* to encourage a reasoned awareness of how our beliefs impact the way we interact with the world around us
* to foster intelligent and open dialogue
* to inspire a sense of spirituality that has real meaning in day-to-day life

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Numbers 6: Dedicating Oneself to a Purpose and Finding Blessing Within

Honestly, I was ready to slip right past commenting on Numbers 6.  Truth be told, I am anxious to get further along toward the New Testament, since it has a lot more to do with healthy human interaction and less to do with preserving Israelite culture.  As I've made fairly clear, the Old Testament scriptures we've seen thus far seem to be about controlling a population and using the concept of an external, infallible, almighty intelligence to enforce that control.  There are also some profound truths that inescapably peer out from behind the very human fears that fill the biblical narrative.

Case in point: the Nazirites.  Nazirites were special people in the Israelite community.  Whereas many people were given tasks and roles by appointment, Nazirites made a personal choice to dedicate themselves.  It had nothing to do with bloodline or having their names appear on some sacred list, the Nazirites were simply those people who willingly committed themselves to a purpose.  Of course, their purpose was to serve their concept of God, but the choice was entirely theirs to make.

After a special preparatory period, the Nazirites were inducted with a special ceremony, marking their dedication with a meaningful and memorable experience.  They also bore outward signs of their purposefulness, with the very obvious shaving of their heads.  Through their behavior, their experience, and their appearance, they were outwardly and inwardly committed to what they considered to be a meaningful purpose.  Why don't we adopt similar practices in our own lives?  What prevents us from committing ourselves as intentionally to something profoundly meaningful?

The very first step in dedicating oneself is verbal declaration.  Intentionally announcing your purpose out loud to other people is incredibly powerful.  It will either solidify the underlying intention or expose it as a passing fancy.  Perhaps we avoid this because we are afraid of what it will look like to other people if we fail or go back on that intention later on.  Perhaps we don't want to risk ridicule if other people think our purposefulness is misguided.  Those fears are empty.  They are flimsy excuses that threaten to keep us from stepping forward into something that could be our life work.  State your purpose, out loud and often.

For the Nazirites, there was a period of preparation before their induction.  While your preparation may not pertain to diet or purification, there is still value in setting oneself up for success.  If your purpose is truly valuable, it is worth taking time to prepare yourself.  One doesn't set out to climb a mountain without a fair bit of physical preparation.  You can't expect to start a new dietary plan without cleaning out your refrigerator and your cabinets first.  It's the same with any purposeful endeavor.  Determine what preparations you need to make and allow yourself the time to be intentional in your approach

The Nazirites also had a ceremony that symbolically took them across the threshold of their commitment.  While this doesn't need to be a public affair, rituals are powerful tools that are underutilized by most of us.  When your purpose has been declared with intention and you have prepared yourself thoughtfully, create for yourself a rite of passage that carries you into the realm of purposefulness.  You could invite close friends to be a part of this, or it may be just for you, but make it a positive and memorable symbol of your commitment and your focus will be more easily maintained.

One can find any number of resources about accomplishing goals and living purposefully.  Some of them are valuable and some leave a lot to be desired.  The greatest advantage any person has in accomplishing any goal is their own personal passion about what they're doing.  If you dedicate your time and energy toward something you are passionate about, the rest of these elements are simply enhancements to that passion.  The Nazirite model is simply one way to pursue that passion with clear and focused dedication.  Declare your intention out loud (to other people), prepare yourself thoughtfully, and acknowledge your purpose with some positive and memorable ceremony.     

The end of Numbers 6 holds a blessing with which many Christians are familiar.  It also works if one recognizes that the seat of divinity lies within.  It can be a challenge at first to trust an internal voice, but the divine self has a character very different from the fearful and abusive self-talk we all carry around.  The divine guidance from within possesses those distinctive qualities of deep truth, beauty, and creativity.  When we allow ourselves to tap into that resource, we are in a way blessing ourselves.

That divine self is the part within us that truly wants us to succeed, that finds ways to keep us on our purposeful path.  It is the part of ourselves that shines from within, that sees someone beautiful when we look intentionally in the mirror.  It is the part of us that is willing to forgive ourselves when we get off track, and the inner sense of peacefulness and reassurance that is always available to us when we are willing to receive it.  We have these things inside of us.  We don't always accept that part of ourselves, but it is crucial for us to acknowledge this reserve of strength and graciousness and peace when we dedicate ourselves to a meaningful purpose.  Our noble passions are worth our dedication.

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