Betty got divorced two years ago. She got fed up with her husband’s late night attitude and decided to call it a quit. News has it that he keeps different kinds of girls outside. His wanton behavior will soon cost him his marriage. Betty is in her late 40s hoping to fall in love and find that one person that will rock her world again. She still hopes to find yet another Mr. Right somehow somewhere. Sadly she had been heartbroken by gigolos who are all in for what they can get than offer. Betty has dated over six different guys after her divorce with her ex-husband but only to discover that every guy has his own flaws. In fact her ex-husband was a saint to compare to others. Finding that man that would perfectly fit Betty’s standard and genuinely love her at her twilight is really a rocket science hypothesis. I didn’t mention. Betty reached her menopause too early. Now she mourns quitting her marriage and wish she knew better. If she knew what she knows now, she would have kicked the demon out of her ex-husband without calling it a quit. According to her, the greatest mistake she made was quitting her marriage and not helping the man she love overcome his demon. But it is too late for Betty. Her ex committed suicide after he got the news of their divorce. Betty cannot forgive herself and continues to live in guilt.
Barrett made huge money while in the UK. He sent money home to his mum to buy properties for him in Cape Town. Barrett became one of the richest youngsters in town living abroad. He finally came back home few years later to settle only to discover that his mother had invested his money wrongly. He sold off his remaining properties and decided to use the money to run night clubs. He owned half of the night clubs in town. Few months later, his clubs were shut down on allegation of drug charges by the government. After completing his five years jail time, Barrett was stripped of all he had. He couldn’t find a decent job afterwards because of his criminal record and to add, he has no university degree. Looking back at the wrong choices he made in his short life, Barrett couldn’t take the shame anymore and decided to commit suicide.
Brad’s alcohol addiction had cost him his job. During his grey moments of intoxication, he could gamble his life away. Brad recognized he was headed to the bottomless pit of nothingness and decided to do something about it. He went in for a rehab and became free of alcohol addiction. But he couldn’t forgive himself for the mistakes of the past. He dearly misses some of his good friends who left him during his days of addiction. Brad wish he could change the hands of time but unfortunately will have to live with this stigma for the rest of his life.
Chi’s aborted fetus would have been three years old now! She keeps punishing herself with that thought. Chi is in her mid 30s and not married. She concludes her sin has finally caught up with her. Even, her kid sister got married last year and now has a beautiful baby girl. Chi is so harsh on herself. Scourging her soul in search of repentance for what she did. Now she is weak to even fall in love again and journey into the future.
These stories all have something in common. The characters appear to be time travelers. They travel to their past to mourn the future. They remind me of the story of the two monks who were on a pilgrimage.
One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river was a lady who sat waiting for someone to help her cross the river because she was afraid. On seeing the two monks she pleaded with them to help her. The younger monk turned his back. This was because the members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.
But to the surprise of the younger monk, the older monk picked up the woman without a word and helped her cross to the other side of the river. When he finally put her down, the younger monk came after him, scolding him for breaking his oath. He ignored him and went on his way for a long time.
Finally, at the end of their journey the older monk turned to the younger one saying these very words: “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.”
Truly, doing injury to the fleshly stock of our soul will not edit the past, says Leke Alder. The past is the past and should be deleted!
Letting go of the past can be difficult especially when we’ve ignorantly abused it and now have nothing to live for. But really we must develop the vim to establish our hope again and dream again. The dreams of the future can liberate us from the pain of the past. But hey, it would be abnormal not to dream again since it’s not in our nature to dream just once. Authenticate human beings dream again and again and again.
The fiery weight of dreams can be very frustrating. Nobody wants to carry some baggage of hope only to be disappointed again. But that’s where God comes in. Amazing how He can graciously spare us from what we can’t handle and helps us achieve the greatest impossibility.
You’ve condemned yourself far too long enough for the sins/mistakes of the past. I think is high time you understand that God is not man. He will forgive anything! And he will forever forgive!
To prove He is in charge of your life, God creates new opportunities to help you dream again. He makes you fall in love again. He restores your wasted years and broken home and fixes the ‘impossibles’ of your life. God challenges us each day as the sun rises to shrug off the baggage of the past and open ourselves up to the possibility of the moment and take action to create a desirable bright future.
