Jack and Ed discuss the proper attitude about what a man can do in life, and the proper approach to what a man should be.
Readership: All; Christians;
Author’s Notes: The content of this post is based on an e-mail conversation between myself and Ed Hurst at Radix Fidem. My words are in black. Ed’s words are in blue.
Length: 2,700 words;
Reading Time: 10 minutes;
Under last Monday’s post, Only noble born men are qualified to do housework for unicorns (2020 August 24), Ed Hurst left this comment.
“The false god of “human potential” has worked a great evil in the world. All we really should aspire for is to please our Creator.”
Ed’s comment was directed toward women like the one in the post, those who go after worldly accomplishments, but who fail to achieve the most basic functions of femininity. But after thinking on this, I know the same applies for men too. This led me to examine my own life.
For much of my life, I’ve carried a work ethic loosely based on Ecclesiastes 9:10 and 11:1-6.
10 ”Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NKJV)
1 “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 (ESV)
2 Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
3 If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4 He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”
Most of my life, I’ve had no idea what I would be doing five years down the road. I’ve always worked hard at whatever came my way, and I haven’t been ambitious in terms of long range plans. (Sometimes I think I should have more of a long range plan, especially an economic plan. I think this would have helped me build a career with fewer false starts.) Sometimes I wonder if I would have shown more faith if I had just made an assertion like, “I’m going to be a teacher or professor” and worked diligently towards that end. But the only real goal I set for myself was to earn a bachelor’s degree, and I struggled very hard at that. But after that milestone was achieved, I feel like my Masters and Ph.D. came rather serendipitously, and the same goes for my becoming a professor.
I’ve always carried the idea that God wants men to work, to earn, and to provide for himself and his family. I’ve assumed that God wants me to achieve as much as I can, and so whenever a good opportunity came along, I always accepted it with thankfulness as part of God’s plan and provision.
In terms of my mission in life, it is not so clear to me how this fits together, but by the time I was 35, I had reached the roundabout conclusion that my mission in life is to influence others however I may through teaching (and/or writing).
Going back to Ed’s statement, the questions in my mind right now are…
- How much human potential does God expect a man (or woman) to achieve?
- If a man doesn’t achieve his full potential, wouldn’t that be reminiscent of being a lazy steward?
- Likewise, for modern women like Tomi Lahren and the woman in Monday’s post, there is a good deal of human potential that they have wasted, in terms of becoming faithful wives, mothers, and homemakers. Are they not bad stewards of their personhood?
I guess this all boils down to an assumption that God does value human potential, but the question is about knowing which aspects of human potential God expects one to develop according to His plan and His glory. As Ed put it, what would please our Creator?
This might be a complicated and confusing question, but I’m guessing there are some basic guidelines. The most obvious guidelines are the male and female roles outlined in Scripture. Men are to work at their life mission according to their respective calling, and women are to help the men and work in a domestic capacity.
There’s nothing wrong with making plans if you sense a specific sense of calling in life. Of course, you still need to be ready for all the unexpected things God does as you pursue that path. There is a critical element in faith that we should expect the unexpected. It goes back to the way God portrays Himself as a desert sheikh, and how that image included a ruler who should not and could not tell all of His subjects everything he had in mind. There is an element of mystery that we humans need in order to serve faithfully and reach our divine potential. Good men surprise their wives now and then, no? It’s the same for the Bride of Christ.
That’s not the same as potential in terms of human reckoning. Thus, I used the term “false god of human potential.” This is consistent with the teaching in James 4:13-16.
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.James 4:13-16 (NKJV)
Without that sense of divine purpose, no plans we make are right, even if we achieve everything our human nature dreams.
What matters most is that there is no one-size-fits-all. Some men should be so focused on the otherworld that they stumble along through life without accomplishing much that anyone remembers. If they have peace with God, that’s all that matters. Some men are called by God to dig right into the ambient social expectations and point out how they compare with God’s expectations. There is a place for the mendicant wandering monk and for the rich entrepreneur in the Kingdom of Heaven, and for everyone in between those callings. Whatever it is we might propose to define as “normal” needs to have soft boundaries. We can’t call the mendicant “irresponsible” if he has been faithful to his calling. That includes the mendicants who manage to get married and raise families in poverty.
We should define “good responsible manhood” to include all the special cases where men find peace with God. A community still needs every peculiar type that Vox Day talks about in his Socio-Sexual Hierarchy. We need a bunch of the Deltas and a few Gammas, and even an Omega or two, in order for society to have all the parts God intended for His Body. A major element in a good solid faith community is taking in the strays nobody else knows how to handle. We need a lore of teaching about taking care of those edge cases and putting up with the resource drainage, because in the Kingdom of Heaven, the people are the real treasure. Jesus was a reject by worldly standards.
In sum, Ed is asserting that having peace with God is more important than one’s mission. It makes sense.
Also, if one finds peace with God, then one’s mission will become evident through one’s convictions.
