Church, desert fathers, Father, God, Holy spirit, Jesus, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, orthodoxy, Son
In the beginning of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series (Fellowship of the Ring), we read of the Hobbits living their everyday lives in a way we would consider normal: there is juicy gossip, a party with fireworks, mischievous kids…the things of normal life we all would recognize. However, we are soon introduced to an enchanted world with Elves and other beings, and the Dark Lord Sauron. Tolkien opens our eyes to a larger reality: against the background of the normalcy of the Hobbit’s lives, there is a battle underway for all of Middle-earth.
What if this were true for us. Like Hobbits, we go about our daily lives concerned about our families, our jobs, our personal finances, the stuff we own or desire to own, politics, sports, the weather, etc. What if, as in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, our world is actually enchanted, good and sinister beings exist, and there is a battle, of which we are largely unaware, underway.
To switch stories, in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the wicked White Witch introduces Edmund to the addictive treat, Turkish Delight. With it, she is able to distract Edmund from her true intentions to rule over Narnia as a cold and snowy land and to entice him to join with her.
What if this were true for us. In the United States and the Western world we are easily distracted: our high standard of living, the internet, social media, the entertainment industry, sports, the never-ending news cycle, toys we have or want, computers, phones, tablets…it is a long list. What if, as in Narnia,these things are given to us as Turkish Delight, used by an enemy to distract us and to entice us to acquiesce to or outright join the dark forces in the battle.
In the Bible’s New Testament, St Paul says this:
…we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
There is a indeed a battle raging. However, it is not a battle for a geographical kingdom, such as Middle-earth or Narnia. Rather, it is a battle for the Kingdom of God that exists within us. In this battle, we are both the battleground and the prize! The battle is for our very being and the battleground is raging right now around us and within us.
In Tolkien’s and Lewis’ fictional fights beings suffer wounds or delusion as a result of the battle. It is true for us in our battle. But what if each of us is born into our enchanted world with a wound, an illness that darkens our soul and blinds us to our enchanted reality and the battle around us and within us.
Each of us has a part of our being called a Nous. Nous is an uncommon word to us modern people. In classical philosophy, nous “is a term for the faculty of the human mind necessary for understanding what is true or real” (Wikipedia). It is often believed to be the center of “reason.” However, centuries ago, Orthodox Christianity re-purposed the word to mean “the eye of the soul, which some Church Fathers also call the heart, [it] is the center of man and is where true (spiritual) knowledge is validated” (Orthodoxwiki). It is much more than “reason,” it is the faculty that allows us access to the immaterial world around us and to know things that are beyond our reason. Most importantly, our nous allows us to know God. (“The Limits of Human Reason” podcast)
Each and every one of us was born with and suffers from an illness of our nous. This part of our being, originally given to us to know God, to “see” the enchanted reality all around us, and to recognize good and evil, has been darkened and blinded; we were born with this condition. Consequently, we go through life focused on ourselves, we engage in survival of the fittest, just like all of the plants and animals of nature.
But God doesn’t leave us in this wounded state, He reaches out to each person to awaken us to the battle around us and within us. And how He tries to awaken us is unique to each of us. To one He speaks directly, to another He sends a messenger, to yet another He speaks through the circumstances of our lives.
Once awakened to the reality of the battle, we may choose to ignore it and try to live in a safe world of our own making, continuing to gather and feast on Turkish Delight. Or perhaps we will choose to join the rulers of darkness who are continually at work around us and within us to win us as their prize. After all, joining the dark powers may bring us power, prosperity, and sensual pleasure, albeit only in this life on Earth; however, the price is the continued darkening of our nous.
God longs for us to choose Him. He longs to heal our wounded nous. God has a hospital and a cure for us. It is the Church.
You may strongly disagree. Perhaps you have been to a church and found no help; rather, you have found only judgement because you don’t meet some standard of behavior. That is like waking up one morning realizing you are very sick. You go to the hospital only to be told you cannot enter until you are well. That is not the true Church.
All too often a church focuses only on the “rules” for our spiritual life. When the goal of a church is only on the “formulation” of man’s character, his ethical propriety, and his becoming a ‘good’ person and a ‘good’ citizen” then it is acting like a courtroom rather than a hospital. In the Church-courtroom we experience only “empty moralism…a superficiality” rather than finding the love of God and His healing. Sadly, many have experienced this Church-courtroom and revolted against God; but, who can blame them? Why would anyone want to worship a God like that.
Sick people don’t need a courtroom. Sick people don’t need to be told they aren’t acting like healed people. Sick people need a hospital. And, sick people need a cure.
The true Church has always been a hospital that exists to offer a cure for our illness, our woundedness, our spiritual blindness—our darkened nous. The goal of Christianity has never been about making us into “good” people. The world is full of “good” people who are still dead people. The goal of Christianity has always been to make dead people alive! The path to life is the path of the healing for our nous so that we can see God and join Him in His life.
In God’s Church-hospital, all are welcome. The Church is filled with people who range from those who do not yet know the extent of their sickness and seriousness of their wounds to those who are well along the path to being healed.
What if you actually believed in the reality that an epic battle is raging, that your very being is both the battleground and the prize. What if you believe that you can choose which side to be on in the battle. What if you believe there is a hospital offering you both care and cure for your wounds. And, most importantly, what if you believethis hospital’s Physician loves you more than you can ever imagine.
What if you believed all of these things…would it change your life?