The Tortured Metaphor of the Refridgerator Light

Things have been tough in my life for a month or so.  There are people who I know very well who have gotten midnight phone calls from me.   There are dear friends who have patiently endured what must seem like endless whining.  Family (both biological and “adopted”) that have put aside what they would rather be doing to assist us in countless ways.

There have been times — lots of them– that I have been miserable.  And to be truthful, I think if I had the choice, I would trade the last month of my life for an equal time strapped to a dentist’s chair, while all my teeth were drilled away and somebody forgot the novocainne.

English: Dental Office
English: Dental Office (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This is only half the story.  And it’s the much more obvious half.  It’s a bit like the refridgerator.  The inner contents of the refridgerator spend most of their time in the dark.  But whenever we see them, they are bathed in light.  This is because the only way to see them is opening the door, and opening the door turns the light on.

It’s just a tiny fraction of time that the inner contents are bathed in light.  But it’s quite an important fraction, because it’s when we’re looking food that we see it this way.  We don’t actually care what it’s inside our refridgerator when we’re not looking for food.

There have been times that my own inner self has been just lit up.  This is where my poor, tortured metaphor falls apart.  Because the times I’m lit up is the opposite of the refridgerator.  It’s the times when nobody’s looking.


Opening Fridge
Opening Fridge (Photo credit: aplumb)


I have the greatest need to reach out when I’m in the most pain.  When people pitch in and help out with stuff, there is this natural focus on what they are doing, which is fufilling a need; the natural focus is on what we need, what we are lacking.

I want to affirm something, right now.  I want to proclaim this not just for myself, but for so many of us who walk through dark times.  There are some amazing people who have been with my family through this time.  But I want to cast a wider net than this.  Because, reader, if we’ve never met, if you’re somebody who hasn’t helped my specific little family, I bet you’ve helped some body.  Maybe you knew it.  Maybe it was just that you smiled to somebody who needed a smile or offered grace to an aquintance you hardly knew; maybe you’ll never know what that person was going through, but maybe your actions made all the difference anyway.

I don’t know about you, reader, but I know about me.  And if I were to be honest, I’d have to admit that sometimes, when others have gone through these tough times, I struggle with getting involved, and loving on them the way so many people have loved on me.  I’m learning that it’s only part laziness.  It’s actually some sort of stupid, maybe even Satanic, fear.  There is this voice in the back of my brain.  It tells me that tragedy is contagious.  It tells me that I can catch some one’s pain.

Jesus tells us that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the improsoned, we are clothing him, feeding him, visiting him.  I think this is what he is saying, that he is present in those circumstances.  And when we run from those circumstances, we are running from him.  I suspect if I had the audacity to tell him, “I don’t want to help that person because it will hurt.”  He wouldn’t deny that it’ll hurt.  I think he’d tell me to suck it up and accept the hurt.

And to the people who have supported me, and to the people who have been there for others  what I want to say is that people don’t call at 2 AM to announce that they are doing well.  But I hope you all know that there have been many 2 AM’s that I have been.  What I want to say is that when acts of kindness have simplified my life for me, the actual act is only a part of it.  It is the fact that you were willing to do it, the fact that you reminded me that you were there.  This lasts even when the dinner has been eaten, even after the dishes have been washed.

Moreover, please know that I see God in all this sometimes.  Sometimes I can feel something like thankfulness for this season in my life.  Because when I’m at my best, in the middle of all this suckiness, I see my faith deepened.

God manifests himself in this profound way through your actions.  He’s right there with me.  It’s partially that I’m reminded of how he provides.  But it’s more than that.  It’s more than a reminder.  It’s metaphysical.  It’s  that you incarnate him through your actions.

Scripture takes on this whole new dismention.  I read near the end of the book of John about how things in this life can be so sad, but in the next life we will rejoice.  And I grasp onto this with such a desperation, such an intensity, it brings color to all the pasages of the bible.

Prayer, too, becomes this thing infused with passion, desperation, and intensity.  I realize that in better times, my prayers are like a half-hearted conversation I have with my wife during a mediocre television show.  My prayers in the darker times, these are like an intense, heart-to-heart where we clear the air, or come to some new understanding.


There are people who say, “Do not pity me.” out of a sense of pride.  I have to admit I don’t mind being pitied.  But in this case, I say the same thing.  “Don’t pity me.”

But I’m not saying this out of pride.  I’m saying it because when I’m at my best, I realize that I’m right where I should be.  God is working through these circumstances just as he did through Joseph’s, just as he did through Job’s.

But… just for the record, though I’m not looking for your pity, it doesn’t mean I don’t want your sympathy, or your empathy, or your support.  You have offered these in abundance.  And I’m so thankful for that.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “The Tortured Metaphor of the Refridgerator Light”

  1. Jeff, this is a wonderful analogy, and an incredibly pure look inside us. This is truth that is true whether the refrigerator door is open and it’s bathed in light or when the door is closed… it is still true. Thank you for reminding me, and I am praying that as God is stretching you and giving you new revelation that you continue to seek him and in turn give it away to others.


  2. I’m sorry that I hadn’t followed your blog closely lately. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this time, whatever it is, but rejoice with you that your light is still there.


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