A Random Hump Night Thought

I mean hump night because today is Wednesday which is halfway through the week, thus earning it the name “hump day” because it’s all downhill once you get over the hump. Just in case you were thinking about that thing your dog does to visitors.

At any rate, I just wanted to share a random thought with y’all. Don’t worry, my random thoughts are more interesting than most. If not, I figure they’re still worth reading for the bad jokes I have the gall to write on my Christian blog if nothing else. So, here’s my random thought for tonight:

Did you know that researchers sometimes stumble on these weird connections between the language people speak and some quirk in their thinking which can have disasterous outcomes?

For example, in most languages, a broken bone is something that happens, not something you do. So you would say, “my arm got broken.” But most English speakers say, “I broke my arm.” This would make no sense in most of the world; a sane person wouldn’t deliberately break their own arm! But in America, we regularly speak this way. If you take a minute, you can think of other examples. “In crashed my car”, “I lost my job”, “I let the dog get out”, etc.

Which makes me wonder if this isn’t part of what makes America such a blaming culture. Why we have to sue everyone when something bad happens. Why we reflexively blame people for their own misfortune. Because there’s this quirk built into our language which subconciously teaches us that things don’t just happen; some one always has to be responsible. Even if that someone is you right when your arm got broken in an accident.

Another example is found in countries with high savings rates. Many of us struggle to save or really to plan well for our future at all. But there are a few countries like China and Finland where people sometimes save too much. It turns out that in countries where people are savers, there is no such thing as past, preasent or future tense in their languages. They use the same verb tense and rely on context to convey whether you are talking about past, present or future events.

Economists theorize that in languages where we shift into future tense whenever we speak of the future, it teaches us to think of the future as something which is different than the present. In languages where the present is spoken of no differently than the future, the fact that the future is most likely going to be very much like the present is obvious. It makes the benefit of saving for a better future seem like the obvious thing to do. Thus, this higher savings rate in countrie where the language has this quirk.

And then there are those quirks of language which reveal a truth which we all know, but would never say out loud. Like the German word scheudenfreude which means to take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. Or my favorite; the Japanese have over a dozen different ways of saying thank you. And it is said that all of them convey varying degrees of resentment between the parties. And isn’t that the truth?

Ahhh . . . .language. Just what you needed to finish your hump day off right, Although perhaps you have a better way of ending it . . . 😉

Illuminating the Dark

I was in the midst of a fit of enraged blasphemy when I had my first real encounter with God. And do you know what happened? Well, I wasn’t rebuked. I wasn’t chastised or condemned. I wasn’t told to get my act together and fly right. All that happened was that God made his love known. Right there in the middle of my hateful ranting. The Light shone into the darkness and the darkness was overcome. I’ve been following God where ever he wanted to lead me ever since.*

My dark side didn’t go away after that encounter. Far from it. As I told a friend recently, I think I’ve been angry with God nearly every day that I’ve walked with him. I have been known to complain almost as frequently and melodramatically as the psalmists and prophets. My first step in forgiving is usually asking God to help me to even want to begin to want to forgive. For many years, I was a proficient liar. I have asked God to do unholy, destructive things to people for my benefit.

And that’s just the heavily edited list of the things I do and think from my dark side. There’s a whole other realm of things which I know I am capable of which I have chosen not to do. I know for a fact that I have it in me to kill a person. And not feel bad about it. I don’t doubt that I could become a sexual deviant and engage in all sorts of scandalous activities with all sorts of people. I don’t think I have it in me to be a criminal for financial gain. But that’s mostly because I’m kind of lazy and it’s too much work. But I do have it in me to be a horrendous mother who lashes out at her kids physically and emotionally – when not ignoring them – and tells them it’s all their own fault.

Are you scandalized? You shouldn’t be. I’m quite certain you have it in you to do some pretty awful things as well. We all do.

The way I see it, there are three basic options for dealing with our dark side. You can deny, suppress and ignore it. Which as we’ve been talking about the last few days, is what Jesus criticized the religious leaders of his day for doing – play acting at being good when really they were white-washed tombs with all that dark stuff rotting away inside.

Or you can justify the dark side that shows through. Pretend it’s not really the dark. You can explain how greed is good, your white hot temper is justified by the stupidity around you, your inflexibility is just standing up for what you believe in, everyone does it. But then you’re just an asshole.

Or you can own it and bring your dark side into the light. Which would be the path Jesus recommends.

Many people are afraid to bring their dark side to God because they are sure they will be condemned for it. They are afraid that they will be expected to fix it or get rid of it. Which just sets us up for failure and more condemnation. And, secretly we’re kind of attached to it. We’re not so sure we want God removing this part of ourselves. As anyone who has watched Star Wars knows, there’s power in the dark side.

But bringing your dark side into the light isn’t about condemnation or striving to be good or giving up part of yourself. It’s about becoming who God created you to be. Which is another way of saying redemption. God doesn’t want to get rid of your dark side. He wants to redeem it. Transform it from something dark and scary into something powerful and life-giving. Imagine that.

Consider what light does – it illuminates what it shines on. So it allows us to see things clearly. When Jesus talks about what is done in the dark being brought into the light, it is usually in the context of judgement. We often think of judgment as a frightful thing we dread as much as we dread our dark side. But judgment is simply revealing the truth of what is being judged.

