Sunday, December 27, 2020

Arizona Alligators

The unmistakable image of a large, fast moving alligator surfacing a few feet in front of me bypassed every controlled thought as my whole body tensed in unison and lunged several steps away from the waters edge. Then my rational thoughts made me laugh out loud as instinct yielded and I turned around to watch the mistaken log splash and bob downstream in the flood waters of the Verde River behind my Arizona home. The pounding in my ears quieted. The quivering muscles in my limbs steadied and I marveled at how irrational my reaction was and how little that matters at first to our instinctual mind, or at least to mine. Perhaps yours would do better at distinguishing an inanimate chunk of dead wood from a living, breathing terror of dinosaur proportions.

Wild, Arizona alligators are only real when they "escape" from homes that kept them as ill fated pets. That may not change whether they'll tear your limbs off in a bad situation but it does change our comfort level getting into our favorite watering holes. Same as Jaws didn't really keep people out of the ocean, even combined with some real attacks. These represent the successful transition from instinctual to rational.

But perhaps more often than we realize, we fail to make that transition. Lately, my wife and I have been working through some relational baggage in the family. The people have changed but some of our now instinctual responses to them have not. As a result of some obsolete sense of self preservation, we find ourselves in fight-or-flight every time a relational log floats by. The good news is we know the alligator isn't real and perseverance will retrain our instincts.

The same is true on the societal level. Perseverance of truthful reasoning is the necessity of being more than merely instinctual creatures chronically fooled by appearances. There's always plenty to keep us irrationally distant from each other, resistant to the unifying truth because of some political or religious 'gator it moves us closer to. Don't fear it. Time always shows those things to be merely ill fated pets you shouldn't keep anymore, and likely shouldn't have had in the first place. They'll end up in the zoo or the Everglades and you can meet at the local watering hole in peace.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Self Talk

I blame God that we talk to ourselves. I've avoided blaming him for other things in spite of his all-knowingness and ultimate creatorship, but this one's inescapably on him. For five days, he simply spoke things into existence as he had in mind and by his own account "it was good". Then the later part of day six rolls around and what's he do? Stops to talk to himself about what's next! And that next thing of course was, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,...", complete with self talk.

Lest we wrongly imagine effortless agreement to God's self talk, consider the following. 1) The disparity between Christ's interests and the Father's interests when it came to crucifixion. 2) The internal conflict of Christ represented in statements like, "How long am I going to put up with you?" 3) The many times throughout the Bible a Spirit-led person (a.k.a. God-led person) like Abraham or Moses appealed to God's alternate sensibilities to fend off his destroying some certain people group. Love it or leave it, here lies your assurance that God can relate to the internal conflict of being a parent or long suffering friend.

Some additional value to that exercise? Ever feel like there's more than one person in your head. Not only can God relate, he's just like you! Or you're just like him. Whichever seems more proper to the majority vote of your personalities. It's good to be able to see his likeness in even the crazy guy ranting to himself as he paces. I know that crossed a line but here's another thing. Scripture teaches us that spiritual nature abhors a vacuum just like physical nature. Christ is the eternal vessel for the Father and the Spirit. And you have the choice of being a vessel for Christ or you have his assurance you'll house things more similar to the crazy guy. Think of it as complicated real life version of those nesting, Russian dolls.

So self talk away. And realize that, through his Spirit in us and Christ's intercession for us, God's day six conversation never stopped and never will. Through his own self talk, we benefit from God modeling his own instruction to pray at all times with all kinds of prayer. When our attention is on him, following his example abundantly includes our own internal conflicts and conversations. Now go redeem that self talk. You're not any crazier than the God who made you.