What happened in your life only happened for a reason. Sometimes our life’s mess can be a springboard for our life’s message. It can be a channel through which God wants to help others. So you have to let the cards unfold and let your story be shown to inspire others. In few years from now, you will understand why you have to go through those dark roads of humiliations to get to where you are. Role models are not perfect people. They are human beings like you and me who have customized their scars and mastered their mess at its peak of impossibility to bring hope to others. There are people that will journey into your life years from now that will need your story to live again. Find them and make sure you dispense hope and help them find strength to live again.
Truly, God knows the end from the beginning. He has corrected our mistakes to make sense of others’ pitfalls. He loves you because of your past, not despite of it. God shapes his face of hope from the mess of the past to prove to the world that he is indeed God. But to do this, we have a duty to perform. We need to find the strength to build a future and not travel to the past to create one. We can’t live in the past. It will drain out our energy. It blurs our eyes away from the brightness of tomorrow. There was a reason God didn’t want Lot’s wife to look back at her Sodom. The bible tells us in Genesis 19:26 that she ignored God’s warning and was drained into a bag of salt.
Sodom is gone to history. And time has come to look up from where we are and pick ourselves back up, dream again, and quit looking back to those burning flames of the past. Look up to Jesus for an incredible bright future.
Get up, get out and start living!
NB: This will be my last blog this year. I need some vacation! Lesotho on my mind!! Merry Christmas!!!
Except you are unwittingly in a coma or battling with some kind of mental hibernation (of which you need to see a doctor), you would have noticed that Nelson Mandela is dead. I stand in respect for this great man, reflecting on his influence and what the future of South Africa would be like after his death. His presence kept South Africa calm and united. I know the world also shares the same concern with me but that’s a story for another day.
There is almost nobody in the world right now who does not feel the impact of Mandela’s death. I’m on ground to witness this myself here in South Africa. The Tata Madiba banners scattered all over the country as though South Africa changed their national flag over night clearly shows that the nation is indeed mourning. Media stations have been broadcasting Madiba’s documentaries for over two days now, cancelling soaps that have captivated millions of South Africans, including myself. Indeed the world is mourning the death of an icon.
Yet with Mandela’s jingle almost everywhere some people still don’t get it. Some are yet to understand why the world is celebrating this great man. It much has to do with his forgiveness over bitterness and the way he humbled himself for 27 years to study his ‘enemy’ and gain victory through negotiation.
27 years in a man’s life is irreplaceable. It is such a long time. No wonder he came out of prison looking very tired and old. Not everybody can survive such extinction and yet forgive.
For a second, think of what the family suffered when he was behind bars. Or what he had to pass through as a father.
His extinction completely stole away his fatherhood. He never had the chance to raise his own kids. Yet he came out of this mess and still decided to forgive and give back.
What is the point celebrating the life of Mandela if you are not willing to choose love over bitterness and see every moment as a gift to forgive those that hurt you? Only an ignorant man adores what he cannot understand.
Mandela redefined the meaning of courage and sacrifice.
Mandela’s life teaches that forgiveness is the greatest weapon to secure freedom. And this freedom is no easy feat. In his words, “many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires”. What he meant by this was that it takes courage to forgive your enemies. Mandela describes his struggle to forgive as a walk through the valley of the shadow of death which each and every one of us must pass through to bring about freedom and change.
The moment we let go of that hatred and decide to forgive, freedom and change is unstoppable.
Mandela teaches that we can be free but through those uneasy roads that lead to love and forgiveness. According to him, ‘years of imprisonment could not stamp out our determination to be free’ if we are willing to trade our vengeance for forgiveness.
To an extent, freedom comes by walking through that burning fire of forgiveness. It is until we forgive and let go that we are truly free.
“What counts most in life,” Mandela acknowledges, “is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
When next you think of Nelson Mandela and his long walk to freedom, think of the life he led and challenge yourself to love and forgive those that hurt you real bad and resolve to cross that line of boundary for the sake of others.
Forgiveness is really for the sake of others. Because it is truly when we forgive that we free people and free ourselves from the unhealthy guilt of hate and vengeance.
If you cannot keep up with this, please, shut up and keep quiet and stop adoring what you don’t understand.
You know what to do. It's your choice.
The Aristotelian philosophy on the nature of being teaches about the ten categories of ‘being’. The first is ‘substantive’, which is the primary mode of being, while the nine secondary modes are categorized as ‘accidents’.
