What it’s all for

Hello everyone, and an early Merry Christmas!

Below is something I wrote a few years ago. Since the day I accepted Jesus I have had what I hesitatingly describe as revelations—intensively over the first few days and less frequently since. When I read Ezekiel, his description, “…the words of the Lord came to me…”, really resonated with these experiences. I am not claiming to be a prophet at all, but I wrote them down, having shared what I wrote with few. In the following years I endeavored to study the Bible deeply and those experiences gradually became less distinctive, as if back then they were complete aberrations in the context of my normal experience, but became more and more part of the continuum of my experience. Below falls in the latter. I was writing thoughts in poem form, but I wasn’t really “composing” a poem. Anyway, I feel it makes sense given what the Bible says and what has happened in the world—and most of it I have encountered in other people’s thoughts and/or the Bible itself), although I have not encountered anyone interpreting our being made in God’s image as meaning we are, like him, creators. I am interested in others thoughts. Thank you for your time.

Musings for a Sunday Morning

If there is but one Creator,
Then his portfolio includes
Both Good and Evil.

How then can I love
With all my heart and mind and soul
He who made my suffering?

How can I believe that He
Who gave man life and then sent
To him the serpent of temptation is love?

How can I believe that He
Who makes a child and then lets
Her die in pain is just?

How can I trust He who makes
Me choose between eternal life at the cost
Of complete submission or eternal torment?

Perhaps the problem is not
With finding answers to these questions,
But with the premise that suggests them.

Perhaps there is not only one creator,
But many—that to be made in God’s
Image is to be made a creator.

Perhaps it is not that God created good and evil,
But that he could, because he is a creator,
And because we are as well, so can we.

Perhaps the difference between us and God
Is that God knows good and evil, and so creates only good,
But we do not, and so also create evil.

Perhaps our suffering, the serpent of temptation,
The painful death of a child and eternal torment,
Are not God’s creations, but ours.

Perhaps to love, to believe and to trust God
Is to allow God to make us fully in his image,
Not just creators, but creators of only good.

Perhaps Heaven is something both within us and
In our future, a future in which we know
That neither we ourselves nor others will create evil,

A future that, nevertheless, can only be
For those who with all their heart and mind and soul
Have committed to love, to believe and to trust God,

To allow themselves to become not just creators,
But creators who know good from evil, and
Who are able and also will create only good.

Perhaps I am wrong, and these are just words
With no “direct connection to reality”—and yet
I created them, and either they serve good

Or they do not—but if they do not,
Mustn’t they necessarily serve evil,
For isn’t evil that which is not good?

Perhaps, you may say, this paradigm
Of good and evil is only a conception in my mind—
Though I created these words, they serve neither and just are.

Perhaps—and yet I and others often suffer,
People are often tempted, children often die in pain
And of people is often demanded submission,

While also we alleviate or avoid suffering,
Avoid temptation, grow up healthy,
And submit and are submitted to out of love.

Perhaps this paradigm is the best a mind
Can do towards understanding a reality
That cannot be contained in a conception.

Perhaps God, too, is beyond conception,
Uncontainable by the mind and thus attainable
Only through love, through belief, through trust.

Perhaps all of our conceptions of God are false,
Because seeking him through conceptions is like
Chasing a rainbow or storing joy in a box.

Perhaps the truth of the mystery of life is known
Only through becoming, becoming through allowing,
Allowing through submission, submission through faith.

Perhaps all the rest are just “signs and wonders,”
That we may believe, that we may become,
That we may know all that is true and good.

Perhaps this is God—all that is true and good—
And to know God fully is to become fully true and good,
And to be true and good is to be joyful and free forever.

Perhaps the question is not whether God is the only creator,
Or whether we were created or evolved by chance,
But rather, how do we know what we are creating?

Perhaps this is why there is evil,
That we might learn what is good,
And how to become its creators.


Whoa – if I had my old journal from my college days I could match things from it to a lot of your verses here!

I love the conclusion in the final verse.

Submission is a difficult word, though, don’t you think? It can so easily slip into something dark, like blind obedience or self-justification. In order to create good in the world, the knowing is only the first step. After the knowing comes the doing. Perhaps it’s the doing we’re learning about during our sojourn as human beings – the courage and commitment God shares with us through our experience of faith.

Asking God for help and being grateful for God’s help as we learn how to “Do Love” isn’t really submission. It’s more like relationship – the relationship between a respectful young person and a much older, wiser guardian who knows us better than we know ourselves. As part of this relationship, we’re asked to trust that we, as humans, don’t have all the information or all the possible layers of meaning within the information. Of course, human beings aren’t always noted for our ability to accept that we don’t know everything.

