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Monday, August 10, 2020

Be the kindness you can be, and what God will do, you will see


In a world in love with power, we may hardly reconcile how much power there is in rejecting power.  In a world where people are more tempted than ever to project their specialness, there is one quality the draws special attention to the more authentic specialness of a person.

That quality is the opposite of narcissism; that ‘entitlement to exploit others’.  The quality I speak of is kindness.  Kindness sets apart a specialness to any person devoted to it that kind people never crave, but always deserve.

As I cast my mind back to the kindest people who have impacted my life, one of the clearest examples was a lady I knew 15 years ago.  She just seemed to be thinking ahead always about how she was to bless everyone.  She always seemed five steps ahead of everyone, but poignantly her thinking was directed toward everyone else.  She gave of herself in every way conceivable.  She was generous with her time, her money, her physical presence, with the words she said, the smile she wore, her sense of laughter and joy, the party invitations she gave out to everyone, even to the courageous things she would say that were always rooted in love; the kindness of integrity.  She made people feel they were the centre of her world.  She was kind to everyone, no matter what they thought, looked like, did or didn’t do.  In many ways, she was like an angel, and yet I know she would be the first one who would’ve said she was just human; and a bit broken like the rest of us.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about kindness is this: it’s a gift that keeps on giving, and just as much as the ripples of kindness move outward upon the lives kindness touches, those ripples ripple inward as well, and just as much are the kind blessed.

Kindness might as well be generosity redoubled when it seeks no praise.  Indeed, how could kindness be kind if it were to seek reward?  Kindness sees or foresees a need and fulfils that need at just the right time, without a thought, being the pure instinct of love, and is always backed by the right benevolent motive.

Most of all, kindness is the antithesis of bullying and narcissistic abuse.  It can do no violence, because it is filled with thoughts to bless.  Kindness does no violence, because it sees the supreme way for all, including itself, and is sold to the idea that nothing can compare with, nor overwhelm, nor conquer kindness.  And kindness, most of all, is defined by others.  We can know whether we’re kind or not by what others say about us.

Want to see what God’s up to?  Do your kindness.  Be the kindness you can be, and what God will do, you will see.  Kindness is colour blind.  Kindness leaks onto others.  It is contagious.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Grappling with the COVID-19 mental health realities

In January it was bushfires, and in February we began to hear about a new virus.  By March, it was well and truly on us, and by the end of that month the minds of everyone in the world were trained on COVID-19, barring schools of deniers, doom’s-dayers, conspiracy theorists, among other factions.  Knowing nothing in practice about the Spanish Flu from 1918-1920, we attempted to grapple with the so-called first, second and third waves, knowing that the first wave was all that mattered for that time being.  We quickly braced for lockdown, and depending on our area of the world, the next few months made the previous years of our lives look pretty boring in stark comparison.  I think we all feared the worst, given that lockdown presented a huge number of unknowns.

Fast forward a few months, and we know a little bit more about what we’re in for, and we’ve faced so much over those intervening months — the war over masks, Black Lives Matter only two — not to mention huge decisions over schooling, work, our elderly loved ones, etc.  The virus is highly contagious, and whilst it doesn’t kill everyone, there are still so many unknowns about it.  And it has crippled us economically.  All the uncertainty, job losses, fears for contracting the illness, physical distancing and masking issues (to wear one or not), and the idea that we are contained to one area of the world for some time yet, all bear down upon numerous other realities we cannot change and can only accept.

More and more of recent we are hearing in the news media that this virus is here to stay for the next year or two or three.  Many countries in the world are facing economic outlooks of recession, if not depression.  Just now there are grim reports out of Indonesia and the Philippines.  Areas like these who cannot contain the virus will slip into poverty that will see malnutrition and starvation killing many more than even the virus.  Countries only need what happened to Beirut with the ammonium nitrate explosion disaster to leave them completely exposed to devastation.  And there are so many developed nations that face far worse outcomes than this Westerner can conceive.

We may well imagine what a major weather or environmental disaster might do at this point — like a 2004/2011 tsunami.  The fact is, these concerns and so many more keep people awake at night, they do cause nausea, they do cause panic attacks, they do tip people into addiction, and they do cause a sense of despair in many who are just trying to step one yard at a time in this life.