Accidents are the changeable dimensions of our being that do not change who we are but allow us to do something different beyond our ‘recognizable’ limits and often factored in our core substance. For example to say that someone is black, white or colored represents their secondary mode of being. While saying that someone is a ‘human being’ represents a primary mode of being known as 'substantive' because it does not change its mode of being but stands whole in and of itself.
In each of the nine accidents of being – state, quality, quantity, state, passion, action, posture, location, or habilitation – we advert primarily to a different dimension of our being, which are often untapped and under-discovered. Among the nine accidents, ‘passion’, ‘action’, and ‘state’ makes the most sense for me as action words for change. Other accidents like ‘quality’ are extremes of change which often confounds who we really are from what we are called to do by altering completely our life's trajectory. For instance, trying to change a career on account of its financial scale is a good example of adjusting the ‘quality’ accident. We often run the risk of moving away from our true essence on account of the present challenges when we try to change our quality. On the contrary, is not everything we are called to do would automatically fetch us money. Sometimes we have to serve to save. True changes does not totally pull us away from our life’s course but modifies our being to effectively accomplish purpose.
In the primary philosophic sense, ‘passion’ is defined as a product of ‘action’ which often leads to either a negative or positive change in being. Passion experiences an action that causes an internal transformation in our being. People saying demeaning things about you, for example, can either destabilize or charge you up to prove them wrong. Our passion creates a vibration in us that leads us to access our imagination, ingenuity and intuition in order to transform our recognizable limits. ‘Passion’ and ‘action’ often go together. There must be an ‘action’ taken before our ‘passion’ can replace those famously unsuccessful auto-pilot knee-jerk strategies with well reasoned strategies. A person that is passively undergoing something through but not limited to “action” is changed and perfected. Action does not necessarily imply motion or hyperactivity. It is a mental change in position that allows us to know and understand ourselves better. The producing effect of a mental action changes our recognizable limits, and reveals us to the world as leaders and achievers.
‘State’ on the other hand as an accident of being, seems to imply change in our being which allows us to identify ourselves from other people and point out what it is that really defines us. For example, to become a workplace hero, there must be something about you other workers don’t have. It could be a trait or a special way of doing something. ‘State’ is an important accident to brand ourselves and remain relevant in a changing culture.
To access higher creative power in business, philosophy enjoins us to replace/modify those popular, unsuccessful ideas of ours with well reasoned ‘accidents’ that improve the dimensions of our business sense. We should cause sensible alteration in our being that only allows us to modify our thought pattern in relation to where we are in life.
I think is high time we redefine change in the transforming order of ‘passion’, ‘action’ and ‘state’. It is a passion because we need to access some untapped deposits in our essence. An action, since we need some mental movement to change our present state of configuration. And change indeed requires some evaluation of ‘state’, relating where/who we are to where/who others are. Perhaps we need some mental modification in our thinking pattern to fit rightly into the present state of events in order to make sensible impact to our immediate culture.
If you long for the ‘good old days’, just turn off your air conditioning! Understand the age in which you live and make relevant updates if necessary. Quit doing things the old-fashion way and recognize the unique possibilities that lie by spicing things up with just a little bit of passion, action and rearrangement of your being. Seize the opportunities God has provided for your generation and fully live the one life you have to the glory of God.
Don’t be a human in a culture where everyone is an ape!
LesslieNewbigin started a conversation on ProperConfidence in the gospel, where he passionately wrote about the emerging millennial culture he saw in his homeland England and the destructive effect it was having on the church. When Newbigin returned to England to work with the United Reformed Church after serving for 40 years abroad in several senior positions within ecumenical bodies such as the Church of South India and the World Council of Churches, he writes disturbingly, “In the subsequent years of ministry in England I have often been asked ‘What is the greatest difficulty you face in moving from India to England?’ I have always answered ‘the disappearance of hope’. ” Indeed, it is.
Really, so far, I can only count like three Sundays in my life I missed church. Part of this dedication could be because I was born a Christian native. I was born in church, and to make it worst, was told terrifying stories about Christ’s return. I daydreamed about it a lot when I was a kid. As a result, I had default lips for confessing and re-confessing my sins more than I can remember in a single day just to be at right with God and evade hell. In fact after year 2000 a lot of preachers literally went out of business for prophesying that year 2000 was the last year of humanity (I fell for that fluke you know. I couldn’t help but became cautious of my ways).