In comparison to the age of the universe, and the duration of God’s infinite Love, our time as human beings is brief – only long enough for us to begin to ask new questions about the mysteries of Divine Love. But it’s a time that God seems to believe is worth all the trouble. So it’s one day at a time as we struggle with what it means to “Do Love.”

One day (though probably not this day) it will all make sense.

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Yes, one can understand submission in several ways. The sense I mean it, though, is the sense Jesus demonstrated in Luke 22:42: “ Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

This is total submission to the will of God. But it can’t be objectively verified except after the fact, when the consequences of that submission have worked themselves out, as they did with Jesus. No one, other than God, can know if someone actually submits to his will in their hearts.

This sort of submission, though, is essential to our reconciliation with God, isn’t it? The opposite of “to submit” is “to resist.” If we are resisting God in any way, are we not rejecting at least in some small way his complete knowledge, wisdom and power?

The grey area is, as you say, the incompleteness of our knowledge, wisdom and power. We have things to learn and, sometimes, resisting God is necessary for us to learn what we need to learn, of which I think Jonah is a great example.

Jonah fled God because he was so committed, in his heart, to God’s righteousness. Jonah then went through an elaborate and terrible experience in order that God make gain his submission and, through that, illuminate Jonah’s understanding of God’s righteousness. Jonah could not really not resist, at the start of his story, but his resistance was an obstacle to deeper understanding. If he had simply submitted to God’s command in the first place, God could have illuminated his understanding in a less traumatic way.

Similarly, Abraham questioned God about sparing the righteous in Sodom; in that sense, he resisted God, and this served also to bring him deeper understanding of God.

So I understand submission vs resistance in this way; resistance, at minimum, is questioning God. And it’s sin, at bottom, that impels us to do that. If it’s in good faith—as with Abraham and Jonah—then it is simply making the path to God’s final aim for us longer. If we completely submit our will to his, then the path to our learning is as easy and direct as it can be. If not, it’s longer and harder.

But it has to be the right kind of submission. Samson I think is a good example of someone whose form of submission was skewed. It enabled him to serve God, but also for his heart to be compromised, and for his way of serving God to be conflicted and violent. I think many Christians in the world today are also submitting to God in a skewed way, which has led them to antagonism, hatred, anger, violence, false ideals. As Jesus said, “A time is coming when anyone who kills you will believe they are doing a service for God.”

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Sorry, in 3rd paragraph I meant “we are rejecting,” not “we are not rejecting.”

Hmmmm . . . I’m not sure it can be said that in the beginning of Jonah’s story, he is committed to anyone but himself. He is, in fact, an intemperate fellow who puts the unwitting sailors and their cargo at risk as he attempts to flee from God’s presence. And it’s not as if Jonah offers to throw himself into the sea to save the others – no, instead he waits for the sailors to throw him into the waters so he won’t have to take responsibility for his own free will choices. Nonetheless, God makes good use of the situation to bring the sailors into the fold of Divine Love.

Jonah, who should have known better than to argue with God (because apparently Jonah has already seen the holy temple that isn’t a physical temple: Jonah 2:4), is given another chance by his loving God, and again Jonah is more interested in his own “right to be right” than in the lives of Nineveh’s inhabitants. There’s no indication by the end of the book of Jonah that this very human prophet ever figures out why God is rebuking him. But it doesn’t matter, because this is a story about how God’s love and forgiveness can’t be denied, no matter what our human prophets might tell us.

I read the book of Jonah as a tale about humbleness – not humility, but humbleness. A humble heart knows that all creatures are important to God and that God will use lowly plants and worms in place of treasures and temples if that will get the message across. A humble heart doesn’t grovel, but it does respect God’s infinite wisdom.

But yeah, Jonah is totally resisting what he knows to be true, so I agree with you there.


I’d say that submission is an ongoing surrender of our very selves to God so our “old man” dies a little more and God lifting us up and declaring us to be His child.


Jonah’s perspective is definitely not ideal! But I don’t think he was merely committed to himself.

As is made clear in Ch. 4, Jonah fled after God told him to warn Nineveh, because to him it would be wrong to give Nineveh a chance to avoid destruction. For him, righteousness was being punished for breaking the law.

That Jonah fell far short of being, himself, righteous doesn’t change that he had an idea of what righteousness is or that he was committed to it. He understood it as stated above. And he fled not because he was committed to himself, but because he wanted justice as he himself understood it to be done with regards to Nineveh.