Dealing with the COVID-19 mental health realities is a conundrum all its own.  The solace we can take from all this is we’re in this together.  Many are losing jobs at the same time.  Many are in lockdown at the same time.  Many are losing loved ones.  Many are seeing property prices collapse at the same time.  Yes, many are facing financial uncertainty at the same time.  We’re all riding this ‘wave’ together.  And we will get through together.

But this doesn’t stop us from feeling very alone in our own individual ways of coping with the present disaster.  Moreso now than ever, we’re facing the reality that this crisis will continue, when only a few months ago we may have doubted the predictions of experts.  As that reality grounds itself in our psyche, as it lands as an irrefutable fact on our experience, it will have a deeper and further impact on our outlook upon life.  The thought of carrying or wearing a mask even six months ago for most of us would have been the last thing on our minds.  Now we are thinking about our elderly parents and grandparents in a completely different light, and even young people have been seriously ill from or died of COVID-19.

How will we get through this next several months to a year or two?  How will we get through this period stronger and more resilient?  The fact is, we will.  In getting up each day and doing the best we can, we will get through this, just like those 100 years ago got through.  We will get through, and things will change, and we will need to be ready to continue to adapt to change.  The thing we need to remember is we will get through this.  Those who insist on it will get through.

The mental health realities will necessarily cause us all to grow more in empathy and compassion.  We all have the opportunities to become more pastoral.  We will all have opportunities to care for people amid times also when we may be cared for.  It takes humility to accept care, just as it takes humility to provide good care.  And it is care that we need to reach out for and provide as needs arise.

What is most unquestionable about the COVID-19 crisis is that it’s here for some time yet, and there will be a high human impact and cost, and that prayer is never more important.  The Lord Jesus, of course, commanded us to love our neighbour, and that is our imperative today and all days, and we must also leave room enough to ensure we look after ourselves so we can look after our neighbour.

For those who are depressed or dealing with severe anxiety, let us pray that those of us who are desperate would get the help that we need, whilst praying also that there might be an opportunity to serve and help when we are able to.

Loving Lord God,

We lift our world before You and ask that You heal our world in good time, that You alleviate hunger, protect our health workers, get aid to those who need it, compel governments to govern well, and give the all-sufficient power of Your grace to all those who need it.  For the Lord Jesus’ sake, we pray.

AMEN.

If any of this disturbs you, I encourage you to contact help in your country.  International Helplines Checkpoint: https://checkpointorg.com/global/

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash 

Friday, August 7, 2020

A visual metaphor of the overt narcissist

Metaphors or images give us the ability to visualise concepts.  I want to give you a visual metaphor that describes the overt narcissist; the person who is quite openly narcissistic, even as they appear charismatic, humorous and initially connected.

Imagine for a moment a hollow porcelain ball.  Perhaps we can picture a bowling ball, just without the finger holes... and hollow, not solid.  (We’ll come to hollowness soon.)

Let’s deal with the ball’s exterior for a moment.  The ball’s exterior is very hard; it’s made of porcelain after all.  But porcelain is very brittle and quite easily cracked, but only under an immense amount of pressure.  It will usually withstand just about anything.  It has the appearance of being impenetrable. For all intents and purposes, it is impenetrable.  What it is in appearance, it is in actuality, but only under about 98% of circumstances.  It is impenetrable in every single way until it isn’t, and then it’s a catastrophe.  So the outer surface of the ball is incredibly hard.  But the wall of the ball is thin, super thin.

Imagine the ball being so hollow it is absolutely empty inside.  It is a void in there.  Absolutely vacuous.  If we could break through the ultra-hard outer surface, to reach the inside, which is almost antimaterial, the ball would suddenly cease to be.  The outer surface would vanish, and the ball would have disappeared like a mirage.  Break the outer surface, and you quickly find there is nothing there; no substance whatsoever.

Welcome to a picture of a narcissist.  They exist to control every circumstance as a means of portraying their power, and they thwart any move that would see them appear as normal or less-than — they must always project upon others that they’re more-than.  Their personality is the impenetrable porcelain outer surface, and there is no way inside, unless whether by intent or by accident, a person exposes the reality of the narcissist where they are psychologically naked and seen as the vacuous being that they are.

