Of talkative ghosts...

As I sat in Donald Miller's session at the Echo conference this week, I felt like every word was for me.

He started by telling us about his "ghost" who sits in his living room smoking cigarettes, watching TV and eating Doritos. Don's ghost tells him his ideas are stupid. That what he does is pointless. That life is futile.

It seems I have a "ghost" too. Only my ghost is different to Don's ghost. My ghost is critical of how I look, keeps a detailed checklist of my personal failures, and points out all of the ways I am "less than."

I've been wrestling with her a lot lately.

The thing is I was actually pretty successful in silencing her for a long time. I treated everything she said as lies. As it turns out, lies are pretty easy to fight so, about a year ago she changed her strategy and started talking truth. Well, mostly truth, but truth in the most negative possible way. Edited truth that only keeps track of the bad stuff and leaves out every bit of the good.

I hate the ghost.

It occurs to me that most of the Dale Carnegies, Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfreys of the world work to teach you how to silence the ghost. In some ways the church does too. In fact, I think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought that if I could just find the right combination of steps or memorize the right verse of scripture, that she would shut up. But you know what happens? She actually uses that stuff against me. Tells me how poorly I do at following the "5 steps to whatever."

In his talk, Don said that we've been taught in the church that we have a "God shaped hole" inside of us that we need Jesus to come fill and that once He does we feel complete. (I've heard this in church too.) Then Don said something unexpected. He pointed out that that philosophy is a marketing statement and not a theological one.

What happens when you don't feel complete? When the ghost is right? Is the "product" bad? Did it fail? Did you fail because you didn't use it right? Did you just not have "enough faith?"

When I was younger--and maybe even now--a lot of the "positioning statement" for Jesus was that He would come in and fix your life. The thing is that doesn't happen. Life doesn't become a song. It remains very, very human. With all of the sorrow and rage and brokenness that entails.

When did we trade all of the things that Jesus said about the "kingdom of heaven" for a cheaper product? When did we decide to go for the $19.95 fix?

Bringing heaven to earth isn't fast. Jesus describes it as yeast working its way through dough as it is kneaded or a mustard seed growing into a large tree. (Though I have to confess I don't understand why God didn't just zap it like in a Disney movie.)

Somewhere along the line, we made Christianity about us. About fixing the individual. What if that isn't the point? What if it is about the redemption of the world and we just get to be little parts of the story? Little places where the yeast gets moved through the dough or where a leaf appears on the branch? What if the real kingdom of heaven is in the hundreds of moments we have every day to choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness...all of those things that run counter-cultural to the world around us.

What if the real way of silencing the ghost isn't in fixing all of the things on her list, but in pouring energy into living my part of the story?
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall