Two of the three Brown boys are currently involved in the whole ortho "alignment" process...so it does not surprise me that the discussion about the essential "right" things needs a bit of pushing here and pulling there--and a possible extraction or two--in order to make room for all the elements to both appear in the right spot and be aligned properly with one another so that they might accomplish their task effectively without doing injury to any of the elements.
It is striking, of course, that the whole concept of orthodontia is an experience of suffering....
It is also equally striking (pun to come?) to remember that teeth that do not have an opposing tooth to strike against become diseased...they continue to descend, looking to find their counterpart....hmmm....
Brad has a very interesting post about this whole "ortho" business, with a number of important comments, over at his blog.
So, after that lengthy introduction, here is my reply to the thoughtful comments from yesterday's post...a second step, as it were, to processing orthopathy.
I heard Alan's assertion that "pathos" is more than suffering, but includes the whole range of human emotions. And I would agree that the whole concept is important to keep in mind.
And I heard John's assertion that "pathos" is more a matter of passion than suffering...strongly felt emotions, not just suffering.
I even heard Brad's assertion that imagination and aesthetics need to be included in the mix...and that wisdom is an important overarching perspective to consider.
Isn't this the greatest thing about the blogosphere?! None of us have to get the whole picture...we can each contribute a piece here and a piece there without the burden of believing that we can any of us get a grip on the whole thing...very much in line with A Celtic Son's comment over at Brad's post.
And so I will build a bit on all these and see if there might be some wisdom that comes forth from the whirlwind....
I return to the Great Commandment: to love God with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength. And while it would be a grand series of word studies to revisit, I'm going to generalize here and challenge you to do your own word study! But before we get too far, I want everyone to stop and realize that we are looking at parts of a whole...and we cannot fully separate them into their parts. We must embrace the ambiguity that comes from approaching the mystery. So, this in not an attempt to cut cleanly and precisely--thereby defining ultimately. No, humility is the watchword of this Abbess. I know enough to know that I cannot know enough to ever know it all.
- Heart--this word speaks to the deep will, including the whole range of emotions; it is where the rubber meets the road, as it were. This is the core of the person--the essence. It may or may not always be visible to others or understood by the self, but it is always open to God's view. He looks on the heart and sees who we really are...what makes us tick...how we deal with life's adaptive challenges...and always responds with hesed--that which is in our best interest. It is about right perception, I think. This speaks to orthopathy.
- Soul--this word speaks to the imagination and the aesthetics...the reality of Eikons as sub-creators under God. We have the ability (inspiration?) to take "stuff" (stuff of the earth and stuff of the heart and stuff of the mind) and fashion unique stuff...stuff of great beauty and usefulness and meaning. Physical stuff, yes. But there is much more. Spiritual stuff. Relational stuff. Wow. Here is where we build those things that are imperishable...that are eternal...that cannot be destroyed because they can be remembered. What does this right inspiration speak to? Orthopneumaxy (Hey, I'm just flowing with the inspiration, here! ;^) )
- Mind--this word speaks to the many different ways in which we have the capacity to receive and process information. It is where we think about "stuff." It is where we struggle to respond to what we see and hear and smell and taste and touch and emote and intuit. Here is where we begin to understand...to make sense of the "stuff." The result of this struggle is frequently called "knowing" and "believing." This speaks to orthodoxy.
- Strength--this is the action word...calling forth vehement action, actually. God calls us to expend 100% of whatever we have in loving him...in hesed toward him. In looking out for his best interest. Whatever strength we have is always sufficient because God is our partner. It's not a question of having enough strength...it is a question of giving it all. This speaks to orthypraxy.
First, freedom. Freedom for all that God has created for us to be. Freedom for all that perfect community (shhh...yes, perichoresis is what I'm thinking of, here...I'll get around to posting on it one of these days!) is meant to be. Freedom from focus on self and the resultant bondage. (No, I haven't forgotten freedom from sin, but that is not the point of this particular pondering.)
Then, restraint. I have come to believe that restraint is the greatest attribute of God. Greater than all his "omni" stuff because, without his amazing restraint, we could not exist. All of his "omni" reality he restrains so that he (Shall I use they to speak of the Triune God?)...they restrain in order to be free to enter into relationship with us Eikons. And only as we restrain ourselves can we embrace the freedom they offer.
And that takes me back to suffering, friends. Because restraint is, by definition, a form of suffering. To have a "heart" is to suffer. To have a "soul" is to suffer. To have a "mind" is to suffer. To have "strength" is to suffer.
The Incarnation is freedom through restraint...and that is why Messiah was recognized (and also not recognized) as the "Suffering Servant" in Isaiah. To be is to suffer. To be free is to suffer. To be restrained is to suffer. To be restrained by loving God and loving others as oneself is to suffer...laying down one's life for another. And only then, in willing submission to the suffering that loves with all of one's heart and soul and mind and strength--and other as oneself, is one truly free.
The Purple Martyrdom embraces the paradox of restraint and freedom. The restraint that comes with embracing extreme brokenness and powerlessness as a holy sacrifice to God brings with it an extreme freedom. Freedom to embrace God's perception, inspiration, thinking and action empowered by the Holy Spirit rather than cling to one's own abilities. Freedom from fear of that which can deprive/hurt/kill the mortal flesh but cannot deprive/hurt/kill the immortal soul. As my friend, S. Scott Bartchy, has so long challenged:
How much freedom can you stand?