Updated: Feb 19
The departure from what is considered normal is what I view as the salvation of society, though not Salvation in the true sense as through Jesus, but salvation of humans from a lapse into the world of the automata (although, perhaps they are actually very close to the same thing). The desire is innate in us to want to belong, to feel kinship and acceptance. Satan uses that desire and deceives us into thinking that sameness is the way to attain it. There is not a lot of true irregularity to be seen in the world.
There are many styles and preferences and so on that give us the illusion of variation, but not very many true rebels. At the word rebels, some may cringe and think I mean something along the lines of rock and roll or feminism or sexual freedom. I mean nothing of the sort, because in today’s world, those things are not rebelling at all. (I do not mean to put rock and roll, feminism and sexual freedom all on an even plain, so please do not take these sentences and assume my position on these subjects. I was simply pulling out references to things classically inferred by the word “rebellion.”) Rebelling as I am speaking of it is the kind of rebelling that Jesus did…His refusal to conform to the rigid social and religious regimen that the world of his time set forth. This has been written of more times than I can imagine, so I don’t know why I believe it so important to state here other than it never seems to sink in. Jesus’ willingness to fraternize with outcasts of all kinds, those who were sick, those who were corrupt, and those who were unclean, that is a rebellion in truth, but from the constraints of man, not from the commandments of God. A specific example of societal rebellion in Biblical times is the life of Abraham. He left his homeland at God’s command, even though he had no idea where he was going. For him, it also meant that he took the less promising land rather than quarrel with his nephew Lot. And it meant that when God told him to sacrifice his promised son, Abraham was willing. The life God asks us to live requires actions that don’t make sense…actions that we wouldn’t be able to fathom the meaning of no matter how hard we tried. Or a rebellion could be something much more subtle. These subtle acts, although less noticeable, are usually the things that require more character, because there is no audience, and little obvious or immediate reward. For instance, in today’s world, a rebellion could mean there is a person who refuses to become a “yes-man” although it means losing opportunities for advancement (power) and wealth (security). I worked as a waitress for a time at a restaurant chain owned by a large corporate enterprise. Our general manager (GM for our purposes) at this store was a really nice guy…a family man, with a congenial and disarming personality. It saddened me to slowly recognize that he was completely enveloped in making “The Man” happy…whatever it took. He did not stand up for employees, although he would say he was going to. Every mandate that filed down from some little man in a corner office was to be adhered to without question. You may say, “What is so bad about that? GM sounds like a model employee.” Here is my account of what I believe is wrong with it. We were having a store meeting, every employee required to attend. There had been some squabbling and malcontent about new rules from on high…something about where the napkins could be kept or how much silverware one had to roll or some such nonsense. GM was trying to make us see that doing what we were told was the supreme virtue. Arguing logic or fairness or even customer satisfaction was not our job, nor was it appreciated. In his speech, he stated, “If I got an e-mail today, and it said, ‘From now on, all salt-shakers will be placed on the left side of the sugar caddies instead of the right’ I would just have you all do it. No questions asked. You don’t need to know why, and neither do I. We just need you to do what is asked.” That may not be word for word, but it is the spirit behind what he said. A decent, intelligent man had stopped feeling the need to think for himself. They had taken from him his dignity. No man can feel important in a job where he is asked to not think, to not question and to not reason for himself. His fear of insecurity, possibly losing his position or perhaps never gaining that all-important promotion had become the deciding factor in his actions. Some would call this noble—this unwillingness to jeopardize your position, especially as it (in theory) concerns the welfare of your family. I say that God never intended us to live in fear, blindly accepting pointless or even harmful directives for the sake of our own comfort. Samuel Adams said, “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” This concept is applicable in all areas of our lives, from the workplace to government to religion and education – the list could go on. God is the only giver of security, and when we rely on worldly entities to provide it, in whatever avenue it may be manifested, we take power away from Him and disperse it into either the inert or dangerous hands of humanity. Personal freedom is sacrificed for what will inevitably only be temporary safety and comfort. A quote from the book Beyond Safe Places by Ruth Senter states, “God’s call to me, his child, is