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Reflections from the Back of the Turtle
By Fred Gabriel Simeon Reynolds
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Fred Gabriel Simeon Reynolds
All right reserved.
Perhaps the greatest question ever asked is: "What is truth?" This was Pilate's question to Jesus. "Truth," as defined by systematic theologians, is "fidelity." What this means is that God is eternally faithful to God's people, but God's people are not often faithful to God. This means that truth is not a mathematical equation winding up as a fact, but one of which the answer is always "fidelity." The word fidelity literally means keeping our commitments.
Therefore, God is Truth. God is infinite. That means that God has no limits, no imperfections, but we human beings and all of life on this planet are finite ... capable of lying. Those of us living today have a side of light and a side of darkness within us. The Bible tells us that sin entered Holy Scripture with a lie that the Serpent tells the woman.
"You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil," Genesis 3:4-5.
Now, as I understand it, according to rabbinical teaching, there is "the story of Lilith." She, according to the story, was created without a soul as a mate for Adam. But Adam was dissatisfied, so we have Eve. Lilith, according to the story, was jealous of Eve, who did not keep her commitment to God. Lilith was the temptress of Eve, just to get even. I wonder if any of us have ever done such a thing!
The story of Lilith is one of a person who is cunning, baffling, and, in general, a great con-artist. Eve falls for the lie: "On the day you eat of this fruit, you will be like God," Lilith lied, God does not. God only tells the truth and is always faithful to His people.
The sin committed by the man and woman had to do with power, the greatest high a human being can have. They were going to be more powerful than God; and, Lilith succeeded in helping destroy them. I've heard it said that the one thing an active sinner cannot stand is a saint. What I mean here is that, just as an active, evil person wants a good one to do wrong in order to ruin their lives, Lilith wanted to destroy the man and the woman. Power used wrongly, and jealousy, destroy both those who give power to evil and those who invoke it. Take note!
It does not matter whether there was a serpent or a Lilith. What matters is that there is a spirit of rebelliousness in us people. Instead of rebellion, there is a call to be grateful and to love God back. We do the same thing with people. People should always say, "Thank you" to God for keeping us alive and letting us belong to the family of God, which includes all human beings.
After all, it has been wisely said that an attitude based on gratefulness is much happier than one that is based on ingratitude. This is the summation of the first week of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
God freely gives us love and this love is what keeps us alive; and, in the struggle of life, we continue until God calls us to be with Him in heaven. We are also under the protection of God, as Psalm 105, 12:15, says: "When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying: "Do not touch my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!"
God is always faithful to God's people; God never forgets us; we are always in the mind and heart of God, for God always loves each and all of us uniquely, unconditionally and totally. After all, we forget this about God, but God holds us in the palm of his hand.
Jealousy is the 8th Capital sin in the Eastern Church. It is different, I believe, from envy in that envy, it seems, is the admiration and desire for what another has; whereas, covetness is the actual desire to take it from them. Jealousy has been an overriding theme since the start of time. We have the example from Josephus concerning the atrocities of the Greek rulers over the Jews.
"At the time when Antiochus Epiphanes was disputing the control of Palestine with Ptolemy VI, dissention broke out among the leading Jews who competed for supremacy because no prominent person could bear to be subject to his equals," The Jewish War, chapter one, "Herod's Predecessors," p. 33. According to Josephus: "Antiochus, unable to control his passions and remembering what the siege had cost him, tried to force the Jews to break their ancient law by leaving their babies uncircumcised and sacrificing swine on the altar."
All of this happened because the Jewish people would not unite. Jealousy had ridden wild in their hearts. The end result of all this was disaster. This was just as Lilith had planned thousands of years before. What about today? Where do we stand with this capital sin of jealousy?
The Cajun French word for jealousy is "jaloux." It reminds me of the people who rush after destroying one another for the simple purpose of having no person equal to them. This result is disaster for all.
My mentor in theology, the late Father Phillip Donnelly, S.J., defined sin as "the deliberate refusal to receive from God the good things that God freely wants to give us. Sin is ingratitude."
It pains me to think that one friend could throw away the title of friend for power. After all, isn't that what the man and woman in "the Garden of Paradise" did? Isn't that what we do when we choose power over powerlessness?
Robert Browning once said, "A bitter heart bides its time and bites," as quoted from Believing in Myself, by Earnie Lanser and Carol Hegarty. Why, why, why do we do this to one another? And, worst of all, to ourselves.
