Facing down your monsters is one of the most important and scariest things that you will ever do.
But you can do it.
The conversation with your boss. The out of control eating. The book you’ve been wanting to write. The anger that recoils, snaps and explodes. The house project you’ve been putting off. The obsessive perfectionism. The canvas that’s been blank for months, or maybe even years.
What would it look like to face it?
This spring, my parents took our family to Disney World, where all introverts go to die. But at Hollywood Studios, they feature Jedi Training Academy, where kids aged 4-12 can don a brown robe and pledge the Jedi Oath under the tutelage of a Jedi Master. Their training concludes with a light saber duel Darth Vader, one-on-one. When I learned that forty-two year olds were not allowed to don the brown robes, I wept tears of silent despondency.
The prospect of facing a seven foot, asthmatic monster wasn’t appealing to my four year olds, but Isaac was eager, so we jumped in line and he proudly put on the Jedi robes. The look on his face betrayed his ignorance; like Luke who left his training in Dagobah early, Isaac had little idea of the power of the dark side, and how he’d soon be face to face with pure evil.
They received their light sabers (I looked on, green with envy), and after twenty minutes, our Padawans were ready. Parents hugged the ropes, their phones and cameras locked and loaded. I was still disconsolate that I wasn’t allowed to participate, but as I searched my feelings, I remembered I was more of a Han Solo guy anyway, and he would have scoffed at this kind of spectacle.
When Isaac finally faced Darth Vader, he was cool, collected, and in command. Firmly gripping his light saber with both hands as instructed, he parried and lunged and fought hard. He might have been afraid, but he didn’t show it. The Jedi Master was right there beside him, instructing him when to defend and when to attack. I was so mesmerized that I forgot to take pictures or video, but my dad captured the moment perfectly. When Isaac walked off the stage, having faced down Darth Vader, he exuded pride and confidence. What a moment.
So, what’s your monster, and what do you need to face it?
As is always the case with Star Wars (I am the king of geeks), we can learn something from the Jedi Academy, when it comes to facing down your monsters.
1. You need friends who will take you to the monster. One of my friends is an eternal optimist, and I need him in my life, because he takes me to my battles by telling me things like, “Make hay while the sun shines, Steve! It’s time to write!” He reminds me that getting my butt in the chair is part of what I’m on planet earth to do.
2. You need a Master who will guide you when it gets tough. I meet with my mentor every week, and there is no agenda, other than to face down our monsters and be with each other. Recently, he took me right up to one of my biggest monsters, saying things that were hard to hear. But then he said some things that I desperately needed to hear. I’m grateful for him, because he has faced down his monsters over and over again, and he trains me so that I’m ready to face mine.
3. You need to engage the monster. Your friends can take you there. Your Master can train you. But you need to engage the monster yourself; only you can do it.
So, what’s your monster, and how will you face it? Who are your friends who might help you get there? And who is a master in your life, when it gets tough?
Once you face your monster, you’ll find that it becomes your friend, helping you to become who you were put on planet earth to be.
In The Active Life, Parker Palmer writes: “That is why we must sometimes ride the monsters all the way down. Some monsters simply will not go away. They are too big to walk around, too powerful to overcome, too clever to outsmart. The only way to deal with them is to move toward them, with them, into them, through them. We must learn to befriend some of these primitive powers that seem so much like enemies. In the process we will find them working for us, not against us, working for life, not for death.”