Anyone who has substance within themselves is able to be weak and then vulnerable, because they have a trust that their inner person won’t implode upon examination.  This one doesn’t fear being exposed, because they don’t pretend to have it all together in the first place.  But the overt narcissist has no such safe and self-accepted inner world.  They cannot be vulnerable, because the outer porcelain surface cannot let others in.  The outer porcelain surface protects the inner nothingness from exposure.  This is why when a narcissist is exposed there is rage and revenge, until by lightspeed thrift they revert to denial and the fabrication of strength as that impenetrable surface reappears as if it was always there.  This is one proof you’re dealing with the narcissist.  They are never wrong.  (Unless by allowing you to be right, that they’re seen as superior — i.e. virtuous.  Sense the manipulation?  We can always ask, “Did they just get the upper hand by allowing me to think what they got me to think?”)

What are the consequences of dealing with hollow porcelain balls?

Because there is no capacity for vulnerability in the overt narcissist, and there is no ability for them to be vulnerable, they cannot ever be wrong, and they cannot therefore relate.  Try relating with someone who can never be, or is never, wrong.  Or, with someone who is always somehow superior, who always has the upper hand, who is always the head.  There is no way an effective bipartisan relationship can be had with a person who is always relationally superior.  This is the chief claim against complementarianism and patriarchal society — that one gender is leader over the other.  It’s a construct that enables narcissism.

Because the rub of the green must always go with a narcissist, you must always be satisfied with second-best.  It is possible to have a relationship with a narcissist, but only when we know who we are dealing with, and we accept that we are in fact stronger than they are when they insist we be weaker than they are.  Yes, it’s a conundrum!


 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The necessity of sanctuary in recovering from spiritual abuse


When you’re in the midst of being spiritually abused, your faith takes such a hiding that you wonder if you’ll ever recover.  Indeed, recovery is tantamount to impossibility when faced with the kind of environment that breeds the spiritual abuse in the first place.  Whilst there, not only can you not see the wood for the trees, but there is no hope for recovery when you’re senses, emotions and mind are continually punch drunk, when your entire being is hypervigilant to the maximum, when your body wears the visceral scars of existential trauma in the living shades of what feels like a spiritual death.

The solitary hope in recovering from spiritual abuse is getting out of the environment and getting into a safe and healing one.

Only once a person is free from the bonds of the abuse can a person reconcile just how deeply entrenched they were.  It can take months and even years in many cases to see with the full vision of insight, the fuller magnitude of the deceptions wrought, and the damage done.  Only once a person is safely removed, or they safely remove themselves, from such a toxic environment can a person begin a journey of seeing the actual travesties with ever increasing wisdom of hindsight.

Truth is more resplendent the further the disaster zone is viewed from.

Spiritual abuse is not just using Bible verses out of context, weaponising the Word of God.

It does not just comprise gaslighting.

It isn’t just someone saying, “God is on my side, and not on yours; I’m right and you’re wrong, and this (and that) is what God is saying.”

It isn’t just dominating a person with spiritual concepts.  

And it isn’t even just lording doctrine over a person or people. 

Spiritual abuse is all this and more.

Even if it is these things and so many more, there is something deeply cutting in psychological abuse that cuts to the heart of the spirit in an individual, rendering mortal wounds to the soul.  Indeed, perhaps it would be fair to say that any psychological abuse that impacts on our spirit is a form of spiritual abuse.  Whenever a person bosses another person persistently, they do damage to the other person’s spirit, trauma does result, and the body and being of the person who is abused is impacted existentially.  There is no doubt about it!

Sanctuary is only found well away from an environment that was so toxic.  It is hard to comprehend just how damaging it was — especially so while you’re in it — not simply because you’re not allowed to think that way, but also because cognitive processes are thwarted.  Only upon arrival in a safe environment can one truly look back.  People can only see the truth from such a protected, unhindered vantage point, where there is freedom to ponder and where there is spiritual freedom for God to reveal what only God can reveal.

But it often doesn’t get better straight away; it usually gets worse for a time.

This is because, as we begin to see the truth unfold there is an inordinate anger, which is indignation — it’s both appropriate and necessary, but it often doesn’t feel helpful.  Given that people are in a full-blown grief process by this stage, there are dark and depressive days, just as there is bargaining with God about the redemption of faith.  People usually seriously doubt faith that seems completely lost is even recoverable.  Of course, the effect of the gaslighting causes us to deny many realities along the way.

All this is required, this grieving of the loss that was the abuse that was done, before a resounding and steady truth can finally be accepted across the board all the time.  The work can often be incredibly slow and painstaking.

