Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Dear God: On Detachment and the 10 Commandments

I want to thank Beyond Blue reader Margaret for mentioning that my “Dear God” posts are one of the reasons she keeps coming back to Beyond Blue, because, as you can imagine, these reflections are hard to write. They force me to be honest with myself, to be meditative with a mind that is distracted in a million different directions, and to be honest with you, which require a vulnerability that is sometimes difficult to do. So, thank you, Margaret, I’ll try to be more disciplined about writing these every week.
Dear God,
Today in Book of Deuteronomy (11:18,26-28,32), we read:

I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse: a blessing for obeying the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, but turn aside from the way I ordain for you today, to follow other gods, whom you have not known.


Okay, God. The way I read this, you are saying that your commandments lead to happiness if we are disciplined enough to follow them. If we aren’t … well, that’s why we are so miserable. Either we follow your commandments and we’re set, or we cheat, and lie, and steal our way through life and we’re cursed, cursed, cursed, straight to hell.
I try to follow your commandments. I really try … like the little kid wobbling back and forth on his bike the first time he attempts to ride the thing
Ever since I made my First Holy Communion, I’ve wanted to get holy. What other ten-year-old would pen “How to Get to Heaven?” for her mom and her prayer-group friends?
But, as you might expect, I have a few questions regarding how, exactly, you win the halo. Because things in my life are surely not that black and white. I’ve been doodling with so many different colors in my life lately–not knowing which are good, and which are curses.


Here are the 10 commandments and where, I think, I stand:
I. ?I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me!
I plead guilty to that one. I find a few souvenirs and tokens of god-worshipping in my pockets every time I empty them out—receipts to Starbucks, post-its scribbled with blog ideas and book titles, phone numbers to friends that I am sure can save me from the person called “Therese.” They don’t look, smell, taste, or feel like gods. But in a way they are—career ambitions, unhealthy friendships, coffee obsessions—because they can take my focus off of you.
But here’s where I have the problem, God. I would have to live like a Benedictine monk for my life not to involve distractions. More on that later.
II. ?You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain!
Are you talking about cussing??? Please say no.
III. ?Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day!
I’m pretty good on that one.
IV. ?Honor your father and your mother!
This one depends on where my therapy session falls in my menstrual cycle. If I go to counseling, for example, two days before my period starts, my mom gets blamed for everything from my bipolar disorder to my recent bouts of anxiety.
V. ?You shall not kill!
Phew. Good on that one. Now the intention to kill? That doesn’t count, right?
VI. ?You shall not commit adultery!
As far as I know, the answer is no. And I’m thinking it will stay no as long as I am sober.
VII. ?You shall not steal!
Steal words? Phrasing? Concepts? Ideas? Can you get more specific here? Because I would have to alienate myself from all people not to pick up some great material.
VIII.?You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor!
You mean lie, right? I came pretty darn close to lying to get out of jury duty. But it was for the greater good, I swear. That lying thing, though, opens a whole other file of questions to be discussed next blog post.
IX. ?You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife!
Since I’m heterosexual, I don’t covet my neighbor’s wife. In fact, we are friends.
X. ?You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods!
Now that’s a different story. Jealousy is where you’re going here, right? I got a big problem in this area, God. I’m hoping you could help me.
Basically, God, I think you are saying that if we cling to this world and its material goods—if we attach ourselves to people, places, and things right here—then we are going to feel depressed and anxious and cursed because they are temporary. They cannot give us the satisfaction and peace that you alone can offer. You are uttering a message similar to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism—that the origin of suffering is attachment to transient things, to the craving and clinging of wealth, or prestige, or fame, or popularity. And the path to peace lies in detaching from them.
My problem is that I don’t know how to be without attachment.
I like what retired bishop, John Shelby Spong says about that:


Security is so seductive, and insecurity is so frightening. But security is always false, and insecurity is always real. No religion can make anyone secure, though it, like the drugs on which our society is so dependent, can give the illusion of security. True religion enables one to grasp life with the radial insecurity and to live with courage. It does not aid us in the pretense that our insecurities have been taken away.

