I’ve become a big fan of author Anne Lamott. How can you not love someone who says her thoughts about others are sometimes so awful that “they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish?”
And when she screws something up — which would be all the time, of course — she has a “Bad Mind” that starts telling her she’s such a loser. Always has been, always will be.
I know that voice.
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about that voice at church. Our reading was the story about Jesus getting baptized in a muddy river and how he heard a distinct and unmistakable voice talking to him as he stood there dripping wet.
The voice called him beloved. Reassured him that he was loved deeply and passionately.
In our discussion after the reflection, I mentioned Anne’s Bad Mind and how it’s often my mind too, screaming to be heard and believed. Our pastor — who also likes Anne — asked if anyone else hears that Bad Mind voice. Everyone raised their hand. Nodded, too.
Yep. We all seem to be on a first-name basis with that voice. At least I’m not the only one.
It reminds me of a conversation with a close friend last summer. She was exasperated with some of the people in her life. She thought about buying a hotel, giving each of them a room and sitting back and watching the interactions.
She’d call the place Inn-Sanity. I love the concept and especially the name.
Sometimes, my brain is like that — a very Inn-Sane place.
There are times when Bad Mind reserves an entire floor — with a pool-side view, of course. And then invites many close relatives to pop in and spend some time.
Oh, and to be as loud and as annoying as they want.
They’ll interrupt me while I’m sitting next to the pool trying to read. They’ll remind me that these other people swimming and soaking up the sun are much better looking, much more social and much cooler than me. And they don’t suck at relationships so much.
Another voice will join me for the complementary breakfast and, while I’m eating the scrambled eggs and greasy sausage, point to the other people around me and note that they really do seem to have their lives in order … unlike me.
And one of the voices will wander over as I’m sipping that second cup of coffee and say, “Hey, when you looked in the mirror this morning, you noticed that new wrinkle, didn’t you? No? Well, go look again. And have a nice day!”
Here’s the most annoying part: As with any hotel, Bad Mind and all of its guests will wander the hallways in the middle of the night, talking so loudly that they wake you up. And then you can’t get back to sleep.
You can call the front desk and complain but, really, what good would that do? They’ll just start up again.
Which brings us back to that story of a baptism in a muddy river.
There is another voice. The voice in the story that’s so sweet, kind, and gentle. It reassures us that we really are loved, no matter what any other voices try to tell us.
It’s a voice that’s passionate about us. And protective of us. To hear it is to feel like we’re being hugged all the way down inside. Sometimes, it sings a love song to us.
When Jesus hears that voice, it affects him profoundly. Changes him in some important ways. Gives him the courage to live as a beloved child of God. And the courage to go tell everyone else that they are equally beloved, too.
Listening to that voice helps him ignore those other voices, the ones that never really go away. The ones that make us so fearful and envious and jealous and afraid and insecure and angry.
Like him, we need to listen for that voice.
Sometimes, we hear it in the voices of people who know us and love us. The ones who not only love who we are, but who also are passionate about who we are.
A sunrise, a sunset, a sunny beach, a starry night, a gentle breeze — the voice of the beloved speaks through them, too.
Also, there’s a place inside of us. A sacred place. The voice is strong there. It helps us tune out those other voices — the shrill, cruel, demanding ones — for at least a little while.
So, here’s a plan.
Lock those other voices in their rooms for the evening. Head outdoors to the hot tub. Turn on the gurgling jets. Ease into that wonderful, warm water.
Let the jet spray massage your sore back and aching self-image. Look up at the stars and recognize that you belong here with them. Listen for that other voice, the one that calls us beloved with each heartbeat.
Let that sweet, sweet voice wash over us. Soothe us. Change us.
Sit in the hot, holy water until we’re all red and wrinkly. Kind of like newborns.