Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Forbidden Fruit and its 'High Life' Counterpart

Someone once told me, 'Rules! They're there to be broken!' - Obviously, it's out of context and not very good advice, but why do we all love a bit of rebellion? Why is the forbidden fruit so appealing? It is 'forbidden' for a reason right?

First of all, let us establish what the infamous 'forbidden fruit' is all about.
Most definitions I've browsed seem to refer to an 'indulgence or pleasure that is considered illegal or immoral'. I bet really dodgy things come to mind at the sound of that statement, but that is not all! Why is something illegal, because it is out of the bounds of what the law allows. Why is something immoral, because it does not conform to the standards of morality established. Basically, the 'forbidden fruit' is anything we wish to do or actually do that we are not supposed to do, because of boundaries established by an authority that governs us. Ultimately this authority is God, but we also have earthly masters like parents, teachers, government, bosses .etc. It's a phrase that can be traced as far back as Genesis 2 - in light of this, the internet definition Wikipedia offers is a bit limiting! It can be stretched to include anything from greed rooted in money, addictions of various kinds, lust and sexual immorality...boy the list could go on forever!

I'm as allured to the forbidden fruit as everyone else...note that I say 'fruit', I do not encourage insulting the apples that I dearly love! The most rebellious thing I've done? Well I'd rather not reveal that but I don't mind sharing the one I am least guilty about. A couple of years ago, I remember applauding myself for being an absolute gangster, just because I joined my friends in hiding on a terminated bus as it drove on to some random place...childish, I know!

So, why is it that we only yearn to do something when we're discouraged to do it? It almost seems as though the existence of rules is to be blamed for rebellion. Or so I am told, especially by those demanding we legalise various recreational drugs!
That is obviously wrong! Legalising something, only reduces illegal acquisition, it does not exterminate substance abuse, which is what these drugs are primarily used for. Besides, do you actually think people will stop black market sales? Of course not! Take cigarettes for example: the legal age for smoking and purchasing cigarettes in the UK is 18 (or 16 depending on where you reside), but I spot numerous kids having a puff because they 'know people' who are prepared to share a cigarette with them. The answer to such social issues is awareness and discipline.

'...if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."' - Romans 7:7

Rules are essential in order to guide a wayward conscience. Let's be honest, we tend to act on impulse more than on our conscience - but rules stop us, as impulsive actions most often lead to trouble. Rules appear to control us, but the lack of rules only results in chaos. Even nature functions by a set of laws, which when disrupted, results in some rather uncomfortable consequences. We're not necessarily crazy about rules because they restrict us.

The 'forbidden fruit' tempts the inner dictator in us all. Tell me, who doesn't enjoy control and power! The problem however, is that it makes false promises - much like politicians grappling for support. It promises temporary fulfilment but blinds our eyes to the consequences ahead. The control they appear to give, leads to pride and discontentment. Above all, it is a fallacy! You are not in control...ever! God is.
Let's analyse our great grandmother Eve! She fell for the lies of the 'forbidden fruit' because:
  1. She had a distorted view of God and His laws - Genesis 3 records the first sin, which was surprisingly not disobedience, but lying. Eve exaggerated God's laws, making Him out to be controlling and mean; a doorway to disaster! The moment we fail to see God as our loving Father and Saviour, we stop acknowledging His goodness and His genuine best interests in the laws He puts forth. Obviously, that then leads to rebellion as you see Him more as an oppressive dictator.
  2. She failed to appreciate what she already had - Genesis 2:9 mentions that Eden was filled with 'all kinds of trees...pleasing to the eye and good for food' When I read this, I often wonder about how stupid it was for Eve to leave all those fruits and run after the one thing, ONE THING, that she wasn't supposed to. You'd think she would've been content with the rest! Yup, I can talk, I would've probably done the same...and NOT because I am a woman, but because of greed, ingratitude and the inclination to rebel that all of us are born with, regardless of gender.
  3. She sought control - Eve was not interested in eating the fruit until the serpent slyly says she can be 'like God'. Ah what an appeal! A totally false one too! Eve just couldn't resist an opportunity to be in control, in charge of everything, that thirst for power - it's easy to see the reason behind her downfall. The forbidden fruit promises us so much, it seems too good to be true...that's because it is! When you actually take time to consider these lies, you realise that what they promise is actually far less magnificent in reality.
  4. She did not trust God - Let's face it, if Eve had trusted God when He said, 'you will surely die' she would not have given a second thought to the word of that serpent. Perhaps it was pride within her that brought forth the distrust - pride in her own judgements rather than God's. Can't we all relate to such guilt?
This 'forbidden fruit' concept is portrayed beautifully in Dominic Balli's song, American Dream: '...they sold me the American Dream for a small fee, the price of my life and my own dreams...I was never told that the high life would demand my soul such a high price...' Feel free to listen to it:
Yes the forbidden fruit, or in contemporary terms, 'the high life' seems glamorous, but that's far from the truth. It may promise some joy, peace, comfort or what not, but it can never last unless it is rooted in Christ. God alone adheres to His promises, a faithfulness evident throughout Scripture - He promises us 'peace that surpasses all understanding', 'joy unspeakable' and He asks us to 'cast all our cares on [Him]'. Tell me, what more could you need! Like Tim Howard would say, 'Everything else is a bonus.'

