‘Truth, Trust and Intimacy…Lost’
‘For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.’
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’
John 1: 14
Read Genesis 1:1-3 and Psalm 33:4-9
This world is woven of words and whispers, articulations and exclamations, commands and declarations all spoken into the vacuum by the very voice of God. God weaves this whirling world into being with threads of His breath articulating existence, breathing out deep syllables of order, creation and truth.
‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.’ Genesis 1:1-3
‘And God said, ‘Let there be light…’ and there is. Darkness becomes light, emptiness becomes fullness, vacuum fills with life, all elements rush together in eager obedience forming, forging, flourishing into being. God’s words weave all worlds and micro-worlds into being, creating the solid tangible world we stand two feet on today, the breeze tussling in our hair, the sun warm against our skin.
God breaths out nine articulations creating life, land and the laws governing everything. All this vast created universe, it hangs on Gods every word, hanging on the laws He spoke which hold all things together. Laws like universal gravitation (Newton’s law), the law of planetary motion (Kepler’s laws), the laws of thermodynamics, laws of Quantum mechanics and Geophysical science. Our modern sciences don’t invent these laws, they discover them. They become scientific laws because they hold truth, are truth, are reality. They just are. They just are because God breathed them into being.
‘This is what the Lord says: ‘If I have not made my covenant with day and night and established the laws of heaven and earth…’ Jeremiah 33:25
‘And God said…’ and everything becomes, God speaks, breathing into being both physical worlds and relational worlds, giving all living things both life and a place of belonging in His created order.
And now we, we whirl around on a planet in a solar system in a galaxy and live and breath and have our lives defined by the truths that God set in motion long ago. We live on the inside of these truths, truths like gravity, atmospheric pressure, water cycles, weather systems, ecosystems. We live in all these tangible truths and they define our external reality for us. They exist. We can see them, feel them, touch them. We belong in them, this ecosystem web of relationships, these threads sustaining and perpetuating life on this pale blue marble spinning in space.
And all these systems, ecosystems, habitats sustain and recreate life again and again and again…
…Until something goes wrong.
Until our industry breaks the bonds in an ecosystem, until pollution destroys the health of our atmosphere, until species begin to go extinct; then we learn the hard truth. The hard truth that there is truth. There are laws governing the flourishing of life on earth and these laws can be broken, and when they are everything else begins to break and life begins to diminish.
This is true with the laws of nature, and is also true with the laws of human nature.
Our souls are delicate ecosystems, networks of emotional and spiritual connections with the world around us, with family, with community and with God. Like sunlight, our connection with God is meant to be the life giving centre of human experience, love for Him, partnership with Him, worship of Him. Our connection with God is the fuel, the core, the oxygenating blood within our veins, the source of our strength, of our true humanity.
A trusting relationship with God also fuels truthful relationships with one another. God is truth and His Spirit is the Spirit of truth, admonishing, motivating, moving us into relationships of authenticity, courageous honesty and integrity (John 16:13).
Without God at the centre, our human ecosystem breaks down, like a polluted rain forest. Our vocational calling becomes competitive ambition, our relationships flounder in the absence of trust that only authenticity and honesty produce.
And this is where we find ourselves today, spinning in a galaxy, spinning on a planet where the spinning of lies unravels our humanity from the inside out, unravelling trust, intimacy and authentic community.
Author Robert Leahy, Ph.D., wrestles with the rise of mistrust in his article for ‘Psychology Today’ entitled ‘The Decline of Trust; Why are we losing confidence in each other?’*. He suggests that our current lack of trust ‘represents the collapse of social capital and of our willingness to rely on what we are told and the growing tendency to define deviance downward.’
He reports that according to the Pew research centre trust in government has diminished from 73% in 1958 to 24 % in 2014. Trust in other people has declined from 48.1% in 1972 to 31.9% in 2014 and ‘with each succeeding generation we are becoming less trustful’
As humankind relationship with the truth deteriorates cheating rises. Leahy reports that cheating in school has risen over the last two decades with 20% of high school students admitting to cheating in 1940 to 75-98% of college students admitting to cheating in 2015.
As truth diminishes, so does the intimacy that trusting relationship produce. Leahy says that 39 % of people now consider marriage as obsolete, and those who are getting married are increasingly seeking prenuptial contracts. Cheating in relationships has increased with 28% of men and 18% of women admitting to cheating on their partner.
According to Leahy, pornography has also increased rapidly to the point where it is now a 97 Billion dollar global business. 68 million internet searches a day are pornography related, and pornography makes up 25% of all search engine queries. 40 million Americans regularly visit pornography websites and 35% of all internet downloads are pornography related.
