Asymptomatic Ambiguity

If you had to write a prescription for yourself today, what would it be?

I think this question is revealing for us, because a lot of what we think, feel, say, do and hear is symptomatic.

If we were to diagnose our current state, the condition of our head, our heart, our soul, a lot of us probably don’t have words to describe what is unravelling in and around us.

A diagnosis is to be able to assess a condition, to see symptoms and conduct a root cause analysis to understand our condition.

A lot of us are unconditioned right now, subject to this dreaded “un”. The uncertainty, the unforeseen, the unpredictable, the unknown, the unprecedented, the unspoken, the unseen.

We can so easily become a victim to this cultural moment, and condition ourselves to self-comforting strategies. Binge eating, binge watching, binge drinking, binge sleeping, binge exercising.

We self medicate in this way, because we do not do the hard task of assessing and diagnosing our condition. We lose connection not only with the world around us, in a state of social unrest, but we lose connection with our very own souls.

A powerful thought is to explore how our symptoms may be trying to tell us something about our healing.

Today we’re going to apply a healing prescription to our heart, mind, body and soul.

prescription for the Heart:
AMBIGUITY (n.) virtue of having more than one meaning or interpretation

“There are some men and women who have lived forty or fifty years in the world that have scarcely one hour’s discourse with their hearts all the while” – John Flavel. To have a discourse with our heart is to enter into a divided, chaotic battlefield. Our hearts are rife with desire and depth, questions and (rarely) answers.

Our hearts are attune to listen and feel, but rarely do we allow them to speak.

What do our hearts reveal to us? What are we so afraid will be discovered in our inner depths?

Let’s explore asymptomatic ambiguity. See, we have this tendency to hide behind ‘fronts of knowing’, we allow assumptions and judgements and biases to speak on behalf of our hearts. Yet, in our desire to bury all signs of curiosity and naivety, we subsequently bury our hearts yearning for discovery.

Our hearts, if they were to speak, ask for meaning.

To prescribe the heart ambiguity is to grant our hearts the permission to enter into the tensions found within, to embark on the discovery of endless possibility for meaning.

It is necessary, for a time, for one to pocket him or herself away to discover his or her heart discourse: It is a form of therapy, to ask after our desires, and to allow meaning and purpose and life to be questioned. It is a journey of discovery, to hold in balance these inner tensions and questions, and to arrive not at answers – but ambiguity. To invite the uncertainty, the lack of clarity. To open the inner depths to wondering and wandering. To be found in the mystery of believing in the unseen, the divine unravelling of humanity.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all you heart” – Jeremiah 29:13

This is the dance of discovery – to seek, to find, to uncover. There is an unraveling, and mystery, a delight in the unknown when we find our hearts in the faith depths of trusting and seeking truth and knowledge and wisdom in the divine. This divinity points us to our Creator and Maker, the One who exists outside of time, who knows heart and mind, who forms body and soul, who sets eternity in the heart.

“He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

For our Creator to set eternity within, is for our Creator to invite us into infinite desire and discovery. To surrender to ambiguity.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” – Proverbs 3:5

The surrender of understanding is to be found in the heart posture of not having answers, of not having direction, of “not having”.

To surrender the certainty, the desire for control. To allow the heart to trust.

In my binge listening of the Deconstructionists podcast, I have noticed this tension of faith and mystery:

  • “The sign of a great mind is when you can hold together two conflicting ideas, and not let them conflict” – Richard Rohr
  • “In this dance of life, philosophy is the language that helps us live in uncertainty without being paralysed”
  • “Searching is a part of orthodoxy. And if God is God then we cannot be frightened of what our search will reveal.” – Krista Tippet
  • “We can never truly “know” one who lives outside of time and space. Yet, God chooses to reveal himself in little instances throughout time and space.”
  • “Parables don’t give you any answers, they disrupt the answers you think you’ve got” – Peter Rollins
  • “What we are most afraid of is what is unpredictable, and what is out of our control.”
  • “Faith is learning to live without knowing… you can’t avoid absurdity, tragedy, dissonance, meaninglessness.” – Richard Rohr
  • “So the left hemisphere needs certainty and needs to be right. The right hemisphere makes it possible to hold several ambiguous possibilities in suspension together without premature closure on one outcome” – McGilchrist
  • “If it fits in a spoon, it’s not the ocean. If it fits in your mind, it’s not God.” – Bridgetown Church
prescription for the Mind:
TRUTH (n.) in accordance with fact or reality; that which is real, in a deeper sense.