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  • Tony Arens

    Win the halo? You don’t need to – it’s a free gift. Not by works! Jesus won the halo for you.

  • Carole

    The ten commandments can be tough. I find the “coveting your neighbor” one to be hardest. However, I and I am sure you know this too that we are not stuck in the commandments or where banished to hell…scenario. Thankfully Jesus gives us the big word GRACE to apply to and keep strong to. Remember that, and the 10 commandments may seem a little easier to respect.:)
    I just found your blog on Yahoo! and really enjoy it, keep it up!
    Check out my husband and I’s monthly blog, we just posted for June:

  • Bob

    …if we are disciplined enough to follow them…”
    It is possible. As Moses says in Deuteronomy 30:11 “For this law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach”
    Basically, God, I think you are saying…”
    It’s very clear what He’s saying, throughout Deuteronomy and the entire Pentateuch (if you read it all the way through) and the message is one of trust and obedience.
    Trust in God, and you’ll strive to keep the commandments, knowing that it will lead to a good, happy life. Loving the Lord requires we do what He asks, and what He asks (repeatedly in the OT) is that we keep the commandments.
    And regardless of what a heretical, former Anglican bishop says, a person can have security through religion, and while I say that as a Catholic, I’m sure others would testify to it in regard to their religions as well.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree that you cannot gain a halo by works…New Testament, James.

  • keren B

    Therese, the only way to holiness is through Christ. You cannot attain it in your own strength, nor do you have to. And whilst it is true that Religion cannot make you secure, Relationship with the One True God through Jesus Christ CAN. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18).
    The Gospel of John is a great place to start learning about what Jesus has done for us. Ask God to explain what you are reading – and He will if you really want to know. If you actually ask Him for the truth, He will show you. And then keep reading and keeping asking, seeking and knocking! The answers will come to you. Our God is a gracious and merciful God. God does not desire that anyone should perish but that all should come to know Him.

  • Barbara formerly Babs

    I think that in security vs. insecurity, we are speaking of feelings, and feelings can be erroneous. We can feel like our lives are pretty secure – a good job, a faithful spouse, great kids, good health – until any of those things are threatened. It is when the unexpected strikes that we come to the realization that we cannot control the most important aspects of life. We find out that we aren’t as secure as we once felt.
    Faith can seem pretty secure when everything is good. But when the storms hit and our world is rocked, even a faith-filled person can feel insecure. It is human to feel that way. Those feelings of insecurity are capable of drawing us back to reality – and reality is where real living takes place, and growth occurs.
    Trusting God and striving to keep the commandments will undoubtedly lead to a good life, but that doesn’t mean it will be one without conflict or pain. We may feel lost for a while – sometimes a long while. But faith tells us that we aren’t and we don’t have to go it alone.

  • Larry Parker

    The 10 Commandments are a good guide to life.
    The Golden Rule, IMO, is a better one. (The difference between Old Testament and New Testament thinking, one supposes.)

  • Sharon Gibson

    I love your honesty, open sharing and search for truth.
    I often journal, though not publicly with my struggles and questions in my search for God and truth. I think God loves our honesty.
    I want to respond to this thought you shared and share some of what I’ve discovered.
    “Either we follow your commandments and we’re set, or we cheat, and lie, and steal our way through life and we’re cursed, cursed, cursed, straight to hell.”
    I realize that you probably believe that your salvation is by what you do or don’t do because that is what you have been taught.
    and I concerned that puts alot of pressure on you. I’ve struggled wanting to be a good Christian too. This verse comes to mind,
    “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Titus 3:5 (King James)
    What has been freeing for me is to discover that when Jesus died for our sins, He died for all of them, past, present and future. My salvation from hell doesn’t depend on my righteousness. That inspires me to follow His commands for two resons, one because I love Him. I love Him because He first loved me (us) and I’m grateful for what He did for me (us). Second, because there are benefits for following His commands. They make sense. They are fair to everyone and they protect me (us).
    If I do mess up and sin or break one, Jesus has already paid for it so I agree my behavior is not right (confess it)receive forgiveness and get back on track of doing the right thing.
    I John 2:1 (King James) reassures us, if we sin, we have an advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ.
    Well, those are my thoughts. Keep seeking because Jesus says when we continue in His word, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. John 8:31,32 Also II Corinthians 3:17 comes to mind, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
    Blessings on you!

