Internal and External Projections
In this week since moving back to the West Coast, I’ve noticed that people are a lot more free with their personal style than in the D.C. metro area. I’ve seen surfer hair cuts I haven’t seen since high-school, and there are more tatoos per-capita than cat owners. A respectable guy with blue hair and a neon pink skate board just sailed by me. Which makes me wonder (as I sit here in a donated-to-me dress that doesn’t fit my personality at all) is his style truly representing him?
Although I usually feel like I represent the inside of myself on the outside well, physical appearances aside, I know I lie to myself in many other ways that I project externally. I think we all usually try to put our best-foot forward, or at least defend ourselves as being good. But it is all too easy to be ignorant of our own self-deceit, which is why the worst of the worst–murderers, adulterers, rapists–can claim they are doing nothing wrong. I am pretty sure we would all find out that we are all the worst of the worst, too, If we could just live with our doppelganger for a week.
For most advocates and do-gooders, our own heart issues can seem irrelevant, always on the back-burner. We already pride ourselves in making the world a better place. Chronically, our external focus overshadows the internal work that needs to be addressed.
Interacting With Pet She Monster
Having traveled the country with three little kids on my own for a month, even though I saw people often, staying with them too, I wasn’t confronted too much with my own nature and truths (or my Pet She Monster, as I prefer to call her). You see, I still got to make the decisions and do what I wanted.
I was boss.
Sometimes, in the moments of silence when everyone in the back of the van was asleep and my audiobook got boring, I was confronted with reality.
That I was scared. That I was alone. That I wasn’t sure I would make it, or that we would make it back in California.
But most of the time I could ignore this, being a skilled practitioner of self-deceit. The monster of what was really luring in my heart might rear its head, but instead of slaying it, I would let it get all cozy again under the blankets and fluff of my internal organs.
Then I got here and I wasn’t the boss anymore–you see, normally I share that whole planning and house-space thing and just life in general with my husband. After a month of being a single mom, this has been a hard adjustment to break back into this week. It is like pulling out new leather flip-flops from a winter box and wearing them for four days straight until, well, forever.
Maybe my true-to-myself personal style analogy doesn’t’ work for everyone, but the point is it takes time and it is uncomfortable adjustment.
So Pet She Monster rises-up again, not willing to surrender, full of denial and crooked motives. Sigh. For most of a month I was blissfully dismissing Pet She Monster’s existence. That was nice. For a little while, at least.
How often would you say you are honest with yourself? 80% of the time? 60%? 15%? At some point we either have to confront the truth of who we are and what we feel, all the lies, heartache and what-nots, or we just live a shell of a life.
Advocates are the best at self-deceit, as they are already professionals at self-denial. They can serve and serve, and be busy overlooking themselves forever. They don’t like to take honest looks at their pet monsters. They are better at freeing others than themselves.
Elisha & A Bloody Intervention
Today I read a story of a guy named Elisha, who is cool because his name is a mix between mine (Elisa) and my son Elijah’s. This guy was a freakin’ rockstar and a little bit scary. But in 2 Kings 3 (read it here) he is invited into the middle of a messy situation to speak on behalf of the God.
Apparently three different kings got together with their armies to quelch something akin to the beginnings or a revolution, as some Moabites didn’t want to pay their dues. Honestly, I don’t really blame them, but I don’t the backstory.
It didn’t sound very thought-through, this attack. So, seven days into the journey the kings realize they ran out of water, which is very unfortunate as they need that to stay alive. And of course, they blame this on God with the classic “WHY DID HE LEAD US HERE JUST TO DIE!?” (as if God led them there in the first place).
But for all I know maybe God did, or at least He decided to take a crappy situation and make a cool story out of it. Despite Elisha’s initial insistence that he was only bothering because one of the kings was a good guy, Elisha jumped in anyway. He consulted God via some fancy harp music, and declared that God was about to do something completely far-fetched to quench their thirst–namely, completely overflow their valley/plain/wherever they were with water without any semblance of a rainstorm or usual “watering of the earth” means. And of course, God would also help them defeat their enemy (although my fallible judgement assumes that two of the kings and likely the armies were probably all just scumbags).
So the next day, just as declared, the three kings and their armies were drenched with life-giving water. And, incidentally, the Moabites very wrongly assumed this same water, reddened by the sun, was blood leftover from these armies slaughtering one another. Really, they should have thought that through better, because once they got there the poor Moabites realized these armies were all very much alive, and the Moabites were then slaughtered in the red glow coming off the water. (There was also some other weird stuff, like the Moabite king sacrificing his son, so don’t feel totally sorry for the Moabites.)
I am not so sure what I think about all this army-stuff and slaughtering eachother-ness. But what I am a little more sure about is that God intervened in a situation that he didn’t have to intervene in, just for the sake of the ones He made a covenant with–his people, monsterish as they might be. And I am guessing God was probably also making himself known to the Moabites too, as God typically did, inviting other nations into a relationship with him via his covenant with the Hebrews (although I am not sure how easy it would be for the Moabites to immediately get out-of-dodge, with all the blood-lust going around).
But, back to the point, God intervened and he didn’t have to.
The devotional I had read, highlighting this story, pointed out that God was actually invited to act before he did act. And just maybe he would also intervene with “living water” in our lives if we invited him to, despite our pet monsters and who we are, but just because of our relationship with him.
Does God Intervene?
So, going back to being honest with myself: When was the last time I asked God to intervene in my life? It was probably when I almost ran out of gas in the West Texas oil fields last week. That was right before I almost hit a cow in the middle of nowhere. True story. And before that, it was when I had strep throat and no insurance coverage while in Dallas. And before that, it was other travel woes, personal conflicts, or moving trouble and other external situations.
Did God have to act on my behalf? No. Did I deserve it? No. And did God actually intervene? I like to think he did on the external side–he could–but I don’t really know. I did survive each situation, recognizing that God loved me regardless of the outcome and what I wanted. And for that alone–the grace to get through those situations that were scary for me–that was and is enough intervention for me to be grateful for.
Those things I wanted God’s intervention in, those were on the outside, like the respectable local boy’s blue hair and neon pink skateboard. But the crux is asking for intervention with the pet monsters, all that hurt and denial on the inside. I am currently facing less urgent, but much deeper fears–those silent ones hidden from this past month–requiring me to honestly confront Pet She Monster.
So, as I see it there are two options to choose from:
- Continue lying to myself about my Pet She Monster
- Ask God for intervention even though he doesn’t have to respond and slay my dragons
Advocating for the Do-Gooder
I don’t know if you believe in the whole God thing, and I know I don’t always talk so blatantly about God on this advocacy blog. But even recovery groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous start by bringing addicts to a place where they recognize they have a problem, and need something bigger than themselves to confront it.
In a way, many of us advocates need our own recovery from an addiction to doing, or even loving in our own strength past our capabilities. We do things so much that we burn-out, just in order to help others, thereby giving ourselves a meaningful life. We might be doing good and changing the world on the outside, but so often we are dying on the inside.
You are important too, advocate. You are just as valuable as those in extreme poverty, who are sex trafficked, who are oppressed for their race or religion. In this post I am advocating on your behalf, hoping you won’t dry-out, fizzle, and/or explode. You need someone to love you too. Thankfully, someone much bigger and better than me does love you (and I’m trying).
So let’s be honest with ourselves, stop this self-deceit and look for soul-healing. We need help just as much on the inside as those on the outside we have advocated so many times on behalf of.
Together, with God’s intervention, let’s begin to slay the monster.