There is a song on Gungor’s “Ghosts Upon the Earth” album called “Wake Up, Sleeper”. It’s groovy, folkish, liturgical prog feel (as in what’s your favorite groovy, folk, liturgical prog band?) is interrupted about half way through by an electronic sounding baseline that seemingly doesn’t fit into the song. The first time I heard it, I was caught completely off guard. Not only was it unlike anything that Gungor had produced before it was almost as if I hadn’t really been listening to the song. But once the baseline kicked in I was alert to the song in a new way.
It took on new meaning. It took on new life. I felt an energy in the song that made me want to listen to nothing but this baseline ever again.
If it was an intentional attempt to have the music correspond with the theme of the song, it worked beautifully.
I only bring this up because I want to talk about porn (you didn’t see that coming did you?)
Or more broadly I want to talk about addiction, or the pain you’re carrying around with you right now as you eat breakfast. What ever you want to call it. We all have it.
And the reason you might not be aware of it is why that song had such an impact on me.
To explain a little let me tell you about an experience I had some time ago.
I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling trying to meditate. As I was breathing slowly and deeply I tried to concentrate on nothing but my body and the feeling of air filling my lungs and slowly leaving them.
It was going ok, so I asked God to allow me to feel something. To feel or be aware of some deep pain that I needed to address. I didn’t know what or how that would manifest but I have come to appreciate the unexpectedness to just arise and go wherever and however dark that may be.
Tonight though, nothing. It wasn’t happening. I felt nothing. I tried to continue breathing thinking that perhaps I had not allowed my mind to sufficiently rest and clear.
Another ten minutes or so and still, nothing.
I even began to call out some of the forces that I know have latched themselves onto some of the pain I have experienced in my life. Something that we don’t do nearly enough is remember the power and authority we have over forces that keep us closed and shut off from really feeling. (and that’s a blog for another time…do we believe we have the power of these things through Jesus…really?) I allowed myself to declare that they had no control over me and that they should piss right off. I told them to stay the fuck away. I tried to be as strong in my words as I could. I wasn’t messing around.
Still nothing. I desperately wanted to feel freedom. I couldn’t even describe what I felt as a numbness. It was simply nothing.
I felt an almost overwhelming urge to masturbate and look at porn. This was nothing new except it was completely different.
Because for the first time in a while I wasn’t just experiencing the normal temptations that I had grown used to but I was aware of why I was wanting to medicate.
I was, as my friend Seth describes it, becoming more conscious. I was becoming more aware of why I wanted to look at porn so often.
If you’ve ever been addicted to something you will know that one of the prominent features is that you sometimes feel like you just can’t help yourself. You swear one day that you are done and that today is the start of something new and fresh for you. Then the next night you are back where you have found yourself a million times before.
When you reach the point where you become more aware of yourself, of the pain that you are carrying and how it has manifested itself in your life you are more able to bring that stuff to light and face it without fear.
This is what I realized then. I had been trying in vain for twenty minutes or so to feel God’s presence but when I felt nothing I felt lonely and isolated and uncared for and vulnerable and that pain was arising within me quickly, so I began in my mind to turn my attention to the one way that I had become so used to dealing with those feelings in my life.
In many ways this was something that had happened to me a thousand nights before but tonight was different in that for the first time I was aware in a new transformative way that would change everything, what was happening.
I was not unaware of what was happening. I was aware. I was not unconscious. I was conscious. I was in bed but I was awake.
Is it possible, for us to be fully aware of where the pain in our life resides, we need to let it be real and actually feel it? (who’d have thought, eh?)
And even more mind blowing, to experience God’s true healing spirit and love, do we sometimes need to experience His absence?
This is why there are hundreds of books out there that help us get closer to God or show us how to follow a month long plan to reveal God’s purpose for us, or books about how if we just think a little more positively, things will turn out alright in the end. This is why so often we treat the Bible as nothing but a ‘Christian’ manual. We are aware somewhere deep down that we are in pain (mmm time for a new definition of sin?) and it doesn’t feel good. So we come up with ideas that only focus on escaping this world and all the pain it causes, instead of maybe seeing that the key to freedom from tyranny, globally or from that which we all contain inside of ourselves, is not a blind escape from pain and sin, but the fully facing, taking no shit from it anymore, looking squarely it in the eye, awareness of it?
For so many of us, we never feel that peace. We never feel that comfort. It’s all numbness or worse still, nothing.
Because we don’t want to feel it.
But what if we did feel it? What if we took seriously Jesus’ words about it being finished? What if for once we didn’t try and filter or edit the experiences we have gone through in our lives remembering that everything has a place in teaching us something about us that may bring hope and life?
Maybe you are experiencing a pain in your life like nothing you have ever felt before?
Maybe you only see a black hole in front of you?
Maybe there is something down there that is frightening to you but maybe it is ain’t as scary as you think.
What if we followed those paths to their end? What if we embraced the darkness and the silence.
Because maybe there, is where the brightest light is waiting.