But God understood righteousness as caring—laws, warnings and punishments being means for fulfilling that if needed, but they can become destructive or, at least, powerless when their use is not in the service of that caring. And for God, caring means wanting not the destruction of the wicked, but their turning away from wickedness and returning to Him.

Although the last thing Jonah says in the story reveals that his idea has not changed (and that he is quite wrapped up in his own perspective), the last word is God’s explicit making of his point. We don’t know how Jonah responded to this, so we don’t know if he actually learned or grew from the experience.

It does seem clear, though, that a) even though he had still not accepted God’s wisdom regarding Nineveh, after time in the fish he submitted to God’s will and affirmed his commitment to worshiping and serving God, and b) God wanted more for Jonah than that; He wanted for him also to understand and accept His wisdom.

Yet, the immediate concern was with Jonah submitting to God’s will, regardless of Jonah’s understanding or acceptance of His wisdom. Which makes sense, doesn’t it? What happens in the world has consequences, so how we behave matters greatly, even if correct behavior can’t overcome, in the long run, an impure heart. The Mosaic law could not save Israel, but it could contain the consequences of sin to a significant degree—long enough for Israel to do all that it would do to prepare the way for Jesus.

And this sequence makes sense, also. Our bodies operate on habits, which are structural loops of synaptic patterns, as far as bodies are concerned. What we call addiction is simply a loop(s) that has self-destructive consequences and is so strong that the loop(s) that form what we call our self-preservation instinct cannot override it. But it’s the same thing as all the other loops on which we depend. Much as a drone depends on its 4 engines constantly moving its propellers in coordination with one another, we depend on a vast array of synaptic loops to occur in coordination with one another without our conscious direction or even awareness of them. These are our behaviors and thoughts, over which we have some, but not much control. Thus, our thoughts and behavior are part a vast complex of coordinated activity that occurs habitually.

Controlling our behavior is asserting control over that complex in the most concrete (and crude) way, a control that must happen before we can grow in more subtle, less concrete ways, which are the ways in which Jesus called us to grow. Thus, trying to control our behavior is the starting point for, ultimately, becoming spiritually mature, growing “up into Christ Himself.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Until we accept that we must control our behavior, and have a certain level of success in doing so, we cannot begin to accept the need to purify our hearts, let alone the submission to and reliance upon God that this requires.

To me, the story of Jonah illustrates this and, most importantly, that God will not abandon us for questioning him or even fleeing him, if our actions stem from our place on the path to spiritual maturity. For such misguidance is a natural, temporary consequence of seeking to leave the darkness of sin for the Light of God’s love.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Kevin. And while I’m thinking of it, I wish you an early Merry Christmas, too!

You’ve raised a number of points I agree with, such as this:

And this:

(Sorry, I’m being a bit lazy here because I’m coming down with a Christmas cough and cold, and I still have to finish getting reading for Christmas.)

One of the earliest aspects of my spiritual journey was a deep dive into neuroscience and how our brains and central nervous systems are interconnected with our sense of self, God, and redemption, so no need to persuade me on that score. But it’s good to hear that you’ve been following some of these threads and tying them into your spiritual work.

I sense, though, that you and I are fairly far apart in our theological understanding of what it means to be in relationship with God and what it means to have “an impure heart.”

In the book of Jonah, I see an interpretation on the author’s part that runs counter to much of what is written in the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament about how we can meet God face to face in our lives and how God feels about the people and the creatures of Planet Earth. Jonah reflects a minority voice within Judaism, a minority voice found in other Jewish texts (e.g. certain Psalms and the book of Job) as well as in the teachings of Jesus as found in the Gospel of Mark and parts of the Letter of James. It’s this minority voice I personally subscribe to in my work as a cataphatic Christian mystic.

The minority voice is about the struggle to learn to trust God by sitting down with God in a quiet place where there is neither submission nor resistance, justice nor no-justice. A place where emotion has logic and mind has heart. A place where purity is not the law, but forgiveness is the final arbiter. I believe that this is the inner place Jesus called the Kingdom of the Heavens.

I think it’s pretty normal for people to want to run away, as Jonah did, and to pout and protest at God’s wisdom, as Jonah did, because some of the things God says to us about Divine Love just don’t make sense to us from a human point of view. Nonetheless, as God says to both Jonah and Job, “You don’t get to decide for me (i.e. God) who I’m allowed to love or when or why or how much. All I ask is that you trust that I know what I’m doing. I don’t ask that you trust me blindly, though. Please sit with me and we’ll talk together about what Divine Love really means.”

This is how I see Jonah, anyway.

You can edit any of your own prior posts by clicking the grey pencil icon underneath the post. It re-opens it in an editing box. No need to agonize over forgotten or mistyped words! I have to fix mine on a regular basis.


