Time stills. Memories lag on their march to the forefront of my line of thought. A heavy thrum thump of cherished moments drag their feet like slow-motion characters on parade. Far gone interactions are grayish and frayed with tintype residue like emotional scars. In circles and one/two step, they dance before my closed eyes: dreamy and luring. What is this show? Am I dead? Is this my life “flashing”? Every jarring experience, every regret and embarrassment, every blunder and joyous accomplishment creep in tandem like a circus stuck to an eternal merry-go-round. Hellish. Profound, but I do not know what it means. My head is spinning – too slowly, like a wooden spoon stirring caramel. The processional quickens. A whirr of the projector hums from behind as all memories blur. I have forgotten. The ringleader grows silent, the tent lights dim, the clowns re-squeeze into their bug. In the morning, only dust and popcorn shells will remain. What does it all mean? Where is the tunnel and light near the end? Does it really only just fade black into nothing? Am I nothing? Was I always nothing?
Do you fear death? I do not personally, but I have heard that this is a common fear. The majority of people fear the possibilities of what lies beyond life. What about you? What scares you most about death? Many fear being forgotten. Some fear hell and torment. Others assume blissful nothingness or paradise awaits, yet fear their own doubts. If someone were able to give you the guarantee of life after death would you take it?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” ~Jesus
Certain conversations arise as necessary in our lifetimes; conversations that are uncomfortable, draining, and often argumentative. Do not allow these qualities of a necessary engagement to shove the truth aside. It is often the truth that applies these qualities to the conversational context. Truth requires accountability and often a change of outlook of one or more members within the conversational party. Truth may be obvious. It may be convoluted and complex. Truth may not be in either suggestion proffered within a debate. It may need third-party input to clarify what the truth really is. Truth is not totally absent. For every needed discussion that will surface, there is a truth to be found. Can we really find it? Must we look for it or will it reveal itself to us when we are ready? What if truth makes itself known, but we ignore it? How do we recognize truth when we encounter it? What if it requires that I change my viewpoint? Am I ready to consider that possibility? Are you?
Never fear the truth. Even if we are temporarily uncomfortable or forced to change or required to admit ignorance and false pride, never fear the truth. Truth sets us free. It will never be a damaging experience to know the truth. Can it hurt? Can it tear relationships apart, expose atrocities that destroy reputations, humble an unbeliever? Yes; and yet, is this not good? Temporary pain should never deter us from bettering our lives. The truth seeks out goodness by obliterating lies. No one wants to admit that they are comfortable believing a lie. Oh, but we are. We are so at ease when believing in something or living our life in a way that expects little from us other than pleasure and happiness. We want the easy route, the quick fix, the 10 minute meal, the path to heaven that makes us feel good but requires no genuine change. We do not want truth. We need it. Like exercise over binging on Netflix, truth is a necessary conversation that forces us out of our comfort zones and into life-altering commitment. Truth is not easy. Truth is necessary. Are you ready to lay down your habits, your arrogance, your stubbornness and your detrimental pride when truth comes to call?
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The heavy red paint on my ceramic mug is interrupted by a swiggled line of disruptive blue, alienating the red from espresso brown that rims the top. Coffee on the inside of this colored oddity is warm and a hint bitter. One packet of sugar was assumed to be enough at the time of creation, but I was wrong. I could add a package now, but then it may be too sweet. The bitterness of the overly roasted beans reminds me that I am indeed drinking my morning coffee and not corrupting a cultural tradition by overwhelming the brew with cream and chemicals. The mug rests by an amethyst-lace framed picture of my cat. Her pink nose is kissable. I miss those blue eyes. “What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork,” claims my pencil holder which I have stabbed numerous times with ink pens and graphite pencils and a pair of scissors. The frame sits next to this printed axiom, and I am obliged to contemplate what it means: every day. My desk is my life away from home while university consumes my time, and each day that I sit down – hair uncombed and curly, engagement ring on my finger, glasses folded and lying by my pencil sharpener, phone blinking to the right of the keyboard – I must realize that, yes, the world needs more love and less paperwork. Humanity’s capacity for love though is ugly. We do not know how to love properly. We kill our own children; or, watch disturbing shows (through the safe lens of televised catharsis) about pedophilic rapists and serial killers with a taste for human flesh. We watch youtube videos of individuals being burned alive in a public marketplace. Sickness twists our insides for a couple hours afterward, but then we return to our blogs and coffee and social profiles. If what the world needs is more love, how can we provide it if we are obsessed with depravity? Are we capable of easing the ache when we relish picking the scab? Humans do not really understand love. We look at it through a muddy glass. We are passive or aggressive; passive in love, aggressive in hatred. Should it not be the reverse? Why does hatred even exist? Good people have remained quiet for too long, I guess. Good people, not great people. Great people obsess over charity events. We need to be righteous people, but they are few and far between. Righteous people practice divine love; and divine love is the only type to be free from human corruption. But, where does one gain divine love? Religion seems to lack it, especially when certain adherents sacrifice their children in fire or lash themselves and others with whips or mutilate their daughters’ privates. Religion does not have the ability to provide man with love; so, does God? If He does, then we have to assume that He is separate from religion, that He provides a standard of love that is outside of human depravity. Then we are left to determine which god is God by having the greatest and best and therefore only standard by which to genuinely love others. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” If this is true, then only one person has ever lived by example: Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ can demonstrate the ability to exercise the greatest and best standard of love by sacrificing his life for all humanity (disgusting as we are) because he would consider us friends, then his standard is the only standard by which we can righteously love others. If we truly desire to love others more and focus less on paperwork and cathartic entertainment, we must acknowledge the best standard and seek to emulate it. But, to emulate Jesus as the greatest standard would be to acknowledge that he must also be God. Does that disturb you? Why? Is it because you do not actually want to love others righteously and ease the pain we collectively cause; or, because to acknowledge Jesus as God would force you to admit that you are a cause for pain in the world, not perfect or good enough but needing grace and love too; or, because you want to hate God and not blame yourself for evil; or, are you just stubborn; or, maybe your pride will not allow you to admit that there can only be one way to love others properly; or, do you hate to assume that only one path, one God could truly have the solution? These are not comfortable questions. They are not swallowed easily like creamy coffee. They are a hot shot of tequila that burns the throat but clears your sinuses.