As you may have seen from my previous writings, the last several years of my life has changed to within myself a very specific conviction towards valuing in the utmost, our relationship with each other. It began in a men’s study I was involved with and the reading of a book called, “The Exemplary Husband.” One of the chapters was about relationship. As men we tend to build in our lives priorities. Sometimes our priorities are skewed in that work is our main priority, then family, maybe sports, our friends, and the like. Then we become a Christian and we are told that God should be first, then our wives, our family, our church… You know, we have a more sensible priority list. This book introduced the idea that it is not the things in themselves that have the priority, but the relationships. We should look at it as: Our relationship with God is priority one, then our relationship with our wives, and so on. Another thing I learned in this group was that the reason marriage was so sacred is because our relationship symbolizes the relationship of God within Himself or furthermore, between Christ and us.
Tonight, we initially looked at the creation and how God called all things good until he looked at what was missing or unfulfilled in Adam, and that was he was not in relationship. Being in relationship is the reason God created us. He said that He was making man in His image and in that was the relationship God had with Himself. In the Godhead, God is complete through the relationship He has with Himself. Ponder that for a time. Dwell on it. He did not need to make us, but made us to glorify Him in our relationship with Him and in our relationship with each other. One of the most beautiful poems, according to the pastor, was the one Adam said about Eve. It was not about Eve, but about himself. “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Adam, in his relationship with Eve saw himself. He saw himself fulfilled in Eve. He was fully created for the purpose of relationship and now saw that through Eve, seeing himself fully in that. Does that make sense? Well, look at it this way: when Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God, that relationship was broken, they covered themselves up, hid from each other, and we’ve been doing it ever since. We are not fulfilling our purpose, we are not knowing ourselves except through the relationship of each other and in God. Because of the sin in this world we are constantly hiding from ourselves and from others. We fear being truly known. We are broken and our relationships are broken.
We need to remember the gospel and our purpose in fulfilling the gospel in its freedom and it’s relationship. We need to know that there are two things that ruin our relationships mentioned in Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” It is the challenging and envying one another that ruins relationships. To challenge means we look down on others, thinking ourselves superior, it is always a negative connotation and never about spurring on others. When we envy, we look up at others and are bitter for what they have or who they are, we feel inferior. Superiority or inferiority are the two things that destroy a relationship. The relationship here between relationship with each other and the freedom we have because of the gospel is this superiority and inferiority. When we think that we are superior we know we can do the things that please God. When we are inferior we are always ashamed at our failures and think we are horrible people. Because of our superior or inferior thoughts we cannot have the true relationship with God that we should have, that we were made for; it breaks our relationship with Him.
So how did we get this way in that we always compare ourselves to each other? The answer is also in the verse, our boastfulness. This word means empty glory. We try to glorify ourselves because the emptiness we have. We fill ourselves with glorying successes or the failures we have in trying. In the sin that sprang from that first sin we are hollow because of our unfulfilled purpose, so we constantly try to fill ourselves with things that don’t fulfill, and furthermore, we boast in that, creating feelings of superiority or inferiority in ourselves and others. Something inside us makes us believe we’re not great, so we have to boast about our greatness. So again, it comes down to the brokenness of our relationship due to our superiority or inferiority.
Look at what Christ says in Matthew 7, “I never knew you.” In that he wasn’t saying they weren’t good enough or humble enough, but that He didn’t know them. The final exam, as you might say, is about how much He knew us.
We look at psychology and it ways of solving our human dilemma, and it focuses more and more on that people just don’t see the value enough in us. Christianity says that it is sin and that we compare ourselves to others and it is the cause of all brokenness.
One of the things we also do is look at others and become attracted to people because of what they can fulfill in us. Can we spend a good time together? Will they bring me into this circle of friends? We look at what others can do for us in making us feel worthy or give us the glory. When we do this we are devouring each other. Galatians 5:15 says, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” This made me think of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of hell, where people are eating each other. This superiority/inferiority and the brokenness of relationships is in many ways a hell we have created for ourselves. When we look at others for what we may gain, we are using them, or devouring them, consuming people for our own gain. One girl I’ve been talking with about boundaries, said that she needs people. Now, we all need people, but when we need them in a very needy way, where it gives us fulfillment just to be around so many, it is as if we are devouring them. That is a boundary she must keep; not to have people around for the sake of your own neediness. I very much understand this attitude. Her and I are alike in so many ways. I see her in me 25 years ago.
We now see because of Galatians 5:13-14, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” that our only options are to devour or to love, and it tells us in these verses that in love we are to serve one another. How do we choose to serve over devouring? It is by the Spirit of God that we accomplish this.
Philippians 2:5-7 “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
We are to walk by the Spirit and not regard yourself too highly. Empty yourself, become that servant. No longer look at what others can do for you, thus devouring them, but see what you can do for others.
Self-examination time: 1) Do you give, when there is nothing to take? 2) Do you sacrifice or feel as if you should be served? 3) Are you moving toward people who give you nothing in return? These are difficult questions. The Christian life is never as easy as it seems.
One thing I did ask after. He stated that he had to take a break from relationships, because they are so hard, is that a proper attitude? Even Jesus had to get away by Himself away from others for a time. I love you Jesus, You are my perfect example. Amen!
Strange Confessions: Some of the music I have recently discovered is more execrable, lyrically wise, than the music I liked in high school and college, which was disparaged at the time as evil and disgusting. Worse yet, I was introduced to some of the current stuff by my bestest buddy, who is, supposedly, a Christian.