But now we are here, 13 years and counting into the new millennia and year 2000 has stormily passed and nothing has happened. Christ is still in heaven, perhaps harmonizing things with Baba God. Like many young people who share my thought, it is now becoming challenging to get our head around what faith really is – especially now anything that in any way connected to, or mentions God comes under attack.
Recapturing the past, I knew I was not selfish in my seeking. I only need a personal experience of the ‘God reality’ to believe. All I needed was a miracle to happen (for me) to believe He exists. I played around a lot of options but ended up hoping I would win a lottery – as a practical sign that God was really there, somewhere. I did other crazy stuffs which I won’t mention here. You already know the end of that story. Nothing ever happened. Except, instead of winning the said lottery as an evidence of ‘God being there’, I was prayed for by a seminary buddy at my sophomore class and experienced a heavy, uncontrollable bubble of unknown tongues I knew nothing about. They said I blew tongues in capital letters. Some said I spoke Hausa, Chinese, Arabic, and some other untraceable spiritual nomenclatures. And it continued since then. This would be my first ever literal experience of God’s existence. Recall, my interest was not to speak in tongues but to make some good money as an evidence of God being there.
One way or the other, religion now makes sense for me because I have experienced the ‘God reality’ for myself, though, in a dimension I never imagined. Those who have not had the opportunity to have my kind of experience are not entirely out of order rather are rational with their thinking. The assumption that the gospel does not contravene the requirements of reason as we understand them within the contemporary structure is a mistaken policy. The historical stories of the bible cannot be accommodated within any plausibility structure except for those for which it is their cornerstone. It therefore goes without saying that truth is not always to be found in stories.
And the fact that 17th century hymns and chants don’t automatically reverberate in the hearts of those not brought up with them should signal to the church an urgent need to revise liturgy. Yet every Sunday I’m expected to reinvent a gesture of profoundness as I recite words that are totally alien to my linguistic process. Who cares about Ira D. Sankey’s “Trusting Jesus” while I can reach heaven and return to earth the next minute with Micah Stampley’s “Heaven onEarth” or ‘Holy’ by Jesus Culture.
From history, we learn that the success of any religion lies on the ability of its custodians to relate and apply its mystery to present issues of life. There is no straightforward connection between today’s liturgy and today’s culture. Truly, the Christian faith would have been a long gone history had God have not personally intervened in the matter by raising radicals like Apostle Paul, St. Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther and others, who literally, by God’s mandate, circumvent the status quo and fought against the powerful Church to bring about reform.
I think the church is in for a longer and more difficult struggle than it has yet recognized, for its belief is increasingly challenged and the message of the church disported. Doctrine has become a matter of private opinion and personal experience of acclaimed preachers who were never theologically trained. What do we get? A biblically inconsistent doctrine irrelevant to present issues of life, and the church is absolutely doing nothing about it. The present church should not blame young people for being skeptical about their faith but rather urgently need some intellectual effort to relate the biblical mystery to the world of modern reality, without allowing itself to succumb to it.
For those of us angry at God for perpetuating evil in the world and allowing you to "suffer", well I will risk to tell you that you have a strong case. But we all suffer from the consequences of our sins. I have also learned from open theists that God has a relative autonomy. And not everything that happens is the direct will of God. But at the same time, He is a Sovereign, relational God who orchestrates every event for a greater good, and in whose sovereign care is the only source of true comfort when we are in those life's dark places.
To help us master the peak of life’s impossibilities, we have the bible, which is a historical account of God’s love and faithfulness. Biblical chronicles however are not for philosophical calibrations but are simple, life stories or edification that serve as rhapsodies for our healing.
For those like me who are already part of the church, the truth is, you are a carrier of God’s presence and truly following God cannot be done in private – it is an active public commitment to the gospel truth which needs to be lived out in the real world for the sake of others. It’s time you quit hibernating in that cocoon and recommit yourself to serving and saving others, cause that’s really what life is all about.
