This guest post on our inner monster is written by a former student of mine. He took a course of mine entitled, “Relationship with God” where we explored the barriers to knowing God intimately. In essence, this blog is about two things. The first is how strongholds can really affect our ability to discern who Jesus is.
The second is about monsters. For many of us, our emotions and needs feel monstrous. Our emotions, desires, and needs must be recognized and dealt with or real growth into maturity cannot be accomplished.
The moral of the story is don’t be afraid to face the darkness in you. Bring the Light of the World along!
Karsten chose the braver path; he chose to stand and face his fears and beliefs. I hope you enjoy his blog. You can also find him here at realhoperising.com .
I was one of those people that could never picture God.
Not in that “He is so Holy and wrapped in light, no eye has seen Him” sort of way. Just, in general. Reading the Bible, imagining him hugging me, imagining heaven during worship songs… MercyMe could, but I couldn’t “only imagine” a thing!
That’s because every time I tried, whatever image I imagined would turn “demonic.” It started out fine…I’d imagine an angel or imagine Jesus on a bench, but angels, Jesus, the Father, the faces always turned into demons. It was quite grotesque, and every time I just went all charismatic on my imagination like “Demons be gone in Jesus name!” And they would be because I’d just stop imagining.
Then I met Alice, and she helped me change everything.
Yes, the very same Alice who writes this site! My Freshman year Spiritual Formation group teacher at William Jessup University, she had us do a prayer exercise where we imagined Jesus joining us in a serene place. “Jesus” of course did what he always did. He started to turn into a vampire.
I fought my way through that exercise, trying to turn him back every time he began to sprout razor sharp teeth, but it certainly wasn’t the most healing of prayer exercises for me. I walked up to her after class and told her about my imagination problem. She stayed late to do the exercise with me again and told me to let my imagination go. It can’t hurt me, right? It’s just my imagination. So that’s what I did.
Jesus was about to hug me when he began to turn. After the teeth, he bit me, and as the imagery progressed, he turned into a giant bat-like creature that tore me to shreds.
So why would God do this to me? Why would this God I know and love turn into a Vampire monster and devour me until there is nothing left? Simple.
Because that was the God I believed in.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “What a creepy guy. Who thinks Jesus is a vampire?” Let me explain.
As Alice has touched on, the imagination shows us what we truly believe. It opens up pathways into the subconscious, the emotions, and parts of ourselves that we have dissociated from. Your imagination should be one of your best friends for healing and for self-knowledge.
Vampire Jesus showed me how I really saw God. I saw Him as someone that would love me one minute but turn on me the next. Someone who loved me, but also wanted to use me for his purposes, with no regard for my wants or needs. God wanted to use me until I was used up. (Alice wrote on this in http://poemachronicles.com/
Alice helped me see that I saw God as a monster and I didn’t even know it.
She gave me a “prescription.”
“Here’s your prescription. Go somewhere like the prayer room at least twice a week for just twenty minutes per day, and just ‘be.’ Let whatever comes up come up. Just feel it with God. That’s it.”
Alice once told me that in your dreams, everyone is you. Your conscious mind can’t handle certain facets of yourself so your imagination carves them off into separate parts that you can more safely interact with (notice I didn’t say safely, just more safely). That’s why you have nightmares of being chased by a bear, or a dream of killing your father, or dream you’re drowning in the ocean. Imagination is a mirror that allows you to see what is really buried inside of you.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried sitting somewhere and doing nothing except being present for twenty minutes, but I can tell you from experience that your imagination will kick in at some point during that time. Mine sure did.
That’s when I discovered the other monsters.
This image came to me of a bunch of monsters, about fifteen of them, sort of bouncing around in the dark, locked in this dark chamber of my heart. It was like there was a lid over the room that kept them safely locked away. I intuitively knew that like Alice had said, these monsters I’d dreamed up were me. My monsters.
Much like Vampire Jesus, I never thought consciously of myself as having any monsters. I was a good Christian boy; never got in trouble and always did what the church told me to. In fact, it turns out that I was too good.
My monsters were my emotions, my desires, and my secret fantasies, even my needs.
I learned from the church that I should sacrifice for the good of others and that if I did that then God would make everything okay in my life. My life as a kid was rarely okay. It was filled with anger, conflict, and verbal abuse. I remember when my parents started fighting I would go outside on my roller blades and pray until I heard God say something had shifted and the fight was over. Then I’d come back in and everything would be okay again.
My little man brain decided that my feelings were monsters that needed to be chained away so they wouldn’t interfere with praying, or with fixing things. When my parents were fighting did I wish we were inside playing board games together or just laughing with each other? Sure I did, but my needs weren’t important. Fixing things was important.
So all my good, God given emotions and desires got locked away. It was my job to be used, to work, and to fix. God, people, didn’t matter. I was here to make everything better, and anything that didn’t allow me to do that was locked up under that lid. I made my own personal locked house of monsters.
I remember sitting in that dimly lit prayer room that day, right there on the beige couch, looking at those monsters in that dark room. Looking at the red Tupperware lid over the darkness. I knew, I just knew that I couldn’t keep them locked in there anymore.
It was time to let out the monsters.
As I sat there, I pictured peeling away that Tupperware lid, and all the monsters came flying out like phantoms. It was all a bit unsettling. Soon after that, I began having dreams about taking care of strange babies and living dolls. My monsters were allowed to live and become a part of me again. I had to learn to accept, love, and nurture them.
“It is only when we learn to accept our monsters that we have truly learned to love ourselves.”
Each of us has monsters inside of us. We all are a jungle, crawling with wild things. If you are like me you were taught, by others or by yourself, to bury those monsters. You learned to cut off parts of who you are because they weren’t pretty enough, because they weren’t behaved enough, or because they were too much of a burden on others. But here’s the truth:
“You’re monsters aren’t really monsters. They are just malnourished pieces of you.”
When we ignore something long enough, it starts to feel different to us. It starts to feel less like us, and it starts to look less like the “us” that we present to the world day to day. We create our own monsters, and we can un-create them too. The hardest thing Alice taught me to do was to embrace my monsters and to accept them as good.
Realizing that my monsters deserved my care and acceptance, I began to grow. I mean really grow. Parts of my heart had that been numb for years began to thaw, and I began to feel alive in ways I had never known. I became fun. I became silly. I became vibrant.
We all have our monsters. If we learn to love them, they will help make us whole.
A small Caveat- I’m not talking about sin, but sin often manifests where monsters reside. A monster often feels like a part of yourself that you can’t control, like a starving dog. A starving dog will bite and eat just about anything. That’s why our monsters draw us into sin. Embracing your monsters doesn’t mean embrace sin, but it means learning to embrace the un-cared for need that is causing that sin. For example, anger isn’t a sin. Yet when we do not honor our anger by feeling and working through it, that bottled anger turns into a monster, and that anger monster attacks in sinful rage.
Thank you for listening to a bit of my story. My heart is to change our paradigms in ways that lead to authentic hope, lasting joy, and a transformed world. You’re invited into my family over at realhoperising.com Come change the world with us!