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Listening for Health

September 30, 2009

Vincent Van Gogh (1854 1890)
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My problem?  I want immediate gratification. But real happiness takes some work.

Spiritual growth is not for the faint of heart. I much prefer anesthesia – at least in the short run.  I’m glad I’m past the hard stuff: sex, drugs, rock‘n roll, etc.  But it’s funny, my current drugs of choice can be more deceptive.  Food, TV, mindless, eternal web surfing, sleep…

For several nights (weeks?), I’ve been sleeping like a paramedic.  We go to bed around eight or nine in the evening, I sleep for a good hour or two, then, like a misbehaving circadian rhythm, I’m wide awake.  Since I’ve been sulking in my cave for the last month or so, I just took this as status quo and stumbled off to my office cave to toil the night away.

Some nights are more productive than others, but for the most part, I wouldn’t use the words productive and insomnia in the same breath. Sometimes I just needed a place where I could toss and turn without disturbing the family I sleep with.  Fortunately I have a relatively comfortable couch in my cave.

Too often, however, I find myself wasting away the night and getting sleepy about the time the robins signal the approaching sunrise.  I’ve seen a lot of sunrises, but most have been from the back end.  My philosophy is that if God had intended mornings to be enjoyed, He would have put them later in the day.

Last night was different. One wouldn’t know it by watching me, but somethings happened last night – spiritually, holistically, mentally, emotionally.

As I slogged into my office for the night shift, feeling pretty content about the two whole hours of sleep I had tucked into my resume, I had an urge.  It was a small urge – a little voice, if you will.  It was a good thing.

Let me back up a bit…

Last week, after writing that 3000+ word post, I thought I was making a breakthrough.  “Aha!” I said.  “I’ve got this one nailed.”  I had it all figured out.  But have you ever noticed that we don’t always have integrity between our emotions and our knowledge?  Sometimes what we know to be true doesn’t match with what we feel?  Yeah, I thought so.

I’ve been thinking for a few days that I need a breakthrough. But what does that look like?  For those of us who primarily are defined as melancholic, that may be different from the sanguines – or the phlegmatics.  It is definitely different from those overachievers, the cholerics. For me, it isn’t enough to just know I have to make changes – I have to feel it.  This usually comes after a significant epiphany.

Interestingly, as I stumbled through the dark last night (actually, virtually, and metaphorically), I heard a “still, small voice.”  It was calling me.  Yet, small voices are easy to ignore.  I know – I’ve ignored that voice too often before.

Years ago, while struggling with some very deep heartaches, I found myself wishing that an angel would show up and save me from my despair.  One night, about two o’clock in the morning, I was on top of Council Crest – alone.  I was broken, discouraged, alone.  Did I mention that I was alone?  Anyway, I was alone and wishing an angel would show up to give me some hope.  Cuz, well, I was alone.

No angel appeared.

Several months later, I had an epiphany.  I don’t know where it came from, but it was deep (Well it was deep then).  Somehow I had this notion that angels were these soft, gentle beings.  Yet, most of the time, when stories are told of angel encounters, one is left with the impression that angels are powerful warriors.  They are not to be trifled with.

Most of the time when people encounter angels, they are driven to the ground and left speechless.  The word “awesome” was coined for just these experiences.  I began to have doubts about my desire to have an angel show up.

I remember seeing a Harrier Jump-Jet perform at the Rose Festival Air Show. This was the aircraft the was featured in the movie True Lies with Schwarzenegger.  The sheer, raw power of this machine had me in tears.  When the pilot turned the aircraft towards the audience, less than 150 feet away, and dipped the nose toward us, I was screaming.  Imagine this thing coming up over a rise, loaded with rockets, and you’re in its sights.  My chest was pounding, I was dancing on my tip-toes, the power just awed me!

It was this thought that made me rethink my desire to have a face-to-face with an angel.  I’m not sure my heart, or my mind could handle that sort of encounter.  I withdrew my wish.  And yet, here I am, ignoring the whispers of my Creator.

Like I did last night.

I felt compelled to spend time with God.  But, I reasoned, I’m too tired.  I don’t feel like reading, I really can’t express my thoughts/concerns verbally – I’m not sure I’d be very good in this arena.  So, instead, I sought anesthesia.  It’s always better to listen to the leading.  To not make Him shout.

To be sure, I’ve found that God is big enough to speak to me through a myriad of methods. He’s used sci-fi, rock’n roll, and even drug-induced moments of purple haze.  While I don’t agree with some of my AA friends that I have to learn the hard way, I certainly choose that way more often than not.

Last night, He spoke to me through a couple of TV shows I was watching on Hulu.  In particular, the season premier of House. In one series of scenes, several of the characters in a psych ward are discussing the pros and cons of their treatment (medication, psychotherapy, group, etc).  Each has a reason to not seek treatment.  The common theme is they fear losing their “true” identity – their spontaneity, creativity, brilliance – their integrity. Vodpod videos no longer available.

I realized, this is one of the reasons I fear growth. I am afraid that if I adapt to other’s, um, suggestions, I will lose my identity…my true identity. But this is a lie, isn’t it? Seeking health and healing doesn’t have to mean that we have to lose ourselves.

At one point, House’s doctor asks him if he thought Van Gogh would have been Van Gogh if he’d had treatment.  House’s reply was exactly what mine would have been: “No.”  But the doctor replies, “Van Gogh would still be Van Gogh, but both ears would still be intact.”

That’s the hard part.

Would I still be the man I am if I didn’t feel about things the way I do?  If I slept all night, if I didn’t act on my creative urges, if I didn’t grieve the loss of certain things in my life – would I be the same guy?  More importantly, what if I didn’t anesthetize myself with the current drugs I use?  TV, food, – even reading.  Sometimes the good can interfere with the great.

Overview of biological circadian clock in huma...

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So, here’s the bottom line.

I’ve been waiting for the big epiphany, but sometimes it’s the still small voice that speaks the loudest.  But it’s also the easiest to miss.  We want big answers (I want big answers!).  I want to know why this unfairness happened?  But sometimes it isn’t the why that matters. Usually it is the answer to this universal question that matters: What will I learn from this experience?

Here’s what I’m learning…

I’m again learning to listen to that “still, small voice.” I’m learning to quit using anesthesia when things get painful.  As M. Scott Peck says in the opening paragraph of his book, The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.” Or, as I’ve heard it said, God isn’t as interested in your comfort.” He is interested in my growth though – and ultimately, my happiness.

My problem?  I want immediate gratification. But real happiness takes some work.  Like I said, spiritual growth is not for the faint of heart.


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