Choose Joy, Not Anxiety

trumpetIt’s snowing today in North Carolina and for the past couple of days, many of my neighbors anticipated the weather with great anxiety while I joyfully looked forward to hunkering down and writing.  My apparent 180 degree difference of opinion on things is especially prevalent in class.

The Revelation study has evoked visible anxiety in several women; they fear that loved ones who don’t share their belief system, unbelievers, are damned.  Of course, this couldn’t be farther from my truth and although I work hard not to judge, I feel sorry for them; their anxiety robs them of their joy.

The benefit of my religious studies is that I can now find numerous passages of scripture to back that last statement up. If I’ve learned anything, I now know, without a doubt, that Bible passages can be sited to support numerous points of view and although I am very happy with my spiritual path, it is not lost on me that others in the circle think I need saving.

A few weeks back, a classmate said something like, “The devil could be sitting among us.” after I had shared my answer to a homework question.  No offense was taken but I had to laugh.  How fearsome could five foot nothing of me be? Neither my children nor my husband are allowed to answer that question.  It’s rhetorical.

Revelation 8-9 is where we start seeing the seemingly scary stuff gain momentum; Jesus opens the seventh seal which releases a second cascade of judgments.  The notes indicate that there are a total of three sets of seven judgments; the seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments.  My number language tells me that seven and three are symbolic of divinity and creativity respectively revealing that what is to follow is God’s creation, God’s plan, God’s will.

In Breaking the Seals, I didn’t interpret the seal judgments as judgments at all; I thought they were a history of humanity.  Trumpet judgments read more like a box office hit with tons of special effects.  Here we have seven angels who each blow a trumpet warning.  The question was asked, “Why trumpets?” I said trumpets are used to announce, signal, or call to action.  This isn’t wrong, but softer than the class consensus that trumpets are used to announce destruction.  Argh!

In John’s vision, after each of the first four trumpets are sounded, very Exodus like, Egyptian like, Moses like, plague like things happen.  The difference is that the Revelation happenings are more quantitative; basically, one third of the earth, sea, and sky are eliminated.  Then we get to the fifth and sixth trumpet blasts where we see the word abyss for the first time and people shudder.  One third of humanity gets zinged.  One third, there’s that three again signifying God’s will or a catalyst for change.

What comes to mind is cleaning my closet.  The kind of closet cleaning when you purge what is outdated, dysfunctional, or excessive.   That’s what I get from all this doom and gloom trumpet judgment jargon.  My interpretation says God is cleaning house; ridding humanity of outdated belief systems and dysfunctional and unbalanced behavior.

Call me crazy, but when bad things happen, doesn’t it often facilitate change? Doesn’t it make one focus on what’s really important?  Isn’t it often an opportunity to start fresh?  Not everyone is going to get with the program right away; they’ll need more nudging, more judgments (consequences).  My point is that unlike many people in class, I do not take what is written in Revelation literally.  I think John’s vision is meant to depict a potential path toward the spiritual development of humanity.

I’m about halfway through my commitment to study Revelation and document the experience.  When I review previous posts in this series I wonder, “Where did my sense of humor go?  Where is my spiritual growth?  I’m all over the place?”  People don’t read Revelation for a reason.  It’s hard.

My objective has always been to develop a deeper understanding of the southern culture and use that knowledge to nurture meaningful relationships with those around me.  Last year, I learned to translate Bible lingo and found common ground.  This current study has punctuated fundamental belief system differences and I find myself sharing Bible verses in my writing to let the reader decide.  Revelation is one of those books known by many and read by few.  People just don’t want to go there.  I get why.

It’s not easy for me to have a joyful conversation about the content in Revelation.  Anxiety of some sort gets expressed (generally from fundamental Christians) over loved ones who haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Many believe their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, etc. will literally experience all this death and destruction described in Revelation.  Am I evangelizing if I try to steer these conversations away from the dark side by asking the following series of questions?

Does the loved one in question believe in a higher power?

Yes: “Great! You believe Jesus is God, right? Be joyful.  There is no need for anxiety.”

No: “Is the person loving?

Yes: “Great! Jesus is God and God is Love, right?” Be joyful. There is no need for anxiety.”

No: “Most likely they have mental health issues.  Jesus takes care of the sick, right?  Be joyful. There is no need for anxiety.”

I do really try to honor everyone’s spiritual path, but when it comes to this, my point of view often gets blurted out in an attempt to demonstrate what I see as blatant contradiction.  It’s troubling for me to observe people suffering under what I believe to be fear based, man-made doctrine.  Isn’t it funny how they are trying to rescue me and I’m trying to rescue them?  We’re all definitely going to be making theological and/or scientific adjustments when we get to the other side of the veil.

