Just a man.

November 25, 2011 § 6 Comments

The explanation given by the nuns was complicated.

God manifested in three forms: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

God the creator made us. God the son became man. God the Holy Ghost was the enlightening communicator. Together they were the Blessed Trinity–or, as we irreverently liked to chant: “Three! Three! Three gods in one!”

We sometimes wondered if, as public school kids, we were getting the complete explanation. We knew we were not favored like the parochial school children at whose desks we sat for catechism class. Weren’t we instructed firmly each week to touch nothing in the desks of those holy children? The nuns had to be withholding something.

I now understand there was no inside scoop. The nuns were doing the best they could with imperfect information.

A logical explanation of God from any human would be the equivalent of the ant’s explanation of the car parked nearby in the driveway, a mighty force beyond comprehension.

For the incomprehensible the sisters offered faith. Having given their lives over to its practice, they seemed completely at ease with the concept. Faith has been harder for this public school kid to accept.

In order to understand its value I had to separate the genuine article from its cheap plastic imitation. Misused, faith can be a stupid pill administered by religious snake oil salesmen to put one over. It can be a cruel litmus test to separate the holy “us” from the unholy “them.” Unspeakable acts have been committed beneath the banner of faith.

But unexploited, faith is the humble acknowledgment that something beyond the reach of human explanation can still be real.

That doesn’t mean we are forbidden to question. If a creator God exists he has equipped us with a brain which, unlike the ant’s, will seek over and over to explain the car. A God worthy of the name would expect no less.

Seeking that explanation, we search for a deliberate connection between God-the-cause and humanity-the-effect.

Being human like us, it’s natural to assume that Jesus is that connection. Like us, Jesus had a name.

Like us, he walked the earth.

Had a mother.

Dreamed dreams.

So, more than 2000 years later we still ask ourselves questions about this man, Jesus.

And here is mine. What if he was not one-third of a three-part God?

What if he was just a man?

Would that make him less? Being bumped from God to man is definitely a demotion but to me it elevates everything he did. If he was truly God he could have done all he did with one arm tied behind his back.

Wouldn’t coming to earth as God in disguise be like showing up for a test with the answers written on your palm? If he was human the tribulation, the suffering and dying were real.

If he was just a man, he somehow saw past the blinders that come with the isolation of living inside a human body. Having seen a wider view he was able to transcend the limits of human compassion, love those who couldn’t be loved and care for them.

The argument most compelling to my ant-brain is the fact that in his hour of need he begged God to spare him, to allow him more days of ordinary life. Like any human being he didn’t want to die.

Jesus-as-man becomes not the One, but one of a handful. There are those with names we remember like the Buddha, Mohammed, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa; the names change from culture to culture. Some shine a brief light and are forgotten. We may even find them in our own lives; a neighbor, a friend, a parent, who briefly flickers with the divine.

We can’t see God clearly from here. But some of us seem to have a less obscured view. When we discover those witnesses we clamor to hear what they have seen.

It is unlikely you or I will be among those who witness God clearly. Most of us live our days out as ants, always in motion, always pushing at the grain of sand immediately in front of us.

But if Jesus was just a man there is hope, something to strive toward, and the possibility of a breach in the clouds through which we too might catch a glimpse.

If Jesus did it, it must be possible.

Especially if he was just a man.

Note:  Craig Reeder sent me this quote from Yogananda’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita:

Blind piety is not unacceptable to the Supreme Being, but it is a low form of spiritual-mindedness.  Man, blessed with the divine gift of intelligence, of reason and free choice, should worship his Creator in truth and understanding.  It pleases the Lord to see His human children, made in His own image, employ in their quest of Him the highest gift He has given to them: their divine birthright of intelligence.

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§ 6 Responses to Just a man.

  • craig reeder says:

    wow! is that ever inspiring! you are one observant ant!
    to see that little bit of divine spark in every human……
    i guess that’s what we are here for.
    reminds me of a saying:
    maybe figuring out the purpose of life…IS the purpose of life.
    you certainly took me one step closer


  • Robin Ecker says:

    Incredibly beautifully worded, Adrian.


  • Kary says:

    If walks around the block with dogs are your daily spiritual practice, I’m going to keep joining in. This is a theological perspective I can embrace! Thanks for sharing.


  • lesleehorner says:

    I have that out there, even blasphemous belief that we humans are all God in expression…just like Jesus was. The difference between Jesus and us is he knew it, understood it, and lived it. My goal is to follow Jesus’ example, not to worship him. (That goes for any guru actually.)


  • amen Adrian & actually to all the heartfelt ideas here.


  • Tgumster says:

    As I come into my faith late, I see a trinity of the eternal soul, its ever animating spirit, its human plane of dense experience. Jesus as a man works for me, too.


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