I’m taking a break from my blog. I love it, but that’s the problem: I love it a little too much. In this season of life (early motherhood, moving to a new state, The Love Dare), lost in my own learning curves, I’ve lost audience awareness; I’ve slipped into nearly moving my diary online.
The fact is, I don’t have the capacity to write for an audience right now. At least not a blog audience, because a blog audience needs continual attention, much like the husband I am trying to love better; the one-year-old son who needs me constantly; and my God, who hasn’t been hearing much from me lately. (Ouch.)
But for me not blogging doesn’t mean not writing. While away, I will continue to write. I need to keep writing, in fact, to cope with all the growth and change happening around and within me. I just need to write for awhile without an audience, except my Savior, so I can listen better to him instead of worrying about what readers will think, or how to package my thoughts under a catchy title, or what content will get the most “likes.” I need some quiet time to be raw and real, to pray and journal, and to get back to that “empty notebook” strategy and the “writing to my roots” approach that evoked the germ of this blog and my first memoir—the core message of which I still believe needs an audience. (I’m asking God right now if it’s the right time to revise that memoir yet again…)
In time, I believe I will hit upon another message that deserves an audience–an audience to include (most likely) new mothers, impatient wives, writers, and well-intentioned (but struggling) sons and daughters of God. For now, I am seeking wisdom again, in and for this new stage of life. For now, I need to listen more than I speak; I need to read more than I write; and I need to write more than I blog.
I’ve known for awhile that Facebook and I needed to reevaluate our relationship. It was making me irritable, begging me to compare myself to others, and stealing valuable time (if even just ten minutes in a day). When I read that motivational writer Crystal Paine from moneysavingmom.com had deleted her personal account to make more time for her “best stuff,” I seriously considered it too. But after evaluating my own situation, I decided on a better solution that will help me engage with my own “best stuff”: family and writing.
In order to stay active on both fronts, I’ve decided to keep my personal page, and I’ve also decided to start a “professional” writing page (using that term very loosely!).
The personal page will keep me connected to loved ones who want baby and family updates (and whose updates I want to read, too)—especially now that I live far from friends and family. I haven’t been great at posting these types of things, but I am trying to do better, because I want to keep my loved ones involved—and Facebook is where a lot of them hang out! (Please note: Facebook has never been much of a temptation for me, so I’m pretty confident that logging in from time to time won’t derail into an addiction. Others who have a problem logging off, however, might benefit from a different strategy.)
My professional page, on the other hand, will serve a different purpose, and a different audience. It will be a better place to put my longish, thoughtful, and/or devotional posts, which never get near the traffic that a picture of baby Sam does on my personal site (hey, I get it!). It will be another good way to speak to an audience that may not have a personal stake in my life, but that wants to read what I have to write, and that takes an interest in my writing journey.
I anticipate spending much more time on the “professional” page, because “writing true stories for his glory,” “blogging lessons of daily life,” and talking with others about my passion (writing) is what energizes me and feeds my soul. And I think that, ultimately, this type of post is what feeds others’ souls too, more than a selfie, a picture of my lunch, or even the cutest picture of Sam. Not to say these are bad…just…I want to practice moderation, and keep first things first!
May God help us all to use Facebook to its fullest…whatever that means for you! Of course, I hope that means “liking” my new Facebook fan page! If you do, I promise I will try not to post time-wasting stuff, but only that which is helpful for the Christian walk and the writer’s life. Thanks in advance for the “like”!
The Hidden Half of the Gospel is now in print, which means it’s time for me to sound promotion bells; but how about I just use a recent, personal example, to tell you why so many people (and maybe you) desperately need this message?
The other day I was listening to a radio show hosted by one of my favorite pastors. People call in with Bible questions, and this pastor answers them, usually with lots of scripture and high caller satisfaction. But one caller on the show did not receive a satisfactory answer.
Essentially, this caller wanted to know how he could get free from his past. He was fifty-two, had been abused as a child, and was still living “in bondage,” even though he went to church and prayed for the peace of the Holy Spirit. How, he wanted to know, could he experience the “new life” Christ promised, and the changes he read about when a person gets the Holy Spirit?