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Saturday, 19 July 2014

An Emotional Facade

Darrin Patrick (a church planter) once said, 'We fear our emotions more than a receding hairline. We don't need to cut off our emotions or let them control us. We don't need to turn into John Wayne or the blubbering guys who cry at everything. Our emotions can move us to love others and fight for the good. They can help our relationships rather than harm them. They can help us become true men and good men rather than men who are laughed at or feared.'
Amen to that! How many of us can relate?

It is so easy to take 'Be joyful always' to a whole new level, and suppress every other emotion we are designed to feel, in order to deceive others and ourselves that we are 'good Christians' - whatever that means!

Since the day I became a Christian, it has been my desire to be more like Christ. Wrongly I believed it to be a mono-emotional journey where one was expected to be happy at all times. Except for joy and the occasional sadness, I was a stranger to every other emotion. Don't get me wrong, I felt them alright, but I was incapable of discerning them! I'd often translate what I thought to be negative emotions, to guilt - I feared feeling them, I was guilty for allowing myself to feel them, let alone express them. I struggled to believe that 'there was now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.' I did not want to feel those emotions or let others know that I did...I guess you could say that I was in a state of emotional denial.

My denial was so great that I eventually became incompetent to discern my emotions. Be it anger, jealousy, frustration...I honestly knew not what I felt, all I knew was that it made 'my tummy feel weird'. I found it tiring, irritating and lonesome!

Gratefully one of my bestfriends, Mina, opened my eyes to my folly. Her words of wisdom were too good for me not to share...
She rightly pointed out that I was 'scared to admit that [I] had feelings like jealousy...because [I thought] it'll make [me] a bad person...and so [I supressed] them' She went on to reassure me that I was only human, hence I was 'allowed' to feel them and that bottling it up or running away from them, only makes things worse. I'm just going to go ahead and quote her because I loved the way she put it...
'These feelings don't make you weak or anything' but 'of course you don't act hastily on them but just admitting that you feel like that lets you understand yourself more'

How true! How liberating!

Be honest, first with yourself and then with others. I'm not encouraging you to moan, now that's bad! Christian fellowship is vital in order to uphold and encourage us physically, emotionally and spiritually. How can we be encouraged if we mask the struggles we face?

These emotions aren't from the devil! Truth is that even God felt many of these...
Jesus wept; He angered at the desecration of the Temple of God; one of God's name is El-Kanno - referring to His jealous nature when it comes to our relationship with Him...these emotions are natural but how we act on them define whether or not they're negative.
Ephesians 4:26 tells us, 'In your anger do not sin' - you see, anger isn't the sin, it is what we do because of it.
For example, human trafficking is an issue close to my heart - it makes me sad and angry. I could either use that to kill all the traffickers on the face of the earth (impossible task!) or I could campaign and raise awareness for the safety and better treatment of women and children. The likes of Martin Luther King .Jr and Nelson Mandela made history not because they ran away from their anger, frustration and grievances, but because they channelled such into positive actions.