Life needs order. At its core, I see religion as that measuring barometer of life that keeps us all in check and in order, and nothing more. And without faith we lose that sense of relationship and fellowship with God. Church is not about going to heaven or hell neither is it about being a believer or unbeliever – is not about those 'nonsense'! It is rather about the fact that someday death will come knocking when you are least prepared; having nothing to show for the kind of life you’ve lived 'on the other side of things' as proof that you’ve lived to honor and obey God. Church reminds us of what God is doing in the world as He reinvents Himself to us through ordinary people who exercise His grace, love and power for the sake of others; a reminder that we are not too farfetched from His touch, and can live according to God in the spirit (1 Pet 4:5-6).
Really, I miss church. I miss the caring, vibrant and contextual church of the New Testament. But more to my grief, I miss seeing the Jesus of the bible in church nowadays. I miss “real” fellowship!
Prayer is a savvy way to trade our sorrows for joy. It’s about sharing a conversation with an unseen, yet relational God, who sees beyond our intentions and chooses to either invade the situation or allow us mature through them. Prayer is all about intentions. But it is also God’s own way of weighing in on our spiritual maturity.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican friar, teaches readers through his Thomistic scholarship something about prayer. In his work, he urges Christians to pray with confidence, a confidence that is directly related to the words of “The Lord’s Prayer” itself. For example, saying that our father ‘is in heaven’, implies that God is supreme and has the power to grant us anything we ask of Him. It is a sense of submission and recognizing God’s authority over all of creation. Regardless, God refuses a miracle and allows us to feel pain to make us better. Trust me, you don't need that miracle. Point-blank!
St. Aquinas notes that The Lord’s Prayer is the most effective of prayers because it was given to us by Christ himself. He states further that even if we are not praying the exact words of The Lord’s Prayer, we are still praying it in some way, since all prayer paraphrases it. Yet we are reminded by St. Aquinas that we are not commanded by Christ to repeat the very words of The Lord’s Prayer, rather, as Christ himself said, we are ‘to pray in this manner’ (Matt. 6:9 NKJ).
Prayer is the most effective type of conversation. It does not border on the length neither does God answer prayers on account of your charismatic loudness. It is a matter of the heart. Thomas Aquinas advises us not to feel guilty if our prayers are short or if we become distracted in our prayers because of the steep pressure of our situation. We are reminded that God sees beyond those tears and searches our hearts to comprehend the intention with which we begin our prayer and not so concerned with how we end it. Much more, we are challenged to trust God enough to answer our prayers as He wills.
There are plenty of spiritual teachings on prayer, most of which emphasize why we should pray rather than what prayer really is. At core, we must always remember that Our Father… is a humble prayer of petition, but at most, says St. Aquinas, a prayer which allows us to engage in a direct and intimate dialogue with God.
Speaking from experience, I have learned however that you can’t effectively pray if you are not broken enough to accept the response of the Alpha and Omega, who knows the end from the beginning. God is looking for prayer ‘warriors’ in whose hearts His response will make strong.
Prayer is a dialogue between friends. And if God is our friend and father, He has every right to deny us of the things we are not yet mature for, even when it hurts Him so bad not to release it.
Prayerfulness is a sense of maturity.
Some good day, i will write a book on this.
I remember growing up, having a dream to become a medical doctor one day. Damn! – I was good with chemistry – was even the best student in my class. Finished high school at a very young age of 15 with the best result any student could dream of, and hoping to jump into the borderless walls of the university to finally become a doctor; then life hit me.
Unwrapping all that happened isn’t necessary. Not here especially. But one thing was sure: I never studied medicine, and neither did I become a medical doctor. All I can remember was that I found myself in a seminary institution six years after high school and did my first degree in Theology for four years.
What happened to me and my “doctor” dream? Destiny! I didn’t realize that my life was locked away in an inescapable deal for a greater cause. I will put you on the loop on how it all started.
Several years ago in Africa before I ever knew earth, a woman was so desperate for a child after she lost her two year old daughter and couldn’t conceive again for over two years. She was at the point of being sent packing from her husband’s house by the man’s relatives – especially the husband’s sisters, because she had no issue and was even accused of witchcraft. Story says she newly gave her life to Christ just months after the daughter died. It happened that she coincidently read about the biblical Hannah and decided to modestly replicate Hannah’s rash vow, with hope that the Almighty God who answered Hannah’s prayers hundreds of centuries ago will do the same for her. Next, as I was told, she heard God’s affirmative response to her pledge of giving back her child to Him if only He made her conceive again. And it came to pass, she took in the next month, her family chaos seized, and nine months later she gave birth to a boy and named the baby ‘Victor’. The name ‘Victor’ was very symbolic to them, and actually was the name of their resident pastor at that time, who they named their baby after. Pastor Victor died just few months after baby Victor was born, and so the story went.
