Random Blog Clay Feet: August 24, 2008
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Intense Emptiness

Last night I had a series of some of the strangest dreams that I can remember. Of course, I can't remember but bits of most of them and they were so illogical that my logical mind simply can't relate to them enough to keep them in memory on that side of my brain. But I do remember at least one small piece of the end of one dream, not because of what happened, because I can't even remember the context, but because of the most intense emotion that I experienced for a few moments. It was so intense that I could not stay asleep until after I had been awake and lost the intensity and fell back asleep into a different dream.

As I said, I can't remember the reason or the context of the dream except that I sensed that it was an emotion of very intense – well, its even hard to describe an emotion with words – intense, maybe repentance, sorrow for my sinful condition, sadness for the condition of those around me, something along that line. At the same time I felt that I was very close to the presence of God while experiencing this intense emotion and felt something along the line of deep satisfaction at the same time. Actually, after I woke up from this most intense sensation I experienced something of an excitement that I had even dreamed such an emotion at all. I was actually almost relieved that I am still capable of having that emotion at that intensity. It was almost like I had a growing fear inside of me that my capacity for even experiencing certain emotions has nearly slipped away.

After waking up in the morning I thought about this some more and realized what most likely had caused it to happen. Since the main function of dreams is to file away the important events and emotions from the previous day into long-term memory, dreams often contain a strange mixture of whatever happened the previous day plus a large dose of whatever happens to leak out of the “file drawers” of the mind when they are opened to place within them the new additions to memory. As various sections of the mind are accessed to store away new memories, old events and emotions are reignited a little bit and mingle in with the new information to put them all together into the various emotional categories by which the brain indexes memories.

It has been observed by some researchers that our memories are usually filed and indexed according to emotional similarities, not by logical categories like we do in our intellectual world. That is why our brain is triggered by situations that subconsciously remind us of early intense experiences of a somewhat similar emotion. That early experience may not even look at all like the current situation we find ourselves in, but the emotion-index is not linked to logic but to the similarities in emotional content. And if any of those early events that are used to index all the rest of the file drawer are not resolved or contain deep-seated false assumptions or lies, they will act like a violent trigger to cause intense emotional reactions whenever they are touched by new but similar-feeling emotional stimulations.

Some of the recent developments in Christian ministry utilizes these principles of the mind in correlation with prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit to bring resolution to those early problematic memories. This has resulted in bringing wonderful closure to not only the early memories but to all the ones linked to it throughout the rest of the life. This has been a great source of hope and excitement for many people as they have found incredible and almost unbelievable freedom from triggers that have enslaved and haunted them for many, many years. But what I believe is really happening is that we are finally learning enough about how God designed our brains to begin cooperating with God in its healing in more effective ways. Funny how when we learn to synchronize with true reality that things suddenly work so much more effectively.

Well, all that is simply background explanation for what I am trying to say about this intense emotion I experienced in my dream last night. As I thought about this while getting out of bed this morning it occurred to me that in a way I have almost become the person that I determined many years ago I did not want to become. Let me explain.

When I was in boarding school at around age 16 or 17 I remember coming to the realization that I was facing a major life decision about the kind of person I was going to become emotionally. I realized then that over a period of time I had become very hardened in my heart, in the emotional part of me, calloused to the point that I could no longer even feel awe or appreciation for a beautiful sunset or a colorful flower. Upon reflection I sensed that it was because I was quickly building emotional walls around my heart to keep me from being hurt by other people who had damaged or abused my heart, either intentionally or unintentionally. Nevertheless, because of my attempts to protect myself from further emotional pain I had begun to close myself away from access to others and was creating thick callouses around my inner self.

What alarmed me was that in doing so I also was sealing off my very ability to feel anything at all at a deep level. My emotions were trapped inside in order to prevent others from knowing about them and I was becoming a prisoner in my own cell that was originally designed to keep others out. I increasingly sensed that I had a choice to make about this situation that could potentially effect the course of the rest of my life.

I can remember lying on the grass with my fingers digging into the ground struggling with this decision trying to figure out what to do. A principle of reality emerged very clearly into my thinking that I still believe yet today. This maxim of truth says that a person can only experience, receive and appreciate love and related positive emotions to the same proportionate extent that the person is willing to make themselves vulnerable and open to being hurt or taken advantage of by others. Conversely, to the degree that I try to protect myself from being hurt inside I will also lose my ability to feel and connect with others at the heart level.

I clearly remember yet today that I made a very difficult choice at that time that I wanted to take the high road and to make myself more vulnerable so that I could also begin to enjoy life more. I think that was a very wise decision, but the problem is that over the many years since then I have had great difficulty knowing how to actually live out that choice. In spite of my good intentions I have repeatedly discovered myself back in my prison hiding in fear of pain and withdrawing from the withering emotional blows inflicted on me or even simple neglect by people who had access to my heart.

