Tuesday, October 25, 2005

searching for God knows what - part I

My husband and I recently watched In Good Company. The film is about a young executive on the fast track. In a corporate merger, he takes over the management job of someone much older and more experienced and that older person is demoted and has to work for the young guy. The young guy is all about his career, his house, his car, and his status to the detriment of his marriage, his social life, and his health. The young guy is not as ruthless in pursuit of the bottom-line as his superiors, but he feels the pressure and does what he feels has to be done (firing employees and having his team work longer hours). Through a relationship with the older man's daughter, the young man begins to understand the goals he has set for his life may not bring true fulfillment.

I didn't get it while I was watching, but I realize my career at IBM mirrored many aspects of the young man's career. I was on the fast track. When I became a manager, I was younger than any of my employees. I was all about making it in a man's world, high performance appraisals, being respected, and a strong work ethic. I thought I was fair, but in retrospect I think I was pretty ruthless. I didn't understand people who didn't put career first. If I didn't respect the ideas of someone else, I would railroad over them if they were in my way or I would simply ignore them. The rewards were promotions, praise, and travel, but the drawbacks were a failed marriage, lack of social skills, and an unhealthy lifestyle.

I'm lucky; I'm living my second chance. But I sometimes miss the rewards of my previous life. I wonder why it is so difficult to be satisfied doing good work without desiring praise and to make sacrifices instead of wanting more. I've started reading Donald Miller's Searching for God Knows What and his interpretation of the fall from Genesis blew me away.

Reading Genesis has always been a problem for me. I can believe in the science of evolution. I have problems with a universe created in 6 days, a Garden of Eden, Eve created from Adam, a tree of life, a serpent that speaks, the fall of humankind. And, of course, it irks me that Eve bears so much of the burden for this fall. So, I have been categorizing this story as a myth devised to explain creation in ancient times and ignoring it. Donald Miller has me thinking about it again.

Man is wired so he gets his glory (his security, his understanding of value, his feeling of purpose, his feeling of rightness with his Maker, his security for eternity) from God and this relationship is so strong, and God's love so pure, that Adam and Eve felt no insecurity at all… But when that relationship was broken, they knew it instantly. All of their glory, the glory that came from God, was gone… All of the insecurity rises the instant you realize you are alone.

If man was wired so that something outside himself told him who he was, and if God's presence was giving him a feeling of fulfillment, then when that relationship was broken, a man would be pining for other people to tell him that he was good, right, okay with the world, and eternally secure. - Searching for God Knows What, pgs. 70-71

I do believe there is something missing in our make-up that we are looking for to make us whole. It's the basis of religion. Scientists have puzzled over it. B.F. Skinner thought it could be generated with behavior modification. Maslow put it at the top of his human needs hierarchy and labeled it self-transcendence. Sigmund Freud described it as our unconscious mind. All these explanations provide insight into this missing element, but none have thoroughly explained or fixed it.

So I can appreciate the idea that we're wired to know our creator, to understand our creator's will for us, and to find fulfillment in this relationship. I get that somehow our connection to our creator got damaged or broken. I don't understand how this happened, but I see that it causes us to not feel whole. It's obvious to me that we spend our lives looking for wholeness, fulfillment, and security to fill this void. It explains a lot of stupidity in the world.

I'll leave you with Donald Miller's synopsis of this stupidity in the form of a visiting alien's report on humans.

Humans, as a species, are constantly, and in every way, comparing themselves to one another, which, given the brief nature of their existence, seems an oddity and for that matter, a waste. Nevertheless, this is the driving influence behind every human's social development, their emotional health and sense of joy, and sadly their greatest tragedies. It is as though something that helped them function and live well has gone missing, and they are pining for that missing thing in all sorts of odd methods, none of which are working. The greater tragedy is that very few people understand they have the disease. This seems strange as well because it is obvious. To be sure, it is killing them, and yet sustaining their social and economic systems. They are an entirely beautiful people with a terrible problem. - Searching for God Knows What, pg. 92


Shelley said...

Thanks for this insightful post. As a stay-at-home mom, I feel keenly about this searching. I keep wondering why doing what I thought I wanted has left me so dis-satisfied. I am a Christian and am running more and more toward my Creator to find it, but some days it is elusive.

I loved the quotes from Donald Miller.

I found your blog from an 'emerging chicks' list--I have been reading all I can about doing church a new way and finding true transformation in Christ--but feel very alone in my journey. Not many kindred spirits here in Northwest Arkansas.

I don't have a blog anymore (I compulsively kept giving the address to my family, and then didn't like what they had to say about what I was writing about) I even took my archives off. Maybe I'll start again soon.

Anyway, I'll be back.

Shelley Noyes

Kim said...

Thanks for stopping by shelley. I've also shared my address with family, but have not heard a peep (at least not online).

NickatNite said...

So this is my first attempt at responding to a blog,
and it took me until now to figure out how to make a
comment. I'm still not sure I'm doing this correctly.

Anyhow, as far as the searching for validation theme
that I see you expressing here, I had a weighty and insightful
talk about this with my wife last night. We had an
argument because she made fun of me while I was giving
a presentation to a couples group at church, feeling
that I was taking myself too seriously.

What I realized was that this cut to a deep part of me
that desperately needs to be taken seriously. I got a
Ph.D. a few years ago, and while I rationalize why as
being necessary for my career, underneath it all I
know the ugly truth - that I feel I have to prove to
everyone that I am a person to be taken seriously. In
conversation with my wife, I found that she has the
same painful need, and is struggling herself with
being a new largely stay-at-home mom (she works two
days a week, more for the validation there than any
financial reason).

And so I read this blog and find my sister has gone
through the same thing. We all struggle with feeling
worthy and valuable, and we feel too vulnerable to
communicate that with one another, even those closest
to us. And while on a surface level I can accept that
I am always worthy in the eyes of my Lord, and my
family for that matter, on a deeper level it often
doesn't seem to really register and I desperately need
to prove it.

There's my "peep."