Faking It

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We all do it, all of us. We pose. We play roles. We say things we don`t want to say.

Once, I took this fakery to be an inevitable part of human life and. Not only did I not see it as wrong, but – what was perhaps a greater tragedy – I saw no other way of living. After all, how will we live if we constantly tell people how we feel about them, I reasoned? Won`t the world fill with violence? Murder? Wars?

It is filled already.

Humans are great but fallen creatures, and it is partly our ‘fallenness’ that makes us grasp and search for life where life cannot be found, and ignore the cry of our heart, which we should take heed to. And so, after the awe-filled, hopeful heart of our childhood has been beaten into a shape which fits the ‘normal’ world around us, we no longer see the tragedy. And so a well-polished poser like myself – once a wonder-filled, bright-eyed boy whose heart was later buried under tons of falseness, brought in its place by the pain of rejection we all suffer – today wonders what it is that makes him so unstable, ungrounded on the inside.

When a man spends a lifetime deceiving his own self, he often loses it, as if a dark, malicious god answers his unspoken prayer by taking that which the man wishes to hide away. Many of us have begun their journey in such a way, and although some may still wonder what is their real self, most of us are certain that whatever it is, it is either too wicked to be brought out again, or too weak and pitiful, and therefore, too shameful for anyone to see.

Like  most, I have been living with a false self for many years although, thankfully, I have never quite gotten to the point of accepting it, as if I knew, deep down in the youngest, not-quite-dead-yet part of me, that it is not myself, but a necessary disguise. As if by my bitter hatred for my weakness and later, by my deception, I was somehow confirming that in my true heart, I was in fact as strong, and as true as I wished to be.

For decades I suffered until I could suffer no longer and surrendered to death and the terrible, hidden force which I did not know but cried out to in my dying soul.

But then, oh wonder – I came alive again, more than I had ever been before…

Of course, there are those who suffer worse than I did. I speak of those whose false self is raised upon a more solid ground than mine ever was, those who have so hid their true self behind the mask that it is no longer in the way of the mission they believe must be accomplished so that the world (or their long-dead, unsatisfied parent, or even they themselves) will accept them at last, and secure a place for them. Beaten long ago into submission, the real, once glorious self, is no longer in charge. Its ‘childish’ dreams, hopes, and desires, are snuffed out, replaced by survival skills that, though unable to bring real joy, ensure success, a high place in the hierarchy of the jungle…

In the world as we know it true people are a rarity.

Take today for example. I have been at my present job for nearly three years. Although I love the work and would not trade it for most things that the market can offer someone like me at this moment, I must confess that, I have been growing restless lately. My heart is no longer stirred as it once was at the possibilities to make a difference, and my mind does not stay focused as it did before. In fact, you can perhaps take a guess at where I am at this very moment, as I write this. Yes, I am at work, doing what I enjoy most.

It happened only a few moments ago. As one of my clients, a young man, was reached down to take a document in order to answer a question I had asked, I was already regretting to have asked it. I stood there, saying nothing, being nothing (or at least not that what I should have been), slowly becoming aware of the rift that exists within me. In all truth, the information which he was seeking to present to me, was of no interest to me. As was the whole issue we were discussing. Yet, I lingered, looking like I was available to him, while I was not. Then, time stopped. The seconds that had passed while he was picking up the paper and searching the needed paragraph in it, slowed down and came to a halt as I watched, helpless to do anything but observing this deep division within myself. During those seconds – or maybe minutes, who could tell – I did not know what to do, or what do be.

I know, of course, that we have all had ‘real’, and far worse experiences, tragedies even, but the fact of this only proves my point – why couldn`t I be myself, and stay truthful, even in such a small matter? What has that division done to me, over the years, that I have lost the precious ability to act, speak, and simply be – all from the same self?

Where has my integrity gone – the integrity I was born desiring to have but never quite had? Has it simply vanished, along with the Eden we once lost? Or has it been…stolen?

How often do you endure a conversation because…well, because you have no other way of going through it? How often do you stay quiet when there is a scream inside of you? How often do you stay in silence, confused, scared, and alone in yourself, while others need you in their suffering, and their joy?

