Thursday, October 24, 2013


The year after I moved away from home, I was at a friend's house for the holidays and came across The Pretender, a TV series from the late 1990s, while browsing their story collection. Since my work had an automatic week off built in between Christmas and New Year's, I had ample time to devour this new story.

With food for the body and food for the mind, I tend to go through a sort of seasons. At one time, I may always crave cheese, or tuna salad, or my veggie concoction... Then I'll hit a point where that item is no longer fulfilling and I'll rarely eat it over the next year or so. I suspect it has to do with particular nutritional needs at any given time. The same applies to stories. When I come across the right story at the right time, it become integral to my diet until whichever insight need has been fulfilled. This explains my pre-occupations that were so focused on Merlin a couple months ago and The Avengers a couple months before that. (I have long been aware of this pattern, I simply explain it for the reader's understanding.)

In the case of The Pretender, the most obvious connection is found in the back-story of a hero who had been held captive since, being discovered as a genius, childhood who finally escaped the people who only wanted to use and control him while learning and experiencing the normal life elements he had missed in captivity. Being in the process of breaking with home and extricating my identity and will from the messed-up manipulations and expectations and demands that kept me bound to it, the literal fight for understanding and independence and the joy of being free resonated deeply in my spirit.

The were many specific parts of the show that also left deep impressions, but the one that was most important was in an episode about identity. I do not remember the particulars, the season, episode title, episode details, etc... What I do remember is that Jarod, the hero, had reason to remember back to his time in 'The Center' (where he'd been held captive) when he refused to solve some puzzle because he'd become aware that he had never even seen his face in a mirror. He didn't know who he was or where he came from, where his parents were, even his last name. He knew they wouldn't give him any other information, but at the moment, he needed to know what he looked like - to see what/who he was.

During this same time period, I'd been struggling with the recognition that while the gospel taught me that God loved me and that I could find peace in doing my best, my dad's constant echoes and his perception of me (recall that these perceptions had me to the point of feeling guilty for even existing...) would regularly drown out that peace. It was a fair roller-coaster ride trying to handle the polar opposites. It was also greatly upsetting in trying to understand how the man who should be my protector was my greatest torment and how the one who should love me most constantly thought such evil of me. My nature has always been one to respond quickly to expectations and guidance so to be treated with such a heavy, emotionally rough hand left deeper wounds than might otherwise have been suffered.

Reflecting back, further in time, I have always had a talent for avoiding notice (surely made stronger by trying to avoid further negative attention at home) to the point that I'd be surprised to see myself in a picture. I'd also be surprised to see what I looked like since, even having a mirror, I'd never actually look at myself, just focus on the particulars that needed attention - hair, eyelashes for mascara, etc... I think I was scared to see that I really was the terrible, worthless person God surely despised the way dad always made me out to be. In fact, to see myself, having no intrinsic value, I had to look through the eyes of others. Furthermore, walking around the halls in high school, I often felt like a pair of floating eyeballs: seeing, observing, but never seen. Never part. All there was to see was either neutral or negative.

When I made it to this particular episode (perhaps on the second time through, I can't be sure), all these elements had been percolating for some time. When Sydney, Jarod's mentor/handler, finally obtained permission to let him look in a mirror, Sydney told him, "This is who you are." I'm pretty sure I paused the show for quiet because at the same time, it was as if a concept unfolded in my mind. It was symbolized by a tall, standing mirror that I knew was my dad's, with him in front of it. I was standing apart. To make the meaning more readily understood, imagine everyone with their own mirror. But I didn't have one. I had to go by the reflections in everyone else's mirrors. Returning to my image of just my dad's mirror, it was as though the Spirit told me to take a close look at his mirror. It was covered with dirt and grime and dust and stains. Suddenly I understood that dad's view of me was so negative not because I was so horrible, but because the means he was using to view me was filthy. When I heard, "This is who you are" I also 'heard' Heavenly Father say, "You need to use my mirror to see who you really are, not his, not theirs. Your own. Mine."

It was, for me, a revolutionary concept. Probably basic for many others, but then many others have not lived my life with my personal nature, either. I cannot say I have it down all the way, but with every passing year, my own mirror is clearer and the reflections of others less so. I still stumble and get distracted sometimes, but then something reminds me of this epiphany and I remember to look in the right mirror again. I'm writing this blog now because I just went through this process again this week.

This concept reminds me of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12.
 12 For now we see through a glassdarkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Someday all the mirrors will be clear and we won't get distracted and confused by the distorted reflections of smudged looking glasses, dirty mirrors. Someday we will know, without question, the value God sees in each of us and in each other. Until then, we just need to be careful about our mirrors. Are we using our own, and are we keeping them as clean and clear as we can? It will affect how we judge others. It will affect how we judge ourselves.

(P.S. If any of you have watched The Pretender, you may have noticed it begins to leave a darker feeling the further it progresses. I did not realize that until trying to watch it again last year when I found I had to only watch a few shows at a time to avoid a build-up of home feelings and thought patterns in my mind. I can only assume that having come so freshly from such a negative situation and still freshly battling the wrong patterns, the show's 'vibe' meshed so well with what I had come from it was unnoticeable at the time. Once I was far more free of it, the distinction was much more apparent.)

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