  • linda

    you know everyone needs therapy put you on the top of her shout out list for may -we love you.

  • lailyt

    I really enjoy reading your blog, but since I don’t have depression or mental illness, I don’t have a lot to comment on. But I agree with you on how you interperate idolatry. For me, it’s not about which religion you are, now a days idolatry is about worshiping stuff, money, power, sex, drugs, fashion, ect, instead of G-d. I think that it is in human nature to worship something, and if that something isn’t G-d, however a person comes to G-d, something else will fill that void.
    And the commandment about coveting, #9 – I don’t covet my neighbors wife (or husband) but as I’m getting closer to 30 I find myself struggling with being jelious of other people my age who seem to have done more then me. Someone I went to Hebrew classes with (and never really liked) is now coming back to our synegoge as a Rabbi, and that is hard to deal with. I have to remind myself that I’ve been with my partner for 8.5 years,I visit my mother and mother (not legally) in law at least once a week, I have a good job in biotech and a house – all things to be proud of, to value, no matter what else anybody my age has done.
    Anyway, I like your blog – keep it up.

  • valerie

    I agree with Sharon about the works. We are saved by Grace. The great thing about Christianity is that there is nothing to do (works) because everything has been done (Christ’s death) for us already. That doesn’t mean we’re free to NOT give of ourselves and do good works. But my understanding and what I believe is that you are not saved by works.
    On coveting neighbors wife–how bout coveting her husband? ha Plus, I don’t think it’s THAT literal as far as it being a “neighbor.” I do believe we are commanded not to covet anyone or anything. Once again, my interpretation.
    As far as committing adultery–well shoot, I believe we’ve all probably done that in our hearts. And yes, that counts too. Wow, am I being a major doggy downer here or what?
    The “Thou shall not take God’s name in vain” I believe means, well, what I was brought up to believe is that you’re not to use God’s name in swearing, like GD or OMG and the like. I don’t think it means actual cussing like swear words–although, I have a HUGE inkling that He frowns on that, too. Something, frankly, I truly suck at and I have yet to ask God to help me on that one. It’s probably quite disconcerting to see/hear someone like myself (you know, APPEARS classy and pretty, etc, etc) swearing up a storm!
    Those are just my thoughts. But thank you, as always, Therese, for your thoughts and insights on things. They are invaluable. Or do I mean valuable? I mean, they’re priceless. They’re helpful. This part was meant for the self-esteem file so now you know what I’m trying to say is complimentary.
    You are such a shining example of what so many of us with mental illness can strive to do and be. It IS possible. Yeah, I know-but we gotta take our meds, “do our homework,” meditate, pray, exercise, yada yada yada. You know the drill. So do I. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes NOT so much! Love Valerie

  • m

    ” If we are saved by the law, then Christ died for nothing. ” Gal. 2
    It’s All GRACE

  • Jo

    Kevin, you are way out of line. Theresa, we love you. Keep your site going. Love reading it and it helps me alot. thank you so much.