Two natures are at war within me, like two beasts struggling for survival. One is cold and calculating, it works with facts and little else. It promises security, reward, and much gain. In exchange, it asks of me to commit a murder and perform a funeral. It does not mind me remembering the dearly departed with joy, and it has no problem with me coming to the grave with flowers every now and again. To get its approval and eternal assistance, I have to do the only thing it required me to do – kill, and bury my victim…

The other nature is the opposite – it promises nothing, and it offers nothing. But it has a sweet voice, the sweetest of them all. When it speaks to me, it brings whispers of a world that bears no scars. It sings like the birds on the roof of my childhood home. It dances like the countless sounds which were once blended into one eternal song, back in those forgotten summer nights. It fights like those men of the legends who long time ago stood up against the evil done by other, weaker and wicked men. This is the part of me that I must kill.

I do not doubt that it will work…I know it, because I see every day around me the lives of those who have done it, those who seem to be free to live the way they want to.

But I suspect they cry at night, and, although there no tears ever well up in their eyes, the tomb within them does not give them rest. To live red-handed is not to live at all.

I will not do it.

I will not kill my heart.

It was once buried, but it never died. It took a hand, far stronger than mine, to rouse it, and it is now alive.

The veil of fakery I choose to keep at bay until one day I am free from it forever.

Turn Around

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What will you do? Where will you go? How will you escape the pain that ever gnaws at you, that drives you to strive, labour, and work endlessly as one who is lost, the pain that leaves you silent at the end of each day, drained of life and of the truth about yourself, the truth you do not know, yet do anything to hide your face from…

At the start of the day, do you run like a hunted animal, doomed to die in its flight but unwilling to stop and, for a moment, be true in the face of the monster that chases all of us from dawn til sunset? Or do you, like I still sometimes do, lay in bed, neither awake nor asleep, looking for a reason to get up and live the life that those around you are expecting you to live? Do you fill your mind with the constant noise of music and television, with the soothing black letters of your books, yes even your holy books, only to silence the scream which will arise from the depth of your hurting, broken heart?

Do you, as you run through your day like a mindless robot, cold, calculating and efficient, sometimes pause, only to be quickly overcome with unknown despair, grief, or horror as you find yourself gazing into an abyss too dark and too vast to ever be faced?

What is chasing you?

What has dogged your heels ever since your younger days, what is that fear which you once sought to escape by building not only a castle, a secure kingdom for yourself, but also your very personality? What is your biggest obsession? What do you dread? What have you become in order never to face that monster, while, in your frantic flight, you buried the gold that was once in your heart?

What unseen beliefs, convictions, and deep desires, drive you as you push your tired self through the endless days, ignoring the cry of your weary, thirsty heart?

Shakespeare said: ‘A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.’

We are all cowards.

We all fear.

We have all lost heart.

And now we all run.

But, friend, what if you stopped running? What if, for once in your life, you turned to face the monster that has chased you through the years, the terror whose hot breath upon your neck has made your life a living hell, worse than any death you may ever face?

Throughout the centuries, people who have lived best have proven to be the people who, at some point in their life, had turned in the opposite direction than the world around them was heading. They chose to lose their life, and they gained it.

What are you afraid to lose?

What am I afraid to lose?

I may not have lived too long, but I have lived, and I have learned a thing or two. And I will tell you this:

Turn around. Face the monster. Grab it by its horns and scream in its face. You will know a different life then. Do not be afraid – can it really be worse than the nightmare you now call life? Fear not – it is time to live your life, and, for once, be its master, instead of letting it master you, run you, as it has done so far. You might find that the monster is…yourself. Or a person, who is yet to be forgiven. Perhaps even a parent, whose words spoken long ago still ring in the vast corridors of your broken heart, driving you to excel only to prove them wrong, and risking the loss of your very soul…

Perhaps the monster is your own lost self, your own strength and courage from which you chose to run once, far before you could control your choices…

Perhaps there is no beast. What if this is true? There is only one way to find out.

Go now, turn back, and fear no darkness.

It is the darkness that fears you.

The Courage to See Beyond Seeing

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I was at work, getting ready to drive the short distance from one property to another, in which I was to spend the night. As I sat in the car and turned on the ignition, I saw the bright light which the headlights projected onto the brick wall in front of me. Getting ready to back onto the main road, I hesitated. It was a short drive, so…why did I reach for the radio button? And why did I avert my eyes rather quickly when I saw the brightness of the light splashing over the old wall?

You see, I am old now. I might not be of age but I have run for far too long…this running aged my soul and wearied it down. I now consider myself old, too old for that. And so, having renounced running, I now sit still. I study. I explore. And I grieve over what I find, hoping to push through this grief with the help of grace, and finally get on the other side. I have, and I will.