In other words, it is what happens when we can see things clearly. It’s more like putting in a light bulb and discovering that there are cobwebs all around the ceiling you hadn’t seen before than being sentenced for a crime. Judgment is for illumination, not condemnation.

So, we bring our dark side into the light and it gets illuminated. We can see what we’re looking at more clearly. And we’ll see it in the light of Love. Things look very different in the light of love than in the darkness of condemnation.

For example, in the darkness of condemnation, we look at our raging anger and see failure, a lack of self-control, patience and kindness. Bad, bad and more bad. In the light of love we look at anger and see fear which God wants to free us from, hurt which God wants to heal us of and fierceness which God has equipped us with.

In fact, pretty well every time you bring our dark side into God’s holy light, you will discover those three things at work: fear to be freed from, hurt to be healed of and power God has given you to live from. Which is why the enemy has worked so hard to keep us convinced that we must hide our darkness. It’s where our power hides. If we start working out of that power instead of out of our fear and hurt, all heaven might break loose.

Next, we’ll look at our role as light in the world. . . .stay tuned!

*I tell the full story of how I met God while engaged in an enraged fit of blasphemy in my first book The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress. Which you should go buy. Right now. Please and thank you. 🙂

Facing Our Dark Side

Yesterday I wrote about how denying and suppressing our dark side turns us into hypocrites in the ancient Greek sense – ie play-actors at life. Using Godly actions to cover and suppress our dark side turns us into white-washed graves. This was the problem which Jesus criticized the religious rulers of his day for.

Today, I want to discuss why we don’t have to be afraid of our dark side. Some of you will strongly disagree with what I’m going to say, but that’s OK. Take it or leave it as you see fit. But there’s life here for those who are willing to listen and consider it.

To understand why we don’t need to be afraid of our dark side, we need to go back to the beginning. Christians have generally taught that prior to the fall, man was perfect. In fact, our dark side is usually seen as the result of the fall – evidence of what is wrong with us. But the text itself doesn’t support this idea.

In Genesis 3, we find Adam and Eve hanging out by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent approaches and asks, “did God really say that you cannot eat of the fruit of the garden?” Eve replies that it’s only the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which they are not allowed to eat. And then she adds: “nor may we touch it.” Which isn’t true.

God hadn’t forbidden touching the fruit, only eating it. Eve has just told a lie. Which means that even prior to the fall, man was not perfect as we conceive of perfect. Our dark side was part of us from the beginning. And yet God said man was “very good”, was pleased with his creation and willing to walk in the garden with them “in the cool of the evening”.

This may seem like an awful lot to read into this small detail in the story. However, look at the world around us. It’s not all sunshine and light. There’s decay and violence at every level of creation. And far from making creation bad, life and its goodness actually rely on these dark processes as well as the light ones to function properly. We are a part of creation and not immune from this reality.

Our dark side doesn’t make us bad or unacceptable to God. It’s part of being human. Trying to hide, deny and suppress it is damaging because it’s basically waging war on how God has created us. And presumably he created us that way for a good reason.

Let’s go back to the story of man’s creation and fall. The text makes a point of saying that the man and woman were naked and “they were not ashamed”. I have often wondered what this nakedness represents. Certainly there are sexual overtones. And there’s a lack of self-consciousness. But I’ve begun to think that it also represents humanity being wholly exposed – not hiding or covering any part of who they are. Including our dark side.

When we ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, our first reaction was to realize that we were exposed – our dark parts were showing – and start trying to hide them. The text says that “their eyes were opened” when they ate the fruit. Which would mean that they were suddenly able to perceive what had been invisible to them before.

Perhaps, having only encountered approval up until now, they had been unaware of their own dark side. Maybe they had never considered that some of their ways – such as lying – could be seen as wrong before eating the fruit. Or they may have been unaware that those parts were exposed for all to see. It could be all three.

We see from Adam and Eve’s behavior that not allowing God to see them suddenly became a paramount concern. Covering our bodies doesn’t make them go away, of course. But it does restrict who can see or perceive them. And we were determined to keep God from perceiving them.* 

So, we’ve been engaging in this game of trying to cover and hide those parts of ourselves we think are unacceptable for a very long time. Clearly, this hasn’t made our dark side go away. And if our dark side is part of who we are created to be, making it go away shouldn’t be our goal anyways.

On the other hand, giving control of ourselves over to our darkest impulses isn’t acceptable either. In nature, death, decay and deformity unbounded by the forces of life and regeneration can stop the proper functioning of creation. It’s no different with us.

But what Jesus says is that the dark must be brought into the light. Since the fall, we have sought to hide the dark from the light. We don’t want it exposed. But this is exactly what Jesus says must happen.

For us, this means we must be honest. We have to stop hiding the fact that we do have these dark impulses. That we desire revenge, unbounded pleasure, slothful ease and, always, an easy way around our problems. Rather than hiding or denying them, we must pull them out and bring them to God. Bring them to the light of the world.

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:5

In my next post, we’ll look at what happens when you bring your darkness into the light. And how lighting our lamps helps bring light to other people’s dark sides as well.

*There’s an interesting discussion to be had regarding the roots of religion in the story of Adam and Eve’s coverings – first the ones they fashioned for themselves and then the animal skins God provided them. But that’s beyond the scope of this discussion, so I’ll leave that for another time.

Other posts of interest:

Why Was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden?

The Fall Wasn’t Our Fault

I Asked God to Hit My Husband With a Bus.

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