‘According to the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 2010, 47% of families in the United States reported that pornography is a problem in their home. Pornography use increases the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%‘*
The vacuum of truth at the centre of our beating heart humanity has produced in us a self perpetuating cycle. We long for intimacy that can only be found in trusting relationships but we reach for it in broken forms, forms which never truly satiate our human need for love, the kind of love that God formed us for. With every grasping reach in the wrong direction we break the bonds of trust further, pushing intimacy and love further out of reach. In the absence of truth we spiral downwards, spinning on this planet of spinning lies, broken trust and empty intimacy.
This is not the life God designed for us, not the world He’d first breathed into being, into human beings.
When humankind was alive in the garden with God, before the fall, before the hiss on the wind and the twisting of everything ever after, truth was everywhere in everything. There was never any question of doubt, confusion or mistrust of each other or the world around us. It was trustworthy because it was real, tangible, held in balance. God was on the throne everywhere, in human hearts and in the world he had breathed into existence. There was no doubt. No confusion. No fear. No shame.
Trusting and loving God had given us a map to navigate life by. The map was true. The compass pointing true north. The ground was firm beneath our feet. We could trust it. We could trust each other.
And this is what the word truth in Hebrew ‘Emet’ means. It means firmness and faithfulness. Something firmly set in place, reliable, dependable and steadfast. It just is.
This definition makes no allowances for truths defined by human experience, emotion, whim, feeling or culture. Truth is either reliable or it’s not. It’s either true or its not. Truth is unchanging. Firm. Trustworthy.
And this is where we were, we humans. Alive in the emotional ecosystem with God, connected with threads of truth, trust, intimacy and clear eyed wonder. Alive in the confidence and peace of firmness in the ground beneath our feet. We knew where we stood and who we were. We had nothing to hide, nothing to cover up, nothing to push into the dark closets of our minds, no lack of trusting intimacy fuelling unhealthy addictions. Everything was open, authentic and trusting.
God’s intention for humankind has always been intimate, trusting, honest relationships.
‘But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman”, for she was taken out of man.’
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.’ Genesis 2:21-25
Eve was formed from Adam, for relationship with Adam by God. God himself is once more intimately involved in the creation of humankind, bringing Eve to Adam personally. And the story describes the intimacy intended for human couples as being ‘united’ and becoming ‘one flesh’. It describes them as ‘naked’ but without any shame, no embarrassment or hiddenness. This kind of ‘nakedness’ is (ironically) the polar opposite of what the porn industry produces, but is the emotional and psychological intimacy every human longs for. It is perhaps part of the unmet need that drives the porn industry in the first place. It is a relationship built on truth, free of barriers and lies, with no need to fake emotion, hide or cover up. Living fully and freely alive in the confident intimacy and unselfconscious freedom that life in truth allows. It is hard to imagine a closer relationship.
Childhood reminds us of what this can be like, as children not yet trained to mistrust, are uninhibited physically and emotionally, and earnestly believe what parents and adults say. They trust unreservedly. They hide nothing.
Children have an artlessness and freedom that we marvel at, long for, and shake our heads over, knowing that eventually they’ll ‘learn’. They’ll grow up. They’ll learn to choose their words, hide their emotions and cover up their mistakes; the mistake of being artlessly honest in a lying world.
Even as I write this, a pang of sadness rises as I watch my own children grow up into the straight jacket of pretence in order to find acceptance in a world where truth matters less than appearances.
Sometimes the moment we most clearly see what we had is the moment we find that we have lost it. We had truth in the beginning of all things, but it is only after the fall that we begin to understand what truth really is, the moment deception entered the vocabulary of humankind. The moment the first humans chose to write God out of the centre of their reality, the centre of their hearts, was the moment truth broke for us, the moment our world became mixed, with the knowledge of Good and evil.
‘They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised’. (Romans 1:25)
‘Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’’ Genesis 3:7-9
Where in truth they had lived in freedom and confidence in the love of God and each other, now in the shadow of the lie they hide from God. Trust breaks and with it’s demise crumbles intimacy. They cover up and hide. They cover up from each other and they hide from God.
We human beings reached for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of the fruit of the tree of life. That day long ago, that day we ‘exchanged God’s truth for a lie’, evil mixed into our veins blinding us, binding us with darkness, confusion and deceit. Human perception became as mixed as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and we struggle to differentiate the two.
Ever since that day we have always fallen for the same line, the lie that human knowledge can be trusted, that human knowledge is truth. That information is truth. Human knowledge may contain elements of truth within it, but this can be (and often is) twisted or manipulated by our perception of it. Our problem is not with the lack of true information, but with our ability to perceive it in truth.
We were first formed by Truth for a life lived in honest, trusting relationships. But now our Imago Dei within finds itself at war with our blinded hearts. The manipulation of truth has become a subconscious coping mechanism for much of humankind, so familiar we barely feel it.