The sensations, the feelings, the mysterious pangs of a sudden attack of worry, pain, sadness, or joy – all those seemingly random things, are now an object of my quiet observation. And although one can never have all the answers in this life, one can have the ones that truly matter, the ones that are truly needed. So I wait.

Why was a glimpse of the brick wall washed in brightness so disturbing and painful to behold that I had to search for music which to fill the dangerous vacuum? Why is the redness of the sunset so haunting, so beautiful, and so unspeakably sad? What do I see in the little in-between moments, in the small moments which come in between the ones we consider greater? The drive between two houses. The walk to my car, as I leave the building and I`m greeted by green grass, seagulls, and a dreamy, magnificent sky which wounds the soul more than it heals it. The idea of a little safe place, even when I`m surrounded by people, a place where I think I am unreachable by anyone, a place that, I believe, I am able to create even in harsh, brutal place, like a prison or a high mountain top? What do I see beyond seeing as I look at the world around me?

What is the thing that, since I was very young, drove my mind to search for anything, a book, a film, or if all else fails, a tune which to hum and hopefully chase away…what? I don`t know. But I am beginning to.

What are our favorite places telling us? What is my love for wildness telling me, for the ancient beasts, long gone, and the animals of our time and their glorious wild world, what is this love telling me? Why do I love laughter so much? Why does my heart so ache for good things to be…permanent, while the bad I simply wish would never happen? Why do I chase after the birds in my dream, hoping they will return to perch on the roof of my grandparents` house, and once they do, all will be well again? Why is it that I fear loss so much? If everything is the way it should be, shouldn`t I be better equipped to deal with all life throws at me? Instead, even in my best moments, I am aware of the partiality which is always at my heels. In my worst, I lose heart. And in the meantime, the unseen enemies are always lurking around me. You know them, they are your enemies too…

Fear. Depression. Anxiety. But why…?

Look at the sky after watching the news and seeing the world and its horrors – and you would agree with me that it simply makes no sense. The sky speaks a very, very different message to the one you`ve just been given. Which message is the true one? The scream of darkness or the whisper of hope? To answer that, I will ask you one question:

What is written in your heart? How do you read it?

Yes. What do you see beyond seeing, in the very day-to-day mundanity of life? And, as you search for that radio button in an attempt to escape that mundanity, stop and look at the very thing you`re trying to avoid seeing. As I look at the brick wall, I feel the pangs of homesickness. As I stare at the sky above my head, I feel the sorrows of an exile, and in that moment I know I am one, a prisoner stranded in a place which I love and hate at the same time. And each time when I see my wife in her dazzling beauty, laughing with girlish delight, each time when I watch my little daughter`s face light up with joy as I appear through the door, each time when I see the heartbreaking majesty of the sunset, I look out of the window and I think of a world without pain, shadow, or need.

‘Courage, dear heart’, said Aslan the Great Lion.

Yes. Courage.

The Haunting Call of Home

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Yet hints come to me from the realm unknown;

Airs drift across the twilight border land,

Odoured with life; and as from some far strand

Sea-murmured, whispers to my heart are blown

That fill me with a joy I cannot speak

– George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul.

It has been with me ever since my first memories. It was behind the feeling of mystery and wonder which came over me in childhood, as I stared wide-eyed at the book which had pictures of beautiful places, animals, and adventures. It was in the subtle but deep and inexplicable ache as I watched the hawk fly in the bleached summer sky above. It brought me to a state of reverent quietness as I listened to the owls call to each other as the darkness descended upon the hushed street of my childhood home. It made me hold my breath with awe as I watched the bee-eaters flying high in the sky, or the praying mantis swaying back and forth under the porch light, or the elusive marten, hated by chicken-owners and loved only by me, which occasionally slipped from the darkness of a neighbour`s roof and quickly disappeared back into it, leaving me spellbound, aching and longing for some unnamed, ancient mystery.

I want to tell you a story.

It was a Sunday night. It was dark outside, and all was quiet. As I sat in the darkness of the balcony, I pulled my phone out of my pocket, and turned on the music player. The first session of a series of lectures began. Ready to relax and absorb more knowledge, I sat back, looking toward the darkness of the garden. Our pet rabbit peeped at me from its ‘house’, the boundaries of which reached up to about a third from the balcony. No, I had not brought any rabbit food. Only soul-food. For myself.

