In the movie The NeverEnding Story, the young hero Atreyu has to pass through a series of gates to get to the Southern Oracle and find out how to save the world. The second gate is the Magic Mirror Gate where Atreyu has to face his true self.
It’s assumed that this won’t be a big deal, but Engywook the gnome (an expert on the Southern Oracle) replies, “Oh, that’s what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!”
Last year I looked into the Magic Mirror Gate and I’ve been running ever since.
I was on my way to change the world. I thought I had faith. I thought I knew what love was. I thought I might be special. The mirror showed me the truth.
Like Atreyu, I was on my way to change the world. I thought I had faith. I thought I knew what love was. I thought I might be special. The mirror showed me the truth.
The way I see it, I'm basically the source of, and the solution to, every problem in my family. My counselor tells me that in addition to being a bipolar substance abuser, I also have narcissistic tendencies. I’m emotionally incestuous and emotionally abusive, too. I’m starting to think that all these labels simply mean “human.”
I’ve been avoiding writing for Key Life. Who cares about my floundering faith and family—my love turned in on itself? Writing about that would probably just be me over sharing to meet a twisted emotional need, all the while patting myself on the back for my honesty and vulnerability. What good are my delusions of grandeur gonna do anyone? Am I so full of myself that I’d really believe I have some kind of special calling from God? My counselor must have been trying to break it to me gently when she used the words “narcissistic tendencies,” more like “messiah complex.”
Then I read this from Levi Macallister (Levi the Poet):
“One of the things that my anxiety has told me is that my story is too self-pitying or self-aggrandizing to share. Too cliché to waste everyone’s time on ... My friends, you are not alone, and your story matters. I will say it over and over until it becomes as trite and cliché as the lies tell me my story is, and then I will say it again.”
Levi has labels, too. We’re both "human.” He doesn’t tell me what to think or feel, he just tells me what he thinks and feels. He’s right, I don’t feel as alone when I read his words, listen to his stuff, or watch his videos. That matters to me, and it made me want to write for Key Life again.
So maybe I should just tell you what my humanity looks like. Maybe I should tell you about the disappointment, the bitterness born from self-sacrifice, the insecurity, the self-hatred, the self-love, the rage directed at those I thought I knew how to love…the exhaustion from propping this whole mess up and the desperate need to escape reality.
Maybe I should tell you about finding meaning in mere existence.
Maybe I should tell you what I saw in the Magic Mirror Gate…that I saw nothing…and everything, dirt and Spirit, humanity and divinity—the image of God.
I used to be brave enough, or naïve enough, to get online and ramble on about those things, but not now. No details for you! This little post is the best I could do.
And I won’t blow smoke by telling you I’m writing this to help you by sharing my story and pointing fellow strugglers to Jesus. I tried that and I don’t think he appreciated my efforts. Where’s my bestseller? Where’s my movie deal? I thought we had an understanding. Nope, Jesus is gonna have to save the world all by himself. I’m not sharing what little faith I have left…well…maybe after the new meds kick in, but until then I’m on strike.
If writing about my insanity helps you somehow, great, but knowing me I’m probably just putting this out there for the few hits of dopamine I can get from any likes, shares, or comments—like an addict sucking on a used fentanyl patch. It gets lonely out here running from God. Did you miss me?
Maybe it really is true that people who make their living at religion lose one or the other. I’m still getting paid, baby!
Anyway, I’ve said too much. It’s a sickness. The point is that I’m still here. I’m still as screwed up as ever. And I hate it, but this grace thing has to be true or I'm totally hosed. I felt compelled to pop in and let you know…hoping you noticed I was gone.
Until next time, beware of that Magic Mirror Gate. You may hate and love what you see so much that you run away screaming.
Erik is the author of the The Seed: A True Myth. Click the link to pick up a copy of his book. It’ll make him feel better for a few minutes.