My heart broke for the man as the pastor proceeded to give pat answers that blatantly sidestepped the man’s apparent pain. “Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been to a funeral where the deceased sat up and complained about his past?”
“Well, we can’t focus on the past. It’s done. As we drive through life, we can’t keep looking in the rearview mirror. We have to focus on what matters for eternity. We need to give the past to Jesus and then look to the future with him. Our pasts won’t matter in heaven. We need to believe that Jesus forgives us of our past sins and our guilt.”
Here I thought to myself, He totally didn’t address the man’s question: “How do you help someone who is trying, but is not experiencing, the Holy Spirit?” I wished I could contact this man and offer Paul’s and my book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours. I wished I could talk to that pastor and give him our book, too, so next time he got a call like that, he could offer some real help: a complete picture of the gospel that not only addresses healing sin, but also healing suffering.
The Traditional Gospel Doesn’t Help Everyone
Sadly, this pastor was merely presenting the “status quo” gospel that so many Christian pastors, and Christians, promote. That is, “Christ died for our sins and rose again to forgive us and give us a new life.” Sounds nice. It is nice. This gospel has changed millions of lives. But what about those people who have already tried this gospel, who go to church and pray regularly, and who have even accepted Jesus’ forgiveness, and still live in bondage?
Today Christians and non-Christians alike live in bondage to things like divorce, abuse, addiction, depression, and cutting/self-harm (to name a few). More tragically, many Christians live in bondage to the negative thoughts and lies Satan slams us with in the aftermath and in the midst of these problems. Which means we end up living out false identities long after the initial pain of, say, childhood abuse.
I was one of those desperate people only a few years ago (see my seven-part series “My Ugly, Messy Rebirth Story“). But then God taught me what it really means to live a new life. Over a period of several years, I learned about Satan’s lies and how they take root in our minds and handicap our lives.
It’s insulting, and discouraging, when pastors or Christians tell us we should be “over it” just like that. It doesn’t work. And that’s why we need a better gospel, a complete gospel—the gospel that Paul Coneff unearthed as a young pastor in his search to minister to hurting individuals like that fifty-two-year-old Christian caller.
Jesus Preached a Better Gospel
When Jesus said He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free, He didn’t just mean He would heal us when He came back again at His second coming, or set us free from our prisons of darkness when we get to heaven. His promise was for here and now. And that means it includes more than the gospel of forgiveness of sins. It has something for those of us who have been sinned against.
Our book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel, starts right where you are: in the midst of your misery. It doesn’t ask you to deny it or forget it, because that’s stupid; it’s impossible. Correction: by ourselves it’s impossible, but with God all things are possible. Specifically, for those of us who are suffering, healing begins with Jesus Christ’s life of suffering, and the promise that “He suffered in every way we did” so He could offer us his mercy and grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16). In our book, Paul and I flesh out the implications of these promises through stories of real individuals (like myself) who needed a Savior in the midst of suffering, and who found one who understands our pain exactly, because He has been through it.
Jesus was abandoned, betrayed, and abused; He was unfairly tried, convicted, and crucified; and in the midst of all this, he felt forsaken by his Father. As a “man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief,” He knows that we need time to heal, and He doesn’t expect us to do it overnight. He only asks that we look to Him and the victory He accomplished at the cross. As we look to Jesus and allow Him to tell us about the lies and wounds in our hearts, He can uproot them and replace them with a new identity. If this sounds like a message you could use, or one that you’d like to share with others, please visit hiddenhalf.org. There, you can read sample chapters, and if you like what you see, you can order the book. Happy reading!
Get a Discount on the book: When you click “buy the book,” the next page offers a discount box. Type in “HIS-story” to receive a 20% discount through October 31.
After giving my life to God, I was always on the lookout for tools to share my faith. I didn’t feel I was particularly good at this part of the Christian life, and I thought it was because I hadn’t yet found the right method. Enter Paul Coneff and The Hidden Half of the Gospel.
Paul conducted a week of prayer at my church in the spring of 2012, and after just the first night, I knew his message was special: I sensed it might even be the missing link in my life and ministry, this “hidden half” of Jesus’ story. So, what was it? And how, if I’d been in church almost my entire life, had I missed it?