Before I continue, I must confess to you that the practice of stillness is one of the most difficult exercises for me. Indeed, when I force myself to leave behind everything else which prevents me from being still, things like books, music, or the talks which I always keep handy, rarely if ever leave my side. It is really a small wonder that my mind rarely, if ever feels fully at peace. I have lived so long in the world of constant activity, that nothing else feels normal, much less comfortable.

An hour went by. As I listened in silence, I caught myself glancing up toward the sky more and more often. The moon, veiled by the ragged cloak of clouds, illuminated everything around me with a pale, ghostly light. Ducks flew somewhere up there, quacking as they followed each other in the dark sky. A fox rustled through the bushes in the dark corner of the green space before me. There was a gentle breeze. And in the pleasantness of the moment, something started to happen. Although my body was already enjoying its rest, my mind was still somewhat stubbornly clinging to its desire for information and busyness. And so for a long time, the lecture I listened to continued to pour into it through my ears. But, from a place far beyond the reach of my ever-hungry, ever-running mind, there came a different message.

You do not need that noise…

Suddenly aware of my self-sabotaging rebellion, I reached out and switched the device off. The emptiness which I had been avoiding and running from ever since my childhood, now seemed interesting, even desirable. And thoughts, new thoughts flew into my suddenly freed mind. What is fear, or craving, or compulsion, but simply a mere lie which once exposed, can only retreat as truth and freedom advances. Let me see what will really happen when I finally let go…

Smells of late summer in the breeze. Sounds of households slowing down and getting ready for the night. Beyond them, the faint sounds of the sea. Bright, round moon, generously smiling through the thinning fabric of fast-moving clouds. Memories, rising up to life in places long forgotten. Timeless shadows of the lush greenness which once surrounded me and surrounds me still. Peace and pleasure. And..a sigh. A sigh of a heart that has long been toiling, labouring without reward under a cruel taskmaster…me. Repentance…and forgiveness. And then, as my mind finally let its guard down and lay still, as my body`s every muscle softened and my eyes feasted upon the beauty of the majestic sky, I began to hear. I am not certain whether my ears had become more attuned to the world around me, or the noises were somewhat louder. Perhaps both things had happened at once. I heard soft smacking sounds of an animal eating. When I slowly looked down, I saw a hedgehog, eating something on the grass below. Judging by the sounds, the meal was a delicious one. I had never before seen a hedgehog in our area, let alone a glutton such as this one, and my stirred heart leapt with joy and amazement. The sounds of the feasting hedgehog drifted to me at the same time as I began to hear the other sounds – the familiar crunching which came from the dark, furry shape of our beloved rabbit that stood in front of its little bungalow, chewing on the food left there for it. Two animals, a domestic one and a wild one, lived, breathed, and ate their food very close to me, totally oblivious to me and each other. Another sigh left my chest as I sat and listened in silence, in the company of the royal, beaming  moon. Foxes moved in the darkness of the bushes. The eerie moonlight set everything in sight ablaze with a white, eternal flame. In that moment my heart, temporarily freed from the cruelty of my hard-working mind, was touched and awakened by some old, undying love. This was the call which I had often heard all those years ago when I was only a little child. This was the haunting which had dogged my heels as I strove to find the meaning of life in my youth, when even in my search, I always remained haunted by an unknown sweetness which called to me but never made itself known. The call was there even later, when I tried to numb the pain of loss, rejection, and despair with pleasures in a vain search for intimacy, fueled by alcohol, drugs and a desperate desire to escape the sadness which filled my soul. It was this call which I had finally responded to as I bent my will and risked everything, opening my heart to a wild, new and unknown Life on that hot and dusty day in Zambia.

You see…nothing is lost…

No, nothing is lost if we, at some point of our journey, choose to lose what we see as ourselves for the sake of the yet unknown truth. As I sat in awe, present to my heart, present to the wonders of nature around me, and to the Author of it all, I was once again soaked in the eternity which has been calling to me ever since I came into the world.

Home was calling to me again.

Homesickness

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I had a strange dream last night. Two eagles soared above a wooded hill. It was just this – the eagles, the sky, and the hill, which I had no trouble recognising even in my dream. This, and so much more…

But I had always thought that eagles no longer lived there…they had always been a rare sight to begin with. What could this possibly mean?