This is not some biblical chronicle nor is it the third book of Samuel, but my real life story. The woman in the story was my mother and I am the offering, technically speaking. I remember growing up and constantly been reminded that I would end up in pulpit. I thought it was one of those ‘my-boy-will-be-this-when-he-grows-up’ fairy tales parents plays around with to keep their kids pious and aspiring. Everybody in church knew the story, so my first name in church changed from ‘Victor’ to ‘man of God’. I did not realize the huge impact such confession would have in my life. However, I grew out of that image after high school to forge the life I wanted, and become successful like every other young person. I did make some money eventually and travelled all over the world. But what everyone didn’t realize was the fact that the consequence of my mum’s pledge would caught up with me so early.
Thinking that was all that is to it, I wandered through the circus of life, just like Saul in 1 Samuel 9 looking for my missing “donkey”. Well I eventually didn’t find my donkey, but I found something much more than life itself, and that was destiny. I couldn’t vividly describe it but there are some things I knew my life was not meant for. One of them was being a businessman. I tried but suck at business.
Don’t pity me. My story is about the powerfulness of God over the powerlessness of man. And so is life itself. Life is a story of grace and we are called to live for a cause greater than our self.
Saul in 1 Samuel 9 never found his missing donkey but something about him transformed his wanderingness to wonder. And that is the fact that God wanted him to fulfill a particular purpose, and hence used the donkey as an agency through which he will encounter Samuel who would eventually anoint him king over Israel. One thing was clear in the story of Saul, and that is, the destiny of the children of Israel was tied to his ministry and to the missing donkey. And to fulfill his ministry, God used the missing donkey to bring Samuel to him.
Note, from the point we search for our missing donkeys to the moment we meet our Samuel might require some awful unrests and experiences that might want to make you give up the search. But, never give up searching for that donkey because beneath those painful moments lies your victory and story of grace. I might never have arrived to my Samuel yet but one thing is clear, I’m on my way, almost at that crossroad, to connect with my Samuel. Metaphorically, ‘Samuel’ could mean different things to different people, but overall it is a breakthrough.
If you claim that it is ‘just chance’, mere ‘chance’ (i.e. with no specific cause) that you are who you are, with your particular skin and hair colour, gender (etc), and was born to the particular parents who you had, in the particular place where you were born, and then had specific life experiences, and that there was no particular cause of any of that, simply demonstrates your unawareness and ignorance, and your inability or perhaps unwillingness to open your mind to the whole picture of divine providence. Indeed, on the basis of my own findings about what appears really to be our inescapable reality, you would very likely be absolutely horrified if you properly understood what, through the lens of your compulsive ignorance, you have been allowing to progressively happen to you.
An inescapable reality is like one of those dark places we don’t want to be but can’t do without and can’t amount to anything if we don’t have our own fair share of those experiences. Our fulfillment in life lies within those dark moments. It’s like an act of apodyopsis, one of those mentally stimulating realities of seduction. It’s that "stop it, I need it" feeling that gets you to your life purpose.
At the end of the day, God takes extreme measures to bring whoever He chooses to Himself (Jer. 20:7). But then, let’s be rest assured that God will make things better when He has made us better. It may be impossible for us to entirely alter our life’s trajectory. I tried several times but came back to my reality with severe consequences. Rather than be anxious about our life, destiny or future, we can, just like Peter, trust our life to a faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:19), because He is with us as a mighty awesome One (Jer. 20:11).
You are here for a greater cause. Never give up!
Just last week, a reader wrote me personally after I made a very contentious statement on my blog “Identity: Misguiding Taglines” where I premised that “identities are just realities; they are not truth.” The reader argued why I dropped a statement like that without clarification. Apologies! My blog this week provides a more detailed answer to understanding truth and reality.
Reality and truth have become so loosely thrown around that their through meaning get lost in the shuffle. It is easy for one to fall into the trap of using them interchangeably. Although there is a piece of each that distinguishes it from one another, but in reality this exegesis could be a clear waste of time and energy. Nonetheless, I hope after reading this you will understand their relationships and hopefully use them more accurately than is ultimately demanded. By using them more accurately, situations may change and life may begin to evolve at a much more relatable and revitalized level, a level that brings everyone together.