The Hidden Half of the Gospel
Paul began his presentation with a question: “What did Jesus do more of while on this earth: Teaching or healing?”
Healing was the obvious answer. Then Paul asked, “Why have we [churches and Christians] reversed Jesus’ model of ministry? Why do we do more teaching than healing, when he did more healing than teaching?”
He continued, “Now let’s say that I am sitting in my office and I am studying for a sermon. Some church member comes in and says, ‘I have been struggling with guilt and shame from an abortion.’ Is it easier to turn to that messiness and brokenness of her life, or is it easier to do a Bible study on the character of God? Give her some scriptures on forgiveness and say, ‘You know God has forgiven you,’ pray with her a thirty-second prayer, and walk away. Which is easier?”
His point? Many churches, and Christians, don’t know how to handle messy problems like this one (other common examples being pornography addiction, abuse, eating disorders, infidelity, and cutting ), so we don’t–meaning we don’t offer the help so many people need. He went on to prove his point with a concept he calls the “cycle of sin-and-forgiveness.” Many Christians come into the church and get forgiveness for their sins, only to fall back into their patterns of sin. Then they ask for forgiveness, but continue to sin, again and again and again. (In my own experience of praying with women, I’ve also seen a pattern of wallowing in guilt over past sins that the person is no longer committing.) Paul continued. “Why is it that so many Christians who have accepted the ‘good news’ of Christ still are not free?”
I was riveted. Exactly! I said to myself, remembering how my parents had been wooed into the church with lots of good information and had gotten baptized, only to leave our family scattered and scarred by an affair and divorce (see parts 1, 2, and 3).
For the first time, I saw my problems standing stark naked in church, and I was desperate to know: How can the church address these issues?
1. The root of our sin and suffering is Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44). This concept of roots is huge in Paul’s ministry. As Paul explained, all our negative behaviors and patterns are merely fruits of deep-seeded roots, or lies, planted by Satan. We cannot fix the fruits unless we first attack the roots. Thus, healing begins by identifying the Satanic lies driving our behavior. Once we know the roots, or the lies, we can take those to Jesus and let him deal with them, which leads to pillar 2.
2. The root of our healing and freedom is Jesus, our Suffering Messiah (Luke 9:22; Rev. 5:5; Col. 2:15; Isa. 53). The suffering of Jesus is the crux of The Hidden Half of the Gospel, and the key to our healing.
As Paul explained, many churches have overlooked this crucial aspect of Jesus’ gospel, instead choosing to focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection. The death and resurrection take care of forgiveness of sins, but often merely believing in and accepting these concepts doesn’t resolve suffering, or the cycle of sin-and-forgiveness. Putting “suffering” back into the definition of the gospel, as Jesus explained it to his disciples (see Luke 9:22), offers hope to those of us stuck in suffering—depression, abuse, addiction, etc.—because it means Jesus didn’t just nail our sins to the cross, but he also nailed our suffering there, as well. The Bible tells us Jesus “suffered and was tempted in every way” that we are tempted, to offer us help when we suffer and are tempted (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16).
Why Jesus Had to Suffer
“Have you ever thought about why Jesus’ story had to be so gory?” Paul asked the audience.
I really hadn’t.
“Well, think about it.” Paul continued. “Jesus was abandoned; betrayed; physically violated; shamed and humiliated; and verbally, mentally, emotionally, and physically abused. Now, do you think He understands the pain that abuse victims feel? Does He understand when a parent abandons a child? Was He ever tempted to numb His pain?
“He suffered all these things and more so He could identify with us. So that he could understand every way we are sinned against, and every form of self-protection we develop in order to numb our pain.
“What’s more, he suffered these temptations and triumphed over them, which means that when we take time to connect our stories with Jesus, to pray and meditate on what it means that he suffered for us, and became sin for us, we can experience his victory.”
By this time, I was hooked. I wanted this in my life. I wanted a ministry that was relevant to the suffering I’d experienced, and that which I saw all around me.