Good discussion of Jonah, and it applies even though have come to understand Jonah was written as a parable of sorts in the post-exile period, using Jonah as a character borrowing from the other mention of him a disgraced prophet in earlier times when he gave a false prophecy to the king. Supposedly it was written in the time of Ezra as a minority voice (as you mentioned) in protest of the separatism and nationalistic and cultural isolationism advocated by them. I think the ending is a powerful statement as God asks him about whether God cares for all people, not just the chosen, and throws in his care for the animals as well, with its implications for creation care and ethical treatment of animals.

The story has great application for us today given the divisions and nationalistic fervor in the church, as well as the discussion on environmental issues.


Yes, this is my understanding of it as well.

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I’m gonna say . . . no: Jonah fled because he was committed to his own understanding of God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness includes mercy.

I vaguely recall encountering this in grad school and agreeing not just with the explanation but with the point made in Jonah. My opinion of Ezra since the first time I read it in English was that he was more than a bit of a pompous jerk; reading it in the Hebrew didn’t change that view.
Maybe I should try reading it in the LXX? :thinking:

Yes, that was the point of my comment.

Hi Jennifer, I agree with you. I think you’re fixated, though, on a meaning of “submission” that is not what I mean by it in my poem.

I spent a good deal of time learning Buddhist philosophy and practice. This began when I read a book on passage meditation by Eknath Easwaran after having struggled with chronic depression for almost 20 years. He relayed what I later learned was a Buddhist understanding of the mind and presented healing the mind as maintaining control of ones attention, which could be done through daily meditation, constant recitation of a mantra and/or doing things with single-minded focus. I spent a Summer doing all 3 and after 10 weeks, my mind was continuously focused during mediation, never wandering or being distracted by outside noise and such, and the cycle of depression was broken as the subsequent years proved.

In all of these things, focusing my mind as completely as possible on the meditation passage or mantra or activity was a conscious act. And I would call it an act of submission. I did not believe in God, then, but I submitted to the understanding of my mind that I had learned and the process those 3 complimentary activities were setting in motion. It was reasoning combined with my prior learning and experience that had convinced me these were worth trusting, but in the moment of doing them, I required faith in them, at least for the first month, because it was some time before I saw any results. For the first 2 weeks, my upper back, neck and head would tense up painfully as I meditated. I was constantly finding my attention on something other than the passage of meditation.

The temptation was to go with the distractions—to stop resisting them. Yet, resisting them was not actually an act of resistance to them, but rather an act of submission to the passage. It required, actually, letting go of all resistance.

Later, I did a 10 day Vipassana course, which is an intense form of meditation involving scanning the whole body, and for which attendees lived in “noble silence” for the 10 days, having no contact with the outside world or any form of media or the internet, and no communication even with fellow attendees unless a serious situation required. This was deeply profound and I became more completely at peace and full of light than I had ever been, by far. No resistance in my body or mind and a deep sensitivity to the slightest changes—yet an ability to just watch them, with no instinctive reaction.

I understand why one would not want to think of this as a form of submission, but I think it is. By the end of the course, I would not say I was in a a state of submission, though. I was in a state of stillness, made possible by my submission to the process.

This is what I mean by submission in my poem.

I accepted Christ in church and that evening I had the most profound experience I’ve ever had, which I believe was the Holy Ghost entering my mind and body, for without having done anything but begun to reflect on what I had done (accepting Jesus as my Savior), I was filled with a peace and light much like that at the end of the Vipassana course, and thoughts started coming into my mind, which were answers to uncertainties I had about Jesus, as well as, insights (at least to me) about what Jesus had done. This went on for an hour or so, and then later, resumed and continued for a couple of more hours. Over the next few days there were several more such visitations and then, over the next 4 years or so, every once in awhile I would have that feeling, stop whatever I was doing, listen and have more thoughts.

My view (and a preacher friend likes this view) of this is that God was communicating to me in the exact way I needed for my rationalist doubts to dispelled, using the Vipassana experience and tying in things I’d learned from Buddhism, science and music (I’m a musician/teacher).

Each time this happened, though, I had to submit to it or it went away. Once I was driving, for example, and I didn’t pull over to listen. Soon the feeling went away.

So I would say our disagreement is semantic. Feel free to suggest another word for what I’m calling submission. I’m not attached to that word, but it fits my experience the best (the next closest would be surrender, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me).

I imagine that Ezekiel’s relationship to the coming of his visions was similar (although he surely knew nothing of Vipassana, if it even existed during his time).

