To Brielle

There is a girl I know whose middle name is “Stinkin’.” Well, not exactly. That’s just what I always interject into her name. It’s not cruel or mean, you see, but simply one of those things you pick up by being friends with someone through high school. I’m sure most of you have given or received something along those lines in your life.

Alas, for my own friend, the name has taken something of an unfortunate significance. It has become prophetic. I once simply called for “Stinkin'” for ironic fun. It was the insult with no teeth. The problem today is that her life has caught up to this name. Her life stinks. I do not refer to her own choices or character, which pertain only to God. I mean events which have befallen her. My stinkin’ friend has come to bear a stinkin’ body, a body wretched with the burnings of death within. With this and other stinkin’ problems have come a stinkin’ mess for her own heart and mind. She’s found confusion and chaos which do not belong in a good world to a good friend. Her cosmos collapses, and it stinks.

Of course, all of this must be tempered with a very simple observation. “Stinkin'” is not really her name. Her actual middle name is Brielle. And Brielle is a very different name. There is nothing awful or distasteful about Brielle like “Stinkin’.” Instead, Brielle is lovely. “Stinkin'” may denote a very miserable creature indeed, but Brielle speaks of a goddess. It is short for Gabrielle, a feminine form of Gabriel, which means “man of God” or perhaps “God is my strength.” You can hear either of those meanings in the short and sublime name Brielle. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the name of a divine being itself. Brielle suggests qualities of lightness, femininity, vitality, elegance, laughter, and the good. It is a name to elevate and dazzle with simple and innocent glory.

The name Brielle, then, stands in stark contrast with “Stinkin’.” One speaks of all that is wrong and mournful, the other of all that is right and merry. This makes the turn of life bizarre. Why does Brielle, the real name, seem to speak of a fantasy while “Stinkin’,” the fake name, seems to speak of the real world? How can such a thing happen? And since it does happen, is there any justice?

Perhaps these questions have no accessible answers. Maybe they are hidden in the mind of God. But God has a peculiar habit of speaking His mind. And what He has said on a few occasions leads me to question these questions with a radically different question.

What if Brielle is real?

What if “Stinkin'” is a sham?

I cannot but suspect that my friend is Brielle after all. For this age is the age of shadow, and only the age to come is the real thing. In this age, she struggles and suffers as though God Himself has turned against her. But if anything is the sham, I believe with all my heart it is this age. The age to come is the light, the truth in which perhaps Brielle, not “Stinkin’,” is the authentic character. Perhaps she is destined to glory. And in this case, why not name her by her true name? She is Brielle, whose strength is the God who named her. The stink may last for a night, but I see the first rays of joy coming in the morning.

In this spirit, then, I have a message to my friend. To Brielle:


As I sat on my bed, an angel of God carried me away, and said, “Come, I will show you the ruined goddess, whose has suffered, suffers now, and shall suffer again. The eyes of the Lamb are upon her day and night.”

So I looked, and behold, I saw a young girl upon a bed, wearing a blue gown, with a mark across her forehead which read, “MYSTERY: BRIELLE ABANDONED.” And men in white robes were coming and going with scrolls, speaking, but I could not hear their voices. They looked upon the girl and frowned. Some appeared distressed, some appeared confused, and some appeared angry. As I looked at their faces, I wept.

Suddenly I heard a loud voice from above the angels, saying:

How desolate sits Brielle,
pitiable among people!
She has become like a widow,
alone in her distress.
She weeps bitterly in the night;
her tears are on her cheeks.
All her gates are desolate,
and her temple lies in ruins.

It began in her temple,
corruption emerged in the stones.
Moth and rust came to feed,
and they would not be satisfied.
The enemy has stretched out his hand
over all her treasures.
She says, “I am in distress;
my inner parts are in torment!”

Then I looked again, and the eyes of the Lamb were fixed on the girl. They shone like the sun, and it seemed to me that they were glistening with tears. Then another voice spoke, and I perceived that it was the voice of the girl. She said:

My God, my God why have you forsaken me?
Why are you far from helping me,
far from the words of my groaning?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
I am the one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s wrath.
Yes, He repeatedly turns His hand
against me all day long.

And I wept again when I heard the girl’s words. I wanted to speak to her, but I found I could not open my mouth. In my distress, I looked and saw the Lamb, who was still gazing at the girl. Drops of blood came down His face, and He scratched at the scars of His slaughter. So I said to the angel, “Who sinned that this girl should be made desolate under the Lamb’s eye, her or her parents?”

And the angel said, “Neither her nor her parents have sinned.”

