The words and actions that motivate our beliefs into a lifestyle are reflections of what we believe the state of the human heart should manifest more naturally.
Here in Part 3, I will connect to the points of Part 2 by explaining how secular wisdom does not teach or influence transformation. I will later explain the importance of why the difference between transformation and inspiration is worth our introspection. On a deeper level, the challenge of this article will be to engage how these distortions affect our interpretation of purpose and disorient us from discovering a purpose more fulfilling and befitting for our intrinsic desires. By writing this, my aim is to provide clarity and discernment for the way we live by understanding what we ingest intellectually and in what ways these ingestions affect us. In doing so, I hope we can form an understanding as to how these concepts can change, and ultimately enhance or transform the way we live intrinsically.
INNER STRENGTH & SURRENDER
The incredulous, doubtful face of secularism often disparages the value of its own words of wisdom with a lack of transcendental merit. This is not to pour hate on the secular mind, but to shine a light on the finitude of disbelief the secular mentality carries regarding inner strength. From my own previous experience as an atheist for many, many years, I can give testimony to the empty, fallacious nature of believing in one’s own inner strength as a source of pertinacity. In the carefully constructed yet corrigible room of inner strength, the secular mind is always forced into a trap in the corner; the trap of redefining every belief and reason for belief without a foundation, source, or understandable explanation for those reformations. While the skeptical, unbelieving mind can certainly adapt to such an atmosphere with enough resolution and stubbornness, what remains is how making oneself comfortable in this position (by believing the shadow on the wall is the reflection of authentic inner strength) does not translate as true audacity or fulfillment in oneself, but rather as the excuse to never leave the room.
Secular wisdom mitigates the purposes of struggle and dehumanizes the purpose of pain by minimizing the need for growth and personalizing the existence of adversity as a legitimate reason to disbelieve in the existence of a loving God. When speaking of peace, the unbelieving skeptic emphasizes the power each of us has to create a purpose for ourselves, not recognizing the reason for the incessant lack of fulfillment is due to how created purpose is separate from discovered purpose.
OUR “FLEETING, CAPRICIOUS, AND INSATIABLE” MEANING FOR LIFE
In Timothy Keller’s book Making Sense Of God, he describes the way the secularist may choose to create their own meaning in life, centered on something Earthly; like a job, money, political pursuits, or even something personal yet marked with vulnerable fragility like family. Discovered meaning, on the other hand, recognizes the way we were created by God for relationship with Him first and foremost, and how when we deviate from this, we feel we must create a meaning for ourselves in order find a meaningful reason to believe life is worth living. Timothy includes and quotes Josiah Royce from his 1908 book The Philosophy of Loyalty:
Royce therefore believed that finding meaning in life could be done only if we rejected individualism. “The individualist puts self-interest first, seeing his own pain, pleasure, and existence as his greatest concern.” Modern individualists see loyalty and self-sacrifice as an alarming mistake, leaving oneself open to exploitation and tyranny. To them “nothing could matter more than self-interest, and because when you die you are gone, self-sacrifice makes no sense.” Now, tyranny is certainly a great evil but individualism, according to Royce, was the wrong way to overcome it. If every individual seeks his or her own meaning, we will have fewer shared values and meanings, which will erode social solidarity and public institutions. All this will lead to intractable polarization and fragmentation. And ironically, Royce argued, individualism undermines individual happiness. We need “devotion to something more than ourselves for our lives to be endurable. Without it, we have only our desires to guide us, and they are fleeting, capricious, and insatiable.”
What we can take away from this is that created meaning in life is birthed not only from our denial in something greater than ourselves, but that when we feel like our personal desires give our lives the most significant meaning, our created meaning is then rooted in narcissism; and like Royce wrote, our desires are “fleeting, capricious, and insatiable.” If we can understand the merit to this truth, can we still say we would rather create our own meaning in life if we already know our choice will lead to never feeling like enough?
BRINGING TRANSFORMATION BACK IN THE ROOM
Transformation begins with an action designated for a tug of the soul; not so much a force of the mind. Our individual interpretation of a transformational act (namely Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead as atonement for our sins) will instigate a choice, and it’s our choice that begins the process of transformation—that we would be so enamored by what is genuine, palpable, and promising that we would be driven to embody the hope of this promise with our entire self. Secular wisdom promotes the power of gauging oneself; of universal inner-peace, and of the power of love itself. While these notions are inspiring, they are not transformative. Why? The power of love, peace, and self are not only ambiguous (meaning it would take longer to explain them than to act out what they mean), but their faulty foundation lies in the transparency of their finitude—the very limitations and weaknesses of the corrupted heart—when we feel coerced to pull all that we need from ourselves in order to find fulfillment in life, we exhaust ourselves in the process. If in order to live a “fulfilling life” we must take from the very reserves of our being and ultimately deplete our sanity in order to dismiss the bigger picture of what it means to live a meaningful life by separating ourselves from narcissism—does this not raise the concern that there must be a better, more adequate source to pull our meaning in life from? Do we not want to live a fulfilling life where we pull from something stronger than ourselves who knows what we need and has an abundant supply to provide from? How does this tie into transformation?