The underlying cause for jealousy is a need to control. And, the underlying dynamic of jealousy is co-dependence – a need to control by being nice, or cunning, baffling and evil.
In the end, it only serves to destroy and cause a sense of alienation and abandonment, which is "death," as described in the sacred Scriptures. After all, a Jew is also circumcised so that he can never deny who and what he is. We Christians also have a sign we cannot deny. What is it? It is the cross of Jesus and the Blood that poured forth from it, saving us from eternal damnation.
Another problem that I have had is "workaholism." I used to believe that getting up and working from 6 a.m. until midnight each day was normal and God-given. It is not either of these.
I remember holding resentments toward those who did not work as hard as I, and I was angry. What a dope I was. They were simply resting and I could not stand it. I had a resentment that was a mile long. Whenever we feel resentment, we are giving too much power to the other person. This means it is we who suffer from the resentment, not the one we resent.
On page 243, Aug. 23, in The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie, she tells us: "The other person is not bothered by my resentment. I am, and it is killing me – not them!"
Resentment is anger that lingers on (sometimes based on a false memory or a burst of anger that has not had closure). This leads to inappropriate expression or a problem toward another person, institution or thing.
"Today I will work on a change of heart if hard-heartedness, defensiveness, guilt or bitterness is present," writes Beattie. "I will become willing to let go of those feelings and have them replaced by the healing energy of love."
Now, this brings up another question. What is the difference between power and love? Power is the underlying belief that I am God or at least, God-like in the wrong sense. In reality, I am not God! What I am is a finite, limited person, who dies. God does not die. This assumption of arrogance can lead to failure. A powerful person who loves is a grace unto himself and to others. This is very different from the false assumption of arrogance.
Jesus, Philippians 2:7 tells us, chose to empty himself of his "Godness," and become a man. This is love – God emptying out of His power to become one of us, becoming powerless before His Father. This is love, and love for us. It is the care to go beyond self to help another. It is starting all over again.
"Unless you become like a little child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of heaven," Matthew 18:3. After all, a child is a grateful being and gratitude is the hallmark of the human being.
What is the similarity between what Jesus did and what we do? Jesus emptied himself, releasing everything about himself that was God, to totally exit from the divine to become one of us – helpless before a God of love.
The ultimate irony is that we too must also empty ourselves of all self-aggrandizement and return to God from whom we came. Further we must accept our own powerlessness in order that God can finally do His work within us.
The wrong kind of power leads to euphoria, which is only for a moment. Love leads to peace, which is about forever understanding our powerlessness before God and His love, which go hand in hand. As 1 John 4:7-9 says: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love, God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him."
The solution is to follow Christ in God, for after all, we cannot have a solution without a problem. This problem is us while the solution is to simply "decide to follow Jesus" in every way.
True friendship involves a certain amount of powerlessness before the friend; otherwise, we never become approachable to that person. After all, there is a difference between secrets and privacy. While some things are private and never need to be brought up, secrets kill. They destroy a part of us and put us back onto the power trip, which becomes the false control of the co-dependent personality.
So we learn the only real power we ever have is realized when we acknowledge that given to us freely by God. As his beloved children, it is the graced power to live and work and say "yes" to God. Power, then, when we humans have it, is actually God's ability to love through us when we are not in the way. In fact, in all things we are powerless in a graced occasion.
Chapter FourAnger and Rage
Another point is the difference between anger and rage or resentment. Ephesians, 4:7, tells us: "Don't let the sun set on your anger." We hold onto anger and resentment when we fail to express our feelings in a timely and appropriate way.
Anger and rage are defined as follows:
Anger is an energy force which lives within each of us. It comes alive when we let it. Often times, we give power to others who make us "mad." Also, anger can be sublimated and used for the good. We have three examples. One is Mother Teresa who saw the plight of the poor and loved each and every one of them who were without, plus us, in our emptiness. She was a Mother for the World. She was also heard to say, "If you do not want your children, give them to me." This is sublimation of anger and rage into love and care for the abandoned and alienated. She offered them life, which means to belong.
Like Mother Teresa, all God wants of us is that "we do something beautiful for God." In Philippians, 4:8-9, we read: "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you."