The solitary hope in recovering from spiritual abuse is first getting to a safe place.  From there the process begins, and it is aided all the more through a gentle and continuous process of therapy and safe pastoring.  Indeed, as we talk ‘environments’, the care we receive is an inherent part of it; that, and the abuse desisting.



Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Like two ships passing silently in the night

All relationships go through trial and challenge if the attachment lasts long enough.  Whether it is conflict, which is most common, or incongruent goals, or for myriads of other reasons, it can often be that one is trying desperately hard to communicate something very plainly and importantly to the other — seemingly never getting through.  It’s like two ships passing silently in the night, one sending out a desperate search beacon, and the other unable to receive that message.

How many husbands have not heard that desperate plea from a wife who is unhappy, discontent, unsatisfied?  Perhaps there is loneliness, where he is present but not present if you know what I mean; the lights are on, but no one is home.  Or, maybe he’s just plain absent.  It could be marital infidelity, or continued unfaithfulness, and such betrayals are brutal, and indeed very hard to come back from.  Or maybe it is a silent abuse; he may be completely oblivious, but his control is worsening, and the relationship is becoming miserable (or worse, unsafe).  I call it silent abuse, because perhaps nobody else is aware of it.  It could be it’s the way he talks to her.  And for some it’s the reverse; it’s the husband diligently trying to get the wife’s attention.

Whatever the matters are, there is a desperation in the communication for one of the partners, and the other partner just doesn’t seem to be aware of what’s going on, or worse, they refuse to listen, being completely ignorant to the consequences that are coming.  These refusals to listen, or the inability to understand, push the desperate partner to the brink of their tolerance and beyond it.  And the growing desperation creates desperate times which call ultimately for desperate measures.  Truth insists its voice be heard eventually.

Suddenly when there is a big fracture, the one who has been warned for a long time becomes desperate in response.  Their ‘journey’ is only just commencing.  Suddenly their attention has been piqued, but perhaps it’s too late.  On so many occasions, way too late.

Like two ships passing silently in the night, for many relationships Time is called.  For the one who never sowed into the relationship when they could, their grief is only beginning, whereas the one who gave endless opportunities has already grieved.  One can’t move on when for the other that’s all they can do — move on.

This could be a timely warning to someone reading, who is taking their marriage or relationship for granted, who is currently being warned, yet they’re not heeding it.  It could ring true for the person who is desperately trying to get through.  Theirs is a very common challenge, and much more common than they may care to realise.

How many relationships are like two ships passing silently in the night? — too many!

Every relationship coupling has its time and opportunity, and for those who don’t want to experience the grief of a relational tearing, it is wise to listen and respond now while the opportunity presents.

Perhaps as two ships are passing silently near each other in the night, one might be warning the other of an impending hazard.

To prevent both ships and relationships from running aground, there must be a way to navigate past and away from the hazards, whether they be shipping lanes, or the hazards known to human relationships.



Photo by Don Kawahigashi on Unsplash

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Signs & effects of hypervigilance in the COVID age

In almost every part of the world there is some region where the menace of COVID is full blown to the point where it never feels far away.  Even in comparatively safe quarters, perhaps a state or two away from an epicentre, we get the distinct impression that the second or third wave is only a matter of time away.  This can have either a very disconcerting affect, or lingers in the background, and either way there is the ever-present possibility that we become hypervigilant about the future, and in doing so the present moment is forever interrupted.

COVID is part of the ambient environment.  It is part of the climate within the psyche of humanity wherever we go.  And though we may joke about how woeful 2020 is in comparison to 2019, what we cannot escape is an inescapable reality. With every day that passes we come to the realisation that our world is not only changing, as in present tense, but that it has changed.  Those 2019 nostalgias are gone forever, and this can only leave us in the state of grief, unless it is that we insist there are possibilities and opportunities in our midst.  There enters faith.

Amid all the problems we face in this present day — the medical, or threat thereof, the social, and the insurgent financial — and all the effects that spinoff of these, there is a myriad of attack upon our peace.  Hope can become invisibly constrained, and we hardly recognise that hypervigilance leads to anxiety, which bleeds into depression, leaving us feeling relentlessly assailed.

The signs and effects of hypervigilance in this COVID age should seem obvious, certainly from the signs of the ever-present nature of the media overwhelm, but the signs and effects are not always immediately detected or discerned.

