Random Blog Clay Feet: July 12, 2008
Feel free to leave your own comments or questions. If you would like to be in contact with me without having it published let me know in your comment and leave your email address and I will not publish that comment.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Positive Pressure

As I walked out of Wal-Mart yesterday I noticed that I couldn't feel the hot air outside until I had cleared the outer set of doors. Knowing how air systems typically are designed in commercial buildings like that I realized that this was because they keep the inside of the building so full of cool air that it has a little bit more pressure than the hot air outside to keep that warmer air from coming in. It is called positive air pressure and works very well to keep both buildings and even coolers from getting too warm in the summer or even too cold in the winter. It means that when you enter the building you immediately feel the temperature of the inside without much mixing of the air going on around the doorways.

But as I thought about this neat little trick that designers use to keep our bodies more comfortable while we spend our money on someone else's products, it occurred to me that my own soul is very much like that building. Depending on the attitudes and choices and self-perception that make up the atmosphere I have in my soul building will determine very much how I relate to other people around me.

I sense that sometimes I feel like maybe I have something more like negative air pressure inside of me emotionally instead of positive pressure. Negative pressure is usually referred to as vacuum. A vacuum acts very much like a dry sponge that tends to soak up moisture that it comes in contact with instead of oozing out liquid as when it is full. A vacuum condition, or negative air pressure inside of a building will draw in the atmosphere from outside whenever the doors or windows are opened and that incoming atmosphere will influence whatever is already inside the building. If it is very cold outside the incoming air will cool off the room or building below what it already is. And of course the opposite is true; if the weather is very hot and humid outside the building will begin to heat up and feel muggy inside causing much more work for the air conditioning systems.

As I continued to think about this for awhile after leaving the building I realized that this helps explain some of my dysfunctional problems with some of the people in my life at various times. When I feel emotionally empty inside in some way, when I feel an emotional craving or need that is not filled or satisfied, the natural tendency is to begin to look to someone or even some activity as a source to satisfy my desires. This is simply part of being human, how our brains are wired to operate. We are designed to have desires that need to be fulfilled and one of the most important tasks of childhood is to prepare us for moving on in maturity by learning about what truly satisfies.

Failure to learn what appropriately satisfies our needs and desires is one of the most common and basic problems in the world. Because we are so often turning to the wrong sources to find satisfaction we never really find what we are looking for but we often find something we think may do. What we usually find is something more along the lines of pleasure or something that inflates our pride (or even other more physical things like our body). Eating is a very typical outlet for cravings that has its obvious unhealthy affects on our lives. Drugs, sex, alcohol, pornography, intellectual prowess, religion in many forms, entertainment, star and model worship, social power – the list is really endless. And while not everything we turn to for satisfaction may be bad in and of itself, they are many times not the appropriate thing that addresses the need we are trying to satisfy and they thus become something of a false god for us, albeit unconsciously.

There is nothing inherently wrong even with having a sense of vacuum inside of our hearts emotionally any more than it is wrong to get physically hungry. Hunger actually is a blessing at times as it helps us become more acutely aware of flavors that we might not notice otherwise and our appreciation of food can be sharpened. But the real problem lies in when we fail to recognize the correct “food” for the specific hunger or craving that we are experiencing and instead try to address it with something else.

Those of us who grew up with a great deal of missing ingredients in our emotional life (which includes all of us to some degree or other) have some very long-term hungers that have never known much satisfaction to the degree that we sense we need. Anyone who did not receive enough unconditional love as a child or who didn't receive affirmation and repeated confirmation of their intrinsic value in the eyes of those who represented God in their young minds will have a deep reservoir of emptiness that cannot be filled with the platitudes of religious cliché's or artificial accolades from achievements or performance. They will likely find themselves struggling all their lives to discover those missing ingredients that will fill that gnawing hunger inside to feel valued and loved and worthwhile. They may try to deny it or avoid it or suppress it or even exploit it in others, but deep inside every person craves to be valued by someone else who is a significant person in their life.

Scientists have recently discovered through the latest technologies of brain science scans and research that the most important thing that every baby needs and craves above anything else is to be the sparkle in someone's eyes, to be cherished and valued by someone who is significant to them. They have even gone so far as to label this experience of being desired and cherished and loved by someone “joy”.

Joy, according to the neurology cravings in the brain, is when someone is genuinely happy to be with you no matter what the circumstances are or what your emotional condition may be. Joy is the most intense need of the human soul and this need is never outgrown. All through our lives we continue to crave and seek for someone who is willing to be glad to be with us, even in our dysfunctional moments, maybe even especially in those times. Because we know deep inside that if someone is really willing and even wants to be with us in our worst times they will certainly also be glad to be with us in our better times.

But when we grow up in a joy-starved environment our heart will continue to grope for anything that seems to address and reduce the deep pain and emptiness that we feel inside. This is the main driving force behind most addictions. This is what drives the whole porn industry and what causes most of the immorality that goes on in our world. We are all looking for someone to satisfy our deep cravings for someone to be glad to be with us and will even settle for people pretending to wanting to be with us if necessary. Sometimes people are even willing to pay people to pretend to be glad to be with them in various ways, but this only deepens our cravings in the end instead of satisfying them.

What is going on here is that we have a vacuum condition in our heart and we are opening doors or windows to various sources that in turn infect us with all sorts of contaminating influences that only aggravate our brokenness and intensify our sense of longing. This can happen in obvious ways like adultery or abuse or it can often happen in very subtle ways that are very socially acceptable. But the eternal principles continue to operate just as gravity is never suspended and we will always have problems as we remain in a vacuum condition at the heart level.

So if all these things we try to fill our hearts with don't satisfy the vacuum we feel inside, how are we supposed to have it filled? How are we to change over from having a vacuum in our heart that sucks in everything it can get hold of to fill its hunger, to a condition of being full to overflowing so that we can become givers of life instead of takers?

I could easily launch off into some great-sounding platitudes right now that I would be as disgusted with as most other people. I am asking these questions very honestly and am looking for realistic answers myself. I am describing to some extent my own condition that I often find myself in and am daily addressing in my pursuit of God and His presence. I want to be a person who really exemplifies the reality of the words of Jesus, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

I want to know what it feels like to be so satisfied and full of life that when I am jostled that life will just spill out of me all over others. I want to be a sponge so full of life and joy that when I am squeezed that I will be life-giving instead of complaining or becoming bitter. I realize that too often in my relations with those around me I am grasping for a sense of intimacy, of belonging and desiring affirmation to fill the emptiness that I too often hide inside. Instead of denying my emptiness I want to have it so full of the life of God that I can be the one genuinely glad to be with others who are hungry and hurting and desperate for joy themselves.