In Mina's words, 'It's not what we feel but how we act on our feelings that makes us'
Let go of that fa├žade! You never know, you might even leave a mark on history!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Six Goals Brazil Scored

I don't know about you but I found the Brazil vs. Germany game last night VERY PAINFUL! India and football...well that's a joke, so I became a Brazilian once England lost...I did my research, became a dedicated fan, no joke...so it's fair to say I was crying with those painted faces on TV at every goal that tricked Julio Cesar's brilliance! Eventually my screaming throat dried up, my sighs were so heavy that they deflated my lungs and my fist no longer had the energy to punch the air around me...that was when I pondered on the loss, the tears and the guilt filled shame that seemed to penetrate into my living room. That's when it occurred to me! You know what, Brazil might have lost 1-7 to Germany, but they sure scored those defining six goals elsewhere...

GOAL 1 - Don't play the blame game
Brazil's team spirit is one to admire and applaud, however I felt this draining by the minute during their final match. Whether it be Julio Cesar's inefficiency against the Germans, or Neymar's misses against the Colombians, they never point fingers, just comfort. Even when Marcelo made that own-goal blunder against Croatia, it was evident his mates were reassuring him and not rebuking him, however his regret was too much to appease!
Oh finally, let me not forget Luiz Felipe Scolari proving to us that they would blame none but themselves.

GOAL 2 - Never forget those who were instrumental in your progress.
Silva and Neymar were no doubt instrumental in Brazil's progress (everyone else was too), it was truly tragic that they both were to be out during this crucial match. Neymar couldn't because of his injury, but his presence gave his team morale to press on! Despite the absence, I loved how Julio Cesar and David Luiz held his shirt during their National Anthem.
Moreover, on social media, they are all very vocal in expressing their gratitude to all their supporters, and primarily to God. True humility, true love, true gratitude.

GOAL 3 - When the world says, 'it is over', prove them wrong!
90 minutes gone and Brazil was down 0-7 against Germany, just when it seemed pointless to even add another minute to the game, Oscar stunned us all with a goal! Yes it was hailed the 'most pointless goal' but I do not doubt the fact that 1-7 is slightly better than 0-7 - losing is painful enough but leaving empty handed would've been excruciating. I guess we can all learn from Oscar to never give up, even when the odds are against us. Keep trying!

GOAL 4 - Never consider yourself better than others.
It is quite sad that many exalt Neymar and put every other player down - truth is that even Neymar doesn't see it that way (Don't believe me? Check his social media outlets!). It is a fact that there are star players in every team, but football isn't about gaining individual glory, it is about team effort. The Brazilians lift each other up, believe in each other and never try to make it a one man show! Every player scores for his team's glory!

GOAL 5 - Comfort the hurting
I am no football expert, I only watch the World Cup! So I guess it finally makes sense as to why I am not assessing the technicalities of this match! However, I need not be an expert to acknowledge how these players care for each other. Although goals are their priority on the field, more important are their fellow players! When Neymar fell face down, Marcelo first, later David Luiz, retired to his side until the doctors came - they weren't going to leave him alone and crying in pain to run after a petty goal!

GOAL 6 - In all things, give thanks.
I LOVE BRAZIL for various reasons, utmost of which is their unashamed expression of faith - from Kaka to David Luiz, before and after every match, after every goal scored, these players do not fail to point to the source of their strength, God. Before the match last night, the commentators on BBC 1 were analysing David Luiz's capacity to lead a team - I have to say that I was very disappointed in the way Alan Hansen dismissed Luiz's expression of faith! In our society you'd think 'open-minded' people would be more accommodative...apparently not!
What astonished me however was not Hansen's comment, but what followed Brazil's tragic loss. Others, including Luiz Gustavo, joined David Luiz on his knees - a picture that baffled many, made them an object of further ridicule, but to every Christian watching, I hope it was as special as it was to me. It is one thing to give thanks when you win, but doing the same when you know the humiliation that awaits you is admirable. They followed Paul's advice to 'give thanks in all circumstances'. By doing so they acknowledge God's sovereignty and the fact that He is glorified not only in our victories but also in our failures!
I bet He was smiling down on them!

So, what went wrong?
Perhaps their lack of confidence and psychological deficiency due to the absence of two of their important players. Perhaps the doubts and increasing despair as crowds departed the stadium. Perhaps the nerves and desperation...truth is, I don't know!

I'm not going to lie, the melancholy I felt was heartwrenching but it did shame me! Often, we get too involved and forget that football (or anything else for that matter) is just a game; it's not something to lose our happiness over or start a riot over! With that in mind, let me declare with a smile that Brazil may have lost their home World Cup, but they certainly won my heart!

(Shout out to my cousin, Ramya, for suggesting I write about this painful event!)