Friday, November 2, 2007

The itsy, bitsy ax murderer.

The itsy, bitsy ax murderer.

I’ve never been murdered but I thought I was going to be one night a few months ago. I was asleep in my bed, probably dreaming of growing taller and dunking on a Duke basketball player, when I heard a voice softly singing. I woke up and became instantly sweaty, which I think is my body’s only natural defense mechanism. It wasn’t either of my daughters, the voice was far too high pitched for them. It was sickly sweet, as if it were an adult trying to sing like a little girl. Worst of all, it was crackling and broken and full of static like one of those voice scramblers that all modern kidnappers seem to own these days.

But there it was, softly, potentially deadly, floating into my room, “Itsy, bitsy spider, went up the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider out …”

It carried on for a few moments with me growing angry that my wife won’t let me sleep with a machete. I tried to imagine how I was going to fight this killer, who I was convinced would be wearing a red flannel shirt and unlaced brown work boots. Then, once I had woken up a little, I realized the sound was coming from our bedside monitor, not the foot of my door. That’s why it sounded so crackly. And it wasn’t an ax murderer, it was baby Tad, a freakishly large stuffed frog that if rolled upon in the middle of the night will just burst out in song.

What was actually a sweet child’s song got turned into a murderer’s anthem when played through an old baby monitor at 3 in the morning. The way the song was filtered completed changed the way I experienced it. The troubling thing about that is I go through much of my life with similar filters in place.

For instance, when my wife tries to give me any feedback about my writing, this is what I hear, “You are a horrible writer. This might be the worst thing ever written. This makes Weekend at Bernie’s 2 read like Hamlet. Seriously, I am dumber for having experienced this.” That’s stupid, I know, but for some reason I have a “wife should always be a cheerleader and never criticize” filter on that relationship.

At work, I have the “I’m about to get fired” filter firmly in place. I’ve been fired twice, once from the carnival, but for some reason I still think that any time anyone closes a door to have a meeting they’re about to talk about firing me. I thought that way when I worked at Bose as a writer. On the day I quit to move from Boston to Atlanta they told me that I could still have my job and just work out of Atlanta. They loved me and I still thought they were plotting my demise. I am ridiculous.

I think the biggest filter, the one that’s so easy to wear, is the one that makes you think God is going to be like your dad. Since God is often called the father it’s an easy one to put into place. If your dad was strict, then so is God. If your dad kept score, then so will God. If your dad was drunk on rage, then God will be that way too.

It’s so hard to have a clean slate God, to approach the Lord without expectation or exaggeration or filters. He’s a difficult dude to grasp and sometimes putting him in context, as your dad, your friend, your whatever makes him a little easier to understand.

But filters can turn good things into ax murderers and God into a jerk. So be careful, take the time to figure out what filters you have in place. And maybe next time you hear “Itsy Bitsy Spider” you won’t get sweaty.

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