…Yeah, so I never was the most practical child. Especially when it came to dreaming.
I had this recurring dream growing up. Not a normal dream: this dream didn’t have a lot of scenery. It wasn’t terribly visual, but can any of us really say we have particularly visual dreams when the very nature of them involves a number of conditions that take us out of visual reality, namely having our eyes closed at the time? We are more likely to remember feelings from which the image of our dreams were formed, thereby leading us to claim we had a visual dream filled with colourful images when in fact this may be our minds creating the image afterwards, based on the emotions our subconsciousness was going through as our brain worked overtime through our otherwise restful night’s sleep.
But I digress. It was a dream about proportions. That’s the best way I can describe it. There were two versions: one in which I found myself in a space (I have called it a room in the past, but in truth it’s just a ‘space’) that was too big for me. I mean, it was literally too big. I felt too small to exist in that space. Corners of this ‘room’ were at an impossible distance; I knew simply by observation that I would never touch my surroundings.
The other was similar – and yet at the same time, it couldn’t have been more different. Once again, I’m in this space… Only this time, it’s the opposite problem. I am the one who’s too big. My surroundings are too close. I can’t escape them. I want to get out, but feel prohibited from moving at all.
I had this dream interpreted about 18 months ago. Apparently it had a lot to do with my own personal insecurities growing up; feeling on the one hand (the ‘too big’ version) that I had more to offer the world than other people would realise, because society had placed me within the confines of some sort of compartmentalized box that dictated how my life was going to go rather than letting me decide for myself. The other one (the ‘too small’ version) was the part of me that became introverted, confidence in my own ability drained as a result of this ‘box’. While I felt that I wanted to break free from my confines, I didn’t feel I could actually do so.
Perhaps it was an open interpretation that won’t make a lot of sense to others, but the important thing is that it made sense to me. These things, when I thought about it, were true, and I doubt a mind that is totally comfortable with the outside world would come up with such a visionary (there is a clear difference between this and visual; a dictionary tells me so, and so it will tell you) dream on a regular basis.
So began the story that has led through a frustrated childhood which, for all of its flaws, has actually proved quite beneficial. As my view of the world turned inward, I was provided with valuable insight into how the human mind works. Video games such as the psychologically excessive Silent Hill helped with this, of course, while a knowledge of God and belief in Jesus Christ ensured I didn’t get completely lost in there.
Because the mind is a jungle in which it is easy to become lost. It has deep, dark swamps and high, appealing trees with many branches you are free to climb. Bushes surround you with different varieties of flowers and nettles and poisonous edible-looking objects. Unseen predators lurk in its depths. This jungle is unique to each person, and it is free to be explored at will; some choose not to, and sit in their favourite spot, a nice little alcove decorated with things they know well, like their favourite type of berry and animals that don’t bite. Others wish to constantly explore. They’re always on the lookout for new trees to climb, colourful food to taste (yeah, sometimes it is bitter) and fascinating species of animals not yet discovered. From time to time they’ll stumble upon a swamp and have to wade through it while it tries to suck them down. Their journey is one of excitement and danger in equal measure; they can’t have one without the other.
Of course, jungles are not immune from outside influences. There are some that will find themselves infiltrated by hunters who come to exploit its most valuable commodities. In worst case scenarios, a forest fire can destroy the whole ecosystem.
Just to clarify (in case you’ve entered class late), all of the things I speak about in this jungle are as metaphorical as the jungle itself. They all represent something. The reason a metaphor is necessary in this case is largely due to the subject matter. You see, of all the issues I’ve brought up this week, today’s one is the most commonly misconceived among the Christian community, many of whom are all too fond of attaching the words ‘enemy’ and ‘evil’ to things they don’t immediately understand (those who don’t attach any label to it – choosing instead to focus on the ‘body’ and ‘spirit’ over ‘mind’ – are likely doing so simply because they’d rather steer clear of such things than directly face them).
Only, the thing is, it is not possible for any one of us to fully comprehend the human mind any more than it is possible for us to comprehend God Himself. So the mind falls into this category of being something we cannot begin to understand without God’s help – because He is, after all, the one who created it. He created it to have the capabilities for independent thought and action. He did not create it with the intention that His creation would then be accused of evil simply because it can think and act independently of Him.
