Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Preservation of Self

Akin Ojumu
Owings Mills, MD

Choices! Choices!! Life is full of choices.

Duh! That’s an oxymoron….a no brainer. Everyone probably makes a thousand of them every single hour. What’s not so always obvious though is the motive behind those pesky little decisions people make on a daily basis. The motive usually hides behind the shuttered windows of the recesses of the soul.

What informs our choices? Why do we do what we do? What powers the engine of our choices? What drives the decisions we make?

The subject is one that I’ve brooded over, on and off, over the years. Yet it remains a difficult one for me to write about. Even now I struggle to find the right choice of word to express my flailing thoughts. It is like being asked to give a vivid description of the physical appearance of nothingness. Oh yeah! You go ahead and give that your best shot.

What is life without a choice? We live and breathe this stuff. There is no hiding place from choice; it follows us everywhere we go. We cannot avoid it, there is no refusing it, to not make a choice, is a choice in and of itself. Just as our body is made up of clusters of over a hundred trillion cells, our present state in life is an embodiment of the collective choices we’ve made up to that point in our lives. We are, in essence, a consequence of our choices.

From the very beginning we have been condemned to a life devoted to making choices. Since the day we bawled our way into this world, we became the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company called, Choice PLC; the maker of choice. Even the course of our present existence was set in motion by a single choice. The one made on our behalf by Mrs. Eve Adam, the day she took and ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was a turning point in humanity. From that day on, mankind and choice became locked in an eternal embrace of life and death. In order to unlock the mystery behind what gives voice to our choice, the Garden of Eden will be the logical place to start. So off to Eden we go.

It was a typical day in Eden’s Garden. The sprawling estate was in a pristine state. A perfectly gorgeous summer morning; the clear blue sky showered sparkles of light on the luscious green trees, that swayed gently to the rhythm of the slow moving wind, traveling from the west. The air was filled with pure joy and music, all creation singing praises to their LORD and Maker. The sweet smelling savor of their praises suffused the atmosphere, ascending up to the throne of Glory. Oh what a joy! What exhilaration!!!

Such was the day before evil took center stage. Who could have imagined that a great evil was about to befall the earth on this fateful day?

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ And the woman said unto the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the trees which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’ And the serpent said unto the woman, ‘Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.’ And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.Genesis 3: 1-5.

Evil descended upon the world from that moment, an eerie silhouette against the radiance of that beautiful morning. As it slithered its way into the scene, the creeping thing released a mushroom cloud of toxic vapor into the atmosphere, corrupting the lives all around. In the twinkling of an eye, the singing, the dancing, and the rejoicing all came to an abrupt end. The peace of that day was shattered with a terrifying shriek; a wail of agony that continues to reverberate from generation to generation. The glorious beauty was replaced by a hideous ugliness, and the pure joy that flows from innocent hearts, devoid of doubt, supplanted by the sure pain that grows in empty souls corrupted with forbidden knowledge. The curtain of evil fell on a life of perpetual fellowship with God. Hitherto man, a native born citizen of the Shekinah, was clothed with God’s glory. Now fallen from grace, and hidden from His Holy presence, he was nothing more than a naked fugitive alien, adorned in fig leaves, cowering at the sound of God’s voice.

How could this have ever happened? They had it going pretty good; a daily schmoozing with the Almighty, ownership of a lush estate with lots and lots of exotic beings and things, and dominion over all of God’s creation. They were crowned with prosperity in its purest form yet; in spirit, soul and body. Their life was lived in fullness; in complete contentment and without a care in the world. What more could a man ask for?

Yet in one single instance they lost it all.

Why? Why? Why? Why did they do it? The reason they did it is the same that informs our choices. It is to preserve self.

Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.Luke 17:33 (cf: Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24).

They wanted to be like God. In their minds they imagined what it’ll be like being equal with God. The mouthwatering taste of the power, authority, and majesty of being god was too tempting a bait to not swallow. The intoxicating and corrosive fumes of knowledge, which is not of or from God, clouded their judgment. They were consumed by the leering and seducing flare-up of lust. Driven by the inordinate desire to preserve it all, on their own without God, they lost it all. In one fell swoop they became captives of Lucifer’s bait-and switch.

The consuming passion to preserve self is encoded our DNA. It is evident in mankind’s entire life endeavor. You find it even in the functioning of the human anatomy and physiology. The body mounts a defense against all foreign invaders, by deploying an army of cells equipped with weapons of mass destruction, to crush the perceived enemy, all in an attempt to maintain the body’s state of equilibrium…its homeostasis…itself. This is a normal physiologic response. Occasionally, however, this self-preserving function becomes deleterious. The body’s army often rebel, turning on the body itself, leading to devastating consequences…the autoimmune diseases. You also find that some of the invaders aim directly for the body’s army. This particular invader, the human immunodeficiency virus, achieves a complete takeover of the defense cells, perpetuating itself, and effectively evading detection, capture, and destruction, ultimately leading to the death of the cells and the whole body. Such is the human life.

We take extra-ordinary steps to try and save our lives. Some of these things, and in some people, are quite obvious, being done in plain sight. Others are quite subtle, with the appearance of nobility and heroism. Yet, when you pull back the curtain, you’d find that within the choices we make, is the cockatrice of self-service. This beast spits venom upon everything we touch. It poisons relationships, ruins careers, wrecks havocs in churches, brings down nations, and destroys lives.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.James 1: 12-17.

The sooner we accept the fact that our life is not our own…that it does not belong to us…the sooner we’ll stop “kicking against the pricks”. Fussing before the mirror will not add one inch to our height; quit trying to add cubit to your stature. Instead, we need to lose ourselves in the reality, initiative, and provisions of the Almighty God. For then, and alone then, is our life preserved.