Paraphrasing a real-life conversation from some years ago:
Me: “My life is a mess, I can’t remember the last time I was happy, and I hate myself.”
Spiritual Guide: “What do you want?”
Me: “Peace! Serenity!!” (When do we want it? NOW!)
Spiritual Guide: “How much serenity do you want?”
Spiritual Guide: “If peace is your goal, what are you willing to give up for it?”
Spiritual Guide: “Think about it.”
Me: “I want all the peace I can get! Have you been listening?”
Spiritual Guide: “And that is all you will receive. Peace and happiness are byproducts of how we choose to live.”
Me: “What a crock of….”
Spiritual Guide: “You have much to learn, Grasshopper.”
Geographically speaking, I have lived in North Texas, USA the last 17 years. In every other respect, I’ve spent most of my life like a spiritual nomad; wandering alone from one desert to another, searching for the thing(s) I thought would bring peace. I figured peace was an elusive thing you had to sneak up and pounce on… in a most unpeaceful-like way. You can imagine my surprise when I found out Peace had been walking beside me the whole time. Turns out I wasn’t a nomad… I had been living in the same place for most of my life: smack dab in the middle of the overcrowded State of Denial.
We have many quips and nicknames for “denial”: Being the “queen of denial”, “Drowning in the river in Egypt”, “Living in denial”, “Ostrich-mentality”. Denial, though, is a life-threatening condition. One might say it is an “eternal life-threatening” condition.
“Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” John 9
God has been showing me that I have been trying to control my roller-coaster life: the stressful situations, the imagined comfort level, the spiritual status quo for too long. Recently I’ve been drawn to new levels of busyness, stress, drama, expectations, strain, exhaustion. I don’t think I’ve gotten better at keeping all the plates spinning but there has been some small improvement to freaking out when they crash to the floor. Let go, Let God.
The root of my troubles (how my pet sin manifests) is tracked back to a simple and common character flaw: I want to be liked. I want people to think I’m freaking awesome. A really good day would be pats-on-the-back, a standing ovation, perhaps a cheerleader pyramid. Is that too much to ask? Let’s get real: that is not really what is driving my choices, is it? In truth, I want to be worshipped. Ouch.
Denial gets a bum rap, I think. There should be something like the Olympics for the citizens of the State of Denial. The ultimate champion each year would probably be an addict or politician (or both?). Denial, like everything else, must be diligently practiced for one to achieve great success in it. Some have invested decades of daily practice and ritual to achieve celebrity status. I gotta tell you… it’s hard work.
But denial thrives in the darkness, and that’s a bad way to go.
Jesus said, “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
John added, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
The State of Denial may provide illusion of comfort but at the center of it is death of all that is good and right.
I am ashamed of some of my behavior lately. I have been an unfriendly driver on the road, an inattentive friend, the town crier of self-pity. I am more ashamed of my thoughts: some things I think but dare not speak out loud. Where does this nonsense come from? Ah…from my heart. My greatest shame is my heart: the source of pride and ego and arrogance, and this ridiculous insistence of being worshipped.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
My God, my Father… I am truly sorry. I repent. Deliver my impure heart from this cesspool of selfishness.
And I found Peace.