In Christian circles, one of the expected goals, is often one of wearing the uniform that has a flashy, wordy front: a T-shirt that says loudly, “I am the instrument of God.”
The word “instrument” is one of those words like “sacrifice” having many, varied definitions for just as many people that you may ask about it. For me, “instrument” carries an emotional & provocative kind of barrage.
Some people who hear these words have very extreme reactions & responses to the stimuli that the word itself has registered in one’s mind. If we use broad, glittering generalities when we communicate, we’ll usually ignite some outcomes that may precipitate our own distorted images cropping up in our heads repetitvely.
In this case, if words themselves cause incongruity & ambiguity, wouldn’t we want to eliminate or amplify them in our communications? However, we often choose very, highly abstract words such as peace, love, wellness, evil, good, or loyalty for example. These words are broad, almost ethereal.
From this point, one suggestion would be use some strategies, that man increase understanding between ours, and one way of doing this is to incrementalize or move to a lower level of more specific abstractions in order to stay on the same page in our communicating with ourselves and one another.
In my experience, I get a very, negatively freighted image/conception when I hear the word “instrument” in the context that I’m using at the time.
Firstly, people are not machines! They’re members of the crew called “human” which means they consist of multi-dimensional (meaning they can use a lot of levels of abstraction) & holistic dimensions with the label human being.
Try this on for size. Can you conceive of a Higher Power saying to you with somewhat encrypted words: “You’re my instrument—the instrument of my will!” This is pretty heady stuff, and does have the chance to go to your head. And people do some bizarre & crazy making actions when stuff has gone to their heads, and they think God has spoken to them to do something for Him.
For me, this word is way too clinical, linear, objectified, and out of all alignment with compassion, or loving kindness, or even grace—its worldview, the way I view it, consolidates divinity & humanity.
We have an access to consciousness; this, to me, is one of the highest potentialities of humans. In other words, to be able to consciously reason or think about the concept of justice, is an incredible gift by the Consciousness Creator; in order to possess to the same degree of frequency, complexity or increments of gradation that may be understood by all concerned.
The word instrument disturbs me; I think of a carpenter holding his inanimate tools & instruments—his hammer, ruler, nails, wood & saw are all instruments she must guide & utilize with her own two hands. Metaphorically, “instrument,” of course, has numerable connotations from which to choose. But I begin to gag a little when we label ourselves as “instruments.” Even human instruments would be a better choice of words.
The context of a dialogue between us and a Higher Power contains the instruments (tools) of compassionate listening, desire to alleviate the world’s suffering, & warm, loving affection because my HP is my friend, or another human, not some exterior, far-off Higher Power who seems to operate more from rules than love-centered people making.
It begins for us in our inner sanctums of the heart or as some mystics have put it, “in the cave of our heart. We aren’t indifferent stones (speaking about sane people, not psychopaths or sociopaths). A stone has to be picked up & placed somewhere. No, we’re not simply lifeless instruments or implements, we are cosmic people in the human race, with the products that may “touch” into our heart or head, such as emotions, moods, or a belief systems.
Part of the solution (if one sees a problem with this word), is to begin to change the language we use regarding our relation with our “spiritual” friend (s) companioning with us as we explore our inner plane of our beings. Why not say, instead of using the word “instrument,” (we could use other words like) ‘friend, essence, empathic responder, the knower of our hearts, the seer and the seen (us or other life forms);’ through our experiences in life we can begin “knowing” the varieties of the spiritual experience, including integration and, finally transformation. So this shows a vital connection to our language and how it’s used.
Regularly, salt & peppered through the Gaelic/Celtic language & customs, there is the recognition of both the divine & the human. This notion is embodied in an old Celtic saying: “The hand of the stranger is the hand of God.”
Another way to think of it is this: we are all the conjoined organs & body parts, i.e., “the hands of God” to compassionately serve those who live on the planet in affliction & pain. What the hand does is guided by the brain’s central Command System, not the Cosmic Cat in the dim, outer spaces in the universe.
In his Rule (about the five hundreds, A.D.), St. Benedict writes:
These then are the tools of the spiritual craft. If we make full use of them unceasingly day and night, then, when we give them back on the Day of Judgment, we shall in return receive from the Lord that reward which he himself has promised, ‘The things That no eye had seen, and no ear has heard, which God has prepared for those who love him.’ Now the workshop in which we make diligent use of all these tools is the enclosure of the monastery combined with stability in the community. (Ch. 4, 74).
A material tool is simply a means to an end. You’ve heard the phrase ‘God don’t make no junk,’ well people aren’t’ machines, but they have the dignified label of ‘spiritual being in a body.’
©Christopher Bear-Beam August 20, 2015