Materialistic reductionism teaches us that there is an enduring ‘physical’ or ‘concrete’ reality that is outside ourselves. According to this philosophy, each of us is thus a transient bit of that physical reality, endowed with a ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’, and so, what we experience in our lives is simply the processes of the physical reality, which are based on what are quaintly called physical laws.
This takes us to the Buddhist teaching on the Nature of Reality where truth is mixed-up in reality. According to the Buddhist belief, reality has two molds of truth. It is either an absolute truth or a relative truth. Relative truth is subjective, and often interpreted as the everyday, conceptual experiences we have, which we inescapably translate into physical law and frame as borders of our processes. In other words, reality is based completely on our own perceptions and place in life. Our perception of reality may be roughly opposite of the truth and independent of ideas concerning it. This is the summary of reality.
Sorry if I delved into metaphysics. Now let’s talk as humans.
Truth or absolute truth, whatever is called, does not exist in relation to a particular viewpoint or aspect of consciousness. It is something fundamental. It is an unchanging sameness and similarities of experience of the world and physical reality between the perceptions of each human individual make-up. Truth is universal and seen as the same from anyone’s perspective regardless of the differences in the world between each individual’s perceptions. The connecting point set by our roughly common set of perceptions is called truth. Truth therefore is singular and its versions realities. Howbeit, James D’Arcy reasons, “your version of the truth is all that matters”. It doesn’t matter what others conceive as realities, the truth should be our own reality, lest, we faint and fall for their meanness.
Another way to look at this is the quality between ‘What Is’ and ‘What Is To Be’. ‘Reality’, far from being the true reality or absolute truth, is merely one particular aspect of relative truth or experience, albeit a particularly important one, that arises within our state of consciousness. As far as anyone can tell, fundamental consciousness, which is our very deepest aspect, forms the underlying ‘reality’ of ‘What Is To Be’, and so in that respect we can say we create our own ‘reality’ or ‘relative truth’. Sadly this also allows for the phenomenon of garbage interference which often prods most of us into the creation of illusory realities to develop a hierarchy of race, gender, age, social class and think tanks, often intrinsically subjective and vague. This distort our perception of the underlying ‘truth’ of ‘What Is’. However, this mental subjections are always far away from truth. For example, God does not see us as black, white, or coloured but as His own creation – made in His image. And neither did He give a distinction between male and female during creation (Genesis 1:26-27). He called us all (both male and female) “אדם - adam” – a Hebrew word that suggests man in a general sense.
What do you do with this difference, these differences, the quality between ‘What Is’ and ‘What Is To Be’? Those are in fact a difference, the very difference. ‘What is’ and ‘what is to be’. Mind you, ‘what is to be’ may however never be true, and neither could it be what God says.
Far from these functional definitions, the ultimate expression of truth is found in the bible. We believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life... (John 14:6). The bible actually is the ultimate yardstick for measuring what is truth. It is about what God says against what the world see. A practical example is whining over why you are poor or cannot make it because people or surrounding realities say so, whereas the truth is, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Phil 4:13). Perhaps worrying about your needs when Truth says that God will take care of all your needs according to His riches in Glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). And when the physical reality condemns you as ‘weak’, always remember what Truth says: the Lord is the strength of your life and that you will display strength and take action because you know God. (Psa.27:1; Dan. 11:32). Reality is simply a rambling fact, while truth is an established fact of God. That’s how I see it.
So when next people isolate themselves from you or treat you in some certain, inferior or despicable way because of your age, gender, race, or social class, always remember to respond to these condemning realities with the Truth of what God says: There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Roman 8:1).
Again, truth is what God says about you, not what the world say. Therefore respond to difficult realities with the renewing Truth of God’s Word.
Truth heals and delivers!
Now with so much racism going on in the world it seems especially important that I write about this.