not to safeness, but always to something more—always upward, higher, further along. To bypass the call is to settle for mediocrity, complacency and dormancy. And should I choose not to risk, I will more than likely wake up some morning with the haunting question on my mind, “Could God have had something more for me, if only I had dared to trust?” Lord, help me from that fate! You could, at this point, ask, “What is the difference between blind obedience to the corporate entity or blind obedience to God?” This is a good question. God often leads us to do things that we cannot make sense of, without reason or explanation, so how is that better? I do not think I can answer this to the satisfaction of everyone reading this. I am feeling my inadequacy, but I will continue. I do know a couple of good reasons that are definitive for me. The first is that God always knows, without a doubt, what the correct thing to do is, and He has my best interest at heart. He knows me, inside and out, better than I know myself. In following Him, I should have no insecurity about the final outcome of my actions being in His plan for good, whether I can see that in any step along the way or not. I know there have been innumerable times when I believed nothing good could come of circumstances beyond my control, but when I have gotten to the end, realized that things could not have happened any other way if I was to arrive at the place God wanted me to be. This shows me that man’s logic is errant. It only bases conclusions on the obvious, only factoring in the things it can see, and only considering the reasons it understands. Our view is so limited that only following God gives any kind of guarantee at all. The second reason that following God’s lead is different is that it gives me purpose. Blindly following the instructions of man, or a group of men, or, worse, a corporation, gives me no assurance that what I am doing has any significance at all. In fact, it gives me, exactly, the opposite feeling – the sense that I am purposeless and ineffectual. Man is fallible and shortsighted, and corporations are fallible to the extreme because their goals are generally very little more than profit for the corporation, and they breed the inconsequential goal of individual wealth and advancement for their workers. There are some exceptions, of course, but the corporate purpose predominately leaves out the good of the small man; leaves out, in fact, the good of any who are not attempting to achieve its own goal. God’s purpose, and mine when I am following Him, is the Salvation of the world as a whole, but with a focus on every individual person, including myself. For anyone who feels that I am taking a political stance on corporations, I am not. There are some led by upright men who have pure goals of betterment and well being for the masses. However, it is a well-known fact that power corrupts, and the corporate mindset undoubtedly plays on a man’s desire for power, giving him more people to influence and a broader range of control. To reuse the saying: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Thank you, Lord Acton, for this over-used adage.) I recently read an on-line article by Kate Lorenz, an editor for careerbuilder.com. The article was titled “Does the Glass Ceiling Still Exist?” It discussed whether the “glass ceiling” is now a myth propagated by feminists or a real barrier for women. Statistically, there is still a much greater percentage of men in senior positions. However, Lorenz quotes another article by Adrian Savage, titled “The Real Glass Ceiling.” Lorenz states, “…His report…contends that a far more common and impenetrable glass ceiling exists for women and men who don’t want…to play office politics. …Talented people who can’t conform will be blocked or eliminated. Though few people talk about it, this is the real glass ceiling.” The corporate mind breeds like minds. The only way to play the game successfully is to be who they want you to be. I’ve had people tell me that any act of irresponsibility can never be an act God requires of us. I say that I agree, but that depends on what your views on irresponsibility are. Isn’t the definition of what comprises responsible action decided by the society we live in? Does God ask for the same type of responsibility that we are societally taught? Can you transfer the same measure and version of responsibility required of you to all other humans? I know that I have felt the pressure of the world to conform to an accepted level of “responsibility,” but I do not believe that many of the things I have felt pressured to do are the things that God has asked of me. If you’ve ever read Prince Caspian of “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C. S. Lewis, you will recognize the upcoming reference. (Although classified as children’s books, the spiritual truths conveyed in these books are relevant and applicable to people of any age.) In the story, the children are on a difficult journey…no path seems easy and some seem virtually impossible. They are at the crossroads, if you will, possibly lost, and they all know it is imperative to take the quickest route. They are having a bit of discussion (actually more like an argument) about which is the best way. Lucy, the youngest of the group, suddenly states that she has just seen the lion Aslan (the allegorical representation of God), and that He wants them to go up. The others do not fully believe her, thinking perhaps she saw a lion, but not necessarily Aslan, and, besides, Up is, in this instance, seemingly the most difficult and impassible direction. Lucy is the only one who has seen Him, but she knows, without a doubt, what Aslan wants them to do. However, she is out-voted, and they go the logical way…the way that makes sense, practically and responsibly. Soon enough, they are attacked by the enemy and must re-trace their steps. Lucy sees Aslan again, and He tells her that even if no one else will follow Him, she must. She is the only one who can see Him at first, but this time, they have no option other than to believe her. There is no alternate route to take. Aslan leads Lucy, and the rest of them behind her, down paths they would’ve never seen, paths that they presumed were absurdly dangerous and that seem at any moment they will cause them to dive off a precipice. He does not lead them down the “safe” roads, although with Him leading, they are safe. I have felt a certain kinship with the imaginary Lucy. I have often found that God was leading me in directions that seemed irresponsible by the masses and sometimes even reckless…directions that no one else could understand and I could only validate by stating I believed I was following God. I faced the same disbelief from others that Lucy did, and even doubted myself. How did I know it was really God? Perhaps it was simply my own desires voicing themselves in my mind, or, worse, Satan disguised. I sometimes let other people determine whether I would follow. Sometimes, I simply did not have the courage to trust. What I know is that when I followed right off, I unquestionably felt God’s hand on me more prominently and completely than when I followed the prescribed rules of society. When I did not follow Him immediately, there was inevitably pain and I was eventually left with only the option of doing what I knew He had asked of me from the beginning, whether those around me could see Him in it or not. One instance of this in my life occurred as I was finishing high school, I did not really feel that God was leading me to go to college, but I let a multitude of outside influences convince me that it was not only what I should do, but that it was the only real option for any kind of success in today’s world. (I have since discovered that I care very little about success or even security in today’s world.) I went on to college, but the three semesters I spent there saw me sink slowly into depression. I did well from all worldly perspectives…honor societies and scholarships and such…but I was miserable. By the end of my time there, I was in the worst spiritual place I had ever been, or have been since. I barely believed in God’s existence although it was the one thing I wanted to cling to. I finally realized that my unhappiness was caused by the unshakeable feeling that this was not where I was supposed to be. I had tried to be “responsible” and suppress it for a year and a half. According to the world, I was on the path of success and doing well on it, but according to God, I was outside of His will. I knew that unless I rectified that, I could have no peace. So, I quit. I had always been a good student, and I felt the eyes of judgment from those who expected “more” from me. I was wasting my intelligence, wasting my life. But you see, it is not my intelligence, nor is it my life, and the “more” that those people expected of me is less in God’s eyes. It is all His to do with it as He will. If He would have me lead it in apparent ignorance and shame, then that is what I should do. I know that whatever He leads me to do, it will have infinitely more significance than any important thing I could have chosen on my own and accomplished under my own strength. I could stubbornly try to pave my own secure way, and end up with a nest egg, three children and perhaps even a picket fence to complete the cliché. But what is that if it is not where God put me? It is destitution in reality, and meaningless destitution at that. But now I have mixed up my chapter on rebellion with my chapter on ambition, and I must try to unravel them. To attempt to get back on track, I will say this: of your own volition, the perpetration of an evidently heedless act is just that. If I had quit school for laziness or frustration or boredom, there would have been no virtue in it. And, indeed, there is very little virtue in it anyway, as I should have never started school to begin with. It simply means that I had finally made the decision to be obedient, and God could begin to guide me to the next step as long as I did not take the very soonest opportunity to go off His path again. Unfortunately, I end up taking almost every step wrongly to begin with, and having to retrace them all, just as the children did in Prince Caspian. Another consistent pattern of this backtracking is obvious when I look back at my job history. On three separate occasions, I have known that God was leading me to move on from a job, and that I was definitely no longer where He wanted me. In each case, I refused to listen to God’s voice. For months, I kept thinking I would resign when something else came along or when I paid off this bill or that bill so that it would not be