306. spoons and tanks and Bjork

Maybe you’ve heard that story about how the difference between heaven and hell is the way they use their spoons. There are various versions of this story but the basic idea goes like this:

Some guy was given a pass to see into hell and heaven. In his peek into hell, he saw a large round table with a huge, steaming bowl of delicious soup in the middle. All around this table, there were people writhing in the throes of starvation because they had long spoons tied to their arms. The spoons were more than long enough to get to the soup but because of their length and the fact that they were strapped to their arms, they were unable to get any of the soup into their mouths.

So then he gets to peek into heaven and there he sees the identical setup – large round table, big bowl of soup, people with long spoons tied to their arms. But this time, the people were healthy and laughing and having a grand old time.

The guy turns to his guide and asks, “the two visions are the same but why are the people so much healthier and happier in heaven?” The guide replies, “in heaven, the people have learned to feed one another.”

I don’t know, I think it’s a cute story. And I’ll admit that it made an impression on me when I first heard it many, many years ago.

But.

But I have to admit that there are times when I wonder when someone will get around to passing a spoon in my direction.

Because for a long time now I feel as if I’ve been doing my best to feed others – to help and to bless in whatever ways I can whenever, wherever I can – but to be honest, there have been many times lately when I feel as if I’ve been running out of empty myself.

A bit of clarification before I go on. I’m nowhere near as empty and broken as I was back in March when I wrote that “running out of empty” post. Big difference between then and now is that I’m not spending all my free time on my band’s CD or trying to plan a speed dating fundraiser. Back then I had zero free time – no time to myself, no time to recharge – it was just go, go, go.

Now? Well, now I actually have the luxury to decide what I want to do with most of my evenings. I’ve started running and biking again (I sold my old bike and bought a used Felt F70).

And so it’s not nearly the same kind of soul-crushing empty of the first half of the year.

But still, empty is empty and frankly, I’ve been somewhat at a loss to know how to replenish myself.

But maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe “replenish myself” is a contradiction.

Which brings me back to that story about the spoons. I’ve been passing more than my fair share of soup to those around me but it seems to me that there aren’t a lot of spoonfuls coming back my way.

But here’s something I’ve learned about myself recently. I’m not very good at expressing need…because I’m not sure what I need. I’m not an easy person to buy presents for because I don’t know what I want. I’m not an easy person to cheer up because I don’t know what makes me happy.

And I’m very bad at standing up for myself so for the most part, I just don’t.

Ninety-five percent of the time, none of this is a problem because I spend most of my time trying to bless those around me – because if there is something that helps me to feel as if my life has meaning, it’s helping others.

But then what happens when it turns out that I’m the one that needs some help? I don’t know how to ask because I don’t know what I need or what I want.

It’s kind of like this:

There was a repairman who was great at fixing cars. He didn’t have formal training, he just kind of had a knack for it. He wasn’t in business as a repairman, he just made himself available to those around him. Often, when a repair called for a tool that he didn’t have, he’d go out and purchase it for himself. If he came across a repair he didn’t know how to perform, he’d read up on it and learn. He never asked for anything in return for his repairs – the joy of seeing his friends back on the road with functioning vehicles was reward enough.

But then one morning he got into his own car and turned the key but it wouldn’t start. And he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He thought about calling on his friends to help but he knew that if he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with his own car, there was very little chance his friends would know what to do. Besides, even if he did call on them, he wouldn’t be able to tell them what was wrong because he himself didn’t know.

So who does the repairman call when he finds himself in disrepair? When he himself doesn’t know what’s wrong.

Of course he could pay to get professional help but that doesn’t seem fair does it? He doles out all this work for free but when he’s the one in need he has to pay?

See, helping other people, being there for friends, doing my best to help where I know how – that’s what I do, that’s what I enjoy doing.

But now that I’m the one who’s a bit broken, a bit empty, a bit not myself – I don’t know who to turn to and even if I did, I don’t know that I’d be able to adequately describe what was wrong.

Even here and now as I write…I love writing because often the process of putting something I’m wrestling with to words helps me get a handle on the problem. Often, insight will come to me as the sentences string themselves together and I end up surprised at the conclusions they lead me to.