ENCOMPASSED BY FAITH
When we are inspired, we think—we intellectualize—we introspect. But we don’t really change. Change takes place on the inside, or the change isn’t authentic. Change is not what we believe, but why we believe it. Similarly, transformation is not how we act, but why we act or behave the way we do. Inspiration starts in the brain and stays there, whereas transformation starts in the heart and spreads out towards the limbs, eventually coinciding with the brain as a spiritual complement to the intellect. When we act selflessly for others with no benefit to ourselves without so much as expecting a thank you or reward—and if we can do this without feeling resentment or bitterness—then we have been transformed by something outside of ourselves by inviting what was outside to live, breathe, speak, love, influence, and permeate all of who we are inside. To try something and be unmoved—this is not transformation.
To wear a facade that can’t slip off in the challenges of adversity is transformation; soaked through from the heart, overcoming and overriding everything that intellect claims; becoming not only convinced, but encompassed by a belief in something greater—more real, true, and intrinsic than mere desire; more significant than gratification and more fulfilling than created meaning. Whereas Earthly desire is merely the surface of our thoughts, transformation is the metamorphosis of our choice to surrender ratiocination in that we would replace it with faith; in turn, rewiring our habitual process from depending on our intuition in order to find purpose in life, and instead, depending on God by trusting Him to live inside of us, emanating through our words, actions, and beliefs.
BRINGING THE PARTS TOGETHER
In Part 1, we brought kindness into question by objectifying it under the scrupulous lens of morality, understanding that either God created morality, or that we need to accept others when they deviate from kindness and dip into narcissism as the most viable argument behind the belief that morality is subjective (defined per the individual and their culture). To bring these parts together, how does transformation and inspiration tie into how kindness can be objectified by morality?
With inspiration, something is triggered in our brain which influences us to rethink our older ways; forcing us to consider how seriously to ingest our inspirations and to decide whether we should heed them carefully or dismiss them entirely. The most common and impressionistic symptom of inspiration is observed most when we see others being inspired. This in turn provokes thought in ourselves—but once again, the action behind such thoughts often remains obscured and stagnant. This is the finitude—the very weakness of inspiration: That although we can all acknowledge the importance of being inspired, as well as the importance of ostracizing the social norms (what society expects us to say, do, and how they expect us to live—rather than what God wants) that separate us from exemplarity in the world—the only way to birth permanent change, and to influence not only our movements but the very reasons and intentions behind our movements—is through transformation.
We can see by now just how powerful transformation is; we know it begins in the heart, where many of us believe morality resides. What if a personal God who made us in His image and, out of love for us wants us to exist in relationship with Him—also resides in this place? Not only would that help us understand why we seem to have such a strong, intrinsic sense of morality (objectified by the power of God’s wisdom and justice), it would also bring the concept of transformation full circle: When we acknowledge the only God there is creates and builds everything out of love, we notice—or recognize—God’s love apart from any other form of comparison through people who have been effected spiritually by their faith in His existence and love for them through Jesus Christ. Truly, to be affected so deeply would not only change ‘this or that’ about a person’s understanding of their life, it would completely reframe their outlook and reshape their heart in accordance with the will and desires of the God whom they declare their loyalty to. When this all takes place, kindness is no longer an action derived from “just because” (narcissism), it is then an opportunity to point towards the Exemplar of kindness, compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy, passion, veracity, devotion, loyalty, trustworthiness, and fruitfulness. Kindness, when objectified by morality, extends its hand and points straight at Jesus; an action motivated by the heart of a person whose choice was to be transformed by the transcendent love of God.
THE EXAMPLE WE ARE FOR THE WORLD
If we are given the power as humans to be an example of strength, kindness, love forgiveness, and every other virtuous trait of an exemplar—how can we do this without first understanding what we believe in, what we stand for, and what we want to grow towards? There will never be a day for the rest of our lives where we won’t experience something, whether external or internal, that challenges who we are, that provides food for thought, or that moves us in such a way that invigorates us to learn why we are the way we are. We are not examples to each other because of merely due to work ethic or political statuses, we are examples by our pertinacity; staying true to who we are with authenticity, veracity, self-awareness, and a faith that does not wane in the face of a cruel world misunderstanding itself before judging others. Changing the world doesn’t just boil down to “living with kindness in mind,” and when we become convinced that life is just that simple, we have heavily mistaken purpose for attitude; we’ll remain blind, thinking what’s most important is perspective and not reality. Perspective derives from inspiration, but our reality shifts entirely when we are transformed. Truly, transformation doesn’t stall and cancel out in the heart; it affects the eyes, ears, mouth, and most importantly—the soul. If these aspects of perspective do not permutate and shift accordingly, we have merely been inspired to think, but not transformed to live.
When we convince ourselves inspiration is all we need, we mistake motivation for movement, thinking what’s in our brain is all that matters. But what of the heart? What of what we do and feel and think when no one is watching? The veracity of our character is directly molded from the transformation of within. When Jesus comes inside, He does not leave us the same, as mentioned in Part 2. Transformation is the renewal of who Jesus originally created us to be, and who He intends for us to be when we listen to His wisdom and follow His ways. So, why choose transformation over inspiration? Because, presumably, when we do, we have discovered that we are ready and that we want to be changed forever from the inside. If we do not become ready, then our only call to answer life tomorrow is the inspiration to repeat all that we do in the same way as before; but we were not born to stay in our head, we were born to experience life from our heart.
If you would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017.. If you have any thoughts, questions, or feedback you’d like to share, I would love to read from you! I very much welcome comments by anyone, so please don’t be shy. I enjoyed writing this 3-part series, and I hope that reading it has helped you understand yourself, your faith, and the way you view transformation in a new light than before. My prayer is that walking away, you will see the choice to allow Jesus to work in you a little more tangibly, and less mysteriously.
May God bless you all!! Have a blessed day!