I just finished reading Bernard Shaw’s play “Saint Joan” based, of course, on the military movement of Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc), her trial and eventual execution as a heretic. While I don’t necessarily know what to make of Catholic theology or Joan’s saintly visitations this isn’t going to be a debate over the authenticity of her spiritual life. I do however, strongly suggest that you read Shaw’s play and perhaps do some research on her life. You can find the play over at Project Gutenberg Australia available freely as an e-book; it’s a short read and took me only a couple days to finish. (To those who know me well enough this is significant because I do not enjoy reading all that much and am not a fast reader). Personally, this book is good enough to have your own physical copy of.
I’ll put it to you straight, because that’s the way I like to hear it best: I have little doubt that God directed me to re-read this book for such a time as this. I don’t have the words now, so take a few days and read it for yourself and perhaps I will comment more fully on it later on; for now I won’t spoil the story by sharing my own experience just yet. So there’s your reading assignment for the week; look forward to another post about it and get to it!
Shifting gears now, someone recently shared a tid-bit of information regarding a man by the name of George Washington Carver. I went searching and pulled up this quote:
“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.” -George Washington Carver
That prayer resulted in a reputed 300 new uses for peanuts discovered by Carver, revealed to him by God. Cool, right? Well the other day I asked God for my own bit of wisdom; I asked God to reveal some mysteries to me about people. Alright, so maybe I was a little more ambitious that Carver, minus the universe of course, but I’m still shy of King Solomon’s request. (I’m also shy of his calling). Anyway, however the case may be, God didn’t say it was too big. But He did say it would take a while.
Anyway, I forgot all about it till a while later when I nearly banged my hand into my bedroom wall. Instinctively I said outloud, “Ow!
And then the ensuing mental conversation went something like this:
“Why did I say that? That didn’t hurt, I barely even hit the wall!”
It was purely monologue.
And then a thought came to me. In many (probably mundane) instances such as this, I respond before I even have time to think. That isn’t the first time I’ve instinctively said “Ow,” before something hurt, even when it didn’t end up hurting all that much. Huh. Interesting. And then the thought followed through – people respond before they even have time to think. Just think about that.
Alright, so maybe you’re not catching the revelation like I did because God didn’t whisper in your ear, “See? You’re learning mysteries already,” directly afterwards. That’s okay, because it was for me.
But think about this. People respond to things before they even have time to think. We’re so practiced up that it just comes naturally. Sometimes before anything even happens. I was about to say that’s not always bad, but I changed my mind; I think it is always bad. No, it isn’t dangerous to be conditioned to something good, but think about it. I’m still fighting my way out of a performance conditioning–the idea that how well I perform before God matters. It’s Law-based and it’s some dangerous conditioning. Conditioning is at its heart, numbing. We label every situation and circumstance and file it, neatly referenced to what we believe is the appropriate response. But if your filing cabinet is anything like mine, it doesn’t stay organized without constant reevaluation.
The problem with conditioning is that we’re open-minded people–that is, so open-minded that the categorizations we make for our replay-responses become generalized. “Oh, I’ve experienced something like this before, this must be the appropriate response,” followed by a new file in the cabinet under the heading “Bad Reactions, [A-H]”. Our most hardened defenses begin to leap out regularly at any innocent passer-by simply because they looked at us a certain way. We begin simply accepting wrong ideas from others simply because we are trained to accept ideas from sources A B and C but not D. But the reality is that every moment is new, requiring a new response. But with so much reevaluation required to make our conditioning realistic to a world continually spinning, is it worth being conditioned any more?
I came from a system where people were conditioned to accept just about anything as truth if it came from an authoritative figure. No questions asked–and how dare you challenge your elders, they obviously know more than you because they’ve lived longer.
Unless they’ve lived longer under a system of false conditioning.
Because now the system gives authority to people above Biblical truth–or at the very least it gives people the authority to make what they will of the Bible so that it agrees with them instead of the other way around. That’s some dangerous conditioning, because that conditioning is costing them the gospel of grace. So I hit my hand against the wall. But contrary to my conditioning, it didn’t really hurt.
Because do you know what is at the core of conditioning? Wrong believing.
If we let our conditioning lead us, it will feed us a false reality, and we will–even to our own shame and demise–believe it.