But not this time.

I do have an outside thought as to what the problem might be but one of the problems with the conjecture is that even if it actually was what was bothering me, there’s no immediate remedy.

But it’s all I have so I’ll run with it.

There’s a book that I don’t particularly care for because I think the writing is weak and the example it cites are lame. It’s called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I think most people are familiar with the basic premise of the book – that there are five different ways (languages) that people give and receive love. If two people are speaking different languages (or even different “dialects” of the same language), then one or the other will feel unloved.

Well one of the other devices Chapman uses is the concept of a love tank. The idea is that people have this invisible love tank inside of them (tank as in vessel, not instrument of war). When they get “spoken to” in their language of love, their tank gets filled up and when their tank is full, it’s easier for them to be loving towards others. But if a person is constantly extending love but not getting their own tank filled, they will eventually run out and when that happens, all hell breaks loose – instead of feeding those around them with soup, they start bashing people on the head with their arm-spoons.

When I’m around some of my friends, I don’t quite feel myself. I’m more snarky and snappy than usual. I’m less likely to go out of my way to go the extra mile. I mean I do what’s required of me but lately I’ve been finding it hard to do anything more than that. And that’s not like me. And I don’t like me
not being me.

And I’m wondering if it’s because my love tank is (out of) empty.

But what’s there to do about that?

Lately I’ve been trying to do more praying.

Prayer has never been easy for me. I mean, as a rather introverted person, it’s hard to do all the initiating in what feels a lot like a one way “conversation.” (As an aside, there’s a part of me that’s not convinced that the word “conversation” is a good way to describe prayer, but it’s common enough that I have to wonder if I’m wrong.) But I’ve been trying.

The first couple weeks were the worst. My prayers were nothing but angry rants at God. I allowed myself to express some pretty raw frustrations to God in ways that aren’t very spiritually correct. But then I got over it a bit and while the frustrations were still there, I was able to pray about them in a more reasonable, less vitriolic way. And now I’m to the point where I’m more or less done ranting and am trying instead to pray for a way forward.

Basically, my prayer lately has been, “Lord, teach me how to love and how to be loved.” And as I pray that, I mean it in two ways. I want to know how to love and be loved by those around me AND I want to know how to love and be loved by God. And if I could have my own way I’d want to know the latter before the former…but I’ll take them in any order God deems appropriate.

Funny thing.

Maybe this is answered prayer, maybe it’s coincidence, but about a week after I started praying this “teach me about love” prayer, I heard this amazing song thrown into the closing worship set at church. And then I heard it again a few nights ago which I find strange because it’s not a super popular song. But it speaks directly to what I’ve been feeling lately and so I’ll end this post with this song by Bjork. It’s called All Is Full Of Love and…oh shit! I just (now) saw the video for the song and the video shows a robot being repaired!

Anyway, here’s the video and the lyrics.

All Is Full of Love
Bjork

You’ll be given love
You’ll be taken care of
You’ll be given love
You have to trusts it

Maybe not from the sources
You have poured yours
Maybe not from the directions
You are staring at

Twist your head around
It’s all around you

All is full of love
All around you

All is full of love
You just ain’t receiving
All is full of love
Your phone is off the hook
All is full of love
Your doors are shut
All is full of love

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3 thoughts on “306. spoons and tanks and Bjork

  1. While I agree that 5 Love Languages is probably not the best work of literary brilliance, I think the principles hold true. The question is, how do you receive love, Randall? Perhaps we have been trying to show you love but it hasn’t worked because we are not speaking the right language. Because we do love and appreciate you. I know for myself, I don’t handle verbal affection well-I never believe a compliment-so I have to remind myself that not all people are insincere or manipulative. Even a statement like I just made-we love and appreciate you-would seem to me to be fake or forced. So it is a constant learning process, to love God, ourselves, and others, in ways that honor the other and are not lost in translation.

  2. Pingback: 349. you CAN handle the truth! | Lonetomato808's Blog

  3. Pingback: 349. you CAN handle the truth! « Flavor and Illumination

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