My angel trumpets a declaration, “Choose joy!”

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3 Responses to Choose Joy, Not Anxiety

  1. DR says:

    Very interesting reading, Philly. I like the questions you ask, but as I was reading I had questions of my own. I am fascinated and curious about your journey, and you are a very gifted writer. We are in agreement that you can choose Joy over Anxiety, but I also see that as an ebb and flow that is not always in our control in today’s world, especially as it relates to your “interpretation says God is cleaning house; ridding humanity of outdated belief systems and dysfunctional and unbalanced behavior.” Specifically, there is real fear and anxiety around radical islamists and their worldwide movement toward their goal to reestablish the caliphate through the veil of their religion. They rule through fear, but do not fear death itself in the name of their religion. I guess, in many ways Jesus Christ shared some of that belief in that both are willing to die for their beliefs. Radical Islamists fear Jesus Christ, and believe the only God man should worship is Mohammad. They do not believe in religious freedom. Christianity is under attack both through political correctness and the islamist movement. Fear and anxiety in Christians exists, as you say, over loved ones who haven’t accepted Jesus. Fear and anxiety in Muslims exists over loved ones who haven’t accepted radical islam. So, how do these two extremes find common ground without one stomping out the other? I have never studied the bible or revelations in the way that you do, how is this specifically addressed in revelations?

    • Phyllis Milot says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so excited to get this comment because it is exactly the kind of thing I have been hoping to facilitate with this blog.

      I absolutely love what you said about joy and anxiety being on a kind of continuum that ebbs and flows. You are right, for some people, that continuum can be profoundly impacted by unspeakable acts of violence executed by dysfunctional and unbalanced individuals. To clarify, my reference to God cleaning house was meant as a metaphor to describe the self destructive behaviors of people unwilling to uncover and recognize their dark side.

      You are also right that radical Islamists are at the root of a lot of fear, the operative word here being radical. By definition, a radical is an advocate for complete political or social reform. A radical who facilitates reform with violent behavior is deplorable.

      Like Judaism, the two largest religions in the world, Christianity (33%) and Islam (21%), originated with Abraham through his sons Isaac and Ishmael respectively. All three religions believe in the same one God (monotheism), the God of Abraham. This is a good place to start when looking for common ground since “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for “God”.

      Two thousand years after Abraham, Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Over time, ancient Israelites added more text and Christians now refer to it as the Old Testament. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have the Old Testament in common.

      My view is that religion puts people into boxes that are fortified by political and cultural differences, not necessarily spiritual ones. There are Sunni and Shia Muslims and Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic Christians. Jews divvy up into Hasidic, Conservative and Reform Judaism with Ashkenazi and Sephardi ethnic groupings. All I see is boxes, boxes, and more boxes, oy vey!

      Approximately two thousand years after Moses, Jesus came along and shook up the status quo with a whole new outlook on things; his teachings were documented by his followers in the New Testament. Six hundred years after that, Mohammad prophesized resulting in the Quran. This history of religion in two sentences may appear to be an oversimplification, but one of the biggest differences between Christians and Muslims is whether or not Jesus should be considered God or prophet. I think the preservation of man-made doctrine is what has driven all the conflict throughout history; our time is no different. None of these religions are squeaky clean when it comes to doing horrific things in the name of God, another commonality.

      If people “love thy neighbor”, there is no conflict. I’m confident that not all Muslims are radical Islamists; the majority of them are quietly practicing their right to religious freedom. Extremists using violence in the name of religion, like the ISIS caliphate (Islamic state) you mentioned need to be treated as the criminals they are. Sadly, these people are in a very dark place and are clearly misinterpreting Islamic teachings to promote a political agenda.

      Christians work toward preserving and spreading Christianity and Muslims do the same with Islam. I say that any spiritual path that includes a component for respectful dialogue with others is great and if that path gets one to the spiritual place being sought, awesome. No one knows anything for sure about what’s on the other side of the veil.

      Revelation is a vision by the Apostle John and since no one can seem to agree on what it means, I’m not sure I can answer your last question. What I can do is reiterate something I said last week. At some point in the future I think humanity will look back and refer to these times as the dark ages of conflicting monotheism.

      Again, thank you DR for sharing your questions and giving me an opportunity to think on it. I still choose to focus on all the good things that are happening in the world and refuse to energize what the media likes to sensationalize in an attempt to feed people’s fears, improve ratings, and impact elections. United Nations statistics say that war is down and hunger is down. When I look at the big picture, humanity is doing a better job now than at any other time in our history. Yes we have a long way to go, but isn’t it wonderful that we are heading in the right direction?

  2. Denise says:

    Thanks Philly; I love this interpretation.

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