quite as much of a financial strain. I gradually grew more and more unhappy in these positions. It got to the point that when I arrived at work, I would sit in my car for fifteen minutes or more, just trying to will myself to go in. I know this unhappiness was caused partially by job strain, but I am certain that it was compounded exponentially by the fact that God wanted me somewhere else. God eventually brought me to breaking points – do-or-die moments – when I knew I had to obey Him, no matter what that meant. My backtracking was, at these points, evidenced by my leaving a job, and seemingly taking a step backwards in life, throwing away any seniority and benefits I had thus far attained. Each time, I know God had given me ample time to plan and prepare, but in my stubbornness, I had not taken advantage of that time. When I finally did decide to obey Him, I knew that He meant now, and I could not wait any longer. This meant that I was leaving one position, and had absolutely nothing else on the horizon. These were some of those points in my life when many people around me believed I was making an irresponsible choice. I had no other source of income, and no money to pull from savings. I am aware that it looked irresponsible, just as my not finishing college looked irresponsible. Every time, though, it was not just quitting my job, it was a turning point in my relationship with God. I have no doubt, even in hindsight, that these were the decisions God wanted me to make, although I am certain that He wanted me to make them more quickly. I feel like I had let those jobs become what I did with my life. In accepting more and more responsibility at work, I afforded less and less time to God. My mental and emotional energy was spent in tasks that I believe have nothing to do with what God ultimately wants for my life. As soon as I left the work behind, I felt God’s presence with me again. I think He just wanted to make sure He had my full attention. By His good grace, something always fell in my lap as far as work goes, and I never once missed a bill payment. Odd jobs would come my way or I would get an unexpected refund from an overpayment or someone would pay back an old loan. I regret, though, that I was horribly negligent once I returned to God’s planned route for me. The choice to leave a job with no certainty was big and visible, and it really did required faith on my part. However, each time I did it, I thought, “That was it. That was what God wanted me to do.” And I am ashamed to admit that I would immediately go back to paving my own way again, forgetting that He probably had a reason for wanting me to leave that job, aside from just leaving that job. I was mistaking the path for the destination. We seem to think that one good choice for God will get us to where we’re going, but God’s road is one long series of choices that require increasingly more faith. I would, regretfully, just let myself revel in the one step I took, and bask in the glory of making a difficult decision to do what God required. I have finally recognized this pattern, and the last time I left a job under the aforementioned circumstances, I made a concerted effort to not make the same mistake. I wanted to remain attentive to God’s every whisper, instead of waiting until He had to scream. I didn’t just take the next job that presented itself, but really prayed that I would listen to Him at every step of the way. I wanted to know that I had made my choice for a reason, and that the reason was going to extend beyond the point of taking whatever came along next. I still have to make every effort to listen to God for each decision, and I fail miserably the majority of the time. I don’t know what it will take for me to stop reverting to trusting myself rather than trusting Him. And I’m certainly still not sure where He’s leading me in my life, but that is the adventure of it. And I love adventure. I do believe that God has different paths for each of us. I have no doubt that some are meant to lead very conventional lives as worldly standards go, whatever conventional means in their day. (Barring ages when conventional means immoral. God always calls us to a life beyond reproach based on absolute Biblical truths and morality.) I believe with all of my heart, though, that all Christians are called to stand out. If you mean to do something bigger than yourself, you will, but it will cost you your normalcy. You cannot be great and normal at the same time. This is encompassed in the word “extraordinary.” It is not only taken to mean “highly exceptional; remarkable,” but extends to include that which is “beyond what is ordinary or usual.” If we ascribed to this belief, not only in word, but also in deed, Christianity would flourish. As it is, the Christian church flounders in largely valid accusations of hypocrisy, judgment, legalism and pettiness. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. Let me clarify that I do not equate great with well known or with highly acclaimed or anything of that nature. I definitely do not mean that only those who have accomplished huge feats have followed God. The small things God calls us to do are generally very much harder than the large ones. To me, it seems much easier to lie down tonight, and have my head chopped off in a guillotine than to wake up each morning and cheerfully face the morning traffic. (Please note that I said “cheerfully.” I can easily face the morning traffic. Cheerfully, and each morning is where the difficulty lies.) I actually believe that the people most rewarded in heaven (if, indeed, there are levels of reward in heaven) will very likely be the people that few noticed, those who worked diligently and patiently with little reward and often for other people’s gain rather than their own. In summing up here, all I’ve actually said is that God calls some people to conventionality, some to extremes, some to large tasks and some to small, but all of us to the extraordinary. (For those assigned “large” tasks, I believe that the small tasks are sort of included in the package. In essence, you cannot be the best until first you are somewhat better.) So, basically, I have established that God has specific and possibly very different things that He wants each of us to do, and we should do them whatever they are. What I am left with is that all of us are only ultimately accountable to God Himself. No other person, no matter how spiritually mature or intelligent can lead us down the path He has for us to take, or judge us for the path we are on. (Let me reiterate that this is only valid if the path we are on follows Biblical principles. God outlines specific steps to take for reproaching a fellow Christian who is clearly not adhering to the moral code God designed us to live by.) I am currently reading The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and due to what I believe is much more than a coincidence, I have a bit more to add here before I move on to my next point. The night I completed writing everything above in this chapter, I read a part of Bonhoeffer’s book in which he states, “What makes the Christian different from other men is the ‘peculiar’…the ‘extraordinary,’ the ‘unusual,’ that which is not ‘a matter of course’…It is ‘the more,’ the ‘beyond-all-that.’” This similarity to what I’ve said above was not intentional as I read it after I had already written this bit. However, Bonhoeffer explains this “extraordinariness” from the beginning as simple obedience. He started out with the point that I didn’t even realize I was trying to make until I’d written it all out…that obedience IS what makes us extraordinary. Following Christ in all things, in all manners, without question, is what leads us to the separateness. In books such as 1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle, authors have penned warnings about the unconscionable acts of those in charge of completely controlled worlds…worlds in which they regulate vocabularies and history and knowledge in such a way as to make it virtually impossible to rebel. They take away the tools largely necessary for a culture to think for itself. They are joined by popular epic stories such as are found in Star Wars and The Matrix and their accompanying prequels and sequels. The Matrix trilogy is, obviously, more blatant about its meaning and symbolism, but the Star Wars series also touches on key elements of totalitarian society. There are many more, but the literary and film references for this subject are too countless to name and exemplify. In Fahrenheit 451, the controlling powers have sped up life, if you will. Every moment is designed to be full of some event, some activity requiring all of your attention in order to keep you from the dreaded activity of individual thought. The main character, Guy Montag, meets a girl named Clarisse. Clarisse begins the process of opening his eyes to what is wrong with their society. She challenges him to slow down…to notice the stars, the flowers. Answering his question of why she is not in school, she states, “Oh, they don’t miss me. I’m antisocial, they say. I don’t mix…But I don’t think it’s social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk, do you? An hour of TV class, an hour of basketball or baseball or running, another hour of transcription history or painting pictures, and more sports, but do you know, we never ask questions, or at least most don’t; they just run the answers at you, bing, bing, bing, and us sitting there for four more hours of film teacher. That’s not social to me at all. It’s a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and out the bottom, and them telling us it’s wine when it’s not.” Them telling us it’s wine when it’s not. That line hit me when I read it. We are trained by everything around us to pursue certain things. Things that Satan would have us believe are wine, but they are not. They often have just enough of a hint of nobility to win over our conscience if we let them…if we simply desire to be soothed or coddled instead of choosing the hard path of the extraordinary. C.S. Lewis put it like this in The Weight of Glory: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” If we as Christians could truly wrap this around our hearts and our minds and our lives, that nothing we can fathom…no security or wealth or relationship or position could ever equal what God will lead us through and to, I believe the world would be transformed beyond recognition. His ways are almost magical, and definitely mystical in the sense that I will never comprehend them. I just hope I can learn to trust Him every moment of every day.
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