Imaginary Friends

Do I believe in God? Really? Do I really think Jesus is near me? Isn’t he just an imaginary friend?

I fret like this about Jesus being real over and over again, but I never stop to consider how real these women are, these Ashtaroth. I just fall to my devotions without thinking.

The story about Dagon in 1 Samuel 5:1-5 resonates with me strongly:


1 After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.

Two things in particular strike me about this passage:

  1. This wasn’t a statue or an icon of Dagon that was being thrown about — it was Dagon itself.
  2. Even after all this happened, the Philistines continued their worship of Dagon.

Dagon was real: a lump of wood or stone you could stub your toe against, or break bits off. Dagon — the god — was imaginary: it had no power against the Lord. The power it had for the Philistines was entirely down to their own faith and adoration, their devotion.

Porn is real just like Dagon was real. The magazine on the table in front of me is real. The models and actors onscreen are real. Porn goes out of its way to show that “this is really real they are not just pretending”.

And porn’s power is as fake as Dagon’s was. The boost I get from porn is entirely down to my own adoration and devotion, my “faith” even. I have trained myself with masturbation to have self-fulfilling expectations. Before and as well as that, secular culture lays out plenty of temptations and signals. But even given all that, my devotion to porn, my turning to porn when I need … something … is my choice. The power porn has over me is given to porn by me.

And just as the Philistines kept returning Dagon to its pedestal, however much I learn, I keep returning to my pics and vids.

Porn is at least as much an imaginary friend as Jesus is, but my attachment to porn, and my doubts about my faith in God, make the fantasies seem as real as the paper they’re printed on.

“So, …, what?” as my business coach might say.

  • I hope this realisation will help weaken my attachment.
  • I remember that yoga is sensual pleasure as well as good exercise. That, and not masturbating, can be my sensual treat.
  • My wife is a sensual treat too, though one with emotional complications attached (eg risks of rejection). Perhaps I should take a few risks.

confirmation

I had a work meeting in County Town and I decided that while I was in town I would find time to go and pray in a church. This would be a first for me.

Aside:

I have been trying to establish a habit of daily prayer, with intermittent success. However, on 8th March I decided that I would say a special prayer daily for a friend. Among other things, this desire to pray specifically has reminded me to pray at all, and after saying my special prayer for the friend, I go on to say my “normal” prayer. So now I am safely praying every day (at bedtime, or at my morning quiet time when I arrive at work, or both).

The cathedral where I was planning to pray is a bit of a tourist trap and they have a greeter on the door doing triage. When I arrive the greeter asked brightly “Are you visiting?” and I said sheepishly that I was coming in to pray. Because the cathedral is such a tourist trap they have special areas set aside for private prayer (they do do normal services there too, it is a functioning church), and the greeter described the way to get to the chapel: in a corner, up a stone spiral staircase, …

(click for bigger pics!)

I realised I had no idea what to do. I lit a candle as a way of starting. I knelt on that little red cushion. I said my prayer out loud.

Praying like this — aloud, so I could hear my own voice; in public; in such a place; and of course for the first time in my life — was a powerful experience. I asked myself later why I didn’t pray my “normal” daily prayer or even a special prayer for myself. Perhaps I didn’t want to unleash too much emotion.

There was nobody else in the chapel while I was there. Mid-prayer I did hear footsteps come up the stair and into the room, shift about and then leave. Perhaps security or a stray tourist. I didn’t turn round to see and I kept praying. So — a complete unknown stranger saw and heard me praying!

A couple more pics of around the cathedral:

On the way out I thanked the greeter and we talked about what went on at the church. It became clear that I knew little about services, whether Easter Saturday was a special day, etc., and I found myself saying, “I’ve only recently got into all this”. I don’t know why I didn’t say something like, “I’ve only recently become a Christian”.

Samuel

Walking around the cathedral afterwards, I came across two pleasant surprises from Samuel. Firstly this mural of 2 Samuel 18:33

Then the gift shop had a copy of Straight to the Heart of 1&2 Samuel by Phil Moore (I’ve linked the Amazon page as it has a “look inside”; there’s also the author’s home page).

I bought the book obvs, and I am enjoying reading it.

Confirmation

Also in the gift shop I bought this Confirmation card:

I don’t know what “Confirmation” is in the Church of England, but coming here and praying felt like a confirmation (with a small ‘c’) and another step towards a real confirmation.

I know that real confirmation will involve “coming out of the closet” to my wife about being a Christian, and finding a local group to join.

Prayer 5/7 (c/w Inspiration and guidance)

Inspiration and guidance

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