We become what we behold. What we think, that’s what we create.

There is so much vying for our attention, so much captivating our thoughts. We are imprisoned in these constructs of reality, wrestling with ideological forces. We try to assign labels of fiction and fact to the stories that make up our lives, but we are not given editing powers of the literary devices employed. We try to filter what we see from what we believe – is it to see is to believe, or to believe is to see?!

We find answers that sit right with us, choosing our own righteousness as a compass of reality.

What emerges are polarising spectrums. We ascertain that whoever does not agree with us is against us.

We think the battle lies with those on either side of ideological spectrums, when the real battle lies within.

The battlefield of the mind is a test in discernment, which is why we need the armour God (Ephesians 6).

When we equip ourselves in the armour of God, we do so not as prescription, but as protection. We wear the belt of truth, because we are not bound by deception or fabrications of reality. We take up the sword of the Spirit, because the Word of God pierces darkness with light and strongholds with truth. We see the presence of strongholds in our lives when these constructs of reality shape our attitude and beliefs – when we allow ideology to be idolatry, or when we become enslaved to desires that promise freedom but only lead to death.

Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh
[in other words, we don’t fight with armor, we don’t fight with politics,
we don’t fight with money, we don’t fight with all the humanistic ways].
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power
to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised
against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ

2 Corinthians 10:3–5

Brene Brown says that “We need to identify our mental prisons, so we can find the tools to set us free”

Jesus gives us the tool to freedom when he tells us that he is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He tells those who believe his testimony “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31).

Jesus points us to truth; he redirects our attention to what is above, what is praiseworthy.

  • “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” – Colossians 3:2
  • “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” – Philippians 4:8

Remember, we are made to worship, to praise. We see this in the gratitude movement. We are made to give thanks. We are made to empower and encourage others. To see the beauty in creation and created. To call out the truth about each of us – that we are loved beyond belief, forgiven beyond a doubt. That there is grace that reaches into the deepest places. That there is hope that empties the grave of power. That there is resurrection life that denies suffering in eternity. Jesus invites us to abide in truth by abiding in his word.

For when God speaks, there is light.

There is truth and hope for the darkest of mental landscapes. There is light and life beyond the distorted mirrors we look in and through.

“Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

What a reminder, that the mirror of here and now is blurred; we cannot see clearly or know fully the big picture, the true frame of reality.

Only faith can fill the frame for now. Only truth can sharpen what we see.

And what a reminder, to let love be our lens.

prescription for the Body:
PEACE (n.) a state of tranquility or quiet

The body is prone to entropy; our bones break, our muscles tire, our eyes weep, our wounds bleed. We are vulnerable, subject to fragility and fragmentation. To live in a body is to live in brokenness. We embody this ache for another state; a holier, freer, calmer state of being. A perfect, stress-free, pain-free form of living. We long for peace, to be found in stillness and presence. Yet. We find ourselves in the absence of rhythm, of stillness, of wholeness. We find ourself in a state of constant chaos, unable to control and filter everything that assaults our mind, body, heart, and soul. We are divided, living attentive to our needs and wants, yet discovering that our needs and wants are in flux, at war within us. As Henry David Thoreau says, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. But, do we really seek the quiet, the peace, our bodies really need? Surely beneath the silence of our struggles is a voice, a peace, that can speak to our silence.

The opposite of depression is expression; what comes out of our body doesn’t make us ill, what stays in there does:

  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” – Isaiah 26:3
  • “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Phillipians 4:7
  • “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were indeed called in one body. And be thankful” – Colossions 3:15

We are a part of the body of Christ, our bodies are not our own.

We are the dwelling place of the Most High, a temple of the Prince of Peace, a home for the Spirit of Life.

Our mind and bodies are interconnected. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” – Romans 8:6

We set our minds on the Spirit and bring our bodies into divine alignment through prayer, where we surrender and submit our own desires to God’s design for our lives. This divine re-alignment requires a re-ordering of our heart affections, our mind attention, our bodies actions.

