infants in similar manners – with sweet sing-song voices and tender glances. A stern or even apathetic facial gesture equates, for the infant, a relational disconnect has occurred. Babies will either look away to search for a more comforting focal point or initiate their own gestures directly to elicit reconnection. It may seem ironic for me, a visually impaired person, to be discussing focusing facts. Yet, whether fully sighted or not, we are all wired to focus. All of our senses have the capability to perceive things – visible and invisible. At least, our senses want to, including our “sixth sense”.

Within the womb, we were already trying to make sense of sounds and movements – what seems pleasant, harsh, safe and unsafe. Throughout our life, this interpretative art becomes either stunted or more sophisticated, influenced by environment, experiences etc. We consciously and unconsciously focus our attention on the world around us and within us to create an identity that includes not only our own self-concept but also a social construct that then dictates how we think and behave. It’s all quite complex to explain here…but then again, it can be very simple. In the 1920s, Herman Rorschach developed a tool to simplify this process of understanding who we are and how we “see’ the world. His Inkblot Test became a methodic means of determining the well-being or psychosis of someone’s mental status. Projection is one of many ways we assign meaning to life. How we see, hear, feel, taste and smell something outside ourselves can reveal dynamics occurring inside of us. Our memories of prior experiences can become relevant to current happenings. The past can persuade us to accept or dismiss something not based on its present authenticity but on our prior experiences with something else and may continue to impact future encounters. It becomes necessary to learn how to focus on the big picture as well as the scene playing out in front of us. This is easier said than done. It’s like listening to a symphony and trying to pick out each individual instrument while the song swoons along with all sorts of melodies and harmonies. What’s more important to focus on – the part or the whole? Is it even possible to focus on both “A” and “Not A” at the same time?

In this age of a gizllion buzzing signals and 24/7 access to worldwide information, ADD is inevitable. Our attention is practically sabotaged to malfunction and disengage quickly. Looking away is not only our knee jerk reaction, it is expected. Social psychologists are discovering that despite our constant bombardment of social media resources and connections, failure to thrive is not just a condition reserved for infancy anymore. Our brains and souls are looking at abstractions and charactures of life and so desperately trying to make sense of the mess we are faced with. Fatigue to keep trying sets in. We want to give up, shut down our senses altogether. We forget that we have the freedom to re-focus our attention on something/someone consistent and life giving. Amid the din of this world, God is still speaking to us, showing us visions of joy, offering us a banquet table to feast at and be held by eternal arms of love. The beauty of this kind of attention is that God knew how easily distracted humanity got a long time ago – that‘s why He sent Jesus in the form of humanity. Jesus provided our whole being with the ability to regain our focusing skill by becoming part of us. God’s Spirit now remains with us to guide, discern and redeem all that we experience. It can seem absolutely over-whelming, over-stimualting at times; but God is the ultimate resource to restore our strength to endure. When the apostle Peter walked on the water with Jesus, he began to sink when he looked away. His focus on Jesus was his life line, perceiving that it was completely because of Jesus that such miracle could occur. As Peter sank, Jesus attended to Peter immediately, hearing Peter’s cry and grabbing his hand. Now that is focus! Though we look away, God never does. And He is an arm’s reach away. He reaches for us and holds us up even when we can’t. We are no longer infants, but there is still an intimate embrace that can occur for us to know that we are cared for – “knowing”, not in the intellectual sense, but in the primitive place inside us that is looking for something/someone to trust to keep us alive and thriving.

References:

  1. Jamie dresses up as a psycho-therapist; photo by Sylvia Martinez 2002 (Halloween)
  2. Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Penny Simkin
  3. Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: A Comprehensive, Developmental Approach to Assessment and Intervention by Stanley Greenspan
  4. The Inkblot Test; Herman Rorschach

I See You

I see you

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, and in our likeness…God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”  Genesis 1:26a, 31a

Throughout the ages, specifically since the age of Enlightenment, there has been much discussion and doubt surrounding the above statements from Genesis. Regarding its literal legitimacy, did God really speak all of creation into existence and did He really see it from some sort of ethereal perspective and evaluate its worth to be special? One may also ask, what relevance does such reality have anyway with daily life, whether or not the story of Genesis is literally or figuratively perceived? The way we see God seeing us makes or breaks our connection with all of life every day – how we value life, each other and circumstances each day. There is a legit significance to grappling with these verses in Genesis, not only in how we can come to understand our historical beginnings but also our poetic beauty, our reflective genius of the Poet Himself and what the poem will look like in the future.

