9/26/2015

Entertaining Traps

I often wonder what is going on in the minds of my children. Sometimes I'll be in the depths of personal spiritual discovery and they'll suddenly yank me to the surface with comments like, "Mom? When I get older I'm going to use the science you'll teach me to make Pokémon creatures come to life." While I'm an advocate of keeping kids sheltered from the really difficult truths of this existence, I want so much more for them than Pokémon. So I explain that while they can't bring cartoons to life, they can create their own cartoon art. They can also make it a life's goal to find a pet that reminds them of Pikachu (without lightning powers, of course), and take excellent care of it. But they may not ever pay money to see small animals duke it out... in a ring... underground or anywhere. That's just wrong, but Pokémon reminds me of that a little.

This is the consumer's time of year; the harvest. We are getting our guts ready for the gorge. Money is being stored now because we have modern ways of eating and storing food through the winter. We have places to house funds for Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday sales. Excess is approaching, and so is the emptiness that follows. The stomach-stretching makes you feel hungrier in the morning, have you noticed that? When all the leftover turkey has been eaten and the lights taken down, we ring in the new year and promise to be less gluttonous. We once again bought the dud that gift-giving and gift-receiving and a family dinner were all satisfying enough to rationalize over-indulgence. A couple of antacids later, we still don't feel full. The body has been pacified for while, but the appetite has just gone up a level. New Year's Day proves that we are no match for our own urges. We vow to start again, but even if we manage to survive another year, one day death will win this body as it's prize. The only thing it had to do was wait. Death will have our bodies, I try to never forget that.

Traditions, entertainment, and indulgences all feel good to this mortal body. They pacify unmet needs in a way that's predictable, pleasurable, and convenient. When we were babies we were clay crying out to be shaped and hungers crying out to be fed. We made such a racket that the larger people around us needed to respond in some way, in any way... just make it stop! If our needs were met we moved on to the next stage of emotional development. If our needs were not met, we learned to cope in other ways but we can't develop or grow if we're not nourished. The ways we learn to cope are largely based on the parents we had. Did they follow the patterns of generations of tradition? Did they entertain us into distraction from our needs? Did they treat the need like a power struggle and bow to it as an idol or overthrow it as an enemy? The ways we coped as children are the ways we want to cope now. The pathways in our brain are deeply carved from infancy. It takes a miracle to avoid engrained tendencies even as our bodies and minds grow. It takes a God-ordained turn of events that work gently and consistently to fill in the old ruts and begin choosing a new path instead.

Maybe all of this is why it breaks my heart to know that my kids' minds are on cartoons when they are idling. Somewhere a need wasn't fulfilled. I am definitely guilty of using entertainment to distract them from whatever it was they needed. There's nothing inherently wrong with being entertained; we are made to enjoy the creativity of others. But maybe it's the isolated culture we live in that needs to use an electronic babysitter in order to maintain the habitat. Seriously, it takes a village and I have only reluctant neighbors and overburdened mom-friends to call on. If cartoons have become my help, I must be desperate! I never meant to create an insatiable monster, but... it's alive! My kids honestly believe that if they aren't entertained constantly then it is the end of the world. We are all like spoiled royalty, clapping our hands for more dancing girls and jesters to enter the court, lest we die! And all mommy needed was a chance to make dinner or do dishes, or sweep, or you name it. First colorful and musical toys babysat, now iPads and Netflix babysit. God help them, they might think being entertained is all there is to do on planet Earth!

If life was only eat, drink, and be entertained because tomorrow we die, it wouldn't bother me so much. As wonderful as these bodies are, they are just instruments. They are environments in which we can become who we are, but they are NOT us. What if we really needed something for our spirit? Let's bypass the body and the soul and go straight to the spirit. Would we even know how to recognize our spiritual need?

The human spiritual need is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, no where else. Every other so-called "spirituality" applies to the soul only. The human spirit is lifeless and dormant without the Spirit of God residing with it. The more obsessed we become with entertaining the body, the more it becomes all we consist of. If it takes detoxing ourselves from entertainment to fulfill the needs of our spirit, let's do that. If it takes a drastic lifestyle change to detox the kids from screen time, let's do that. Maybe if we tell the body to shut up about it's engrained habits for a while, we'll be able to hear the cry of our spirit for Life.




9/12/2015

He Lets me Know

Normally I like to know what's going on. When I enter an unfamiliar situation or one is thrust upon me, I prefer to gather quick information to make the right decision. But when I'm walking in the Spirit it's different. I need less information and there is less pressure to choose wisely. When it's just me I get overwhelmed by all the variables. My imagination starts creating apparent possibilities and once that train begins chugging, it's very hard to make it stop.

Without abiding in Christ, I pine and worry about the possible affect my actions will have on others. That might seem like a healthy and compassionate quality. It is, so thoughtful. But I know now that we never truly know what impact our actions have on others, even if we think it's good. We have an intention and an expectation but we really don't know where each person is or what associations they will relate to your "good" actions. We have no idea the significance of our choices and how one tiny variation in timing or content can alter the course of a whole life. There are some great movies that illustrate this phenomenon (Sliding Doors, Run Lola Run, Groundhog Day, etc).

A person can go absolutely catatonic trying to protect themselves or others from so many calculated possibilities. The self-consciousness of that level of worry is enough to paralyze anyone in front of the proverbial mirror. I'm sure a lot of mental illness starts with a heightened awareness of those kind of hard truths, or a desperate denial of them. Like, for example, we really don't have control over much. Most "sane" people can function because they ignore that fact. They believe we can participate in life of our own power, self-sustaining and need-fulfilling. But they breathe air, too. They didn't create that air or build the brain that lets us breathe it during sleep.

The practice of letting go of my misconceptions has taken me years to learn how to do. Gut-reaction, instinct, and long-engrained habits would have me thinking thoughts and making choices out of the limited resource of my finite existence. Releasing my death-grip on this illusion has led to more freedom for me. Now the possibilities are as endless as an infinite God! His perspective is inconceivably higher than mine. From His vantage point He can see everyone and everything in any given time. He already knows what my choices will do or not do to the world around me.

Sometimes I don't understand His guidance... and that understandable! But just knowing, humbly, that I am weak, ignorant, and powerless compared to Him allows me to be available. This humility was His gift to me as well, so I won't take credit. By His grace I didn't get very far without Him. Frustrated at every turn is more like it! If I ever doubt that, all He has to suggest is, "Remember when you made a similar choice without Me? Are you now ready to trust?" Oh yeah, duh, thanks Lord.

It gets easier every time I come to Him. He lets me know when I need to stop the direction I'm headed and consult His Spirit within me. It's subtle and unimposing, but it has the power of eighteen years of personal experience behind it. Eighteen years ago I admitted my need for Jesus. It came from a desperate terror of the future and of the impending death of my body. I pray everyone can have that kind of sobering revelation that leads them into His waiting arms. Now He tells me everything I need to know and nothing more. The rest of life is filled with wonders, joys, challenges, and supernatural sightings of His unavoidable influence on this world.