|This is what it looks like when I write. Biggby beverage optional… Not really. The fingers don’t function without it.
By combining some wise words from our pastor about idolatry with part of a re-telling of Bunyan’s Holy War by master storyteller Ethel Barrett, I arrive at a resoundingly firm butt kicking from my loving Father.
My idols enter through the Eye Gate. In fact, I’m forced to admit the the Eye Gate is my number one weak spot. If I’m going to be defeated, the battle will be lost at the Eye Gate.
I shall elucidate…
In “The Chronicles of Mansoul,” by Ethel Barrett, the city of Mansoul is surrounded by five gates – Eye Gate, Ear Gate, Smell Gate, Taste Gate, and Feel Gate.
(I’m probably mangling the names of them, since I can’t find my copy of the book, but I know I’m right about the Eye Gate, and since that’s the one I’m working through, well, there ya go.)
And Mansoul can’t ever be conquered from the outside – the gates can’t be breached…
Unless they’re opened from within.
I’m not a gossip, so my Ear Gate pretty well stays shut. I do sometimes use my Mouth Gate in ways that I’m not happy about, so I guess there’s a doggie door on that gate or something. My Smell Gate got bricked over years ago, so nothing gets in there – unless you count the hand soap at my favorite Biggby… For some odd reason, I can smell that stuff and it smells wonderful to me.
Can you tell where I am right at this moment?
Feel Gate isn’t really a problem for me – I’m not apt to be knocked over by the velvety feel of BekaV’s lovely fur or the soft feel of my beloved’s cheek. I appreciate those things, but they usually don’t cause me to lose a battle.
But, the Eye Gate…
Ah, the Eye Gate.
I might as well take the gate off the hinges, open up the doorway, and post a sign – “Walk right in.”
I’m in a different Biggby than my normal one, and this one has a television. Now, I turned the sound off (and no one has complained, so that’s all good…), but still – I find myself looking up at the screen every once in a while, taking in the images, pondering what they’re about, wonder what’s being talked about, or being shocked at just how trashy the soaps have gotten.
And none of this adds anything to my life. It doesn’t assist my writing, it doesn’t enhance my mental balance, and it doesn’t produce any lasting good.
For a “normal person,” this probably isn’t a big deal. Just chilling in front of the tube, taking in some shows, checking out what’s on, no big deal.
But for me? There are profound reasons why we don’t have cable, and aren’t likely to get it anytime soon. There are also good reasons why I generally don’t go to movies. Sadly, movies are one of my beloved’s favorite things, and I hate disappointing her, but she understands the reasons, and once again proves just how perfectly God designed us for each other.
The Eye Gate is my weakest point.
No television, no movies, no problem, right? Um… no.
Wham. Thud. Crash. I done been mangled.
An infinite number of things to see, all which can lead to other things to see, which take you to other things to see, and some things that no sane person should ever see, and yet I see them because my Eye Gate is weak and I can’t look away.
So yes, I can easily lose an entire day just reading blogs, looking at funny videos, or checking out crap on eBay that I don’t need, can’t afford, and really don’t want. But I look all the same.
To extend myself a little grace (Just a tad, anyway…), obsession can be a part of bipolar. And as I’ve said before, sometimes the demon wins a battle. So when I come back to reality after a day lost, I can accept it and move on, instead of dropping into depression.
But what causes me angst is the times I just lay down and give up – the times when I don’t even try to resist.
Oh, I may tell myself, “Now I’m going home, I’m going to do some writing, I’ll listen to the DAB and crochet, and I’ll get some time in on that music project I’m working on. Oh, and do some dishes too.”
This is a lie.
The pathetic thing is, I know that it’s a lie. I’ll head home, intending to do some of the good stuff I’ve been yammering about, may even go through the motions of getting out my crochet or writing gear, but it usually ends with me in front of the computer, getting flooded through the Eye Gate, and losing an entire afternoon in useless surfing.
I’ve tried some strategies – setting a timer for example, and putting it across the room so I have to get up every so often to shut it off, thus hopefully breaking the obsession and letting me come up for air. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
I usually go write at a coffeehouse – preferably one without a television – and that increases the chance I’ll actually do what I came to do.
I write on a 1st gen iPad that crashes if one tries to surf the ‘net too much. The smaller screen also seems to capture my attention and limit it. Again – it increases the chance I’ll actually write and not get lost.
But one can’t always work in a coffeehouse, especially when working on music projects. One can’t do everything on an iPad – there are things to be done that the ol’ tablet just won’t deal with. And there are times when I need the whole computer, not just the iPad.
And those are the times when the forces gather outside the Eye Gate, wait patiently, and walk right through as I open the gate from the inside.
So, this is my challenge, today and every day. How to do the creative work that I do, using technology that has a wide-open door to obsession, without opening the Eye Gate for all to enter.
Ok, that’s the connection to The Chronicles Of Mansoul… What about the wise words from Pastor Craig, he of the cool bowties and the awesome bass playing?
Through Craig’s sermon one Sunday morning, I realized that the struggle is more than just wrangling with the Eye Gate, more than just a war with bipolar obsession…
The screen is my idol.
Where did I cross that line?
When I found myself turning toward the screen when I’m bored. Or sad. Or lonely. Or frustrated. When I turn toward a screen (iPad, iPhone, iMac, or Kindle, just to name a few…) to fix what ails me, it becomes an idol.
Which pretty much smacked me into a brick wall at about 60 miles an hour. Ouch.
The struggle has now been kicked up a notch. It’s about obsession, it’s about developing self-control when being flooded with the very stuff that is your own personal Kryptonite, but most of all…
It’s about kicking an idol to the curb. ’cause ain’t nobody got time for that.
(I feel so hip, cool, and trendy for using that phrase. Really. Ok – not really. I just like the phrase.)
I’ve already been a contestant in Big Time Idol Wrestling, and still do battle with the idol of food addiction. The hold that food has on me continues to be a struggle, and probably always will be. “My chains are gone,” but I’m fully capable of laying down where they used to hold me and not moving. My mind can always grab a hold of me if I’m don’t stay aware.
I just hadn’t realized that the screen had a hold on me too.
But now I do.
It’ll take some time, it’ll take prayer, it’ll be hard, hard work, but I know one thing…
I don’t want anything – not food, not the screen, not anything – to take the place of God in my life, and become the thing I turn to for my needs.
And I don’t want anything to take Herself’s place in my world either. The screen can easily become my emotional partner, and that’s just wrong.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
(Hee hee hee…)
There are things that I love, things I want to give my time and effort to, but none of them will ever see the light of day if the idols are blocking the light.
I have no answers – yet.
I’m not going to quote some pithy little phrase, designed to leave us (all 4.78 of us…) feeling warm and fluffy. I’m simply becoming aware of the idols, how deep their hold is on me, and how desperately I need to seek the One who can continue to set me free…
If I let Him. If I ask Him. If I follow Him.
(Sorry – that was borderline pithiness.)
(Ain’t nobody got time for that.)