So I signed on for Paul’s seven-phase, thirteen-week discipleship program. That’s right. A thirteen-week program. This wasn’t any “quick fix.” It was going to be an intense period of praying on a consistent basis, first for myself (to get more healing in my own life before I was expected to pass it on–a requirement of Straight 2 the Heart Ministries) and then for others. I was going to learn at the feet of Jesus (and the seat of Paul Coneff) for an extended period of time, sort of like the first disciples, before I set out to make more disciples.
Discipleship, Small-Group Style
Paul spent the next four months with five of us, discipling us—praying with us, and training us to pray with others. And not quick, clean, thirty-second prayers. These were deep, messy prayer sessions that first asked Jesus to identify our negative roots, and then helped us connect our stories to Jesus’ story. It didn’t end there. We delved deeper, praying, “Lord, what else do you want me to know about these roots in my life? What blessings or barriers are there in these areas?” The prayers were recursive, connecting our stories to Jesus, then having us stop and listen to the Holy Spirit so he could take us one layer deeper into our negative roots. Always, by the end of the prayer sessions, which dredged up long-buried hurts and often tears, Jesus revealed blessings, too. He always brought to mind His promises to combat the negative roots our praying was churning up.
Our training ended, with the goal being that we would start more small groups in our church, beginning with a few men and women, hopefully to grow as disciples multiplied.
My Gateway to New Life at Home, at Work, and in Ministry
My life intersected with Paul Coneff’s message and ministry, Straight 2 the Heart, when I was at a crossroads in my life. I was coming up against the age of thirty, and was finding that pursuing my “chosen” path, graduate school to become a professor, was leaving me feeling empty. Here’s a summary of how God has since rerouted my plans through this life-changing prayer ministry.
Facing Remaining Negative Roots
First, Straight 2 the Heart has helped me to be honest about areas in my life that weren’t all healed yet (some of which are still in progress) such as:
Anger at the premature loss of my childhood family and, well, my childhood.
Resentment at my husband’s happy family (and any happy family).
Disillusionment with my church and religion because it “did not help me” in my time of crisis. Straight 2 the Heart helped me to see that my church didn’t help me because it didn’t know how—also, because I didn’t let them know I needed help in the first place. (It also provided the answer for how churches can help, when they have the right tools.)
My pattern of trying to control my life in my own strength so it would never get out of control again (or my attempts to never repeat my past depression, suicide attempts, broken family, etc., through over-planning, becoming over-busy, and more).
My avoidance of having kids out of the above need to maintain control.
Gaining Deeper Healing
Second, Straight 2 the Heart has led to more healing for those negative roots in these ways:
The decision to let go of the “safe,” but wrong career path of academia.
The decision to finally pursue the identity God has for me, which has translated into sharing my story through writing and even teaching. This blog, my memoir-in-progress, and Paul’s and my forthcoming book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel, are all examples of me sharing my story for God’s glory.
The decision to have a baby.
The decision to be honest with other women, to reach out and accept relationships I had avoided but desperately needed (See my post “Friends in High Places”)
I am gaining more appreciation for my church as I look past its flaws (every church has flaws) and see the human beings there. Since deciding to be vulnerable with my own story, I’ve connected with many of these dear people in meaningful ways. I am getting the authentic “fellowship of believers” experience I missed as a child, when my family was intent on covering up its problems.
Taking the Next Step in Ministry
Third, Straight 2 the Heart has helped me learn how to have a really relevant ministry, or how to help others who are stuck in negative places and patterns like those I’ve suffered. (It is through making Jesus’ gospel relevant to the everyday struggles of life—boldly connecting our messiness to Jesus Christ’s suffering and his full gospel to “heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free.”)
My partner in prayer ministry, Amanda, and I, prayed two new young women (now dear friends) through the thirteen-week prayer process, which helped lead them to lots of healing—and baptisms in our church!
Amanda and I also trained women at a neighboring church to facilitate the same thirteen-week prayer and discipleship process in their congregation.
With the help of Amanda and Mary, our other cohort from our initial 13-week training, I facilitated a third prayer group, consisting of around ten ladies, in my home for several months last fall. This group resulted in amazing healing for many of these women (for marital, parental, and other common problems) as well as facilitating much needed connection between these lovely, but often isolated church ladies.
