In my pre-teen years, I often handed over my pittance of a weekly allowance to the cashier at the local hobby supply store. Completing enough chores that week meant I could make it out of the store with a model plane kit and few small bottles of Testors Paint before the money ran out. The assembled model plane on the cover of the box was always the pinnacle of perfection. No doubt it had been constructed by some forty year old engineer who had assembled model kits since the early fifties. But I didn’t know that. So every time I came home with a new kit, I told my parents that, this time, my final construction was going to look just like the box. And every time… it didn’t.
My desire, or better yet – my declaration – was perfection. But what was seen was… well, it certainly was less than that.
It is interesting that in the first chapter of Genesis we see God following suit, making a declaration first, and then seeing the result second. In God’s case, what He declares and what He sees coalesce.
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” (Genesis 1:20, NIV)
Followed shortly by:
… And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21b, NIV)
Like my model plane kit claims of perfection, my first declaration (or, my “said”) is subjective. I can claim, or even believe, anything I want. But the visualization of that declaration is objective: In the case of the final plane, I “saw” that my attempt was mediocre. For God, this said/saw relationship is perfect. Jesus spoke to the storm (said) and the wind instantly subsided (saw). God told Abraham that his wife would have a baby (said) and decades past her birthing years she conceived a child (saw). This is the standard throughout the Bible. God said and then He (or man) saw.
But as humanity, we often don’t take this said/saw relationship into account. We are more content with the “said” side of the equation. The problem is that the “said” side is that it doesn’t have to correlate with reality. When President Bill Clinton said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” it was a legitimate subjective declaration. We found out, months later, it just didn’t correlate with reality. We can declare anything we want, without recourse, punishment or conflict. Conflict and punishment come into play when the subjective meets the objective.
Like God, we daily make our own subjective declarations and often claim them as “good.” But unlike God, our objective outcomes don’t always come out the same way. Let me give you a brief list of said/saw examples from man’s perspective:
“And man said, let man sleep with whoever he wishes at any time, and practice every sexual desire he deems as beneficial; and man said that it was good. But man saw sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, infertility, depression, millions of abortions, low self worth and sexual depravity, violence and incarceration.”
“And man said, let man get drunk on wine and alcohol and celebrate life inebriated and man said that it was good. But man saw addiction, organ damage and failure, divorce, incarceration and death.”
“And man said, let us legalize certain narcotics and man said that it was good. But man saw physiologic addiction, disease, organ damage, psychological complications, crime, violence, incarceration and death.”
As long as man focuses on the “said” side of the equation, he can continue to act as he sees fit. But traveling over to the “saw” side, we observe – no, we experience – the truth. And in these cases, and a myriad of others, the truth hurts. So why would we avoid the objective truth, which hurts and even destroys us, and choose to embrace the subjective declaration? Because of the word that needs to be added to the list above: “felt.”
“And man said, let man sleep with whoever he wishes at any time, and practice every sexual desire he deems as beneficial; and man said AND FELT that it was good…”
“Felt” becomes the metric through which man measures every stimulus. But God focuses on the word “saw.” Why? Let’s start with man’s reasoning. “Felt” feels good! As we learned in the first book in the “Parables & Parallels” series, sin is embraced because it is pleasurable. And sadly, the church tends to run from addressing the pleasurable side of sin. Let’s say it this way. Sin is shards of glass coated in chocolate, which taste wonderful in the mouth and then lacerate the organs on the way down. The church often condemns the world for eating the chocolate because God said “not to,” while the world simply mocks the church for missing out on some of life’s most delicious delicacies. What we should be saying is, “Of course it’s chocolate, without the tasty coating you would never have swallowed the glass shards.” Which brings us to God’s two areas of reasoning.
“Felt,” as powerful as it may be, is not objective, it is most often subjective.
While we may immediately enjoy the pleasurable aspect of any action, in most cases the phenomenon isn’t constant. Often it decreases with repetition. C.S. Lewis calls it the “law of diminishing returns.” We need more of the same stimuli to experience the same level of objective pleasure. Such is the case with pornography and even promiscuous sexuality, alcohol, drug usage, etc. It’s fleeting, and as you will see in coming chapters, we often so disrupt and damage our lives through the outcomes of our embrace of “felt” that we then need any inkling of “felt” just to survive. God isn’t against pleasure, just pleasure that produces destruction (the glass shards) or pleasure that is fleeting. Which brings us to God’s second reason.
“Saw” objectively affects God’s greatest creation, humanity.
When you have the flu, you can “say” that you are not sick, but the vomiting, 103 degree body temperature and the hot and cold sweats tell otherwise. If you have a loved one in that sickly condition, what actions do you take? Do you do nothing, based on his or her declaration that they are “just fine,” Or do you rush them to hospital in the panicked hope that things don’t turn out worse? I knew a man last year who choose to muscle through a flu he had contracted on a Sunday, choosing that week to believe the subjective over the objectivity of the moment.
He died that Friday.
I had never heard of anyone dying from the flu, but the stress on his body weighed on his heart and the unknown pulmonary damage he had been carrying for years gave out that day. In this case, heeding the subjective over the objective produced death. It may be uncommon as an individual circumstance, but it’s not uncommon when one (or a culture) embraces a “said and felt” lifestyle.
God understands that “said” and “felt” are subjective, but “saw” hurts and hinders His image and His greatest creation: humanity. Worse, a culture that fixates on “said and felt’ and ignores “saw” expends its money, time and resources reactively, denigrating the quality of the culture’s life and gelding the opportunities of the next generation. As much as we want to live in a “said and felt,” culture, it just doesn’t work. “Saw” will always catch up with us. And unfortunately, based on society’s tragic statistics, the subjective declaration in the last sentence – is objective.
So what do we do with this revelation? We can either self-righteously attack others for their “said and felt” lifestyles, which will no doubt create a deeper wedge between us and the culture and drive them further into this destructive lifestyle. Or we can lovingly and empathetically address these issues at the “saw” level, listening to their stories, bandaging their wounds and displaying (“saw”) a better and more beneficial way of living. I wonder which response God desires His children to choose and embody?
Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8 NIV)
David Litwin, the author of the new book Parables & Parallels, is a designer, writer and speaker who has spent the past decade exploring his faith in profound and revolutionary ways. David has spoken at numerous churches, seminars and conferences. He is sought after for his understanding of media, culture, scriptural insight and worldview analysis. David’s motto is “live inspired” and everyone he connects with leaves provoked, challenged and liberated. He is married to his bride Cindy and they have two beautiful daughters. You can purchase the Parables & Parallels book on Amazon by clicking HERE.