But when all our bending truth has become a normal part of life, when we humans succumb to the ‘reality’ of the ‘Post Truth’ era and join in this ‘reality’ with our own twisted truths, we actually find ourselves at odds with ourselves. Because our true human nature, our breath of God within, was not formed by lies for lies. We were formed by Love for love. And the brokenness of our corrupted version of ‘truth’ breaks every aspect of who we are. Our physical selves, our bodies holler this truth to us when our souls have long forgotten it. Lying and living in lies makes us physically sick, our bodies mirroring the state of our souls.
’When people lie, they are more prone to feeling anxious or blue, and to experiencing frequent headaches, runny noses, bouts of diarrhoea and back pain. When people change their ways and start telling the truth more often, however, they can improve both their mental and physical health.’ Gina Roberts-Grey, ‘The Truth is Lying makes you sick’**
We were not made for deception. We were created for truth because we were created for love. Love shrivels in the mistrust deceit produces. Intimacy is only built on the trust that integrity breaths into being.
In the first garden, humankind chose to open their minds to a mixed reality, a reality where goodness and evil dwelt together, where truth and deceit mingled and mixed. They chose a ‘reality’ other than the firm, trustworthy one based on the laws of nature and the laws of human nature. They listened to the hiss on the wind, the Father of Lies (John 8:44) a self appointed adoptive father instead of their true heavenly Father, the Father of love. And now today everything is unclear, and the firm ground ‘emet’ of truth is hard to find, hard to place our feet on.
‘Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.’ Jeremiah 9:5
‘So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter’. Isaiah 59:14
Our world is full of information, but starved of reliable truth. We have more knowledge than ever before about our world and ourselves, and yet we still don’t know who we are.
We weary ourselves with the webs we weave, and now we, all of us have eyes that only squint and screw and partially see truth. We project a subtly skewed ‘reality’ onto the canvas of what is real and then live in this ‘reality’, blind to almost everything else that doesn’t fit neatly within it.
When we look out at the world we think we see ‘reality’ as it is, but we are really looking through a broken story, a story constructed by brokenness in our history, experience, education and culture. We are extremely subjective and often ‘feel’ to see and therefore often fail to see reality as it really is. And this era here and now, well it’s been classified as the ‘post-truth’ era, a time when human integrity is at such an all time low that we can no longer trust much of what is projected into the public sphere.
There is no map we can now rely on, no compass pointing to true north. All our self constructed maps, the ‘truths’ we define for ourselves leave us wandering lost, losing our way, losing our bearings, losing our humanity.
The ground is always shifting beneath our feet. We can’t trust it. When truth stumbles in the streets so do we. We can’t trust each other because when truth goes missing, so does trust, intimacy and true freedom.
’What is truth?’ was Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate’s line, two millennia ago (John 18:38), and this question rings like a bell through the dark still nights of every human generation from that day to this. The further we get from the garden, from the loving, life giving, truth-filled love of God, the more we get lost in the dark; the empty whirling dark and fog of a life without the light of truth.
Truth is not within human grasp. We no longer have it in us. It is mixed, as mixed as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Truth has to come from outside human beings.
So it did.
Before everything broke, before the lies set in, before humankind breathed their first breath or spoke their first lie into the air. Truth began His walk to find us, we humans, now wandering around in the dark unable to find the light, unable to find our way.
When He said “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) Jesus was not speaking in riddles, parables or metaphors. He was revealing who He is. Truth is a person and that person is the creator of all things, the laws governing all of nature and human nature, the ground that is firm beneath our feet, the rock to build a life on.
There is truth. Reliable, steadfast, enduringly faithful truth. But it is not the knowledge of the world that produces this truth, but the knowledge of God. And not the distant idealogical knowledge of God as a religious idea, but the intimate personal knowledge of God as friend. The knowledge we had in the garden long ago.
Because truth is not an idea, a religion, a set of facts, a list of principals, an agreed position, an information highway, or a culturally popular understanding.
Truth is a person. And we cannot fully grasp truth, unless we know this person. This is because unless our eyes are on His face and our hearts alive in the healing power of His love we will only ever see reality through the bruised, skewed lens of our past, our prejudices, our minds made-up, a tinted view of reality born of subtle self-reinforcing lies.
Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) . Living in the light of truth brings freedom, restores intimacy and builds trust. Truth is why Jesus came. Truth is who He is.
‘The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ (John 18:37)
What is truth?’ Pilate said, as Truth in human form stood before him tortured and beaten by human lies. And Pilate, blinded by the dark, sends Truth to the cross. But it is in this very moment, that we learn the truth of who God really is, the firm reliable truth like a rock to build a life on. It is in this moment that God reveals Himself to be Grace and Truth in person. Grace that gave himself to restore our humanity to us and Truth that restores the map in our hearts so we will never be lost in the dark again.
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ John 1: 14
*Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., ‘The Decline of Trust; Why are we losing confidence in each other?’ Psychology Today, October 18, 2016
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