The source of all anger is pain. When someone hurts us, deliberately or not, allowed or not, the result is the energy of anger. The opposite is true of fear. Fear lives in the future probability of being hurt again.
Mother Teresa was hurt by the poverty of God's people; she saw God in their plight; therefore, she set out to do something positive and beautiful for God. We read: "You were taught to put away your former way of life, deluded by its lust and to be renewed in spirit, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. So, putting away falsehood let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not make room for the devil," Ephesians 4:22-26.
This is a great example of sublimating anger. There are two others to be mentioned here.
The first is Mahatma Gandhi. He changed an unjust system by non-violent protest. Martin Luther King, Jr. did the same. Both of these men were killed for being prophets. "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm," Psalm 105:15.
We learn that anger is natural and good, but rage and resentments are not. They turn a human being into a roaring lion, a crazy person. The only way out of resentment is God's free gift of grace. As we are allowed the gift of overcoming hate of all kinds by the free Grace of God, we are made more human and less an animal. We are approaching the utter simplicity of God who is love, and love is the capacity, in God's case, to love without limits. We humans are learning to care throughout our lives – hopefully each day a little more than the day before. What a wonder is God and how beautiful are the feet of those who walk in God's way. After all, this is the only path that any man, woman, or, child should travel. And, this is heaven, the already, but the not yet.
Chapter FiveFear and Phobias
The difference between fear and phobias goes as follows:
"Fear is the assumption of future pain, as anger arises from past pain. Both are derived from hurt." This thought is not original, but I believe it to be true.
Fear is an emotional force that can protect us or paralyze us. It is the belief that some hurt from the past is going to re-enter to separate our personhood from the reality of God's people. We fear being out of control. There are two choices here: 1) placate the fear by covering it with substances/pleasure; or, 2) face the reality of the fear and overcome it.
When I was a child, my Mother brought me to the dentist. He frightened me. As a result, I always feared the dentist's chair as a frightening and painful place to be.
I conquered this fear by praying, not to have the pain removed, but the fear. I had developed a phobia to dentists and only God could heal me.
God did, in fact, answer my prayer and heal me of my fear. I was 21, 48 years ago; and, to this date, I have never again suffered fear in a dental chair.
From the book, Out of the Shadows, by Patrick Carnes, 3rd Edition, p. 6, he writes about sex addicts that: "Their worst fear is also discovering, 'what if what they suspect about themselves is true?'" In this sense, the addict is hurt by the addiction, and the result is resentment and fear, or even phobias. How can there be healing in the context of denial?
All healing comes from God, for God is truth, which is faithfulness, and God is love, who is always caring and protecting us. Love is the power to heal. What a realization! We always need God in our lives. Never do we really make it on our own. I have known people in this country and in Central America who worked long before the sun rose and far into the night, and still went to bed hungry. All that we have is the free gift of God's grace. And this is love and love heals.
We cannot make God do anything. God cares because God loves us. This is the mystery of mysteries. Why does God love us so much that God would give his only begotten Son that we might have life and have it to the fullest?
Now, while fear is normal and can be helpful and even life saving, a phobia can be life-threatening. After all, what is it? A phobia is an anxiety reaction to a habit of fear. It is fear gone crazy. Some believe it comes from habit and family; others, that it is biochemical. There are medications and there is talk therapy, but, above all, there is God.
Excerpted from Reflections from the Back of the Turtle by Fred Gabriel Simeon Reynolds Copyright © 2011 by Fred Gabriel Simeon Reynolds. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
4. Anger and Rage....................11
5. Fear and Phobias....................14
6. Love versus Like....................17
8. Evil and Sinister Evil....................23
9. Thoughts to Feelings....................26
10. Eternal Life....................29
11. Sin and Forgiveness....................31
12. Emptying Oneself....................35
13. Infinite versus Finite....................38
14. Giving to God....................42
16. Who Am I?....................50
17. Life and Soul....................54
18. God's Will....................57
21. Presence of God....................67
22. Bad Habits....................69
24. Who is God?....................75
26. Complex and Simple....................81
28. Drawn to Power....................88
29. Faith, Hope and Love....................92
30. Death and Salvation....................95
31. Fear of Being Alone....................98
34. The Deer Fly....................107
35. Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrow)....................110
36. What if God Were Not Alive?....................112
37. The Abandoned....................113
40. Love and Gratitude....................121
About the Author....................127