Monday, July 6, 2009

The Looking Glass

I know, it's strange, but I did this long posting last night . . . .then I deleted it. I guess I feel I cross the line sometimes in sharing personal feelings. So I woke up this morning, seeing that some comments were coming in and decided to delete the whole thing. Rats. I worked hard on that one as well.

I will put Alice back up and pick back up on that one segment of the old posting. The point is that when some of us go through a personal crisis, we emerge on the other side, trapped (not in a bad way) behind the looking glass. From that point forward, the entire world looks differently. What use to be normal conversations around us . . . now seem like the bizarre talk around the Mad Hatter's table.

I'm not sure why some of us are changed in this manner and many people are not. I know people (more than one) who have lost a child in a horrible accident. Sure they are sad and grieve like anyone, but their perspective on life doesn't change. They still believe in the Christian bookstore philosophy of life . . . soft music, rosewood incense, perpetual smiles, always speaking from one cliche to the next.

I'm not talking about the alternative being bitter or depressed, but just feeling like life on this earth is a strange place. I see the glory as well . . . but everything looks different now.

My wife and daughter must be in Kenya by now. I hope to hear from them soon as I can't communicate with them. It is strange to think if our house burned down or one of our kids was in an accident, there is no way I could communicate with Denise right now. It is like she is on the back side of the moon.

I went for a long bike ride tonight that become somewhat eventful. I just had my bike tuned up and this was my first ride in over two weeks. As I was climbing my first big hill, five miles from home, the entire back wheel locked up. The hub was deeply entangled with the gear shifter thing (can't remember it's name). I sat by the road for a while with grease up to my elbows. No one was home to call. Finally I got a hold of Ramsey (he was hanging out with friends in town) and he agreed to swing by to pick up the bike since the wheel wouldn't even turn.

It was a strange feeling sitting there on the shoulder of road obviously stuck, and car after car whizzed by and just looked. One guy slowed down and asked if I needed help. That was nice . . . but Ramsey was on his way. After loading up my bike in Ramsey's car, I started, and finished, the five mile walk back home.

I think the exercise did me some good. I started the walk feeling angry because the bike had been fine for the past 500 miles of riding, then I take it in for a tune up and the first time I ride it, it is a mess. But, by the time I got to my lonely home, the adrenalin had been burned off and I felt a lot of exhausted peace.

I'm starting a Bible study at church on Thursday. We (if anyone shows up) will be studying Hebrews. I have not been in the word a lot lately. I have a little fear about it. At the same time I am eager to read scripture again. I think my fear is that I will find something in scripture that doesn't fit in my new paradigm of life. Then I wouldn't know what to do. I honestly think that when I return to scripture, especially to Jesus' words, it will seem more clear.

My example of scary scripture is that, in prep for the study Thursday, I read all of Hebrews while sitting in the hot tub last night. I looked like a prune by the time I was done. The only such scripture (the kind that scares me) was a few statements about "obeying your leaders." That gave me a few chills up my spine. But I think the image that such verse conjure up are of the spiritually abusive leaders I've known in my past. I have to think about that one for a while. "Obey your leaders." I need to read the original languages to see what that really means and in the proper context.


Anonymous said...

That is a way cool photo. Wow.

I know what you are talking about... Well, I think I do, and I'm assuming you are talking about the same thing. :)

It's like, everything has changed...and then you assume it has for everyone else, but then realize that, no, it hasn't. And suddenly, the way things "used to be," even though that always felt normal, felt good, felt right, just it's missing all the color or something.

Worse, you now have to "play the game" to be in that world, and it feels so dirty, but yet you will be so offensive to them if you don't. It's SO WEIRD. So very very weird.

And there are other people who have had this thing happen to them (I feel so lucky to have the whole process happen to my best friend and myself at the same time, though it was highly individual it was also a corporate experience, as we kind of came out the other side together), and you can just instantly connect with them, even if you just you both just speak this same rare language when you first's so strange...

You can be as different as it gets, and yet in this one area, you "get" each other, you connect, sort of like two people meeting for a moment much later in life, yet who were born in the same city, unbeknownst to each other, and so both know the same landmarks and cool spots and stuff. There is this connection, you have both been to the same places, and those places mean something to you both in ways that everyone else just can't really understand. I've had that happen, here and there in these odd unexpected moments and it is just so cool, becuase most of the time you just feel so strange.

It's weird, too, how I don't actually feel strange, UNLESS I'm in church culture. That's when I feel like I have to put on a false face and use the right lingo and nod at the right moments, while quietly just feeling like it's all so bizzare. Outside of church culture, not so much.

I'm rambling, and I didn't mean to go on this long, and it probably sounds just totally whacked, because I'm not even sure what words to really use to desribe it, but... Yeah.