Now I am working on rendering the miracles we saw in these women willing to be honest with one another and with God into the closing scenes for my memoir. I want my story to testify to how one changed life can ripple out to other lives, and still more lives from there. This is what discipleship is all about.
Now, what I’ve left out of my rebirth story (and there’s lots I’ve left out), I am working on telling in my memoir. Why did I call this my “ugly, messy” rebirth story? If you consider a real birth (and I’ve been considering it a lot lately), it’s a messy process. It’s no small thing when a new physical life is created—and the same is true for a new spiritual life. The creation of a life, and the re-creation of a life, are not simple or easy processes. At times they are painful, ugly, and messy—but to get to the birth, or the rebirth, they are necessary. That’s why I have unapologetically included the ugliness and messiness in my story—along with its beauty. Without either, my story would be incomplete.
My topic for this post is one I’ve never before offered to an audience—because it always felt too embarrassing. However, it is a topic that affects too many females (a couple whom I know and care about very much) for me to keep it buried.
I once heard a pastor say that every addiction is an attempt to numb pain. In my case, bulimia was just that. I wanted to bury the pain of depression and a life that had turned sour. It all began one night in 2004 while I was “convalescing” in my first-ever single apartment.
At age nineteen, I had just been released from a mental hospital for depression and a suicide attempt. If not trying to kill myself anymore was any indication of healing, then I guess I was. However, I still thought about killing myself plenty. When not otherwise occupied, I dwelled on death constantly, even looking up quotes about the benefits of suicide and writing them down. This obsession was so great that I had to either find something to numb the pain, or act on the obsession. I found a painkiller. Food. But then, because I also had dangerously low self-esteem that hinged on how closely I measured up to pop culture’s standard of beauty, I needed a way to undo the calories my binging sessions wracked up. I began to purge.
How could someone who is not miserable at the core of her being engage in a behavior as messed up as deliberately overeating and then throwing up? And doing this repeatedly, and with a measure of enjoyment, as if it added benefit to life?
I never planned to start binging and purging, but when life brought me to the breaking point, calling forth all my hidden insecurities, it became easy to do. I had seen some television movies on anorexia and bulimia before; I had even read some novels on the topic in high school, and I remember a lot of other girls in my class reading them, too. You see, even girls who don’t engage in one of these eating disorders are very conscious of them. Most teenage girls, at some point or other, if not throughout their entire teen years, become self-conscious of, or even obsessed with, their bodies. Without even realizing why or how they become so aware of their bodies, teen girls learn to place body in the forefront of their minds; I would dare say they award the body such importance that it becomes powerful enough to either make their lives miserable, if found wanting in some way, or to make life worth living, if they “measure up.”
And the really crappy thing about it is that a lot of teen girls—at least the kind of teen girl I was—don’t feel comfortable talking about this deep pain, so they suffer with it silently. I certainly never made a big thing out of my mammoth feelings of inferiority, but I carried them with me everywhere throughout junior high, high school, and beyond. The times when I did say something about those feelings, I remember being shrugged off or shushed with some simplistic statement like, “You’re not fat,” or, “Oh, you have nothing to worry about.” I don’t remember anyone ever slowing down or taking time to ask me why I felt that way, or what were the deeper issues behind those feelings.
I wonder: Had I mentioned that “I hate myself” or “I think I’m worthless,” would that have gotten more attention? Because these were the real, root issues.
As it was, I couldn’t see the root issues back then–and neither could anyone else. Maybe that’s why being too heavy, or being unattractive, felt like a fate worse than death. When you’ve reduced your expectations for life down to nil, but you’ve agreed to stay alive for other people (but not for yourself), it doesn’t seem such a bad thing to huddle over the toilet seat shoving the handle of your toothbrush at the back of your throat, until you feel the contraction of your throat muscles, the heaving of your stomach, the hot acid of bile as you throw up every last bit of food you enjoyed eating just minutes before.
How can I explain it but to say that since I didn’t have an inner reason to live for myself, life was reduced to outward appearances. If I could get a little joy out of a binge, and then erase the evidence with a purge–that was okay. At least, it was something to do.