The result at this point in my life is that I have become a mixture of the results of decisions in both directions which does not make me feel very fulfilled or satisfied at the heart level. I feel like there have been times in my life when I made strong attempts to break out of my cell and have made some progress in that direction. However, overall I still feel very isolated at the heart level and feel very little emotional bonds with anyone which actually makes me a sitting target for the forces of evil if they were allowed more access to me. But I thank God that He has protected me thus far from those opportunities for Satan and God is still in charge of my healing process to prepare me emotionally for those assaults when they arrive.

Maybe it is extremely foolish to even disclose these things in public. I am sure many would insist that is true and maybe they are right, I don't know right now. What I do know is that when I got up this morning I had a deep sense that my emotional connectedness with others and my ability to feel emotions along with other people, particularly in their presence, is extremely limited and handicapped. I am very dissatisfied with the condition I find myself in which is revealed by my sense of relief last night that I can even feel the intense emotion that I did in my dream.

Upon reflection I remembered what happened yesterday that my brain was likely filing away that produced this strong sensation in the night. I was sharing with a friend about a book I had read years ago written by the man who played Jesus in the Matthew videos. It is called In the Footsteps of Jesus and the man's name was Bruce Marchiano whom I was privileged to meet in person later. I was describing to my friend how Bruce had spent days, maybe weeks pleading with God to give him a glimpse into the emotional mind of Jesus, to allow him to catch a perspective of how Jesus viewed reality and felt about the people around him. He wanted this experience and perspective so that he could more accurately portray the truth about Jesus as he acted out the various scenes from His life from the gospel of Matthew.

God answered his prayers at different times throughout the filming of this movie in ways that left Bruce permanently changed for the rest of his life. I as related these stories to my friend I suddenly found myself tearing up with emotion myself and realized that the ability to feel the passion of God like Bruce longed to do is also one of the deepest desires of my own inner being. All of my life I have longed to be a passionate person in a positive way, to be able to be expressive and intense and connected with others and still to be able to return to a “normal” emotional state of peace without feeling stuck in any particular difficult emotion.

As I have been listening again to the Joy Bonds series by Jim Wilder over the past few days I have been reminded of how out of sync I am with God's desires for my life that He implanted deep within me from before I was even born. My dissatisfaction with my present condition seems to be growing and I long more intensely to be a person that I currently am not. I have for many years felt secretly jealous of those who were able to be expressive seemingly without inhibitions. Some of those have used that ability to really mess up their lives and I certainly do not wish to imitate their example in that direction. But, as I was telling my friend yesterday, I have met a small handful of people over my life that I immediately sensed were living their life deeply from their heart. They seemed to have a very open, vital connectedness with God's heart, they seemed to live with transparency that felt compelling and their presence felt like a powerful magnet in contrast to my sense of emptiness. I felt a great urge each time I met someone like this to rush up to them and beg them to give me whatever it was they had if that was possible.

I firmly believe that this is the proper way to “conduct” evangelism as God originally intended it to happen. Evangelism today has evolved into something completely different that I don't even want to discuss right now. But whenever people get around someone who is real, who reflects from an open heart the intensity of God's passion reflected through their life, their body language, their spirit and their very atmosphere, the attractiveness of God becomes so much more clear and the Spirit of God seems to be able to draw people to Jesus in ways that most evangelists only dream of accomplishing. The real question is, how do I get there from here?

I have no clue as to the answer to that question except to intensify my pursuit of God even more. But I am convinced that God is the originator of that desire in my heart and He also has the answer for it. I likely won't be able to figure out the answer myself, but if I keep focused on pursuing His heart, of seeking His face as He has invited me to do, that somehow, someday I will experience what my heart was designed to experience I sense that this is the only thing that can really make me feel truly alive and that can make my heart thrive. Last night was just a momentary taste of what I want my whole life to be like. I want to be consumed with the passion of God's heart and be swallowed up in His obsession for drawing everyone possible into the powerful current of His most intense love.

Right now I can only dimly sense the outlines of a little bit of this. But I ask Him to come into my life in a much more intentional and direct way and transform me into the kind of man He designed for me to become. I am tired of living life without passion. I know I have a lot of healing to take place to make me safer to live in that kind of intensity, but I want to progress faster than I have in the past. I leave it in God's hands to lead me into that path when He knows I am ready. And in the meantime I have to trust His heart and His timing to get me ready for the exciting life that I know He has planned for me. I have missed far too much of it already and I am impatient to move ahead closer to the real source of safe passion, of real love, of emotional fulfillment and of deep, open connectedness within the true body of Christ.

Jesus, please do Your thing in my life as soon as possible. Thank-you for promising to always be with me for that is the joy that is my strength. I trust You to accomplish Your longterm plan in my life. Teach me how to cooperate better with You. Make me a flaming torch of Your passion to attract others who are starving for real life and satisfaction to come to You for healing and wholeness. Fill me with Your Spirit and have Your way in my life today and for the rest of my life, for Your name's sake, for Your reputation's sake.