For several months now, I have been exploring the beautiful, racially segregated South Africa. In fact, it is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited, especially Stellenbosch and Cape Town regions. It is no new thing to say that South Africa still struggles with apartheid. And this particular position ignores the history of South Africa which aim, according to Tina-Louise Smith reasons, was “to create a class of poor people to assist a class of rich in their unbridled and guiltless accumulation of wealth.” Well, technically, that’s what it is. I find it offensive however, because in South Africa both access to information and access to everything else are mostly determined by one’s racial identity, not by intellectual ability. Believe it or not, your identity – colored, white, black, Indian – does matter in South Africa. Ironically, people will treat you base on this. This specific assumption runs dangerously close to feeding the notion that people who are of a particular race, are in that position because they are stupid.
Identity is an inconsequential and slippery factor. As much as you might believe that your age, gender, or race is irrelevant, they affect how others perceive you. In fact, they even affect how you perceive yourself. Regardless, identities are just realities; they are not truth. They are not the same thing. They get thrown around so loosely that people have forgotten what they actually mean. Our identities are really not who we are.
On the other hand, Identity affects the way different people experience the world. Unfortunately, according to Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, “we live in a world in which the nation-state dominates, in which your value as a human being, the value that the formalized structures of the world gives you, can often be determined by what passport you carry.” I would know, as a person who travels on a Nigerian passport. Travelling with a Nigerian passport means carrying the weight of assumptions – that I am likely to be lying or to be a drug dealer or a fraudster. The many expressions of disbelief when I say I’m a Nigerian pastor; being asked to step aside for more questions, suspected as though I perpetuate some kind of illegal activity, the extra processing steps required for visas to countries as diverse as South Africa and Denmark. I wish I could tell the various embassies that I, in fact, am a citizen of the Body of Christ.
But of course identity goes beyond a mere passport. It is a sensibility. It is a deep feeling of awareness. It is a core and unavoidable part of our lives. Our responsiveness is enmeshed in our concept of identity. While I have a great affection for South Africa and live part time in South Africa, I know I can never be a South African because I will never understand the game of rugby.
More seriously, we need to shape our identity or it will shape us. We live in a world where admiration is prevalent – and if we’re not careful, the impact of our identity can inflate our ego and strangle our self-image to the point we are completely twisted, and can act out of bitterness and confusion, forgetting who we really are. Once your identity is threatened, Paul Graham reasons, you become defensive and resistant to change or even dialogue. Challenging someone’s identity can indeed trigger his or her defensiveness.
Since our response to situations shapes our identity, and in turn, our identity shapes our actions, we cannot pretend that identity doesn’t exist because it is at the core of our lives. And from what we are hearing from the news, we can see that the forces of misunderstanding and hatred in the world are as a result of our differences and identities. All I see here however is nothing but misguiding taglines: realities lacking truth; people judging others based on general assumptions than specific details; folks focusing on what ought not, than what makes sense; groups fighting each other base on void reasons. What stands out for me is this: there are no bad people. There are only misguided realities. But what do I know?
Shaping our identity may not be as easy as we think. According to Rick Warren, our identity helps us sharpen our answers to the 6 Ws: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and hoW. It shows What we stand for in the world. It shows Who we stand with. It shows hoW we manifest our different values. It shows that Where we stand is an integral part of our identity. It shows Why we take a stand. And it determines When we act on our stance.
As we consider sharpening our identity for good, it is important to ask ourselves these questions: What do we stand for? Who are we standing with? What are the key things we’re going to do to manifest our true identity? Does our geographical location inspire us to live out our true identity? What are our reasons for taking a stand on what we believe? When are we willing to take on risk, suffering, or pain to see that our dreams and true identity becomes reality? Coming up with these answers can be difficult, but it is essential. You can’t just go with the rhythm on everything and allow others to define you. Neither is absolute formality nor informality a practical approach to life. When you resolve these questions for yourself, you’re better equipped to lead a life God created for you, and not fit into people’s molds.
As for me, identity is by choice. I refuse to be defined by my society. The way my society defines me is not who I am and neither is it who I’m meant to be. I desire to be known by the grace I have been given in Christ Jesus. I aspire to be identified with Christ’s sacrifice – as a follower of Jesus, by living a life based on love over hate. A well thought out life of purpose, which He perfectly modeled for us on the cross of Calvary. On a daily basis, my response to situations, the people I spend time with, and the principles I choose to defend are what define my identity, and not what people think about my race. Therefore, I rather choose to construct an identity based on my relationship with Christ, which signals to the world a model of excellence over mediocrity. I don’t know about you?
Be defined by YOU!