I love that photo. I can relate to it so much.

Trevor Morgan said...

Hey, you deleted my comment! But you put back the picture of the statue, so that's ok.

I love that statue, it's in the grounds of Guildford Castle near where I grew up. You only see it if you know to look for it, it's hidden in the gardens. If walk down from the castle to the river, you can also find a statue of Alice and her sister watching the rabbit go down the hole.

I don't know why some people go through the glass and some don't. I know we certainly did when our son died. There wasn't a lot of smiles and soft music that year.

My wife would say that there are some answers in that verse 'Blessed are those who mourn...'. She says it's important to realise that it doesn't say 'blessed are those who are bereaved...'. In other words, the actual mourning is a vital process.

We were lucky enough to have friends and family that recognized this - I've known bereaved parents who've were expected to hide their grief, keep up the nice 'christian' smiles, even told that they should go back to running the church nursery the week after their son died. Such callousness astounds me.

MJ said...

AinMercy, exactly.

I remember the first time I went through it (it has been a process with two big events) that I was so confused. Then I ran into a guy in a lobby of a hotel (at a medical conference). He was suffering from PTSD from the Gulf War. We shared a few notes and in seconds, I found a brother that understood me (and I him)like we had known each other all our lives. It made me feel that I was indeed not alone on the planet.

I was sharing in my original posting (which I deleted) that my wife has experienced the same things as I have . . . failed missionary experience and the other one . . . and she emerges as a normal person, on the clean side of the looking glass. I've had many friends go through horrible ordeals, but come out the other side more evangelical than ever before. However, these things profoundly effect the way I see the world and I see God in a whole new (and better, I think) light.

MJ said...

Yeah Trevor, sorry that you comment went down with the posting ship.

I think I shared with you before the story about my spiritual mentor. He was (is, he is in his 70s now)was always know as "A real man of God."

His son, at age 16 and a good friend of mine, was decapitated in a freak accident. His dad had to identify his torso. It was a parents worse nightmare.

But his dad, Hal, felt like he had to live consistently with his image as a "man of God" and his belief in Evangelical fatalism . . .everything happens for a reason. So Hal never cried or showed any grief. He preached the following Sunday with a big smile and claiming how great he felt that God's will had been done in his son's life.

It was a year later that Hal collapsed and screamed and cried . . . for about a minute, then he stood up and rebuked Satan's attack. Looking back I feel nothing but pity for this man.

I saw him fifteen years later, after my personal rabbit hole experience and I just had to ask him about losing his son. He, still being very confident, said that he never grieved or doubted God for a moment because he knew that his son's death was part of the big, glorious picture.

Those are the people on the perfect Victorian side of the looking glass . . . those whom I can't relate to anymore.

If I lost a son, like you and your wife did, I don't how I could ever stop crying. So God's great miracle in my life wouldn't be that I never cried . . . but that I finally, after years, could stop.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you have already read this book, but apparently there has been a book written about the looking glass, although they call it "the wall." Kathy Escobar (The Carnival in my Head blog) has a blog post on the ideas in the book in a post titled "A Nifty Chart for the Journey: Stages in Our Life of Faith" at

I haven't read the book Kathy talks about,but I have read the book that some of her commenters mention: Stages of Faith by James W. Fowler.

I have reservations about any "stages" kinds of explanations of something like faith, not least because I, personally, tend to get competitive about it, which is destructive. But kept in its proper place, I do sometimes find these types of analyses enlightening as a lens or tool ... or maybe just as validation that I'm not all alone. The Fowler book certainly did have some "ah ha" moments for me.

MJ said...

Anonymous (that's not you HUG?) No, I'm not aware of Kathy. I did check out her books and bog. I agree with you about the reservations about the stages. Steps, stages etc. (anything that is numbered) gives me the Bill Gothard willies.

I think you are right about the ah ha's and and the validation. I am so thankful for the Internet where you find so many others who know what you are talking about. If my only interactions were with people I know locally, I think I would have to assume that I am completely nuts. Maybe I am. But There's a lot of us behind the looking glass or what Kathy might call the "journey outward" or the "life of love."

Anonymous said...

No, it wasn't me. (Your blog engine should really allow us to put in a title ID instead of just "Anonymous"...)

After last weekend, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that everyone in the world has gone crazy. All at the same time. Is this what you mean by "the Looking Glass experience"? Waking up one morning and realizing that everyone "from the office of the President right down to me and you" has gone CRAZY?

Headless Unicorn Guy

"There will come a time when men will go mad. And they will lay hands on the sane among them, saying 'You are not like us! You must be Mad!'"
-- one of the Desert Fathers