I think that, ever since I can remember, I always knew that I had a home. I belonged. The house where I grew up, the street where I played, the village which witnessed my transformation and passing from one season of life into another – this little world, which was once so big, was home. It was everything to me.

But I do not think now that it really was everything, but rather, a door to that everything which I was born desiring. As hungry as I was in my first days to see, feel, and explore the mysteries around me, I somehow knew, even then, that there was more to life, that the world around me hid secrets which surpassed even the ones which unfolded before me each day as I discovered them. The dance of the butterflies in the vast prairie which was our back garden, the flight of the swallows in the heat of the summer day, the cry of the owls which called to each other in the stillness of the night – it all whispered to me of a reality which, though mysterious and fascinating, filled me with some unknown longing to know, see, and touch something which it could not offer.

I am a man now, and I have a family. I live far away from the place where once such magic took place. Indeed, when one grows up, if one is fortunate enough to have kept in touch with the young and tender places within, one could easily (and mistakenly) start thinking that the beautiful mysteries of the childhood home, the sweet harmony of the simple life, and the old friends, are indeed what one needs, and longs for. It is very likely then, as I myself know only too well, that nostalgia, sorrow, and depression will slowly creep in as thieves, each one making a way for the next, and steal the joy of the later years. In such conditions, especially if change never comes, I myself would prefer to be a selfish fool, a parasite even, living only for pleasures, rather than being a whole-hearted man who groans daily under the unseen and unbearable burden of the lost years.

‘If only I can be there again,’ sighs the heart, devastated by the pain with which abounds even in the happiest human life.

The best moments of our life call to us, whisper to us, and, as those fools we sometimes are, we rush in and, unable to restore the past, and unwilling to listen to what it tells us, we seek to recreate it as best we know how. I do not need to tell you what your ways of recreation and escape are – if you are reading this, you are probably already thinking, or have thought about them. This is normal. It is to be expected. ‘Everybody has a hungry heart,’ sings Bruce Springsteen, and boy, is he right.

When I dream of things forgotten, or remind myself of what has once been mine, I cannot help but desire to return there. My own little heaven. My home. I have indeed, lived many years under the heavy cloud of the sorrow which comes when the soul realises that it would never be filled. Fortunately, things are different now, at least in terms of perspective. And I can now remember far more than I did when my soul was blinded by its hunger. I remember how, even in the best of days, my longings and appetites were never really sated, back in that heavenly place. I remember how the smells, the view, and creatures which moved mysteriously before my eyes, did little to quiet the my groaning young heart, but only increased its sweet torment. I will never forget…

The first bright, warm rays of sunshine which penetrated the room with laser-like sharpness during the summer vacation. The cool, pleasant feeling of the water around my bare feet during the endless days of fishing in the river. The heavy, thick blanket of snow, covering the hushed village late in the night, whispering of the joy which always came with the Christmas season. The friendly street which never felt less home than home itself, since it never forced one`s heart to shrink a little and tense up in a way that it does when one lives in the city, surrounded by strangers. Old stories which, even though speaking of wild and daring deeds, whispered their ancient assurance of the blessed peace which now reigned, and will reign forever. A world, made to endure, like Tolkien`s Shire. My paradise. My home.

Yet, I can now be honest enough to admit that there was something missing, even in that paradise, even before the darkness, the confusion, the violence, and the search for pleasures consumed the years of my youth…yes, even in the sacred innocence of my childhood, something was missing in the world around me. As I grew up and searched, in darkness, and in light, this sense, the feeling that something was missing did not go away.

No, I did not have a real home, not even then, when wonder, joy, and amazement filled my days. I had a home, and a good home it was, but I was nonetheless, homesick.

Where have you searched for your home…?

Do you, like me, sometimes find yourself travelling hundreds, even thousands of miles, to arrive home, only to discover that even there, in that holy place, you are still…homesick? Isn`t our home then, only a door through which we can catch a glimpse of the home we were born desiring? Are we maybe so out of touch with the true reality, like a drunk man who struggles to recognise the faces of his own family? yes, I think we are…we all are. Something has happened to our race, a dark veil has been cast over our planet, and we can now see only a faint shadow of what we are, and what we desire. But this does not make the object of our desire less real. No, but our dearest, precious, most sacred memories, people, places, and events, are telling us something about it. They whisper of our true home, but they themselves are, as C.S.Lewis put it ‘only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.’

The eagles will soar again.