Dr. Carol Kaminsky has made this exploration her life’s work. As an Old Testament scholar, she has looked closely at the Hebrew text with eyes that seek to discover the truth about who God really is and who we really have been created to be. She has outlined her research and contemplation in a timeline entitled CASKET EMPTY. She begins with the (C)reation story according to Genesis. She notes how the structure of the text repeatedly details that “God said” and “God saw”. Kaminsky details how believing in a God that speaks and sees connotes a relationship has been established. More poignantly, God wants to be heard, He wants us to see how special He sees us. After all, the way we see ourselves is a reflection of how we see God – we reflect God’s image. He reserved a superscripted way of speaking and seeing us when He created us. In the first chapter of Genesis, all God had made up to the final phase, before creating humanity, was seen and declared to be “good”. As the Genesis story unfolds, God created a man from the same stuff the preceding creation was formed from; but also added something extra special – His breath. Only after creating humanity did God add “very” to how He described the goodness of what He had made. In Kaminsky exposition of the ancient words, she underscores that the Hebrew term translated “good” is the declarative equivalent to “awesome”. That means when God made us and looked at us, He said aloud that we are pretty awesome! Do we see and say out loud how beautifully awesome God is for His creative genius?

Paul Tripp recently released a new book simply entitled Awe. Because we reflect God’s likeness and He sees and calls us awesome, Tripp writes that likewise we are capable of looking back at God and declaring His awesomeness. However, we are prone to look away. Tripp notes, “Awe is everyone’s life long pursuit. Where we look for awe will shape the direction of our life. Our source of awe will control our decisions and the course of our stories.” We so easily get distracted by the things we make – even the things we make in “our image”. We displace the connection God wants to have with us to other created things. This disconnect has had gross ramifications.

Wendell Berry, author and poet, adheres to a similar life perspective of our ubiquitous significance in this world. He suggests that we have a responsibility (the ability to respond because of how we were created) to care for not only the world in which we live, but for each other as well. In doing so, we acknowledge our Creator with awe. He advocates that these two aspects of care are not mutually exclusive but actually reflect our innate make-up; it reflects our Maker. He has written many poems, essays and books that explore where and how we have honored our original intent. He also speaks boldly about where and how we have grossly dishonored our Creator and, in turn, creation. In his book, Life Is A Miracle, he doesn’t mince words about how industrialism has not brought about “progress” in revealing a better world and a better humanity. In the midst of our modern societal focus, he notes how we have deceived ourselves in thinking that industry has liberated us from antiquated ways of living – that we can see the future more clearly by building bigger buildings, larger economies and faster methods of getting “there”. He speaks openly about “the displaced person” in terms of people being replaced with objects of our own creation – not unlike what we did to God, replacing Him with objects of our own design that see or speak as we program them to. There is no relationship; at least, there is no relationship present in the way God intended.

So where do we go from here? How do we live in the reality of what was meant to be? Jesus declared while He was here on earth that He had come to “open the eyes of the blind” (Luke 4:18). He spoke these words in both a literal and metaphoric perspective. God never stopped looking at us, though He altered his assessment of our situation to be in bad shape and that is why He sent Jesus – to refocus our ability to see God again; and, in turn, see how He truly made us. I find it to be my default mode to see and declare myself a loser, a failure and complete mess. But God is so gracious to get my attention over and over to remind me that I am awesome, because He is awesome. I can see His hands still molding me. I see His creation in all its glory glorifying Him as well as groaning for Him to restore, once and for all the destruction cause by us not caring for it the way God has cared for us (Romans 8:22). So we need to keep looking for ways to care about our earth and each other in the way God envisioned; and we also need to keep looking for Jesus’ return. Can you see the seasons changing? They are declaring that the time is near…

References:

  1. Kaia; photo by Jamie Wasson 2001
  2. CASKET EMPTY by Dr. Carol Kaminsky
  3. Awe by Paul David Tripp
  4. Life Is A Miracle by Wendell Berry