Learning to face reality

In times of trial and difficulty, we often hear, “all will be well” or “it will work out for good” when people want to provide comfort. I used to wonder, “on what basis will all be well when everything screams the opposite?” We also hear, “face reality”, when it seems someone is not acknowledging the facts of an undesirable situation. If reality is essentially undesirable, then we are in hell.

But reality though unfathomable, is deeper, more reliable, more beautiful than my thoughts about this passing show. One reason to believe that all will be well is because wholeness is the true nature of reality. When anything gets broken in creation, the natural tendency and flow in relation to that brokenness is towards wholeness, restoration, redemption, healing, even without human intervention.

Consider your own body, “uncreated” by you. When broken, even down to the cellular level, it immediately begins to heal, often without your knowledge. In reality, all you need to do is to create conducive conditions for healing to take place. Healing was programmed into creation before you came on the scene.

According to scripture, the process of restoration, healing and redemption was immediately activated when the human family got compromised in Eden. Why? Wholeness predates the universe and has its roots in Love. We did not invent Love and it is not a religious idea, it is God’s nature. And no, God is not a religious figure, even if religion pretends to “own” it. He is Creator and “fills every thing every where with himself,” when unblocked. But we have the God-given prerogative of being able to block God.

Just like the human body strives to subdue any foreign body that enters it, the universe overwhelms brokenness with the nature of God and that has been going on before Christ was manifested in time. Many living systems in the universe fight brokenness by overwhelmingly healing it. This, I believe, is closer to the original meaning of “subdue the earth.”

Jesus brought about the immediate surrender of Saul the terrorist by overwhelming him with these words overflowing with compassion, not judgement and not a drone-delivered explosion – ”Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Jesus, I believe, is the perfect imprint and the truest expression of God’s nature. He said, “I was born to bear witness to the truth.” That is not just a cute statement. He was born to reveal the nature of reality, to reveal the nature of God. He referred to himself as the truth, the embodiment of ultimate reality.

What is that nature?

He healed all the oppressed, diseased and broken people that came to him. And while on the cross, having done nothing remotely worthy of crucifixion, the embodiment of truth prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Why? Because that is the nature of reality, the nature of God. That nature is Love that is infinitely giving, restorative, redemptive and healing.

Matthew Henry said, “the plaster is wider than the wound and more healing than the wound is killing.” That is God’s nature incarnated in Christ and displayed at the cross. Imagine, the sacrificial lamb for human brokenness is none but God incarnate. That is overwhelming redemption and that, is reality. I wholly embrace this not just because I see it in scripture but also because I find it consistent with every other witness outside scripture, including the witness within me. After all, God communicates the same message through all the means by which God communicates. But to truly hear God, kindly take off your religious or “tribal” lens and approach it every time with radical amazement, as though you are coming to it for the very first time.

Now, I remind myself to face reality when I notice my thoughts begin to drift from peace. I am realizing that any deviation within me from peace is ultimately untruth because redemptive love, wholeness, abundance is the nature of reality and when there is brokenness, restoration is not only possible, everything in the universe is designed to facilitate it.

It is going to be well because it is well. Because wholeness, beauty is the nature of reality and all you need to activate it is to accept the truth, which though simple is difficult because we have become used to a broken world. Jesus suffered, bled, died and rose again to heal that brokenness and restore humanity back to reality. A mystery I find unfathomable.

Facing reality is seeing beyond this transient event and my transient thoughts into that which is true, which was true before time began, true before the situation and my thoughts about it arose, is true after the situation and my thoughts change and will remain true when time is no more. In reality, is peace. In reality, is Love. In reality, is no fear.

To face reality is to see that the context in which we live, move and have our being is love and peace and good beyond our wildest dreams. Cleaning is an apt metaphor for this. In cleaning we remove transient dirtiness leaving behind reality, a reality untouched by dirt.

If these sound too good, remember that Christ did not come here to proclaim hell on earth but news so good it is hard to believe. That is reality and that is what we need to face, not events that come and go like clouds. Reality is the same yesterday, today and forever.

God is all-vulnerable (a staggering, paradigm-shifting phrase I am borrowing from Richard Rohr) that he pours himself out to restore us back to reality. I believe, the vulnerability of God is bigger than his power. We are strongest when we are weakest. Mercy, grace and compassion break our defences and move us to tears. Evil was overcome by a slain lamb and not a roaring lion. The vulnerability of God is reality. If God was only mighty and not vulnerable, there could be no redemption, no healing, no restoration.

Learning to face reality is learning to imitate God, who lives in us and in whom we all exist including those we consider enemies. It is learning to weep for the same reasons for which God weeps. But if I am worried by what God is not worried about then I am losing touch with reality. If reality is Love and I am not, I need to face reality. Those who are in touch with reality are moved by unpleasant events that deviate from reality. Just before raising Lazarus, Jesus wept. The compassion that moved him to tears raised Lazarus.

When you are in touch with reality, compassion moves you and transformation back to wholeness is inevitable.

Mental Hygiene

In principle, mental hygiene is no different from physical hygiene. You need a soap, you need a means of applying the soap and you need consistency.

A soap’s function is to remove dirt while also nourishing the skin by replenishing lost nutrients. The ideal soap is natural and has nutrients that are similar to the body’s. Using a bad soap causes long term damage even if it appears to clean. The ideal soap represents truth. The mind can only be cleaned with truth since truth is what the mind was designed to contain and feed on, the same way our bodies were designed to feed only on natural and not synthetic substances.

I love applying this soap from Apostle Paul to my mind,

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

This thought makes it easy to identify thoughts that are not clean. Applying this soap again and again removes garbage thoughts and reveals beauty, potential, truth and purity within and keeps the mind free of trash. I know I need cleaning when I start to think thoughts that in my sober moments, I know are untrue and unwholesome. And just as dirt corrupts the underlying surface with time, unwholesome thoughts corrupt the mind when persisted in.

Mental hygiene requires practice. More than ever, we need practices that allow for mental stillness. Solitude is an indispensable practice for periodic mental cleansing. Periodically disconnecting from the external including social media and connecting with your interior space helps. Cleaning and other simple physical activities are also rich practices. They help to shut down mental chatter and make us more receptive to inspiration. While moving your limbs in the process of lifting physical dirt, your mind can become still enough for you to uncover insights within. The kingdom of God is within you after all. And once your mind is quiet, you can observe your thoughts. If you do not observe your thoughts, you cannot begin to clean your mind anymore than a cleaner can clean a room without being present. Cleaning requires presence and presence is a cleaner.

We can return our minds to truth in the various areas of our lives and society. Any thought or opinion that you have about anything at all can be based on truth or not. Thoughts that are not based on truth are much more harmful to you and to others than leaving your body unwashed for weeks. Thoughts about race and police brutality for example, need a lot of cleaning. Will violence against police truly arrest police brutality? What does screaming Black Lives Matter achieve if black lives do not matter to blacks? I believe we need mental cleaning when our thoughts on an issue are the same as the majority of people, because they are often untruth. But what is truth and where do you find it?