 

 

 

Explain…

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How will you explain the guilt,
The secret eyes behind a secret door
The mirror where a stranger always lurks
The darkness where a boy is always hiding

How will you explain the need,
The tremor in your haunted, lonely heart
The terror that at night your mind is fraying
The flesh for which your body longs with groaning

How will you explain the drive,
To make your life work here and now, forever
To grab a piece of heaven in your hand
And never have it leave your grasp again
To stroke and squeeze, and fiercely consume it
And feed the worm that on your soul is feasting

How will you explain the pull,
To be in love no matter how destructive
To live as if your heart no hurt is bearing
To run from home as if no home you needed

How will you explain the passion,
Which chains you like a beast at night so black
The urge so shameful, like fire that consumes you
And shackles you, a slave of secrets dark

How will you explain the shadow,
That inside lurks, behind a door that`s bolted
Old nameless fear, ancient dread unspoken
It terrifies a child in grown man`s body

How will you explain the madness,
Voracious crows your sanity devour
They take away the last enduring grain
And leave you in a room, cold, white and empty

There in that silence, sleepless voice resounds
Your ravaged mind it fills with utmost horror
It whispers that no peace you`ll ever have,
No hope and joy will ever spring within you

How will you explain the falsehood,
The mask your face so firmly that is gripping
The laughter when you feel just bitter tears
The silence when you want to scream with terror

How will you explain the shame,
That friend unwanted who holds you in the darkness
Caressing face so gnarled with searing pain
And with a black veil guilty eyes it cloaks
‘I`ll care for you’ with poisoned lips it whispers
And so the young tree ever crooked grows

How will you explain the bitter anger,
The shame embracing, evil lie believing
Your excellent and perfect heart you stomped on
Believing that it only death deserved…

How will you explain the sorrow,
Your glory and the beauty wasn`t seen
An ugly soul you thought your lot in life was
A twisted face and blackened heart to bear
Received as your fate from cruel gods

How will you explain the question,
‘Why was I made thus?’ little boy once asked
A question in the withered soul that echoed
And no one heard that silent, raspy voice
The answer from the unseen lips that slithered
‘That`s who you are,’ the shadow then proclaimed
‘And never in your life will you be loved!’
‘You are dirty, bad and rotten deep inside,’
‘And all who know you will forever curse you’

How will you explain the lies,
The wicked voice that echoed in your ears
Sharp, deadly words right in the heart that stabbed you
And doomed you to a life of endless torment

How will you explain the creature dark,
The hand unseen, your throat at night that`s gripping
The sharp and hungry blade your heart that pierced,
Your beauty, hopes and dreams it cut to pieces…

Since you were little is your soul so shattered
And you, my child, have not had too much joy
Confusion, hatred, bitterness consume you,
And shameful pleasure is your only friend

But look, your eyes move to the horizon,
And take your mind outside the hell within you
A world is there, that you my friend will see
That needs you, and the glory that`s inside you

A heart that`s darkened, rotting, almost dead,
Might not seem much to you or to the others
But long before the darkness draped your world
That heart was made for paradise and glory

And how will you explain the glory bright,
That makes you wish for world that`s somehow better
A world without death, pain, and broken hearts
Those places from your youth without the sorrows

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Why does your heart for such world always yearns
Why do you long so for a life that`s better
And why does that glory, buried deep inside
Death is refusing with a bitter cry?

It is because, child, such good world is true
Too good indeed, to not have been existing
And there is One who came to look for you
Down in the darkness, a Hero came to find you

Red blood once flowed, staining the wooden cross
A young brave heart that day ceased to beat
A sacrifice was offered to Death
A price was paid then, a captive was released

That captive is your dear, eternal heart
And you, my friend, for freedom have been ransomed
Each tear from you, there in the darkness shed
Is precious for the One that came to seek you
He cares for you, that heart is loved by Him
And God forbid that He should ever lose you…

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Fear

piranhas-123287_960_720Most of us have old, deep-seated fears. They usually take root in childhood and, over time, become part of who we are. ‘I am naturally a shy person.”He doesn`t like confrontation’. ‘She is afraid of heights.’ ‘He has a claustrophobia.”She doesn`t like public places.’ Labels. Names. Terms. And, underneath it all, there is a frightened, lonely heart that just wants to live and be, enjoying life in its fulness.