Signs can include:

§     reading up about conspiracy theories and, worse, propagating them 

§     giving into temptation to imbibe unreliable sources of information

§     becoming political about it all, and not seeing the enemy in conflict

§     reading and listening to too much media

§     getting involved in too many discussions about COVID

§     discussing it too much with children

The fact is we all need a little bit of peace from this relentless barrage that sends us quickly into overwhelm.  We are facing a marathon, and we will not go the distance or survive at all well if we are sprinting all the way.

The effects of taking too much on board are:

§     getting overly concerned about those things we cannot control – if we cannot control something, what is the use in becoming befuddled about it?

§     insisting others come to our side of arguments on any issue (notice the emphasis I’m placing on the word ‘insisting’) – even if our views are right, we can quickly put people off by how stubbornly passionate we are in demanding they adopt our view

§     others are noticing you’re a little erratic and you may feel you’re losing friends

§     when we enquire on our thinking, and find that we are overly negative the majority of the time – it’s so good to notice these inner trends

§     situations where the simple things in life can no longer be appreciated – if anything, we may be able to appreciate the simple things in life all the more now

Of course, the common denominator in all of this is a life that’s swinging more and more wildly out of balance, and we all have times when our lives need balance restored.

More now than ever we need balance to stay in balance.


Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

Monday, July 27, 2020

The slow and awkward ascent out of depression


It may be fair to say that everyone who has suffered depression would prefer not to have suffered from it, even if depression can open the eyes of our heart and teach us compassion, grace, acceptance, patience, kindness and empathy.

It may also be fair to say that everyone who has suffered depression has tried, at least minimally, to claw their way out of it.  This is where faith sets us up on a quest to overcome the prevalence or depth of the bond we have come to have with the black dog.  Without faith, we think plummet further and further down the sinkhole of despair.  With faith at least there is hope for a better day ahead, or at least better days more often, and something of a purpose from the suffering.  And yet, with faith there are still experiences of anguish that are beyond our ability to bear.  Faith helps, and it is best to be relied upon, but it is no silver bullet in solving the immediate concerns of depression.

The slow, awkward, gradual ascent out of depression, firstly, is possible in many cases, but not in every case; management of the illness depends heavily on the vagaries of the person, the circumstances, the case overall, overseen by a medical practitioner.

For some, it is a case of meds for a prolonged period, even over a lifetime in some cases, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, if it allows the person to function and to gain more enjoyment of and control over their life.  Many of these people we would not have a clue about, as they keep their private struggle as a closely held truth.  Others are more transparent.  Neither is right nor wrong.  The slow and awkward ascent out of depression for these looks like a satisfaction within what cannot be changed, and I think you will agree that takes enormous strength of character, and faith, to do.

For others, depression is something that we suffered for years, before some intervention or bunch of interventions brings miraculous light into their darkness; the tangible circumstances change or one’s outlook changes to cope with what is (which is the bigger miracle of a gracious acceptance; a revelation that comes from God).  All of these are incredible stories, and until we get to know some of these people, we don’t realise how much this does happen.  There are walking miracles around us everywhere.  They deserve to be encouraged because of the encouragement they are, that there is a power of God that can heal.  But we must stop short of legislating that God heals all in this way — because that simply isn’t how life is.  We must accept that this is a mystery we cannot comprehend.

Then there is the depression caused by loss, felt in the horror of grief.  Whilst this is not classic depression, it does mimic clinical depression, and the full assortment of depressive signs and symptoms is experienced by the person in their grief, together with anxiety in many.  Whilst the passage of tumultuous grief may last between a few months and a year, typically, there will still be an enduring modality of occasional depression that the sufferer will continue to sink into for years to come — the pattern is, a day here, a day there.  This can be redeemed by faith in that we can perceive that we are being taught something we are otherwise wouldn’t have a clue about.  The world needs many more teachers who have experienced this suffering firsthand.  There is something definitely ethereal about those who keep in safe and productive contact with their depression.  These often become wounded healers.

The slow and awkward ascent out of depression is, therefore, a very complex thing to chart.  The main thing is that we have a hope for a better day overall, and better days in the immediate and medium-term.  Faith carries us in the meantime, especially when life is at its hardest, when humility will have us surrender enough to reach out for help to get through the darkest of days.

The ascent out of depression is necessarily slow and awkward — one day forward, one day back, back and forth for weeks or months — as much for gaining a precious respect for the complexities of our being and of our mental health, which we may otherwise take for granted.

