October 30, 2022
Photo Credit: Runga, Tammy Horton Photography
Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!
You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.
Precept 70: God's Law
Every single week, at least once, God tells me this: “Follow My law and I will bless you.” I do not know why that is the message that I keep hearing over and over again, but apparently – especially during my quiet times and moments of silence and devotion – this is the message God desires to keep hammering into my thick and stubborn skull.
And guess what? Every time I do follow God's law, even when it's hard, I'm blessed. Things go right. This includes everything from stopping work on a busy morning to step away to read the Bible and pray even though every bone in my body wants to keep working; not promoting a product or taking on a business opportunity because I know that something just doesn't feel pure, honest, or authentic about it despite it potentially being lucrative or profitable; or going to church on a Sunday morning when I'd really rather catch up on a bunch of housekeeping to-dos. Somehow, everything turns out OK, and God takes care of me when I – by His grace – make the right choice.
But every time I don't follow God's law, it feels as if I've inflicted a tiny, tiny “microtrauma” or wound in my soul that eventually builds up over time to fester into a sore, to harden my heart, to make me bitter or angry, to make me less receptive to hearing God's voice (almost as if He shuts up when I stop listening), and to shrivel up and dry my soul. For example, just the other night, I clicked on a social media account that I knew could be risky and dangerous from a moral standpoint to visit, even though something inside my soul warned me not to click, and – sure enough – I found myself looking at pictures of the opposite sex in a way that degrades and objectifies women and denies their sacred being. Rather than quickly moving on, however, I scrolled through the feed though I knew in my heart it wasn't right. Sure enough: for the next two days, I felt “flat,” I felt disconnected from God, and I felt more compelled to make other choices that also violated God's law, until I finally repented and, as I often do when I have sinned, prayed Psalm 51 to God (look it up!) and sang this song to God, heartfelt, on my knees.
So now let me ask you this: how are you following God's law? And how are you ignoring it because your own intuition and rational brain tell you to just do your own thing? How are you inflicting tiny microtraumas in your soul, and how are you amassing tiny “wins” each day as you follow God's law no matter what?
Finally, if you want to know how to better follow God's law, read Proverbs 3:1-3.
Precept 71: Evil
The next time you pick up the newspaper and see a headline about genocide, scroll through a social media feed that indicates someone being brutally beaten or tortured, glance at a television and witness some horrific atrocity or read a troubling story about a wealthy billionaire who seems to be totally void of morals and any shreds of empathy for their fellow human being, then one of your initial thoughts should be something like…
…there but for the grace of God go I.
After all, it was C.S. Lewis who, in The Weight Of Glory penned these wise words:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
In what is a more succinct and quite appropriate partner to this quote, English reformer and martyr John Bradford quipped…
…”There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
See, if you and I are left in the absence of absolute morality to choose our own moral path, speak our own truth, and decide what we think is right or wrong, then we run a very high risk of eventually slipping into the same self-serving, blinded mentality that many people in power seem to possess, and are capable indeed of embarking upon a slow and gradual slide into becoming a horror, a corruption, and a nightmare. So examine your heart every day, and pray for the grace to stay upon the straight and narrow path, because, as I write more about here, we are all capable of great evil. Check yourself daily.
Precept 72: Ego
When I grow up, I kinda want to be that slightly grumpy, radically honest, wrinkled-up old man who doesn't seem to give a crap about what people think of him. Not in a selfish, arse-holy kind of way, mind you, but rather in a fully authentic and transparent manner—an old man rooted in my beliefs and values, not acting like who I think the world wants me to be, but who I truly am at my core.
…I want to be the old man who saunters up to the bar, slams his fist down, smiles confidently, and politely requests an Old Fashioned, on the rocks, not a rock, thank-you-very-much…
…the old man who tells a bunch of young whipper-snappers huddled in the garage next door with their VR headsets playing Zombie Golf Pro XT96 that they should probably be outside in the sunshine, playing actual golf…
…the old man who winks at his wife when she asks him if this dress makes her look fat and quips yes, darling, that dress does make you look fat, and I love you anyway.
Of course, being authentic, strong, brave, bold, boundless, and confident as you age is also a strategy rife with risk, because it requires you to have held on to some significant semblance of your ego.
After all, it's easy to think that when you’re old you won’t really care so much about yourself or what people think of you, and you really won't let what you think the world thinks of you dictate what you decide to do or how you decide to carry yourself. It's also easy to convince yourself that you'll have developed so much humility when you get older that you'll easily be able to set aside any shreds of egotism or pride that might dictate you actually do care what people think. It's easy to think that when you're eighty years old, standing in your closet, pulling on your pants, you won't be wondering if they're the “cool pants” all the other eighty-year-olds are wearing these days.
But don't fool yourself.
Your ego—that current state of consciousness formed through years of mental conditioning, thoughts, and emotions that largely dictate how you see and how you act in the world—isn't going to somehow magically disappear when you turn eighty. There isn't going to be a random Tuesday in the year 2043 at 6:17 am when you sit up and say, “Hey, I don't care what people think about me anymore! I think I'm just gonna be me from here on out!”
Nope, you will still be looking at a group photo someone snapped at a party and find yourself desperately scanning for your own face to make sure you look OK, that your eyes are actually open, and that you're not doing that one weird smile that makes you cringe.
You will still wake up with a mind racing with all the tasks that you need to check off for the day so that you can pat yourself on the back for being a productive and impactful member of society, and it's likely that all those tasks that have piled up will still also stress you out just as much as they do now. After all, do you really think that there's a special time, after your hair has turned grey, that 307 e-mails in your inbox are going to stop bothering you and your do-do-do mind?
You will still find yourself offended or upset by what people do or do not say about you or how they treat you, including your grandson, who seems more interested in his smartphone than your story; your cousin who didn't invite you to her birthday party, again; your neighbor's garbage can that keeps tipping over and spreading plastic bags into your perfectly manicured front lawn; and the waitress who gave you a hard time for asking her to substitute mushrooms for the mashed potatoes.
So you know what?
You better learn to manage your ego now because it's not going anywhere anytime soon. I tell you 10 ways to do that here.
That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!