Do you ever have those moments where, like a line of dominoes, a series of completely unrelated events cascade into a continually shaping idea? (I would call it an epiphany, but that would be just a bit pretentious I suppose.) One strange thought leads to another, and then, a lightbulb goes off and you see the world through different eyes.
Well, I had one of those moments yesterday. But let me start at the beginning:
I take drugs.
Well only one drug, to be precise. Have you ever seen those pharmaceutical commercials that spend 29.5 seconds singing the praises of their miracle drug for the cure of halitosis, or something like that, only to spend the last half-second rattling off a list of possible side effects like burning a hole through your internal organs or possible death?
It is one of those drugs, and it’s called Mefloquine. Supposedly this little pill will keep me from getting malaria, but the only tangible result I have seen is its mildly hallucinogenic properties. Well, that and the fact that I have yet to get malaria.
Like most medicines, when I first received my prescription to said drug, it came with a disclaimer and a list of possible side effects. However, unlike most medicines, which have that cute little label with the poorly drawn cartoons telling you not to take it on an empty stomach, this disclaimer was five letter-size pages stapled together detailing the potential risks associated with taking it. Sprinkled through this document were words like “depression”, “hallucinations”, “vivid dreams”, “violent thoughts” and “intense mood swings”.
Furthermore, I began hearing stories of the strange effects this medicine has on people. At our personnel orientation, rumors were whispered in ears and around the coffee dispenser during breaks. It seemed everyone knew somebody who had taken Mefloquine and tried to kill somebody in their sleep. I felt like a kid sitting around a campfire hearing ghost stories. Not being one to overreact (I never do that), I sloughed this all off as hogwash.
Well, I have yet to pull a knife on someone, but I must say, I have some interesting dreams. I have always been a pretty vivid dreamer, but the last year of my life has been another story altogether. Often, my dreams are so vivid, so lifelike, that I truly wake up questioning whether they actually happened. When I moved out to the bush for my first months in country, I even woke up on multiple occasions so disoriented that I did not know where I was.
All of this to explain to you why I was not surprised yesterday when one of our newer colleagues came back from a stay out in the bush complaining of strange, vivid dreams. He spoke of dreams that were so real he believed they happened. I could relate. It is a feeling that makes you question your sanity, which is exactly what caused me to think of my next link in this epiphany chain (there I said it).
This conversation reminded me of syphilis.
Now that may seem a little odd to most of the people who stumble across this post. But, in a former life, I had a job that dealt with syphilis. Well, at least I talked about it a lot. I was a speaker who discussed sex, alcohol, drugs, and a plethora of other stupid things that high school students use to fill their time.
For those of you not versed in bacterial STDs, syphilis is an infection that eventually makes its way into the bloodstream of the poor sap who contracts it. It is curable, but people usually do not realize they have it, and often times it is too late. If the infection spreads into the bloodstream, it can actually make its way into the brain, where it causes dementia. In other words, the disease attacks the brain and the person goes crazy. As the person goes insane, their mind begins to twist reality. They begin to see the world one way and act as though it is truth, but to the contrary, they are living in a made-up reality.
It was at this point in my stream of consciousness that I had my epiphany.
Our Bible study yesterday was in the book of James. One section stood out:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
A long time ago, in a garden, mankind made a choice and severed a relationship. Through this, sin entered the world, followed shortly by death. Countless times, I have heard people speak of sin as if it were a disease. I have used this metaphor myself. We talk about the world being sin-sick and lost. The results of the fall spread across all of creation and infected every grain of sand and every living cell.
But if sin is a disease, then it does more than simply infect us, it attacks our mind. It has so infected man that often our mind sees a world that is not there. Our very desires have been tainted. It causes us to want what we should not want and crave what we should not crave. Our mind longs for things that will only hurt us, like a mad man.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have stared into blank eyes as I have shared the good news of Christ. I see people who understand it and can even repeat it as though it makes sense, but who have not grasped the reality of it. Their mind will not comprehend the gravity of their situation. It is a mind diseased with sin, a sin that will eventually bring forth death.
In my own life, I have the joy of a relationship restored. I am Christ’s and he is mine. Death has no power over me, but I still struggle with the effects of sin. Without constant attention to the matter, I have a mind that will lie to me. It will show me a world that does not exist, and have me destroy myself. In his letter, James reminds us not to give in to the desires of a mind that is sick with sin.
Sin has made the world insane.
It is this that we fight against.
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