Sick as it sounds, this practice was to become a routine for me for the next couple of years. Like my depression, it was to become another dirty little secret. Not until I started getting to the roots—or the underlying negative thoughts—of my behaviors did they start to resolve.
In this post, however, I do not attempt to resolve the problem. I would just ask my readers to think more deeply about what really constitutes an eating disorder. If you are suffering from one, please know that there are issues you need to deal with beyond the behavior. If you are approached by someone with an eating disorder—i.e., they confide in you about an eating disorder or related body insecurities—please don’t shrug them off; the first and greatest service you can do is to listen to her. Try to understand what is going on beneath the behavior. Validate her feelings. And then offer support for getting help.
Oddly enough, today again I find myself sitting in Mcdonalds, writing. Why would a vegetarian go to Mcdonalds, you ask?
Over the past few months of being homebound, I have discovered that Mcdonalds is actually a nice place to come and write. That’s true, of course, except when you sit down in an empty play area only to have it fill up with screaming kids (which happened to me a few weeks ago.)
But seriously. At Mcdonald’s, coffee is just a buck, and you get free refills.
And this was a pleasant surprise: Mcdonalds has renovated to make itself more modern and coffee-shop like. A poor man’s Starbucks, really.
Right now, in fact, I’m sitting on a cushy couch-like thing in front of a fake fireplace, with a flat-screen TV just to my upper left. It’s 10:18 a.m., with few people here except for some good-natured seniors in the corner over my right shoulder, smiling over their senior-sized coffees and chatting. (Once I interrupted a high-spirited Bingo game in the Playroom on a Friday. Kindly, the Bingo players let me sit quietly in the corner and blog.)
There are four Mcdonalds relatively close to where I live, so I have rotated among them, trying not to look like that loser who has nothing better to do than go sit solo in the same place day after day. So far I think I’ve remained relatively anonymous. I mean, I don’t go every day. Just when the house feels too empty.
Well, actually, that’s kind of the point. Why would a vegetarian go sit at Mcdonalds, you ask? And why am I drinking coffee, anyway? Health conscious Christian that I am, I’ve tried to quit several times. I was successful for a few weeks in 2010 when I had my heart conversion and found myself cutting out lots of old, icky stuff from my life.
But for the most part, I’ve been a steady drinker for almost ten years, ever since I dropped out of college and entered the most lonely phase of my life.
This is kind of embarrassing to admit, because in my particular church, caffeine use is seen as a bad thing. We focus lots on good physical health. That’s why I’m a vegetarian, in fact. And good physical health is a lovely thing.
But what happens when your bad physical habits are a result of bad mental health? Bad emotional health?
As I’ve learned in the past year, all bad behaviors stem from negative beliefs we have developed. Our negative patterns are reactions to negative thoughts and feelings implanted by Satan, the father of lies (see John 8:44), such as I’m alone, I have to protect myself,or I deserve to reward myself.
This is one of two “pillars” in The Hidden Half of the Gospel, the book I’m co-writing with Paul Coneff of Straight 2 the Heart ministries.
And for me, it’s not just some high falutin’ theory. Nope. It’s what my own introspection keeps confirming. Day after day. Mcdonalds visit after Mcdonalds visit.
So I order my Egg McMuffin without meat. So I’m a healthy weight and Iexercise pretty regularly.
I’m still here today—the lonely vegetarian—sipping joe with seniors. (Is that sad?)
At least I’m not sipping deadly medicinal cocktails.
“You’ve come a long way, baby.”
Is that God’s voice I hear?
Well, maybe someone else said that.
Anyway, I think God understands that recovery is slow. And egg McMuffins are good. Not vegan, but I think He understands: heart health is more than meat or drink.
The sky was dark, the wind whipped, and rain clouds threatened. Still, we pulled into an almost full parking lot.
“Apparently a lot of people like to see movies on Saturday nights,” I remarked to Buc.
“You think?” he snorted, exasperated that he couldn’t find a parking spot.
As we stood in line, waiting to be gouged thirty dollars deep, I found my mind’s gears shifting into analytical mode again…as they so often do when I’m supposed to be having fun.
Why are we paying so much money for a cheap thrill that will soon be over?
