Monday, October 20, 2008

Chutes and Ladders

Last Thursday I woke up down in the dumps, filled with a sense of futility, frustration, apathy. I didn't know why. This has been happening relatively often over the last few months. I go to bed fine, and wake up depressed. Once I get up and get working it tends to go away, but sometimes when I get ready to start writing, it comes back...

As I lay there asking God why I was feeling this way and what was wrong, He drew my attention to the dreams I have been having. I don't often remember my dreams, but lately I had been, and they were all the same: I was trying to go somewhere and/or do something and being hindered, pulled away, obstructed, distracted. I never managed to get to where I was going or do what I was trying to do before I woke up.

There are many things in my life I would like to change and cannot, and some of that is probably reflected in the dreams. I read about a dream study once that suggested we have several different types of dreams that can determine our mood when we wake up. In one type, we wrestle with a problem and finally solve it. In that case we wake up feeling good. In another type, we just cycle through the same situation (which may or may not bear resemblence to our conscious problems), never solving it. In which case we wake up feeling down.

Well, the latter seemed to apply to me. Obviously I wasn't having dreams of any kind of resolution. But I thought I had handled the frustrations and obstacles that were so often cropping up to hinder my day. Why, then, was I still having the dreams that go nowhere, and waking up depressed?

The Holy Spirit suggested to me that dreams come out of the subconscious, and thus, somewhere in my subconscious I had this viewpoint that there should be no obstacles or hindrances in life. That those were all "wrongs" that needed to be made right. A "right" life was one that had no problems, obstacles or hindrances.

Well, I knew right off that was ridiculous, especially for a Christian. The Bible teaches the exact opposite. We are going to suffer, it's been appointed to us to suffer for His name's sake. We do it for our growth, blessing, perfection, and to bring glory to God.

At that point I was reminded of the children's game Chutes and Ladders. The chutes are designed to be there. You are supposed to go down them. Yes, it's a setback, but without them, the game would be boring. The problem is that when I played Chutes and Ladders, my focus was so strongly on the goal of winning, that the chutes were not fun parts of the game. They didn't seem to me even to be necessary parts of the game, but rather great threats that had to be avoided. It was a "terrible" thing if you happened to land on a square that sent you sliding back down to another row.

I had the same underlying approach to life. I wasn't really seeing the obstacles and hindrances and frustrations as an integral part of the plan. Instead, they were "wrong," something outside the plan that needed to be avoided or "fixed." But we know that all things work for good to those who love God. All things. We're constantly being delivered over to death for His sake.

The obstacles are not things that keep us from getting anywhere, they are the things that actually take us where God is trying to take us. To conform us to His image. We should embrace them, not look at them as things designed to keep us back, or down, even though they might be implemented by the Kingdom of Darkness for this purpose, or though the people sent by that same kingdom might have this desire. Regardless, it's God who's allowed it. Not to keep us down, but to conform us to the image of His Son, and to bring us to new life.

I barely had time to jot down the above notes about this new understanding, before I had to go about my day. But I was more relaxed, throughout and The Enclave was (and is) really starting to move.

That evening (Thursday) I had the ordeal of preparing for the colonoscopy then the procedure itself on Friday, which left me loopy and very tired so I had no time to write my thoughts out. I even missed my usual Friday night message and didn't listen to it until Saturday. But when I did...


You know those pictures where someone opens a door and a violent wind and light rushes out at them, almost knocking them over? That's what it was like. It addressed the very things I'd started thinking about on Thursday, and tens of other questions and issues I'd been struggling with over the last few weeks and months. An amazing message. I took 8 double-sided sheets of paper worth of notes, stopping the recording every few seconds to get the whole thought noted. Then I went back and highlighted the "really good" parts. That was nearly the entire eight pages.

The link is here, if you want to hear it. In the upper right corner are options to watch it as video, download the video, listen to audio with class notes, or download the audio. It's 90 minutes long (there's a 10 minute break in the middle which you can let run or fast forward through). I know there's been a lot of groundwork laid for this material over the last few months so it probably won't have the impact for everyone the way it did for me, but I was just... set free.