Words from a Father

Husband of One, Father of Four

Tag: promise

422. Essay: Morals, Ethics, and Laws at the World’s End

Morals, ethics, and laws are three different things.

Morals come from a divine source; they are foundational and, it could be argued, absolute regardless whether we agree with them and abide by them or not. Ethics are mankind’s way of codifying standards apart from a divine source, whether springing from a philosophy that is utilitarian, practical, altruistic, lack of purposeful harm, social contract, or what have you. Ethics are circumstantial. Laws are the details, whether coming straight from the undercurrent of moral absolutes via ethics, or coming from ethics without explicitly acknowledging moral codes. Either way, it’s a trickle down from the immovable to the detailed. Separating them this way helps me see them a bit clearer.

All ethical codes and laws are of temporal good, not eternal good; that’s the purpose moral absolutes serve. Ethical codes and laws will always eventually be shown futile because — and this is key — they do not change a person on the inside, but only recommend restraint of outward actions. True restraint, however, only comes from within, thus the emphasis on “internalizing” whatever ethical code one takes as their own. Think of all the laws passed in a city. Now imagine that city has suffered a cataclysm. No amount of signs reminding people not to steal will matter one bit; it’s every person for themselves. But no worry in imagining; it’ll happen again in just a little while. The world doesn’t go for too long in a state of meek stasis because we still haven’t been changed on the inside.

Now fast-forward to the end of the world as our solar system rips apart by colliding with another. If all is lost at that point, which laws matter and which do not? The correct answer from the anti-theist is that none of them do except as a form of control, a form of social etiquette. But when the earth’s mantle is caving in, etiquette matters not.

When did those laws cease to matter? A day before the cataclysm? A month? Five years or a thousand years before? There’s no clear time when they would be futile, so they shouldn’t matter now. It truly is just a matter of time. Let’s not begrudge a few moments here or there when the universe is winding down to its eventual heat death.

Laws are not an objective — immovable — standard. Whenever someone sees fit to break a law, they will and with little consequence. But breaking a moral injunction is akin to disemboweling your own conscience. The consequences are internal and they are grave, eventually spilling out over your stumbling feet. Without an objective moral standard, we tug at the fragile strings of what it means to be human, not realizing it is the cord holding back the hand with Dorian Gray’s dagger. Pull too hard and the youth dies in anguish with nothing but the remnants of a ruined life painted for all to see.

While each decade seems to display mankind’s increased ruination, keeping objective moral standards in place is our only saving grace. At the world’s end only an objective moral standard has enough impetus upon the human heart for right action, and that only comes from God, along with His promised strength to accomplish it.

419. Knowledge Fails

The old joke goes like this. A communist says he can put a new suit on that man. Christianity says it can put a new man in that suit.

We have access to more knowledge, experience, history, culture, research, philosophy, political stances, art, and plain old information than ever before in time. Yet we are no better for it. It is past time to admit that information and access have failed to produce better people, as was hoped by the likes of Marcus Aurelius and others. Neither external forces nor accessibility can ever change a person within. Permanent and positive change begins only inside the human being, and that is precisely what Christianity — and no other religion or philosophy or political stance — promises.

332. Essay: Love at First Sight (The Spark)

I don’t think “love at first sight” is a real thing because it beggars the understanding of what love truly is. I certainly understand the appeal of a meant-to-be fated romance, but that has not the depth that twenty or fifty years of loyal marriage contains. First-sighted love is shallow by comparison.

Maybe “spark at first sight” or “connection at first sight” is more accurate. But those phrases won’t catch on because they’re not romantic enough; they’re too factual and miss all the poetry of the feelings of the moment.

But isn’t that the point? Love isn’t a moment. It’s a million moments back to back. Love is the totality of what is looked back on, it’s the reminiscences by those who have always held that one relationship in higher regard than any other, even among myriad opportunities. Love is not fleeting, not temporary, not able to be had with whomever and whenever.

The spark is a welcomed and celebrated first step — an emotional doorway drug — along the path of love, but it is not love itself. The spark is the emotional high. It’s the manic part of the plot, the shallow scenes of the movie that are fun and easy to write but not where the depth of the characters is explored.

We can all recognize the universality of a story that highlights the spark, but we long to connect with the truth revealed in commitment’s depth. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is not a romance, but a tragedy — if for no other reason than that they never progress past manic emotionalism and into something more mature. The spark was all they had, and even that was quickly gone.

But compare that with the excellent prelude of the computer animated film Up. The spark between the couple sets the buoyant tone and we get the sense that great love has flourished between them. Their love has matured through life’s ebb and flow, through achievements and disappointments. The movie’s silent prelude leads us through the spark of their romance, the depth of their love, and the pain of losing the same. It is this arc that moves us emotionally and prepares us to suspend disbelief when, as an older man, the main character launches into his greatest journey, all borne from the depth of his commitment. (And notice from Shakespeare that irrational sacrifice is the outcome of the spark’s immaturity, while in Up we see that love puts correct emphasis on enthralled living.)

The spark certainly has its role. It convinces you to lower your defenses, take a risk, and then take responsibility for a real relationship. It’s an invitation into something greater. The spark is an emotional promise, “There is something greater than what you feel right now, something worth the time, worth your heart.” The spark can’t take responsibility for what comes after and how the relationship unfolds, but it is truthful in its promise to open the doorway to love.

The spark says, “Carpe diem,” this is the only moment that matters, the most important moment of your life. But what comes after convinces you that every moment since has mattered, has made your life what it is. This is much more than the spark could ever have given; this is love.

323. Essay: The Shrewdness of God

When I say shrewd, I mean having sharp powers of judgment; being astute, clever, and wise.

Many have received a promise from God within a certain situation, only to be taken out of the situation without completing their task. They are immediately disappointed because they feel God has broken a promise. Keep in mind a few things during these times. The promise was most likely true, but it did not revolve around you; God can still get it done even with you out of the picture. He wanted you to get done as much as you could possibly do, and you now have fulfilled your current role, completed your current task.

God is so astute that He knows more about what makes us human than we do ourselves. He is shrewd when it comes to dealing with our egos and our arrogance. You could say He tricks us for our own good. But here’s the most important part. Would you really have gotten so much done if God had not convinced you that you would be the major player?

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