|Photo by Walt Jabsco|
My Dear Children on the Earth,
I hear complaints about my character. You ask questions like, “How could a good God allow the kinds of things that happen in the world today?” Many have concluded that I don’t exist at all, because they cannot reconcile their experience of life with any sort of virtuous supernatural participation in it, or because they find it unjustifiable that they should bear any responsibility to a deity with whom they disagree so tenaciously.
Suffering was never my intention for you.
Choosing in which parent’s house to live, and with which siblings, and from which to separate, wasn’t ever part of my design for any family.
I never wanted anyone to sit alone in the lobby of a free clinic, waiting with trembling hands to hear the results of an HIV or Hep C test.
Rape was not my invention.
I don’t want any woman submitted to the agony of choosing whether to become a single mother, or to give away the infant to whom she is physically and emotionally and spiritually bonded, or to abort that infant.
Children sold into slavery so their parents can feed the others; racism and vengeance and genocide; physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse—I would have none of these for any of you.
Why are these things this part of the world, part of your life? Because my laws are misinterpreted as cruel and capricious injunctions against your freedoms and the right to live in whatever way you choose.
You’ve misunderstood the difference between freedom to and freedom from.
Have no other gods before me.
Not because I’m a despot or a tyrant or an egomaniac, but because I love you and I want only the very best for you, and I know that nothing else and no one else knows you and loves you and will provide for you as well and as thoroughly as I. I am, and there’s nothing that compares with me. It’s not conceit; it’s truth. I want you to be free from the chains that other gods put on you.
Don’t make idols for yourself.
Because they’re mute and blind and deaf and impotent and do nothing but distract you from being who I made you to be and from doing what I created you to do. You look ridiculous bowing to other people who were made in exactly the same manner you were; worshiping at big box stores and lottery ticket windows; praying to the dead, to plants, to animals, to rocks. I have so much more for you in my storehouses than anything or anyone else can offer. Don’t trade your birthright so cheaply.
Don’t take my name in vain.
You disrespect me when you toss my name around flippantly or use it for a curse. “Oh my God” is not a throwaway catch-phrase, and it actually does mean something, and I hear it every time it’s said. “God damn it” is a grave and intentional command. Words have power. Yours and mine. I created everything you see and everything you don’t see through the power of words. So take them seriously. Use your words the same way I use mine: to create, to edify, to make the world wiser and more beautiful.
Keep the Sabbath day holy.
You need rest. Often and regularly. I know this because I made you and I know how your mind and heart and body work. If you won’t believe me, consider the law of diminishing returns, or the cyclical processes of production and stagnation in nature, or scientific research on the restorative powers of sleep. All work and no play makes Jack an unhealthy, distressed, and imbalanced boy. So keep my day holy—consecrated for a right purpose—and observe it without fail. I want you to live a joyful and useful life, free from illness and greed and anxiety.
Honor your parents so it may go well with you and you may have a long life.
This means showing your mother and father respect and fulfilling your obligations to them. Why? So your life is better and lasts longer. Did you notice that this is the only command to which I’ve appended a result? I know that your parents aren’t perfect. In fact, some of them are utterly criminal. But I brought you into being through them. So show them respect and regard to the extent that you can do so without dishonoring me. For their sakes? No. For yours. Because I want you to be in right relationship with all the generations of your family.
You’re not the arbiter of who lives and who doesn’t. That’s my domain, and mine alone. Keep out of it. Cain killed his brother and took on the penalty of endless wandering on an earth that would no longer yield him its fruit. Did I pull an arbitrary curse out of the air and lay it on him for spite? No. That’s simply how the natural world works, the way I designed it. I made all of life to be fruitful and abundant: your food springs from the ground and your drink falls from the sky. But when you bring violence against life, life returns violence to you. I would have you live free from every curse and penalty and poverty.
Don’t commit adultery.
Sex is a transaction of not only the body but also the soul, every time you experience it, with every person with whom you engage in it. You were designed to seek love and to give it in return. I am jealous for you, not out of egoism that demands, “You are mine,” but with the purest of passion that cries, “I am yours.” Every time you change partners you tell your last lover, “You’re not good enough for me,” and righteous jealousy transforms into a selfish perversion of what was meant to reflect my own nature. Too confusing? Then consider only this: if each man had his own wife and each woman her own husband, sexually transmitted diseases could find no vector to develop or spread. I want you to love freely and safely and wholly, with no wounds or heartbreaks or illness.
Stealing is appropriating for yourself that which belongs to someone else. It maligns your reputation and your character and your integrity. It makes you untrustworthy, corrupt, and dishonorable. It colors everything you do and everything you say, so even the good you undertake becomes suspect. “A good name is better than great riches.” I would have you live free from suspicion, disrespect, and animosity.
Lies rob from the truth. They steal intimacy from your relationships. They poach all value from your word. They impugn your character and slaughter your honor even more than theft does. It takes more energy, attention, and concentration to tell and maintain a lie than to keep to the truth. Why steal from your own strength and storehouse? Everything comes out eventually, and true natures are always revealed in time. I want you to live free from fear of discovery, from intrigue fatigue and fruitless machinations, from the destruction of your life’s work when the lie you tried to bury is unearthed.
Don’t covet things that other people have.
I have treasures meant just for you. Some of them you already possess; many are waiting for the right time to be delivered. If you could only see what I have to give, how I ache to shower you with my gifts. But so many of them slip through your fingers because your eyes are focused into your neighbors’ windows instead of toward me and what I’m doing for you right now. My treasures are limitless; when I bestow a gift on someone else, it in no way diminishes what I have left to give you. Be pleased that I’m a generous God, and rejoice in your friend’s blessings, and keep your eyes upon my hands for what I want to give you. Be free of jealousy, resentment, bitterness, and offense.
My children, I made you with ears to hear and eyes to see and minds that can think, and rationalize, and find truth and wisdom. If you seek me, you will find me, and I will teach you things you didn’t know before.
Keep my commands. They are life for you. Abundant life. The life I planned for you to have. They are your freedom.
Don’t Miss A Thing!
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