I find myself trapped inside my head these days, questioning my interpretation of things but unable to “step outside” of said interpretation to see things differently. For years, I have viewed life through the lens of my self-protective old/false self (who I call my “ogre,” because he’s huge, fat, lethargic and VERY ANGRY!). I am only beginning now to mourn what I have lost to the ogre and his interpretations – bridges burned, friends shunned, joys unseen and love un-received. He has kept me isolated and alone, reinforcing the messages of abandonment I received in abundance while I was young.
I am desperately trying to kill this ogre and in its place receive a new self way of looking at life, enabling me (by grace) to receive and give love. My problem is this: how can I just “step out of” something I’ve been immersed in nearly all my life? To question the ogre feels like the equivalent to questioning the core of my being, my sense of self. To challenge him feels like challenging everything I’ve ever known. I suppose this is why the process is slow in putting down the ogre and receiving the new self: something must take the place of the ogre, it cannot simply be stricken down. That would leave an impossible vacuum. Their must be a slow and steady “regime change,” as new neural pathways are developed in my brain, new interpretations considered and believed.
As I described these things to my wife, she wisely pointed me to a JJ Heller song, and I’m glad she did. It’s called “All the Beauty (Kati’s Story)” and it’s from her Only Love Remains album (2006). Here are the lyrics:
I know that she's a liar when I look into her eyes
But I believe in every word she says
She's out to start a fire burning everything I have
I can't put it out 'cause it's all inside my head
And then you sing
I hear you sing
You call me lovely
You call me friend
You call me out of death and let me try again
You call me beloved
You call me clean
Then you show me all the beauty that you see in me
I still hear her whisper and sometimes I hear her shout
You're not good enough and you will never be
But if I focus on your singing I can start to tune her out
'Cause you came with a love to set me free
I know that you love me enough to die
And I will try to see the value that you place on me
And you say I'm worthy
The songwriter is addressing her old/false self, the one who lies to her and is determined to “burn everything” good in her life. The fire can’t simply be put out because it’s all inside her head, implying that it’s a significant part of her. Like a cancer that’s wrapped around vital organs, it can’t simply be removed without killing everything. A different treatment is necessary. In this case, only the hearing of the song of the Beloved can free her from the false self.
This phrase I find especially helpful - “If I focus on your singing I can start to tune her out . . .” It is impossible to simply repent and/or eradicate this false self and be done with it, since it is in my mind and interwoven with many (all?) of my thoughts and actions in some way. The new self must be fed, and the old self starved. The old self must be put off, the new self put on, perhaps millions of times. This is possible through meditatively listening to the song of the Beloved singing who I am.
I recall here that in both of my favorite fantasy series, Lord of the Rings (Silmarillion) and the Chronicles of Narnia (Magician’s Nephew), the respective deity in each of those stories created the worlds through song. I need to step aside, take time to hear Him sing, for in his song my deliverance is birthed, the new self can emerge.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)