Three days ago I returned from a trip which was life-changing, to say the least. Of course, I did have some ideas and hopes before I packed by bag, I did suspect that maybe I will have to face some challenges and, hopefully, overcome them. But what I was not prepared for, was to have my whole inner world, along with my perception of myself, shaken to the core…

A man who is very close to me, opened his house to me, giving me his very presence and focus, and a week from his precious time so I could finally learn to swim and overcome my fear of the water. For most of my thirty-two years on this Earth I had been crippled by an inability to swim and be relaxed in the water which I so love.

Murky, unknown terrors overwhelmed my childhood. Shame bound me during school trips and holidays. Fear, covered with bravado, stalked me during the university years where, holding a beer in my hand, I chuckled as the others ran toward the water, acting as if I was actually better off where I was, thank you very much.

I may not be old yet, but I am now too old for playing roles. And though I have many fears, the one that is greater than all of them, is the fear of spending my life behind a mask.

No more!

And so it began. Day after day we strove, sometimes taking ground, sometimes giving it back, but advancing, although ever so slowly. My deep bond with the man allowed for openness and strength in every way – spiritually, as well as any other way. And, because of that, we were able to explore, and excavate many deep, dark roots which hid in my soul. Together we suffered, we fought, and prevailed over the darkness. It was gold we were after and, as with any true treasure-hunt, this one too, was opposed. The joy, the laughter, the food, the stunning view of the sea, and the crystal-clear water of the pool, were the backdrop of the battle we fought, day by day. And each day, as the Light advanced, the darkness retreated, one step at a time.

It happened toward the end of my stay. I had, by that time, learned to swim from the one end of the pool to the other, on the bottom, breathing only when I reached the other side. That morning, like many times before, I took a deep breath and set out toward the deep end. Suddenly, as I looked ahead, I sensed that the bottom of the deep end seemed somehow dark, despite the brightness of the sun rays which penetrated the water. As if the sun did not reach the deep, murky waters that awaited me. Or maybe it could not reach them. Then something happened within me. My mind froze in terror, causing me to lose control of my body and give way to panic. Splashing and sputtering, my heart drumming inside my chest, I finally managed to reach the edge of the pool. Frustrated, spitting water from my mouth, I hit the hard surface with my fist. Damn it! I could not understand…

Minutes later I was sitting next to my friend. I was still shaken and disoriented, but now I was also angry and determined not to let my joy be stolen anymore. I knew that together, we were strong. And there, under the hot, Middle-Eastern sun, surrounded by trees, butterflies, and birds, it began to happen. Deep within my soul, the darkness finally emerged, revealing its true face. And the old, long-buried emotions swept over me. I saw things which I knew I had only seen as a little child. I felt feelings which I did not know I had ever felt. Dark, scary film scenes were before me again, just as they were when I was left alone in front of the televison as a little boy. Scenes where people drowned, killed in the water, and pulled under by monsters, lurking in the deep. Even as I was in the midst of that horror, a sudden knowledge dawned in my mind. I realised why, all throughout my boyhood I so loved the stories about supernatural beings, monsters, sharks, crocodiles, dinosaurs, and all kinds of big predators that hid in the deep waters. It was because, in my mind, they had been validating what my heart, in the young parts of itself already knew to be true – that there were indeed, monsters, lurking in the deep. The boy inside me knew what the man did not, for it was the boy that was imprisoned in the deep, and not the man. It was the boy that had to face the darkness, and not the man. The man, simply unable to bear the boy`s pain, was cut off from him, letting him live a life of horror and torment while he himself lived a nice, pleasant, but shallow life.

We have not been made for the shallow. Treasures are hidden in the deep. And our enemies can only be defeated if we meet them in their territory.

I had been hiding long enough. It was time to meet them. In the water, I let myself feel what I had been running from. The terrors rushed at me like the predators they were. Warm waves of long-suppressed emotions swept over me and I welcomed them. I did not run this time. Parental neglect had to be forgiven, subconscious agreement with the fears had to be broken, and as the Light rushed in, something extraordinary began to happen. Peace flowed within me, and then, at last, the monsters fled…

Monsters of the Deep – the enemies that had oppressed me since my very first years, left as suddenly as they had once come, taking with them the dark, murky shadows in which they hid.

I saw the sunshine even before I had opened my eyes. It penetrated every corner of my world, seen and unseen. Looking ahead toward the deep end, I saw no shadows.

I learned to swim during that week, and I got the stolen joy of my boyhood back. That, and a lot more besides…

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