With this unique gift comes the ability to sin, if we so choose. The idea for all sin (rather than the ability to sin, which is given to us by God) was and is provided by the devil, who is eternally God’s imitator, in the form of a gift. It’s his way of influencing God’s creation. Unlike God, the devil can’t actually create anything himself, nor can he directly destroy any of God’s good work here on Earth: only we can do that. He has to use us as his proxy for this.
Think of sin as a fire that was started by the devil. All he needs to do is light the match, and that fire spreads independently (this is why it was necessary for Jesus’ death on the cross to eradicate our sin completely; simply destroying the devil at that point wouldn’t have ceased its flow – nor would he have been anywhere near a worthy sacrifice for us).
When this fire is only starting, we have (or had) the best chance to stop it. The longer we go without taking that chance, the harder it will be to put the fire out, because it will have spread to many parts of the jungle. This is not God’s fault: the gift He gave when He created our minds was to give us total control over them. We can make independent decisions about whether we follow Him or follow sin; we can choose. With this choice comes a certain responsibility that we must be prepared to face up to when we mistreat it.
I’m not saying depression is our punishment for sinning, nor is it sinful to suffer from it. It is merely a result of our collective choice to sin. It, along with other forms of mental illness, is an unfortunate side effect of living in a corrupted world.
In the Bible, we occasionally see people (‘holy’ men of God, no less) suffering from depression: 1 Kings 19: 4 details how Elijah abandoned his responsibilities, “went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die: and said, It is enough: now, O Lord, take away my life”. The next few days passed as Elijah slept under the tree, severely depressed, with his only company being the unwelcome visits of angels who brought him food while he went through his cycle.
While our enemy cannot induce depression (it is our minds that produce it), he recognizes it as an emotional state that leaves us more vulnerable to his attacks, such as the lie that the pain you’re going through will not end, or that God abandons you as you go through it. This is where we, as Christians, face a unique test of faith, as we know that our pain (physical, mental and spiritual) does one day end. Therefore, we must trust in God through the worst times as well as the best.
This is something Jesus had to do on the cross, as He took everything (including our depression) onto Himself. People don’t often think about it this way, but can anyone claim that Jesus was in a good mood when he asked God, “why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27: 45-46) Or was this a result of the horrible emotional state that He found Himself in as He hung on the cross? Yes, He was completely God, but He also took on the form of man. In lowering Himself to our level, He took on the emotional burdens that we have to bear.
On the cross, Jesus faced total separation from the Father, who turned away from Him. Yet, they were (and are) essentially two parts of the same whole, bearing in mind the trinity. In this act of self-sacrifice, God may have given us the key to understanding those times when we also feel separated from ourselves, or when it seems like one part of us has turned away from the other parts. Jesus’ sacrifice gives us the answer to a very important question: how does God feel in the presence of sin?
Does He like it?
Or is there a reason He hates it more than anything else in all of existence?
We are made in God’s image. God is made up of three parts, a trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Similarly, God also made us to have three parts. We ourselves are a trinity working in tandem: mind, body and ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ (people love causing confusion over this one – I won’t be joining that club here). All of our decisions involve some sort of input from all three, but ultimately, our mind makes the final call; body and soul will obey, however uneasy they may initially feel about it. In our own version of the trinity, which God created in His image, the mind represents the Father. Obviously, though, we are nowhere near God’s level of wisdom and complete understanding of everything. Therefore, at times, there is considerably more infighting than there should be within our own trinity, largely due to sin. This is the way it will be until we receive new bodies at the end of our lives here on this Earth. For now, we live in the very centre of sin, and it has the same negative effect on us that it did on Jesus/ does on God (although not one as intense because, again, we are not on His level). Sometimes, we must turn our faces away from it.
So then, on that note… has anyone around here read Psalm 139?
P.S. You know, this blog entry has been tough. When I first selected the topics for this week, I had no idea how tough it would turn out to be, and that’s a good thing because if I had then I probably wouldn’t have even done it. But finally, we’ve got through it. The journey doesn’t stop here though. Consider the entries this week to be the beginning of a development period that will result in me learning more about all of it. I’ll share some of that knowledge with you. The rest I’ll keep in my own head.
See you all in October (not strictly true for some, but you know what I mean)!