Ascending out of depression gives us a fresh appreciation for what we previously did not know, and an empathy for those who have been on or will go on such a journey.

And, finally, if we have not yet ascended out of our depression, hearing accounts from those who have are the encouragements we need, so we can believe that we, too, will one day soon ascend, in what will become our own testimony of ascension.

We are all on this journey of life, and while we all have some of the answers, none of us has all the answers.  Especially with depression, there are copious exceptions to the ‘rules’ we have come to believe in, and it is best that we throw the rule book out if we genuinely want to understand each unique sufferer.

One thing we just have to appreciate in anyone who has recovered from depression, is that there is usually years of learning, of life experience, of suffering many would not have a clue about, of being beaten and rebounding, of profound overcoming, that can only be unequivocally respected.



Photo by Alex Wigan on Unsplash

Friday, July 24, 2020

Do you ever wonder if forgiving yourself is most of the battle?


In acknowledging the presence of conscience, knowing we would’ve done things differently had we known better, even if we know better now, and having made or being willing to make amends, we can rest easy, forgiven.  Reconciliation within is necessary before we can offer it to others.  But it’s still a struggle, and it can be exhausting — forgiving ourselves.  Because we crave to be at peace, forgiving ourselves is but the first step on our healing journey.

You didn’t know what you were doing.  You do now.  Retrospect can be the cruellest of judge.  You didn’t know what you were accepting was going to lead where it did.  You know now.  You didn’t know what a course of action would inevitably cost you or your loved ones.  You didn’t know.  Should have known?  But how?  And you do know now.  And even in situations where we did plunge into things where angels may have feared to tread, we got to experience some unintended consequences and unanticipated things, and these events have become part of our personal learning journey.

The point is about reconciling these matters, making peace with ourselves.  Regret can rip us apart when we allow retrospect to be a judging voice rather than a kind voice.

Retrospect is a funny thing.  We are so wise through the eyes of retrospect, through the vision of 20/20 hindsight.  Of course, we are!  We see everything as it panned out, all the while forgetting the complicating, confusing and confounding things that compromised us in the first place.

Seeing from retrospect, you see the fullest array of vision, from several angles, even in super slow-mo.  Every angle can be analysed, critiqued, criticised.  Yet, beforehand we had no idea and, how could we? We must forgive ourselves because we need to forgive ourselves, just as much because it would be unfair not to.  Just another application of Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Why is it that it’s sometimes easier to forgive somebody else, yet we may struggle to forgive ourselves?  Or, perhaps we can see now that we cannot forgive the other person until we can first forgive ourselves?

We go back into our mind’s eye and ask ourselves over and over again why we allowed ourselves to endure what we did, why we stayed, why we listened to certain people, why we let ourselves be pressured, why we didn’t back out earlier.  Yet, we can stop this anytime we want.  Yes, it may return and plague us.  But we have the opportunity to develop a new habit.

If we went right back into that situation all over again, knowing what we only knew back then, given our lack of life experience in that kind of situation, we can understand why we decided to do what we did.

We can go back to that version of ourselves and say, “I know you did your best – and we learned something, didn’t we? – I shouldn’t have judged you – thank you.”

Photo by Micah Tindell on Unsplash

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Repentance, when Truth is a Sphere