In addition, any Christ centered mission has to maintain that peace with God, or restore Shalom. Perhaps that is the whole purpose of having a mission.
This pretty much answers my earlier question. It’s just a matter of one finding peace with God and growing in Shalom/maturity. Having a mission, and the nature of the mission, is a result of this.
How Does One Find Peace and Purpose?
This seems to be an easy undertaking for some people, and very difficult for many others, even serious Christians. I’m not sure if it’s because they can’t or they won’t, or maybe God won’t open the metaphysical door for them. For me, the gospel is simple in concept, but it’s very hard to get plugged into God. I’ve often wondered why it is so difficult for me (or anyone else) to get closer to God.
Of note, I discovered The Heart-Led Way since I started reading Ed Hurst’s blogs, Do What’s Right and Radix Fidem, in 2018. The idea of “not using your mind to decide where your heart should be” is a perspective I picked up from reading his stuff. Actually, this concept is mentioned in the Bible many times. For example…
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”
17 ”This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.Ephesians 4:17-24 (NKJV)
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
But even though this shift in cognizance is spelled out clearly in scripture, and even though I grew up in church and have attended all kinds of churches over the course of my lifetime, for some bizarre reason I never really understood this very important, perhaps crucial piece of faith until I started reading Ed’s writings. Maybe it’s because The Heart-Led Path is not something you can just hear about and pick it up right away. You have to continually focus on what’s going on deep in your heart and learn to navigate through life using your innermost convictions.
This kind of awareness is so far removed from the Western style of consciousness based on rationale, that I didn’t really understand the idea until I had read Ed’s stuff for several months, and even then, I didn’t really “get it” for another year. Even now, I am still in the process of learning this.
I am still uncertain as to whether my past ignorance of The Heart-Led Way is the sole reason for my spiritual difficulties throughout life. I suspect maybe it is, but on the other hand, maybe it is not as simple as this.
An Exhortation to Discover The Heart-Led Path
I didn’t call it “heart-led” until a few years ago, myself. Prior to that I spoke of having conviction, which is very nearly the same thing. And I’ve known for most of my adult life that the Bible considers the heart the seat of the will, of faith and commitment. Someone shared an article with me about how the heart is a sensory organ, and it made so much sense that it was easy to put that idea into the existing frame of reference.
However, I’ve always known that I’ve been led by something deep and quite different from those around me. I’ve always known that there was a disconnection between what was and what ought to be, and I handled it rather poorly most of my life. I never understood why I had that powerful sense that nobody else seemed to have. Somewhere in adulthood I realized that many people do have it, but had been taught it was just their imagination, something they couldn’t and shouldn’t trust. Except that was wrong. Once I began to trust it more, it turned out to be the voice of God in my heart.
Aside from one brief period of a few days, when the Lord was showing me something important, that voice has always been there for me. My reactions to it had been chaotic for most of my youth, because I had no training how to hear it, but somewhere around age 30 I began learning how to live with it. I once thought it was a sense of calling to pastoral ministry, and labored under that delusion for a very long time. It was the only guidance I got from people I trusted, so I trained for it. Only in the past decade did I realize it was not pastoral ministry, but a prophetic calling. Eventually I came to the place where I knew I was supposed to be a teaching elder, not a priestly leader.
Somewhere in there, I came to discern that few people have that strong sense of prophetic voice in their souls, but that apparently everyone can be heart-led. Honestly, I’m not happy with how that comes across in the English language, but I have no idea how else I can say it. But I do hope that, in community with others, we can spread this concept. I’m convinced that this is the path of peace with God.
Does it Resonate with You?
“I’ve always known that I’ve been led by something deep and quite different from those around me. I’ve always known that there was a disconnection between what was and what ought to be…”
When I read those words, I felt that I had found a kindred soul. For most of my life, I have been deeply disturbed to find that the Truths found in the Bible don’t reflect my experiences of reality. They have always appeared to be two, vastly distinct worlds. I have always been vexed about how the two might be reconciled, and angry that no one seems to recognize how their thoughts and behaviors reinforce the worldly system, and neglect to implement the Biblical system. Even those who profess to be Christians fail to realize how far away from the Truth they stand, nor do they carry any apparent sense of guilt about this discrepancy. From my perspective, there was hardly any detectable difference between believers and unbelievers. Yes, I’ve even been angry at God for being so nonchalant, for not taking any action to harmonize this disparity. Yet, God asks me to love and forgive all these people who have rejected me for not seeing the world as they do. It is a disheartening task.
I agree that it can be disheartening to find oneself standing alone in faith, but after a while, I got used to it. What’s left is to be obedient to Him for the sake of obedience itself. Having to discard the Western obsession with product, and focus merely on getting the process right, was a major shift in thinking.
Where do you stand in the grand scheme of things?
Do you have peace with God?
Have you discovered The Heart-Led Way?
Have you found your purpose for living, your mission in life?