Friday, December 21, 2018

The Sins of Our Fathers

Let's suppose this picture represents several generations of humanity. Let's also suppose the colors represent the bad habits present in those generations. When looked at from above, we see mostly brown, but when we zoom in, we can see some shades of color. That slash of magenta, which began at the top of the tree, represents generations of finger pointing. Then there's that blue stripe representing hoarding. In some generations, the blue goes away because of a family revival, someone came to their senses or made a vow of poverty or something like that. But the blue pops up again further down the line in plenty of kings, dictators, czars and presidents. 

There's also the lime-green of theft, chartreuse-slander, olive-gossip. There's red-murder, which follows many family lines for generations until some are wiped out by war or a father became a monk or determined to change. 

Of course let's not forget black-liars, purple-over-eaters, and orange-rape. I'm just assigning colors to anti-social behavior here. Alter them as you like, but the trends remain the same. Every line is colored, and all those colors are shades of the same brown first introduced by Adam and Eve at the beginning of time. True, some generations have more of one color than another. The English kings seems to have more murder and lying in their line than a line of artists. A generation of doctors may have more posing and posturing than a line of engineers. In some generations, the parents decide to put an end to their cheating or alcohol abuse or screaming at their children, so that particular color goes away and may even stay out of the family line for awhile. 

I could illustrate my own sins through this picture. Some of my colors were in the lines before me, and some have lain dormant for generations and my personality has now brought them out again. Some, I am not even aware of because I disguise them behind the belief that I'm just trying to help or do a good job or something seemingly innocent like that. However, none of my colors reveal something new about humanity. I haven't invented any unique shades of brown here. No one ever does. 

I don't mean that with each new invention, mankind doesn't find new ways to misbehave. Like when the automobile was invented, criminals could then escape the crime scene faster! Or when guns were invented, murder was made more accessible. Yes, with every technological advancement, mankind makes up new ways to do bad things. But the motivations for doing these things doesn't change: greed, envy, lust, gluttony, pride, vanity, hate, etc. Those motivations are what's behind all the anti-social behavior. But it is even more complex than that. 

Within the greed is a desire for power or security or contentment. Within the pride is a desire to be declared good enough. Within the hate is a desire for justice or truth. Within the vanity is the desire to be known and loved. All the colors, all the unsociable behaviors are the top crust of an unmet need, an insecurity, so to speak. It is those unmet needs that are the brown coursing through history.  

While I may be tempted to say that my family's colors are more vivid or atrocious than the average man's, this doesn't mean that if my family line weren't so colorful that I would then be less brown. It just means that I might not have had a particular shade of blue or green, but those needs would still manifested themselves in another shade, perhaps one not so noticeable, perhaps one so subtle that I wouldn't have noticed its presence and hence not been aware of my need for God. 

For example: let's say Anna grew up with parents who never told her they loved her. She grew up insecure and fearful and grasping for love. She performed and perhaps gave sex freely in search of love. At some point in Anna's life, she realized that her parents never gave her love and that was why she felt empty. Let's say she had the wisdom to stop seeking that attention from her parents and instead sought and discovered that God alone was able to love her unconditionally. Healing then began in Anna.

Let's also say that another gal, Betty, grew up in what we'd like to call a more healthy home. Her parents frequently told her that they loved her and that she was valuable and beautiful. And she believed it. Then she grew up and moved out. She noticed that the world was full of women more beautiful than herself and in fact that her beauty was fading. Her parents were no longer there to tell her her worth and she started to doubt it. To build herself up, she pursued fashion and righteous living. She frequently compared herself to her friends to make herself feel better. It took Betty much longer to realize that her feelings of unloveliness could only be met by God. But finally, at the ripe old age of 70, she sought and found God's deeply satisfying love. 

Both Anna and Betty were operating on the need to be loved, but the need manifested itself as promiscuity in Anna and vanity in Betty. Anna may blame her parents for her propensity towards promiscuity and she might be right in saying so, but even if her parents had been kind like Betty's, Anna's need to be loved would've appeared in another sinful, though perhaps less anti-social, behavior.

Anna became aware of her neediness much faster than Betty as is often the case among the "morally poor." Perhaps that is why Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). Those whose antisocial behavior alerts them to their needs sooner than those of us who are unaware of our unfulfilled needs are in fact blessed. The many colors in their hearts serve as a catalyst for finding God. 

The cure is not trying to scrub out the more vivid colors on top, but addressing the sickly-brown within. 

And here my analogy loses its potency because colors are good and beautiful, and I am using them to illustrate something corrupt and unwanted. A better illustration might be some sort of corrosive acid dumped into the soil around a tree. That acid poisons the soil and prevents the growth of healthy branches and fruit. 

Regardless of what analogy you use, the cure is the same.

The only way I can no longer feel threatened by others more competent than myself or desperately depend on people to tell me I'm good enough is by having the ultimate authority declare that I am good enough.

The only way I won't hold a grudge when others snub me or patronize me or exclude me is by trusting that the ultimate authority is justly handling all these cases against me.

The only way I can no longer fear of making a decision or messing up my future is by having the confidence that no matter what choice I make, I'll still be loved and God will always make good of it.

The only way I can stop worrying about my needs is by knowing that someone trustworthy is taking care of them.

The only way I can know what is best is by walking alongside the only one who knows what is best. 

All our needs and insecurities are met in a relationship with the giver of all good things. Find him. There is no completion without him.

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