The Lord showed me this about a month ago, and I’ve been praying about it ever since.  As God is inscrutable, as humility is unfathomable, as love is voluminous, as much as pride is vexing, and as much as sin is unavoidable, truth is so full of information that none of us can see all of it — only God can.
But we live as if we see it all — just like we ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Lord showed me that when I look at the truth, I see one surface on the sphere, and as far as my vision takes me on the horizons of it.  What I cannot see is the truth on the other side of the sphere.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot see it with my own eyes.  I need others who are positioned with a different viewpoint to tell me what I cannot see.  (This takes humility to ask, to listen, to accept the truth I cannot see — and I’m not always humble!)  Of course, others need to ask me what I can see as well.  And we can have 10 people around the sphere, and all will see something of the truth.  We all need each other.  And we all need to be able to listen.  We need to listen to not only those who tend to agree with us, but also to those who disagree with us, for those who agree with us see very similarly from the similar vantage points, and therefore see similar areas of the sphere — we of like mind do not see what those 180° away see.
Oh yeah, we yell our barbs.  “They have no idea!”  “What fools!”  Only it’s they who see what we cannot who are tempted to say the same thing about us.  From their viewpoint, our viewpoint looks ridiculous.  Hence many of the struggles that happen in all sorts of relationship situations.  He-said-she-said-he-said; all were speaking the truth, yet all had a different story.  At the extremes, it’s war.
Yes, of course there is abuse, and there are many situations where people honour their own truth as well as the other person’s truth — absorbing far too much of the burden of the relationship — and the other person owns nothing of the truth — getting off scot-free every time.  But by and large, as the truth would have it, which is not a very popular message these days, we all tend to be a little (okay, a lot) self-righteous — “I’m right (can’t you see?) and you’re wrong (for I can’t see, and don’t want to see, where you’re right).”
The truth has just as many dimensions as every degree in the three-dimensional phenomena that is the sphere.  How many degrees?  We could say 360° by 360°.  If only we carved the sphere up into little pieces in every plane.  I guess a mathematician could tell us, but I think you see the point.  It’s not physics, it’s a concept.  If I can see about 30% of the surface of the sphere, I cannot see the other 70% of the surface, and I certainly cannot see inside the sphere.
What on earth am I going on about?  If ever we test ourselves when we feel we are most right, we quickly find it’s the shortest route to a desperate sense of frustration.  Nobody ever exercised gratitude through being self-righteous, just a self-righteousness is no way to joy.  Whenever we are camped in our version of the truth, which is definitely part of the truth, but not all the truth because we cannot see it all, we find God’s Kingdom ever elusive.
How many times do we need to read Jesus? — those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  That’s such a stark truth.  So why do we stay in our version of the truth and refuse to be open to seeing another person’s version.  That’s because it crucifies our flesh.  It is the most loathsome feeling.  But the Christian life is about following Jesus — not ourselves.
When we comprehend that truth is a sphere, recognising that only God can see it all, and that we need others to educate us about what we cannot see, we begin to see that the only way forward is through repentance.  We do something remarkable. This thing is the thing that brought us to salvation in the first place.  So why have we gotten out of the habit of doing it?  Because of course we have become blinded to being right, to being deceived, to believing that we see as God sees.  When I put it like that, it’s pretty damning isn’t it?
I don’t expect that this article will be shared very much, liked or commented on.  Our times have bred even more the need to be right than at any other time, and our social media is the perfect platform to say it as it is — us in our rightness.
Trouble is, that’s not where God is.  And builds absolutely no cooperative effort — the very stuff of the Kingdom!  The only way we can be on God’s side is through repentance, returning back, again and again, agreeing that we need very much more than our own viewpoint.  If we lead by always being critical of others — and I’m learning how much of a hypocrite I can be — we are blind guides, no matter what stripe we wear.

COVID-19 and the great mask crisis

Earlier in the year it was the fact that there weren’t enough masks to go around, now is more the issue that people won’t wear them.  In my former career, as a safety and health advisor, we always trained people to accept things like masks, gloves and goggles — barriers against hazards — as the very last line of defence; when you had to rely on PPE your plight was pretty desperate and it was best that you wore it diligently.
Why is it that humanity is so vigilantly negligent to reject the last barrier to sickness and possible death?  Some cite their freedom.  I certainly understand others having a problem because it may trigger them.  That’s a hard one.  But it really seems such an easy thing for everyone who can to wear a mask, for their own safety and health, and for the health and safety of others.
If only we knew just how vital it was to wear a mask, especially when it is literally a piece of material between the coronavirus and infection.  The last line of defence.  The only barrier against the hazard, especially where we are at close quarters with others, especially when the virus is still rampant, and governments are scrambling to get economies back up and running.  It could well be a false economy!  Imagine now that we don’t know the full impact of illness to this virus.  We don’t know what the medium and long-term effects of it are, especially on our young people.
I believe that our human divisiveness is going to be the death knell of these times. When you have national leaders of entire countries downplaying the medical crisis because the economic crisis is overwhelming, it truly is a case that you’re damned if you do and your damned if you don’t; but at least leaders should take the medical impacts of COVID seriously.  They should wear masks and lead by example.
The great mass crisis has gone from non-availability to non-acceptability.  When it is the only thing that could protect us from the smallest particle of the infectious material, it is the only thing we can count on; that and the distance we can afford.  So now they are available, they need to be accepted and worn.  It is our personal and civic duty.