Deep Waters

I remember a time in my existential journey when I was being drawn back to God, to Christ, compelled in ways that were beyond me. I had divorced myself from the Christendom I had known so severely that there was no going back to the same situation. This time it had to be different for me and me for it. Every step closer to God unsettles types like me. Whether drawn or pushed, we go one step at a time, knock-kneed the whole way.

The push and tug gave way to a dual personality I was blind to for a long time. Around believers I was the antagonist and around those not so inclined to believe, I was the protagonist.

I bought a book called “The Myth of Certainty” at a local Christian bookstore and smiled with glee as the baby powder smelling cashier frowned, “Well, now, THAT’s an interesting title.” Around church people I’d drop language just coarse enough to rough up some feathers. I’d extol the virtues of doubt around people who call it the opposite of faith. I’d confess my deepest, scariest doubts firmly enough to elicit fear for my eternal soul. It was as if, in some sick way, I could rest what faith I had on their heads then argue with it, giving me room to be more a doubter than I really was. Whenever caught in a conversation about God with non-believers I’d suddenly take the stance of a believer. Things didn’t get better for me till I realized I was not being my true self to anyone at all.

“The purpose of a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” Proverbs 20:5.

Some of being comfortable in your skin is being ok with knowing you don’t know why you do the things you do. Still, we need help now and then. That proverb used to depress me. If I was only wise and understanding enough to draw out my motivations from the murky depths then I’d be better, I thought. And what about all the people who will never be wise enough to understand themselves? A poor lot we are. Now I see two people in that proverb. It says to me, hey, when you don’t understand what’s going on inside hit up a wise, understanding friend.

“Garbage in, garbage out.” It’s a saying from early computing days. I haven’t studied psychology past the 9th grade but I’ve been around the block enough times to see that humans are inclined to do this crazy thing. We ask for help, for a listening ear, for advice, wisdom, or God just anything because we hurt. We find a sympathetic victim and feed them one side of a story. We suddenly suffer involuntary embellishment syndrome and, occasionally, uncontrollable verbal diarrhea. Sometimes it’s so they will validate our fears and anger, “I just KNEW I was right!” Or our deluded hopes, “I TOTALLY knew I was right.” Sometimes we feed them the half we want to argue with so we can walk away, “Pshh… They are so full of crap and I am so okay.” and carry on in a comfortable neurosis. It’s like talking to a computer, not a person. We feed it garbage to get the garbage we’re looking for. I know. I’ve done this.

I’ve learned a lot about honesty. Honesty is not just candor or bluntness. Anyone can blurt. There is a sweeter flavor of honesty. You see it in the self-aware, awakened person who is suddenly charming for saying not just what they feel but also, “and what that says about me is that I am…” afraid, angry, threatened, or anything else hard to admit.

A wonderful thing happens when you tell an understanding friend the whole story, the bad feelings and some of the good feelings too, the things you hate and maybe a thing or two you actually love, the things you’re afraid might come true and a thing or two that you really hope for. You end up feeling like you’ve talked with a genuine person, someone you appreciate because they are able to help you pull a few gems from the muddy depths. Ironically, it’s because you were the genuine one to start with.

May God increase our capacity to be honest and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.