My Internal Landscape

Sometimes, you can stare at things for a long time, and suddenly realize that some hidden image has been sitting patiently and waiting for you to notice it.  Some of Salvadore Dali’s art is this way.  And also lots of optical illusions.  And they say that those annoying 3-d images, if you squint long enough, that a picture pops out of them eventually, too.  (For the record, I am not sure I believe in that last one.  It has never ever worked for me.)


My internal landscape is like this.  Things sit and wait for me to discover them.  Sometimes, it is a connection I never saw before.  Other times it is a feeling I was busy pretending I didn’t have…  Joy at something sad, sadness at something happy, guilt at something I earned.

I recently had this kind-of realization about my pain.  I was quite shocked to discover that I was upset at others when they did not take responsibility for fixing my hurt.  I told myself what I wanted was empathy from the people who love me.  Because asking for empathy from the people who love me is a pretty reasonable request.  In fact, if somebody didn’t have empathy for me, it would be fair to ask if they loved me at all.

In fact, what I have wanted is something much more.  I wanted others to make it thier own mission to fix me.  As I realized this, I realized something else, kind of interesting:  apparently, to some part of me, a pain-free Jeff is a good Jeff…  even a fixed Jeff.

As I came to this understanding, I realized something about my feelings.  And also, I think, I realized something about your feelings.  (Perhaps you’re a bit wiser than me and have already worked this out.)

It’s not pleasant to experience pain: sadness, mourning, depression.  There is a reason that these are all connected with a condition they call the dark night of the soul.

Yet…  they have a place.

They are guides.   Emotions, perhaps especially the unpleasant ones, are direct lines to our inner landscape.  There is no other way, I think, to get a status report from the very deepest part of us.

If others had some magic word that would take my pain away, they would be robbing me of something so important.  As I spent all this time wishing the pain away, I could have been exploring it, and I think I would have been made better, and wiser because of it.

Today is Thanksgiving.  And so I guess the thing I am saying is that I am going to work on thanfullness for the pain.


There is so much more that ought to be said here, and I think I will be posting some of that in the near future.  But I feel like I ought to follow up with a caveat.

Sometimes depression, sadness, and mourning want to become the captain of the ship.  These things don’t harm us directly; they are like an immune deficiency, that paves the way for other things which very much do hurt us. Prayer, Support from friends and professionals, and medication are incredibly important methods to recover this balance, at the times that feelings want to stage a mutiny and become the captain of our ship.



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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.

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