It seems that every fifteen to twenty years or so my tastes change in the type of music I mostly listen to. There have been some interludes of the classical (Beethoven), the grungy (Soundgarden), the jazzy (Spyro Gyra), the swing (Frank Sinatra), and the blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan). I’ve even found a band that got me liking my much detested Southern Rock genre, Drive-By Truckers. But your musical tastes are defined by the majority of what your listening ear leads to. Early in my life I found myself digging the comical musical stylings found by listening to Dr. Demento and the soft rock and disco popular at the time. Choosing the music I like started with heavy metal. Rainbow, Judas Priest and my favorite, Iron Maiden defined the era in high school. In College I was in a mostly transitional phase, but the major bands were R.E.M., U2, The Police and the Eurythmics. When I became a Christian, I found bands similar to what I liked at the time. Things really changed when a friend introduced me to Apoptygma Berzerk. I listened to a lot of Techno, Electronica, Synthpop, and EBM which culminated in the much appreciated Goa-Trance. Bands like Kraftwerk, Orbital, Covenant, Daft Punk, Infected Mushroom, Juno Reactor, Erasure, KMFDM, and much, much more, opened up a perpetual dancing heart within me. I liked to move, and this stuff was the majority of my listening pleasure for the last twenty years or so.
Recently I had found a band that really connected with me: Steam Powered Giraffe. But they seemed like a band that I would temporarily enjoy for a while, but they could never stand the test of time. To me it kind of seemed They Might Be Giants all over again. I really liked the hook and humor of TMBG, but I listen to them now and it seems dated… immature. I sensed a change coming in me… musically. It’s just starting to get a bit tiresome listening to the Techno/Electronic and strangely enough I’m not nearly as into Goa-Trance as I was. I use to be able to listen to that stuff for hours.
Then I heard Alt-J. I knew this was the stuff that could change the current era I was getting tired of. The melodies, harmonies, elegant and atmospheric drew me in instantly. I downloaded the album and listened to it constantly everyday. Some of the lyrics I couldn’t understand, because they distort or mumble or quietly chant their words, so I looked them up. They are a very poetic in their lyrics, and take some lyrics from some literary sources, in which some of the questionable lyrics come from. I find myself singing some of these lyrics that I don’t particularly want to find myself singing. I say that some of the books I’ve read have some sections that are disturbing, but as a whole they have a message, one that I can understand and ponder, maybe not agree with, but it is there nonetheless. If I read books that just had disturbing images one after the other, I probably wouldn’t read them. If there was a powerful enough image that was dark and disturbing I might write a song about the feelings that came forth from the reading. There is even a song he wrote about a time he was beaten badly by some soccer hooligans, and it sounds like a drug song. I see Alt-J as an extremely poetic band that needs second and third looks at what they are communicating, while their music is just plain righteous dude!
Which brings me to another band that I heard on the Alt-J station I just created on Pandora: I Monster. The first song I heard was apparently the most popular, Daydream In Blue. It had a mellow, sci-fi, retro, haunting early 60s, vibe with a bit of Electronica thrown in. I was instantly hooked. Then there was Hey Mrs. and Heaven and the crazily repetitive The Blue Wrath. I loved it all. It was undefinable, a bit scary, sci-fi, so retro, and did I mention undefinable? Check out this video, it’s the only original one I feel comfortable enough to post here.
A slight bit dark and a little disturbing, yes? I had to listen to some of the whole songs and came across other videos more disturbing than that though. Their lyrics sometimes seem innocent enough, but then you find out what some of the distorted stuff says, and wonder, “How did I get here?” Again, these guys a very poetic and perhaps a bit obsessed with male/female relationships. The one I particularly looked at seemed to be a play on romantic pursuits hiding true purposes and making fun of how we hide behind the masks of culture in our obsessions. Very good, very interesting, and again, dark and disturbing.
So I wonder if this stuff is healthy for me. When I started my Electronica phase I really liked a band called Rammstein. I constantly listened to it and repeated the harsh, hard, German lyrics that trilled on the tongue. At the time I worked with a Christian girl, and she asked me if I knew what they were singing about. I said no, and she told me that perhaps I should find out what I was singing. When I found out, I was shocked and horrified! It wasn’t just one or two songs, it wasn’t poetic, it wasn’t playful, it was really dark and obsessed with relationships (if you know what I mean). Even though this was a different language, I could no longer listen to it with a clean conscience.
This current music I like is different, isn’t it? I can listen to it myself, but should I recommend it? Would I make the weaker brother stumble? If I’m slightly disturbed by this music, I know there are some who would completely be offended by it all or fall into searching for other stuff that may excite senses that they have fought for a long time.
It seems that the world around us is getting darker. Some would say it always has been as dark as it is. In the immortal words of Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire.” I know I am to be the light, does this kind of stuff not make me not as bright? What about drinking alcohol? Is everything that could be abused or construed as evil be stayed away from? Should I disdain sugar and fat? Wow, that one hit below the belt, eh? We got to be careful within our own attitude and relationship, and not worry so much about what others may think about what we’re doing.
This has been what I had struggled with all year last year. What should I look like? But, really it was: What should others look like? I know God deals with me and my struggles and will lead me and guide me into what I would need to rid myself of or start doing. I am thankful for this perspective change.