Part of our beginning of the year training involved a briefing on crisis situations and how to deal with the fear induced adrenaline rush that accompanies a crisis situation. One reaction in particular caught my attention, developing tunnel vision, or an inability to see beyond a particular detail. For example, you become unable to take in the whole situation and make a rational judgement, and you end up responding based an a preoccupation with one particular detail. Sometimes I feel like I live with tunnel vision, becoming preoccupied with the most random details of life, completely unable to see the big picture before me.
Apparently that is why training is so important in responding appropriately to crisis situations, why the armed forces will spend weeks of training for a mission that may last only minutes or hours, why there are drills for every conceivable emergency situation in school. So where's my training on life? I feel kind of cheated, like I was thrown into this life and thirty-some years later I'm just realizing that I've been operating my whole life in a state of tunnel vision brought on by fear induced adrenaline rush. When I get to heaven, I'm going to look back at the big picture and think, "what in the world was I thinking? I was nuts!"
Call me slow, but I'm only just now beginning to realize that my "highly rational" responses (and believe me, I could make a profession out of rationalizing my behavior) are deeply rooted in a sinful nature that is tangled up with fear and pride and lust and selfishness and envy - even beyond my ability to understand and comprehend. I could easily point this out in other people because most of them are nuts, but me? Heck no! After all, I'm smart! (Please pick up on the self-mocking sarcasm there.)
But lately through the writings of John Owen, I have been spurred on to dig into the roots of my sin, to expose and prune not just my external behaviors, but to really dig up my soul and seek the Spirit at work in the very foundations of who I am. I've been digesting the part where he admonishes me not to deceive myself by speaking false peace into my heart. But aren't we supposed to be at peace? Doesn't God give us peace? I've wrestled with the tension between what it means to pursue peace and what it means to speak false peace to myself. One example Owen brings up is the church at Laodicea, which in Revelations 3 is rebuked for their content, for thinking because of their outward blessings that they have arrived at some sort of spiritual high ground. They "speak peace to themselves" by thinking they are complete when God would have them seek purity and faithfulness. As I'm reading through Judges and a Samuel, I'm struck over and over by how the people of the nation of Israel return to God when they are afflicted, only to fall away again the moment they are relieved of their external affliction. Psalm 78:34-40 summarizes the behavior of Israel:
Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
they eagerly turned to him again.
They remembered that God was their Rock,
that God Most High was their Redeemer.
But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
lying to him with their tongues;
their hearts were not loyal to him,
they were not faithful to his covenant.
Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return.
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved him in the wasteland!
And I'm beginning to realize that my spirit has been too overly burdened with speaking peace to itself. Like the nation of Israel, I use my outward circumstances to hide the inward state of my heart. Like Job's friends, I don't actually say anything technically wrong, but I dramatically misapply the Spirit of truth. I approach God through my understanding, through my own tunnel vision, applying the salve of peace to my sores without ever addressing my disease.
The contemporary church culture stresses grace and peace so much as a free gift and though technically true (and I do need to hear it all the time), this partial truth leaves me powerless and depressed and feeling crazy and faithless when I struggle with the discontent of my own soul. God is not speaking peace to me because I am in a desperate struggle with my sinful nature and now is not the time to rest, as the modern church understands the term rest. God honored Job's discontent because Job was dealing with the real problem, and the only answer was the presence of God. And because Job was dealing with the real problem, God showed up. When God shows up, his presence leads to a simultaneous understanding of both his goodness and our own filth. It was this right perspective, seeing himself in the light of God, that led Job to an abhorrence of self. Ironically to our modern understanding, this abhorrence of self is what brought Job the true peace and rest of God. While his friends were discussing a theology they didn't understand, liberally and inappropriately applying spiritual principles without any true knowledge of God, Job was experiencing God.
I feel like my mind is trying to bench press something massive like the sun when I think about these things, especially at 4 am. I am so entrenched in patterns of thinking, in the tunnel vision created by my own sinful nature, that I'm just beginning to realize that words and phrases that have sounded right for so long (and on some levels probably are correct), have been misapplied to my soul and I don't even know where I am wrong. I'm like a crazy person trying to diagnose my own mental disorder, and I feel like my brain is about to explode.
Thank God for his Spirit, which cuts like a double-edged sword and shines light into my darkness. Now only if I could get some Jesus spit on my eyeballs. I bet that dude had some amazing sight after that miracle. Makes me a little jealous. People sleeping right now also make me a little jealous. So I'm going to try to go back to bed now that I've downloaded some of the ant trails in my brain.