I began to say, “Then why does she suffer?” But as I opened my mouth, the ground shook, the bed split, and the girl fell to the ground. Her gown was torn, and she wept bitterly. I turned and said to the Lamb in a loud voice, “Will you not help her?” But the Lamb was not there. And there was blood where He had stood.

The angel said to me, “Did the Lamb help the girl?”

“No,” I replied.

Then the angel growled like a beast, and I shrunk back in fear. He continued to speak. “Come. I will show you the aid of the Lamb.” So he took me away to a dark sanctuary. He lit 7 candles, and the room was filled with light and a sweet smell. I looked, and I saw the Lamb bound to an altar. His fur was soaked with blood, and He gasped as He breathed. He cried out in a loud voice,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Then He was not, and I was taken back to the girl. I heard her sing a terrible song:

My days vanish like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is afflicted,
withered like grass;
I even forget to eat my food.
Because of the sound of my groaning,
my flesh sticks to my bones.

As she finished her song, I turned and saw the Lamb once again. He stood at an exceedingly great distance. His fur was no longer bloody, but white. He stood taller than He had before, and fire was in His eyes. He mounted a white horse and came galloping toward her, but He was still a long way off. But the girl did not see Him, and she wept over her miseries.

Then I was overcome by her predicament. I said to the angel, “Why can she not see Him?”

He said in a soft voice, “She can see you.”

I was startled at this, and I looked, and the girl was looking at me. I tried to speak and could not. But I saw the Lamb coming on the horizon, and my mouth opened:

Brielle, Brielle,
why do you mourn?
Why is your face downcast?
Do you not see?
Have you not heard?
The Lamb is coming,
and He rides near even now.

The Lamb has seen you,
and He has heard your divine tears.
He will rebuild your walls,
and He will cleanse your temple.
Your ruins will become shining gates,
and towers will rise from your ashes.

The Lamb holds a hammer,
and nails are in His hands.
He is a carpenter,
the son of a carpenter.
He is skilled at building,
and He makes all things new.

I heard the Lamb.
He spoke to me by His eyes.
His gaze was upon you,
and in His face, I saw your own.
Hear Him, hear Him,
for this is what the Lamb says:

“I will make peace flow to her like a river,
and healing like a great flood.
You will see, you will rejoice,
and you will flourish like grass.
Her compassionate one will guide her,
and lead her to springs of water.”

I pray, then, Brielle,
hope in the Lamb!
He rides with the clouds
and comes with the winds.
But do not be dismayed,
and do not be distracted.

The Lamb, the Lamb,
He is your hope.
Do not forget Him in your distress.
Do not fail to call on His name.
He has not always seemed a friend,
but He has always been the Friend.

Yes, Brielle, He is a paradox,
and His name is Mystery.
He does not always take your side,
but He is always on your side.
He does not always join your cause,
but you are always His cause.
He does not always agree with you,
but He always defends you.
He is not always what you want,
but He always wants you.
He does not always secure you,
but He always rescues you.
He does not always approve,
but His love always proves.
He does not always get you,
but He is always for you.

Do you not see?
Have you not heard?
The Lamb, the Lion of Judah,
He knows your distress.
Out of all people, you two have suffered,
He and you have been God-forsaken.

But the Lamb was not forsaken—
what does this mean for you?
His flesh was destroyed,
but He was restored evermore.
But His flesh is your flesh,
and His bone is your bone.

When I finished speaking, an angel carried me away. He said, “Come, and I will show you the goddess who has suffered, suffers now, and shall suffer again. But after suffering for 10 days, she was found by the Lamb.”

Then I saw the girl once again, no longer in a blue gown but a white dress. A crown sat on her head, and on it was written the name of the Lamb. She was no longer crying. Instead, the Lamb wiped away every tear from her eyes, and she laughed. The song of her laughter filled the air, and no sadness could be found for 144,000 miles.

Then a voice like a trumpet declared:

Look, I am making all things new!
What is dead will come to life,
and what is empty will be filled.
And I will give the goddess to the Lamb,
and He will be her God and she will be His bride.

When the voice finished, there was silence for half an hour. The Lamb and the girl walked together until they passed over a great hill, and from the hill came sounds of joy greater than all the joy heard on earth. I smiled, but an angel grabbed me and said, “Behold, you have seen many things. These things shall shortly come to pass, but they may not come to pass at all. What you have seen can only take place if the girl hears the words you have been given. Let her hear them, and believe, and all these things shall be. But if she does not hear them, or if she cannot believe them, all is lost. The Lamb longs for her. He is gazing upon her now. She is Brielle, woman of God, and He is her God. She is Brielle, whose strength is God, and He is her God.”