Our bodies are temples of the living God. This means we were made for worship.

The question is, what are we worshipping? What rules us – fear, or peace?

Meet me here – Prince of Peace

Side note: I cannot do justice to this topic here, but something else to consider when asking yourself what has been elevated in your life is that our addictions (you know, those vices you turn to as coping strategies mid-lockdown …) are often a reflection of disordered worship.

prescription for the Soul:
JESUS (n.) hebrew for "god is salvation"; e.g. to deliver, to rescue.

We are confronted by the state of our souls every time there is an inner shaking and breaking of our hopes, our dreams, or our expectations of reality. Our souls are prone to despair and drought. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42). We are disheartened and disturbed by the state of the world, and if we are honest with ourselves – the state of our souls.

Our souls are seemingly never stable or satisfied; subject to these never-ending desert seasons of thirst and unknown (“Thirsty Heart”).

We are afraid to ask questions of our souls, to prescribe a condition to our current state – because all we know is that our souls are in need of salvation and deliverance from this current state. We need transformation and restoration from our old ways and self into a new way and self. We need someone who loves us enough not to leave us in this state. We need someone who will not leave us when we commit to changing our ways. We need someone who goes before us and behind us and with us. We need Jesus.

If we are curious about what it means to be “conditioned for eternity” then we need to learn how to sit with silence and stillness, so that our souls can learn to listen to the divine Whisper that leads us to where our hearts, minds, bodies and souls find true rest and depth.

Our souls echo the psalmist, there are “deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls” (42:7); for we long for life, for a rushing release.

Jesus ministers to this depth, our soul thirst, when he speaks to the woman at the well who does not understand how to access living water, that which will quench her thirst. Jesus reveals to her that he is the giver, the source of this soul depth that leads to an overflowing, outpouring of life – “the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jesus in John 4:3).

We are, by nature, restless in desire; this infinite state of longing for intimacy.

“Sometimes God kindles within us a desires for something more – more life, more intimacy, more freedom. If we are attentive to God’s whisper, Desire will lead us where we must go. And the way we must go is downward, as Jesus went downward.” – Curt Thompson

We all have a breaking point. The point where we tire of the upwards climb of wealth and status and perfection. The point we retire ourselves from the world’s rhetoric of fulfilment. The point we realise that success is not the prescription we need for our lives.

The way of Jesus is not an upwards climb, but a downwards journey; a descent from restless desire into the depths of resting, abiding desire. A downwards journey is in direct resistance to the upwards climb, in a world where we are sold that “having” certain things will enable us to reach a pinnacle of success and freedom and happiness. When we enter the humility of “not having”, we enter into the beauty of having all that we need in Jesus. Our souls find rest and satisfaction in him and him alone.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” – Psalm 62:1

There is an invitation into rest, into soul satisfaction, a place to dwell safely, securely.

Jesus is salvation for the divided soul, the soul that seeks to be whole and full.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Jesus in Matthew 16:15-26

To finish, I wanted to share what I found myself praying this morning:

Jesus, I want to understand you and your prescription of life. I want to be conditioned by your condition, shaped by your suffering, conformed to your Spirit of Life and Light and love. Jesus I want to be found in you, for my soul to be safe and secure in you as my stronghold. Lord I know that you invite me to be still and know you (Psalm 46). Given there are so many unknowns, it is a great comfort to be invited into this known. You are a known reality and you know both humanity and divinity. Help me to know more of you, your divinity. Let that knowing transform my understanding of humanity. Let me surrender my own understanding, my own knowledge. Let me learn to hold the tensions, the mysteries, the ambiguities. Let me be found in your Spirit of revelation. Thank you for being my stronghold, my strength, my place of rest and refuge in times of need. Thank you for being ever present in both my joy and suffering, my sin and obedience, my questions and trust, my prayers and silence. Thank you for being with me. I know Your Spirit is with me. I am not alone. Thank you for your Spirit. Thank you for placing your Spirit within me. Sanctify me by your presence. Set me apart for your purpose. Purify my heart and mind as I seek your truth. Fill me with peace and hope as I trust in you.

Respond from the Heart