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Kevin, I’d like to say that it’s gracious and generous of you to share such a deeply personal experience with us. I hope you’ll continue to feel God’s presence in your life.

Like you, I believe that God meets us where we are – and where it’s possible for us to be as we struggle with our human questions and confusions.

I do understand the sense of peace and light that comes from experiencing God’s presence. It becomes an anchor during difficult times, doesn’t it?

I’m not in any way trying to challenge or negate your journey. My comments about Jonah are something separate, because academic biblical studies have become a part of my own journey of relationship with God. When I read the book of Jonah, I read it through the dual lenses of academic scholarship and cataphatic mysticism I can’t help but see the voice of an early author who personally understood the joys and the pitfalls of being someone who has felt God’s presence in a direct and tailored way. From my perspective, the author was writing about somebody else – a prophet he calls Jonah – who had completely lost sight of his responsibility to accept changes within all his relationships following his experience of the peace and the light.

This willingness to accept changes in our relationships with God, our neighbours, ourselves, and, indeed, with all Creation is the hallmark of the redemptive process you may be describing as submission.

God bless.

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I would suggest that before one starts making claims thst God created evil, in order to test us, one should study the Old Testament Sanctuary service…particularly the day of Atonement.

The correct biblical theology on evil is that there is but one source for it…Lucifer/Satan.

Gods only input is that He gave all of His creation freewill. If you want to call giving freewill evil…i doubt too many scholars would support such a definition.

The whole point of the plan of redemption is to rid the world of the curse Lucifer brought upon it and us. If God created evil, why spend the entirety of biblical existince seeking to rid the planet of it? (Not logical really)

I think there is a big difference between knowing good and evil, and intentionally creating that which is the opposite of Love (God is love).

This is one way of looking at the meaning of our lives and our relationship with God. And many Christians would agree with your interpretation. But it’s not the only way to understand good or evil, or God, or Jesus’ teachings.

I can take the same Bible as you and arrive at an entirely different understanding of our relationship with God by emphasizing texts that you de-emphasize and by de-emphasiizing texts that you emphasize. You might cry “foul,” but I cry fair game in the journey of healing and redemption. Everybody does it. Every theologian since the time of Jesus has done it, and I expect that theologians will continue to do it because the Bible gives us many different images of who God is and how we can be in relationship with God.

You probably have – or have access to – a Strong’s Concordance. Without looking it up first, take a guess at how many times the word “sin” (in Greek, αμαρτια or hamartia) appears in the Synoptic Gospels. Go ahead. How many references are there to αμαρτια in Mark, Matthew, and Luke? Dozens maybe? Hundreds? Because if Jesus’ teachings are all about sin and evil and saving the world from Lucifer, then surely the Synoptic Gospels, which tell us so much about who Jesus was (theologically speaking) and what he taught, then surely we must find this intense focus on sin and evil throughout the Synoptics, right?

In fact, there are two – that’s 2, as in the number that comes after 1 – uses of the word αμαρτια anywhere in the Syntopics. Sure, there are passages in the Synoptics in which the idea of sin can be inferred, but do these passages mean exactly what you mean by the theology of evil?

It’s to John and Paul that we look for theologies that involve curses and semi-incarnate forces of evil and other theologies that show a lack of trust in God’s infinite capacity to know us and heal us and forgive us.

But John and Paul aren’t the only Biblical books we have the option to study and learn from.

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I’m not a formally trained theologian so take my words for what they’re worth. But I’d say that God did not create Lucifer as an evil being from the start (and did not create evil per se), but created all supernatural beings initially with freewill choice (just as he subsequently did humans), and that some such beings subsequently chose their own way, in contravention to God’s will. The conventional Christian explanation (I think?) is that in order for true love to exist, that entails that there is also real freewill capacity to choose against that relationship…hence God had to open up the space for moral choices and hence for the possibility of evil.

So, I would word things to say that God created a universe with the potential for evil to exist, (and was constrained to do so because he wanted the potential for love to exist also), but that evil was not actualized until some created free-will agents chose it. In other words, God Himself chose to give some real “say-so” to other freewill agents in the universe, and so accepts that he will not control every detailed event in the universe. So, if you mean by “Omnipotent” that God is all-controlling, I would agree with you that God is not THAT. If one means by “omnipotent” that God has the skill and knowledge and power to work even with evil events so that his ultimate good-goals are achieved, I’d say that God is still “omnipotent” in that sense.

Personally, as an open theist, I don’t think God knew with certainty that “the fall” would happen, although he probably had an idea that it was a considerable probability. I think God grieved at the introduction of evil into the world (it was not his will), but he was not caught unprepared.