Christian Life ...

Christian Life ...
Christian life is meant to be a life of bearing much fruit. What does that look like? How do we get there? This blog will record thoughts and meditations about living a life striving to be a fruitful branch.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fruitfulness in the Moment & Relating to the Past

In my recent bible study and life experience, action mindset is a huge focus. I have been working through my natural desire to overthink choices, decisions, due to not knowing what is right. I have also tended to doubt the potential for future successes due to past failures. Various things of late have reminded me that living as a Christian must be hope driven people of action in the moment. 

What does that mean exactly? I will consult an atypical source:

“It's being here now that's important. There's no past and there's no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don't know if there is one.” -George Harrison

In my experience as a Christian, it's really common to take secular things and discount everything about them because they do not fully embrace Christian values or directly express Christ-centered truths. There is something to that, I guess, but the only thing not true in a Christian sense about what George Harrison is saying is that "we don't know if there is (a future)."

Brain science and my experience tell me that George is on to something with what he's saying. There are some similar sentiments in some Beatles songs in general. "All You Need is Love" reflects this same notion of living in the moment. John Lennon's "Imagine" goes further into a deeply humanist view of the beautiful ideal of the "brotherhood of man". If everyone would just live in peace and harmony, without agendas, we'd all be better off.

Now understand that I'm entering a very existential realm here, but in my experience truth is truth. We can not live waiting for the future to be different, because on earth, George is right, "we don't know if we have one." The past means nothing to this current moment because the past is no longer happening. If we neglect to be in the now and dwell in the past, we really fail to dwell at all.

Brain science says that the brain only works in the now. It doesn't record picture or video memories. It doesn't re-live the past. If you are dying for an interesting read take a look at this The empty brain, by Robert Epstine. It's a little nerdy, but it shares some very interesting and somewhat related ideas. While it's certainly not inherently Christian in voice, it's foolish to think it's against Christian thought.

If we believe God created the human mind, and if the human mind doesn't store information, we must confirm that God doesn't want us to dwell on the past. George Harrison can get behind that.

The past and Christian Life have an interesting relationship.

“We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it.”
― Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?  

There are things from our past that we can stand on. Transformation moments in our understanding of life, love, work, play, and God. We have to understand that these events shape us. No one would think the way they do without their past experience, not Rick Warren, not Mike Boosalis, not Robert Epstine and not George Harrison.

I firmly believe that healthy balanced people have made peace with their past. Sometimes this is easier said than done. An individual may have things in their past that they want to hide; they are afraid people will judge them according to things they have done.

This is life.

Isaiah 43:18 says
"Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old."

Initially this seems to suggest that we shouldn't acknowledge the past at all. This however does not see the context of the rest of the passage ... even in the minuscule.  Isaiah 43:16-21 says:
This is what the Lord says—
who makes a way in the sea,
and a path through surging waters,
who brings out the chariot and horse,
the army and the mighty one together
(they lie down, they do not rise again;
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick)—
“Do not remember the past events,
pay no attention to things of old.
Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert. 
The animals of the field will honor Me,
jackals and ostriches,
because I provide water in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert,
to give drink to My chosen people.
The people I formed for Myself
will declare My praise.
Here, God declares that he is doing a new thing. Oddly enough, in describing the new thing that He's doing, the word of the LORD calls out some references to Israel's past.

Do you catch the peculiarity of this? "Forget the past!" God says, "I am doing a new thing, much like what I did in the past! ... remember that?"

God IS.

I think that is one of the most important things to remember about Christian relationship with time. Our heavenly father exists within time and outside of time. He is alpha and omega - beginning and end. This isn't saying that He was Alpha and He will be Omega. Its saying He is both of them.

This is reality. This appears to be paradox. So many spiritual truths seem impossible to a human mind. Especially a mind entrenched in Western philosophy and academic, enlightened though.

"Here I raise my Ebanezer ..." might be one of the weirdest phrases in your standard church hymnal, but in this context the idea is very helpful. The Prophet Samuel coined the phrase after God had been faithful to Israel by assisting them in defeating the Philistines. The Ebanezer is a commemorative pile of rocks. It's a symbol for the future, about God's faithfulness in the past.

In the words of Isaiah 43, the LORD is calling Israel to remember the Ebanezers they built up because in their now he was doing a new thing, like he had done then. God is telling them to forget their past actions or past circumstances and stand upon His faithfulness. God brought them through before. God's faithfulness remains.

In trying circumstances, it's not always easy to see the Ebanezers we have built. This is what Christian relationship with the past should be. We must acknowledge the past as something that has shaped us. We must acknowledge that we are not our past, and dwelling in it, letting it drive our current actions, isn't beneficial to the here and now. In human terms, George Harrison is right, "all there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future ..."

Now with God, this is were George misses the mark. We can hold fast to the fact that God IS alpha and omega. He IS the beginning and the end ... now. He is faithful and we can look to our past experiences and see those little metaphorical piles of commemorative rocks. We don't have to blot out our past, and we can learn from it. It's the nature of the human brain. Our brain practices activity and remembers positive and negative results of actions. It remembers good stimulus. But still, where George misses the mark is about the future we do not know we have. As Christians, we are people not just rooted in hope, but in assurance of God's renewal.

Christian life can be defined as life with hope, help and healing. We are not perfect people, our histories reveal that. Those three "h"s are nice things. God provides us with strength to help us in the present, blessed assurance and promises to give us hope for the future, and if we look close enough, lines and lines of Ebenezers, commemorating God's faithfulness and healing presence in our past(s). 

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