To Brielle, and to all who know her, or love her, and suffer like her, be grace and peace from the Lamb. These things must shortly take place. Amen.

No, you are not a soul

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.

C. S. Lewis

Amen, right?

By no means!

The above quote was supposedly said by C. S. Lewis, one of our favorite theological writers of the modern age. The sentiment is echoed all over the place in Christianity. People complain about their bodies and long for the day that they will be free of them in heaven. When people sin, they excuse their sin by saying they didn’t mean to do it, but their passions or instincts got the best of them. People who struggle with body image are always reassured that the body doesn’t matter; only what’s inside counts. The underlying dogma is clear: your body is not really you. It’s just a temporary shell. Your soul is the real you, and you may even be better off without a body.

This is antichrist.

I could go on for a long time on why this is so wrong, but I’ll focus on the problems with Gnosticism and resurrection. So, Gnosticism:

A strict separation of body/soul doesn’t resemble the Bible at all, but is closer to the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics were a heretical cult in the early church. They believed many problematic and even ridiculous doctrines, but a core distinctive was their view of the physical and the spiritual, or the material and the immaterial. Matter and flesh came from an inferior, perhaps evil, creator, whereas spirit and soul came from the true and good God. So they saw the body as at best irrelevant and at worst an evil obstacle to salvation. But the spirit was the true and good self which could reach salvation through enlightenment. Unfortunately, while not guilty of all of the heretical ideas in Gnostic thought, the whole “you are a soul, not a body” thing really does get its shape from this kind of thinking.

The problems with this approach go on and on. For one, this reasoning is what led to the heresy that Jesus was not completely human, or only had the appearance of a body (called Docetism). Yet John calls them deceivers who “do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” or (as the NLT puts it) “deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body” (2 John 1:7). Jesus was God made flesh. This flesh is essential to the Incarnation which saves us.

This view also leads to some of the moral problems of Gnosticism, which continue even today. If your body isn’t really you, only the soul, then perhaps you should practice extreme asceticism, denying yourself every bodily pleasure to instead live hungry, cold, and alone. Then your soul can focus on God. On the other hand, if the body isn’t really you, it might make sense to brush off moral responsibility in your body. What does it matter what you do if it’s just your body? Many Gnostics used this to justify sexual immorality, but even today in evangelical Christianity it can lead us to blame our bodies for our sins and insist that our souls are actually pure. (And in a less direct way, this leads to the unrealistic and extremely dangerous thought, “He seems harsh and jerkish on the outside, but he’s actually a good person once you get to know him.”)

Besides the Gnostic connections, another problem with this soul-centered view is resurrection. Jesus’ bodily resurrection is at the heart of the Gospel, and ours follows from it. The Apostles’ Creed literally says it as, “I believe in the resurrection of the flesh.” Paul made this point powerfully in 1 Corinthians 15. Some people in Corinth, probably influenced by Greek philosophy, were saying that there wouldn’t be a physical resurrection. Paul rebuked them and pointed to Jesus, saying the Gospel was at stake.

In fact, I think the popularity of this deviant view is why so many Christians underemphasize, or even don’t realize at all, the saving importance of Jesus’ resurrection. According to the Bible, Jesus’ resurrection is the source of our regeneration (1 Jn. 1:3), justification (Rom. 4:25), sanctification (Rom. 8:11-13), and glorification (Rom. 8:23). In a certain sense, resurrection is salvation, and we will not be “fully” saved until our bodies are raised for eternal life with Christ in renewed creation. If we miss this, we miss a major element to the Gospel. For the Bible, the body is not an addon, a shell, or an obstacle. It is saved, redeemed, and glorified in Christ.

Now I realize there are some who would object on the basis of the war between the spirit and the flesh. After all, Paul says this: “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). Doesn’t this mean that your physical body is corrupt and that your spirit/soul is pure? Not really. For the acts of the flesh are “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Gal. 5:19-21). While many of these are body with the body, they are all rooted in the heart, and some of these only take place within. Thus the flesh as Paul speaks of it against the Spirit is not the human body. What the flesh actually means is debatable (I favor the view that it refers to natural humanity living without relation to God but only to humanity), but it doesn’t mean human body by itself.

To conclude, let’s drop the dualist silliness. You are a body and a soul. Your body without your soul is dead, and your soul without your body is naked. God made us to be both. We cannot ignore the body, but must let our body and soul serve as instruments with which to glorify God. For we will be raised forever, to live bodily with Christ.

Oh, by the way, it is a most likely a myth that C. S. Lewis said the above quote. Thankfully. (Though to be honest, I’m unsure whether he might have agreed.)