  • Margaret Balyeat

    I sure didn’t mean to put pressure on you to continue with these Dear God posts, but I’m gad you are! Probbly a lare part of the reason I find them so helpful is that I seem to be on the same wave length with you most of the time, and you chose subjects with which I have been struggling myself. No different today! I hae been making my own self-evaluation in light of the ten commandments, nd it has served to make me extremely grateful for the cleansing of Christ’s blood and the gift of God’s grace, because I’d NEVER see heaven were those two things not in place. How BRAVE of you to share with all of s which cmmandmey=ts you are most insecure about; I wouldn’t DARE to follow suit! Suffice it to say that there are many I have broken at least once in my fifty-eight years on this planet! I console myself–perhaps falsely–that this is probably true of most if not all Christians, which is exactly WHY God created the plan of salvation which rests on Chist’s willing sacrifice! I do find that an honest(if private) evauation of my standing in terms of God’s laws usually seems to keep me more mindful of stayib=ng on the straight nd narrow. Its far too easy(At least for ME) to allow certain sins to become habit. Conducting occasional “check-ups” helps me to recognize those “habitual sins” and be more aware so I can make the conscious choicE NOT to repeat them.
    I’ve even posted them in a couple of laces around my apartment to remind me of them.(Gets a few curious remarks from visitors, but so what; so do many of my “notes to self” that I post about If it works, who cares? I am so grateful that I wasn’t born in the times of Mosaic law so that I can count on the gift of grace; I’d never have made it otherwise. I fear that I would ghave been one of the revelers Moses encountered when he came back down the mountain, tablets in hand. I’d like to think otherwise, but I know myself pretty well by now (As I SHOULD after so many years of living with me!) Anyway, this post resonated deeply for me, and I bless you for it! I used to think the first commandment was one I had down pat until I understood that focusingtoo much on something or someone else can turn it into a god. I comfort myself by remembering that even Christ Himself cautioned that only God is good (can;t quote chapter and verse; sorry) To paraphrase, someone called Him “Good shepherd or some such thing, and Jesus answered,”Why do you call me good? Only God in Heaven is good.” and this from the only perfect manto ever walk the Earth! I do try not to allow that to become an “out” for myelf, nd have gotten to the place where I believe that as long as I am genuinely TRYING to follow God’s lawsand examining myself with them as my yardstick, Christ’s blood will cover the rest. I know the Bible does distinguish btween “slip-ups (although it doesn’t call them that) and deliberate sin, which to me means choosing to sin regardless of what I know to be right. And I find as I get older its easier to identify those moments where sin is becoming a matter of choice rather than error so that I can be more vigilant.
    Anyway, this post was (once again!) right on time. Bless you and thank you from the dpths of my heart! If there’s one thing I AM addicted to, it’s tuning in to “Beyond Blue” for ny daily dose of encouragment and insught.

  • Peg

    Sharon and Valerie, if you would read the Catholic Catechism, you would know that we do believe we are saved by grace. Of course we will do good works when given the chance, because we are doing what Jesus taught.
    Barbara (formerly known as Babs), your post was so right on for me and relates to how I feel.

  • Lynne

    If you bring yourself to nothing then you find out who you are. You are not what you have but who you are inside. These are the greatest gifts God gives to us. He is after all a loving Father. Like any parent, children need rules,not because God needs obedience but because he wants us to prosper in this world. The one thing God does not know is if we will choose to love Him. (more than the world or ourselves) I believe we existed as spiritual beings before life in the flesh and we shall return to our spiritual selves. Where we spend eternity depends on our choices now. As I’ve said I do not believe in Hell but to cease to exist altogether. “The second death” As far as idolatry goes (and we’re not talking “American Idol”) Unless you are worshipping the item as a god you may do more self harm with guilt. Just remember to keep God in the equation. Don’t get so wrapped up in distractions that you forget to even think about him! Talk to Him like he’s your Father and best friend and He’ll be more likely to answer your prayers. Taking His name in vain…you cry wolf…guess what? Don’t be surprized if you get ignored. God has emotions. We are created in His image and He feels what we feel. I find that comforting sometimes. Respecting my parents…yeah that can be a little trying at times. However without them we would NOT be having this conversation. Well I just do the best I can and thank God for the Grace to get me through the rest.(\o^o/)

  • Iordache Aurel

    All my comments are favorable with a condition : to keep the straight Way of the Holly Trinity God. So be it Amin. God bless you by 3 Times forever:psihically,phisically and spiritually Amin with respect your sincerely regarding or or

  • Anonymous

    send me please the ,,9-Ways to Affair-Proof your Marriage , in fact my own Marriage.Thank You verry verry much.God bless you 3 Times ,Forever, Amin.! ! !

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