Flashbacks: Scenes from my Movie-Watching Past
When I was fourteen, going out to movies with friends became the thing to do. None of us could drive, so our parents would chauffer us the fifteen miles to the Cozy Theater in W, Minnesota, drop us off, and pledge to return in a few hours. Then we’d loiter in the video store trying to look “cool” while waiting for the movie to start.
Usually it was some terrible show I didn’t want to see, but I had come just to fit in. I don’t know how many movies I watched those teen years just because someone had invited me to. Godzilla was one; Star Wars, the prequel, was another (but I hadn’t even seen the originals–I realize I may have just lost some readers now). Then there was Behind Enemy Lines, which my then-boyfriend took me to see. Actually, I took him. At sixteen, I’d recently gotten my license, but he, a few months behind in age, was still bicycle bound.
I drove to his house, he climbed in the car, and we drove in almost complete silence for all twenty minutes of the drive. During the movie, which he’d chosen and which bored me stiff, we sat like statues, our palms turning clammy in one another’s, my arm getting sore from holding the pose too long.
In fact, everything about our four months together was sorta like that. Mechanical, I mean. I guess I was too young, or he just wasn’t the one. Ah, first loves.
At that age, it’s enough to just be with someone—it doesn’t matter who, unless he’s totally gross (and luckily this guy wasn’t)—because at least if someone openly loves you, it’s not just you against the world trying to prove your worth. Somehow it just helps to have someone, anyone, in your corner. (But when you’re sixteen, oh, for the affirmation of a cute guy!)
I’m guessing it’s this desire to feel wanted, to have a place to belong, that held me captive to so many morbid movies in my youth. And even my young adulthood.
When I got married at age twenty, I was suddenly trying to fit in with my hubby’s family (because they were the only family and potential friends I had at the time). Then, too, I found myself sitting through what seemed like interminable Sci-Fi or shoot-em-up movies—what other options did I have? It never occurred to me to speak up and start a meaningful conversation. This mind-numbing bevy of bullets and violence was what everyone wanted, right? And anyway, who was I, a little whisper of a person who’d just mysteriously blown in from Michigan, or was it Wisconsin, or maybe Iowa?
During those first few years of marriage during movie nights at their houses, my in-laws formed the opinion that I was an easy sleeper. I guess it was just easier to let them think this than to explain that the real reason I kept falling asleep on their couches was that their movie selections, in my opinion, weren’t worth staying awake for.
Because I Can’t Help Myself
Have you noticed, by the way, that movies seem to be getting more mechanical all the time? Have you noticed all the machinery involved, both in front of the camera and behind it? So many plots in which Good Guy avenges Bad Guy with machine gun (or his super powers); or Superhero combats Evil with atomic level warfare (did anybody else find The Avengers incredibly loud?). Or day-after-tomorrow scenarios where one lone survivor is desperately seeking human contact in an otherwise virtual reality?
Is this trend in cinema parabolic in any way? Somehow telling of our times?
That’s what I wondered as I watched the people milling around at the movies this weekend. Fat people paying to get fatter as they handed over $5 bills for 42-ounce drinks (I can only say this because I, too, overpaid for calories I didn’t need). Time wasters paying to waste more time. Teens traveling in packs, maybe to see movies they don’t want to see, just to belong.
(Please note: I realize this picture isn’t true of every movie-goer—I’m just calling out some trends I see.)
Have you ever wondered: Why do we, even for a few hours of ignorant bliss, squander our hard-earned money for the cost of movies, drinks, and junk food we don’t need? (Or is this just a rare analytical curse I happen to live with?)
I don’t go to movies often (I prefer to waste my money at book stores and coffee shops, thank you), but when I do, I am quickly reminded of why I stopped going. Notwithstanding the monster tub of popcorn I’ve helped devour throughout the show, it’s that empty feeling I’m left with at the end.
Still, when enough time has elapsed, I’m sure I’ll look forward to going again, just as I did all day Saturday. I’ll forget just how short-lived the fix is—and I’ll find myself standing in line, once again, waiting to be raped by Hollywood.
Have you noticed how mechanical movie-goers are getting these days?