No matter what we breed/We still are made of greed/This is my kingdom come/This is my kingdom come
~”Demons”, Imagine Dragons
In my last blog post, I emphasized the fact that our outer life is a reflection of our interior life and that in order to grow in Christ we need to pay attention to the movements of our spirit. In this post, I am going to emphasize the impact of sin on our interior life and the way in which it makes us “desperately sick”. Admittedly, I have been a bit coy about the inner life. I suggested that our inner life is transparent based on our outward actions, and this is true to an extent. But this is not always the case. Indeed, while the motivations for our actions may be readily apparent to others and to God, they are not always so to ourselves. There’s an element to our psyche that is hidden to ourselves and often to others as well. The ancient Hebrew Scriptures affirms this quite powerfully when it reveals that “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick – who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, emphasis mine).
When I wrote last time about my fascination with caves, mines, and tunnels and the way that entering a cave is like exploring our heart and soul, I negelcted to mention that both caves and our own hearts can be dark and dangerous places, full of threats seen and unseen, real and imagined. Returning to The Hobbit, we see that the dangers of mining and the reality of unseen threats were taken to a whole new level as the Dwarves’ love of mining and riches led to them to their own destruction. In the movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we are told early on that
Ever they delved deeper, down into the dark. And that is where they found it. The heart of the Mountain. The Arkenstone. Thror named it “The King’s Jewel.” He took it as a sign, a sign that his right to rule was divine. All would pay homage to him…As the great wealth of the Dwarves grew their store of good will ran thin..Slowly the days turned sour and the watchful nights closed in. Thror’s love of gold had grown too fierce. A sickness had begun to grow within him. It was a sickness of the mind. And where sickness thrives bad things will follow. 1
It would seem the tragedy is that the Dwarves’ very strenth, their skill in mining and their discovery of the “heart of the Mountain”, was also their very weakness. Rather than share their good fortune, they turned inward as they began to lord their wealth over others. They became sick, and while The Hobbit movie claims it is a “sickness of the mind”, Scripture is clear that the sickness is deeper than merely our thoughts. The sickness resides in our hearts, our very dispositions, much as the band Imagine Dragons seems to realize. For in their lyrics we are remind that “No matter what we breed/We still are made of greed”.
The reason our hearts are disposed toward this sickness is because we have turned inward, although this is not like the type of inwardness that I spoke of last time which seeks to examine the self with God, both for God and others. Rather, this is a greedy inwardness like that found in Thror. It is a greed that insists on “my kingdom come” rather than the posture found in Scripture where Jesus teaches his disciples to pray “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When we insist on establishing our own little “kingdom” on earth, we invariably turn away from God and the goodness of His Kingdom. Scripture reveals that this pattern has been played out in all humans since the very first ones. When Satan, in the form of the serpent, tempts Adam and Eve, he appeals to their desire to “be like God” (see Genesis 3:5, emphasis mine) even though they had already been made in the “image” and “likeness” of God Himself (see Genesis 1:26). 2 It would seem we humans have a difficult time of subordinating ourselves to God.
So part of the reason we need to examine ourselves is so that we can identify those areas of our selves that require surrendering to God. Our inner demons torment us by making us spiritually, relationally, and psychologically ill. Therefore, we are “sick”, as my Scripture translation reads, and in need of God’s healing. “‘The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'” (Luke 5:31-32). This passage is not saying that some are righteous and some aren’t. We are all sick, but some (like the Pharisees whom Jesus was speaking to) refuse to own their spiritual infirmities. They refuse to descend the mineshaft of their own hearts and do the hard work of examining themselves. However, those who do engage in honest introspection before God and open themselves up to the healing work of the Holy Spirit will find themselves healed.
This is part two of a five-part blog series. The next is “Examen Your Work”.
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, directed by Peter Jackson (2012; Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video, 2013), DVD.
2. Tony D’Souza Introduces Discovering Awareness, directed by Bud Wonsiewicz and Blair Ashby (Broadband Living Press, 2010), DVD. This insight that sin is, on some level, a lack of understanding that we are already like God came to me when I attended a Centering Prayer session on April 3, 2014 where we watched an episode of the above video. I do not necessarily endorse every insight of his, but he does make some excellent points that I believe can be reconciled with orthodox Christianity. Sin has been variously defined as “missing the mark”, failing to realize that “God is enough”, and a “turning inward of the self”. These are all true and stem from the failure to see ourselves as God’s children who, though fallen, are still made in His likeness and image. But note that we are not “like” God in terms of substance (we are not Ultimate Reality), but in terms of our ability to express God’s intrinsic relationality as a Triune Being.