Dreamers of the Day

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." -T.E. Lawrence, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom"

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Quercus shumardii

As previously mentioned, sanctification—my sanctification—is always on my mind. I constantly am pondering the insanity that the gospel teaches us that we are saved and we are free from sin. I say insanity because to the world and the mind, that is what it boils down to. In this process of evaluation, the affects of the disciplines and “duties” a Christian is to do have been questioned. Many time (including now) I find myself wondering if it truly is a relationship, or do I simply brainwash myself into thinking it is something that is it not. Have I been brainwashed from an early age so therefore it makes sense for me to follow? So many Christians I know have Christian parents, grandparents, etc. Is it generations of brainwashing or is this reality? There are many viable arguments such as the Bible and Christianity is a story to be passed on much like the other ancient religions and I believe that: but Christianity is different. It has to be different. It is more than a story of what God did two thousand years ago, but a story of who He is today.

In this search for explaining my sanctification and making sense thereof, I have come back to plants again. It is a familiar and recently pondered subject of mine. I dispise forcing subjects on observations that were never meant to occur, so I tread cautiously into this subject so that I may discover how this salvation I possess may have a great impact on me and those around me.

One of my favorite trees here in Texas is Quercus shumardii or the Shumard Red Oak. There are two varities of this found here in North Texas: single trunk and multi-trunk. On Northaven Road in Dallas is an incredible specimen of a multi-trunk Q. shumardii that I love to view each time I go to work. The canopy spans nearly sixty feet while reaching only thirty feet in height. The owner has taken good care of it pruning it regularly and it shows. All of its trunks are clean, not having suckers or too many branches allowing the branches that remain to be strong, solid and extremely healthy. Most people do not recognize it, but a horticulturalist is impressed by this tree.

There are many factors that affect the beauty of a plant. Genetically speaking, each plant is designed to have a native habitat. This can be changed through acclimation and monitoring, but naturally, each plant has its native habitat. Sunlight, moisture, drainage and heat requirements all vary with each plant. Each of these play into the beauty, existence and life of the plant. If it is not in the optimal place, the beauty and life will be altered in some way. If you plant Q. shumardii next to a high-rise in the downtown area, it will eventually be morphed or destroyed because of the structures around it. It will never be what it was created to do.

This is the point I have recently seen in dealing with the disciplines of the faith. When I hear the term “Disciplines of the faith”, I think of reading the Bible, praying, tithing, fellowship with believers, silence, communion, etc. All the things the Christian does as an expression of love to God for what He has done. Now the crux of the matter is what they have become in my own life. They seem to be the pulse or the thing in which determines life itself in the Christian. Yes, the Bible is explicit on the “Fruit of the Spirit” or how we as Christian should be viewed, but the Bible is also very clear how deceitful the heart is. I find in my own life, the disciplines have become life itself and if they are extinct, than my spiritual life is extinct. If I want to start up my spiritual life again, or get closer to God or become a greater Christian, I must implement these disciplines or increase the frequency of them.

Case in point. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that reading your Bible, or spending time with God prevents one from sinning far less that when the same person is not doing these things. Much like the old saying that idle hands lead to mischief, I hear that if the disciplines are not being done, then sanctification—our salvation being lived out—is not taking place. I have also heard many times of ways to avoid temptation. If you struggle with overeating, then diet. If you have problems with credit cards, cut them up. If you struggle with pornography, then do not use the internet past a certain time. Christianity has become about sin and the reduction thereof, than life itself. Christianity through this system will morph into external morality instead of a clean heart. Just because I can choose to live in a monestary and not have access to anything while living externally pure does not make me a pure person. The thing to remember in sanctification is that it is not progressive externally, but internally. Externally it may seem repetitious, but internally it is deeper. In this form of Christianity, we control the expression of our life so that we are not morally impure, when all we are doing is destroying the life we truly have. This new life is hard and will call for the expression of sin, but in that expression, grace is available by faith.

In saying this, there is something to be said of foolishness or the practice of repeating that which should not be. I would argue that foolishness is that which occurs when the person who is acting has no idea it is occurring again. For instance, if I get out of a large sum of debt, become financially stable, and begin to be in debt again, I am a fool for ignoring it. However, if I realize it is happening again and admit or acknowledge this, I can be free from this problem. It may be an issue I carry to my grave, but because I repeatedly have a problem with it doesn’t mean I am foolish or living in sin. It simply means I am finding new depths of my own brokenness and grace in the same moment.

Where does Quercus shumardii fit into sanctification? So what if it does not have the best soil, fertilizer, sunlight, zone, room and other requirements? Big deal if it doesn’t look like the greatest specimen known. Why does it matter what it looks like? Our culture—even in the landscape—is incredibly image driven so why should it be this case now? One could argue that it would be a healthier tree and live longer. So why should long life be the ultimate goal of this tree?

I would argue that it is not the image or life itself that is in question, but the purpose of the tree to begin with. Each day, every single day everyone of us must make a choice: who is in control. If I choose that I am in control life could be good or bad depending on how much I control. If I choose that I am not in control, life is different. I still will have good and bad days, but I have the ability to control that which I can control and loose that which I do not have control and not be controlled by it in the process. It is at this point that logic is limited and faith begins. I cringe many times at answers like these because they are so “simple”, juvenile sounding and perfunctory, but the denoument brings peace. Because the tree was designed to give glory to God, it does best in the situation that was designed by Him. It is He that gives life to the tree, not the nutrients, rain, sunlight and other requirements.

Thus is the case with sanctification. The disciplines of Bible reading, silence, prayer and other tasks do not give you life, but helps you express the life you have been given. Just like an arborist who prunes, fertilizes and cares for a tree that is planted in its native habitat, but then dies of old age, the Christian too must come to grips with their own limitations. I can “speak with the tongues of men and of angels” and “have the gift of prophecy” and “understand all mysteries and all knowledge”, but I will end. So in the end, do not be lost in how to become a Christian like I have done. It is easy, it is simple and warrants a great amount of attention and love from others, but will end. Instead, ponder why you are a Christian in the first place. This –much like your salvation—will never end.


At 9:13 PM, Blogger Trey said...

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one whose blogposts can be really long at times. ;) Speaking of which, it's been a while since I posted. Anyway...

Just to respond to one snippet of your post, I completely agree that way too many Christians never get beyond the fallacy that the main practical application of Christianity is to establish a moral code. It's a shame that more folks don't realize that morality, even morality that's borne from Christianity, is rooted in the EXTERNAL WORLD, and it has virtually nothing to do with the spirit!

We always want God to be tangible and sensory; we want to experience Him in the ways we experience everything else. And sure, one can see "glimpses" of Him in this world, but I'm slowly realizing that the depth of knowing God dwells as much in the abstract as it does in the tangible...perhaps more so. And trying to wade into the darkness that is abstraction is really tough...

That's enough chatter from me. ;)

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Micah & Brad said...

Dude. you are so far behind it's not even funny.

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Trey said...

Hahaha...what a great question! I must say that I'm pretty vague on that topic. If you have any insight that you've been given, please feel free to share. :) So, whatcha been doing these days? Same ol' thing? Or something new?


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