More Words For a Pandemic (2)

Hey, Dr. Bill Senyard here with the Forgiving Path and Gospel Rant. Great feedback on the last two Words. I will answer one of the more interesting comments. First, no, the Trinity does not practice social distancing. Second—that’s way above my paygrade. Thanks for the question. At least you were listening. Good on you. The other comment is that sales for “Flattening the Curve T-Shirts” are up. Or at least they would be if we actually sold them. Sadly, we don’t.

Look we can all use some good news about now, yes? I have never seen anything like this pandemic. It is causing so many to suffer and experience loss. I’ll admit, it’s scary. Tough to deal with something you can’t see that can kill you or kill loved ones. 

OK, so we are in this together. We will make it through this together. We will rebuild together.

I want to get back to shining some light on the nasty Beast in our brains, shame. In C.S. Lewis’s insightful book published in 1945, the Great Divorce—not about divorce at all, rather a metaphorical presentation of our all-too-real struggle to truly feel the love of God because of our shame (primarily), Lewis describes the journey of one human who just can’t or won’t get it. In the Great Divorce, deceased humans must take a bus to the edge of Heaven and journey toward the great mountain to finally be with God and at last get their sense of significance, security and belonging directly from Him in His loving adoring arms, sans-beast. But there are challenges. The blades of grass there are so “solid,” so substantive, versus the ghost-like deceased humans, that they hurt our feet. But, the largest hindrance is clearly the Beast within.

Don’t misunderstand, in The Great Divorce, humans aren’t expected to do it on their own. Heavenly beings (former humans just like them who have completed the journey and are now “solid” and confident, vulnerable, naked, knowing no more shame—Lewis refers to them as Solid Spirits or bright people.  The promise is this. As the deceased human “ghosts” move onward and upward toward God, they will become more solid and thus feel less and less discomfort. God has sent Heavenly beings, called “spirits” to distinguish them from the ghosts, to help the humans journey toward the mountains and the sunrise.

One Solid Spirit has come to assist the female “ghost” make the trek. Listen for her “beast,” the entity within her brain that is working non-stop to keep her from running into the loving embrace of the King of Kings –the only thing that will ever truly still the tongue of the beast. Here’s Lewis,

“A ghost hobbled across the clearing… looking over its shoulder as if it were being pursued… I saw that it had been a woman, a well-dressed woman and I thought that its shadows of finery looked ghastly in the morning light. It was making for the bushes…it seemed to believe it was hiding. A moment later I heard the sound of feet and one of the bright people came in sight.  One always noticed that sound there for we ghosts made no sound when we walked.

“Go away,” squealed the ghost, “Go away, can’t you see that I want to be alone.”

“But you need help,” said the solid one. 

“If you have the least trace of decent feeling left, you’ll keep away,” said the ghost. “I don’t want help; I want to be left alone. Do go away. You know I can’t walk fast enough on those horrible spikes to get away from you. It’s abominable for you to take advantage.”

“Oh that,” said the Spirit, “That will soon come right. But you are going it the wrong direction. Its back there to the mountains you need to go. You can lean on me all the way. I can’t absolutely carry you. But you need have almost no weight on your own feet. And it will hurt less at every step.”

 “…Can’t you understand anything? Do you really suppose that I am going out there among all those people, like this?…I’d never have come at all if I known that you all would be dressed like that.”

“Friend, you see I’m not dressed at all?”

“I didn’t mean that. Do go away…How can I go out like this? Among a lot of people with real solid bodies?  It’s far worse than going out with nothing on would have been on earth. Have everyone staring through me?”

“Oh I see, but we were all a bit ghostly when we first arrived you know, that will wear off.  Just come out and try.”

“But they’ll see me.”

“What will it matter if they do?”

“I’d rather die.”

“But you’ve died already…”

“…I wish I’d never been born…what are we born for?”

“For infinite happiness,” said the Spirit, “You can step out into it at any moment.”

“But I tell you, they’ll see me.”

“An hour hence and you will not care. A day hence and you will laugh at it. Don’t you remember on earth there were things too hot to touch with your finger? But you could drink them all right. Shame is like that. If you will accept it—if you will drink the cup to the bottom, you will find it very nourishing. But if you try to do anything else with it, and it scalds…Friend, could you only for a moment fix your mind on something not yourself.”

There it is. I get what she was all about. Me too. The woman ghost was so afraid of what others thought about her appearance—shame and terror of falling short of the expectations of others, of being exposed, mocked, or rejected– how she was dressed, her translucency that she was terrified to receive help that could end her struggles and take her to where she desperately wants and needs to be. A child could do it, but she could not. Shame is that debilitating. It is largely that fear cycle. She was in survival mode—irony galore—a dead person in survival mode. Right? Her pre-frontal cortex was shut down due to the cortisol. She was not being reasonable. She could not process long-term consequences with her brain half-off-line. The beast in her head was too much for her to overcome. Sound familiar?

The earth-affected exposed wraith of a woman was terrified of the only way for her to become truly dressed.  Her glory would have to come from God—this latter-day glory has no shame. Up until that point, she believed that her value, worth, glory and beauty was determined by her efforts in make-up, hairdo, dress, adornment, Spanx and the like. She was so afraid of truly being seen for who she was—a person that she did not ultimately see as worthy or beautiful, her flaws and innate ugliness, that she could only push away the one who had the power to lead her into an experience of real substance and worth. She couldn’t do it, couldn’t trust the Spirit Being. She was too ashamed to drink from the only stream of living water.

This is the essence of the Beast-shame. Tragic. Such shame is quite self-focused. Its innate selfishness is a bit confusing at first glance. It would seem other-oriented to the extent that she is concerned what others think of her appearance. But the core is that she is concerned for herself, not for others.

It is normal. No judgement from me. I get there every day. But, as we said in the last station, this entrenched hidden anti-you Beast has a very powerful enemy, the experienced love of God toward you that Jesus purchased for you 2000 years ago, that is yours no matter what you do or do not do, or what others do, or most importantly, what you feel you deserve. Not just the love of God, but your experience of it to one degree or another right now that will change your mind—quiet the beast a little. Maybe 10% or 20%. Not 100%, that’s left for Heaven, but the change should be noticeable. You should feel the weight off your shoulder, the anxiety levels drop a bit, your stress, your desire to hide, to cover up, to blame others, reduced a bit, you should smile more, want to enter relationships a bit more—make sense?

It won’t cure the Pandemic, but we just might be nicer to self-quarantine with. Until such time, some are easier to social distance from than others—if you know what I mean.

I’m Dr. Bill Senyard, and this is the Gospel Rant. See you next time.