He thrusts his fists…

He thrusts his fists against the post and still insists he see’s the ghost.

The first time I read this line was in Stephen Kings It,  it’s been in Salem’s Lot as well as his non fiction Danse Macabre. Do a bit of digging and you find that this is not one of Kings creations but actually belongs somewhere in history, King used it in homage to Donovan’s Brain published in 1942, however that isn’t even the origin,  the oldest known reference is from 1843.  The verse is also longer than the one King wrote.

“Amidst the mists and fiercest frosts, With barest wrists, and stoutest boasts, He thrusts his fists against the posts, And still insists he sees the ghosts.”

I like the idea that it originated in Donovan’s Brain more than the whole 1843 thing, particularly because it fits where my thoughts are heading.

Ghosts are an interesting thing.  The idea that people are tethered to a specific place for a specific amount of time on earth after they die, is both sad and frightening.  Sad because the person is so fixated on the past that they don’t want to let go.  Frightening because of the implication of nothing after, of the only place to be is in the current plane of existence.

The thing is as much as I don’t believe in ghosts, I still acknowledge their existence, have to actually.  Which brings me back the reason I like the idea that the quote that I lifted from Stephen King, that he lifted from Curt Siodmak, that he lifted, well who knows where he lifted it from but it came from a long time ago.

Ghosts in many forms hunt and haunt us on a regular basis, and I maintain they have their origin in our brains.  There’s the ghost of Christmases, something that is fresh mainly because we just left the Holiday season.  These ghosts had me telling J that it just didn’t feel like Christmas, they dredge up good feelings while at the same time making us discontent in what we have, remembering the past with such fondness that we miss out on what is happening in the present.

There’s the ghosts of decisions made, bringing up every bad choice, every mistake, every bad consequence.  Haunting our waking and sleeping with what if’s.  I wish there were less of these spirits floating around my house, I am sure you do to.

The ghosts of remember when.  Similar to the Christmas ghosts but dealing with every day life both personally and professionally.  Everyone deals with these ghosts.  Employers do and make decisions based accordingly, many times in a desire to shake things up, they are really looking to quiet the ghosts of remember when…remember when the whole team was chosen by you…remember when everyone had so much fun at that conference or meeting, remember when…you get the idea.  Churches do it constantly, remember when we had all those people, remember when we had that great VBS, remember when the church was bustling with activity…Couples do it, remember when it was just the two of us and we could do whatever we want…remember when she was little, remember when we first met, remember that first kiss…the first time we held hands…The ghosts of remember when are probably the most prolific ghosts and the ones that tend to cause the most damage.

As a leader dealing with ghosts can be a daunting task.  They usually manifest as anger, resentment, or gossip.  Anger at the change you’re trying to lead, resentment that people don’t see how important you are or have been, gossip about everyone that doesn’t agree with you.  A good leader can recognize the ghosts and see past them to the people who are hurting and that need to be loved, encouraged and communicated with in firmness and love.  Personally I think I’m good at the love part, the firmness part is a bit harder for me, mainly because being firm can and many times seems to make a positive constructive relationship difficult if not impossible, and even though reality would be that once the person understood that they were being loved in the firmness and listened to and eventually come to the realizations that it’s not personal, the time it takes to get there is exhausting and difficult and causes sleeplessness.

Isaiah 43:18–19 (HCSB) — 18 “Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. 19 Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

The problem with ghosts is that when we see them and let them do what ghosts do we stop moving forward. Our brain manufactures them and we react and in reacting forget what matters.  We forget that all those things that want to hold us back and keep us from doing what we know is right is so against what God wants for us.  Reading that verse up there, it’s easy to think that I’m an advocate for the destruction of all things traditional, that I think new is all that matters, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Revelation 3 talks about a church that looked great and had this great reputation, only to be told that’s not the case.  I think this applies to so much of our personal lives.

Revelation 3:2 (HCSB) — 2 Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God.

The things we remember the memories and traditions and actions from before aren’t a problem.  When it comes to relationship and faith and life those things can be a great foundation, allowing us to build the things that are needed to have a living breathing relationship with God, that makes a difference in the world. To help strengthen the bonds between family and friends, that inform major life decisions.  It’s only when we allow those things to be the sole reason for our decision making, when we turn them into ghosts that haunt us instead of experiences that guide us that we have a problem.

I have been watching my daughters grow, they get taller, they get more beautiful they get smarter every moment of the day.  I remember all the things that have happened in each of their lives.  I know all the mistakes I have made, the things that I should have done better, the person I should have been or could have been.  I have to make a choice to not let the ghosts manufactured by my brain keep me from being a living active dad in their life.  This fact informs my being a dad, as well as every other area of my life…at least it should.  Still there are times that “I thrust my fists against the posts, and still insist I see the ghosts.”



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