Updated: Oct 19, 2019
Last summer, there was a lot of buzz around the release of the 4th season of the hit Netflix show, Stranger Things. So Jon (my husband of 31 years) and I decided to find out what the hype was about and watched the pilot show.
We were hooked! And we binge-watched all four seasons!
For those of you unfamiliar with Stranger Things, in the show there is a kind of alternative reality called the "Upside-Down." Dark enemies live in this murky world. They desire to escape into our reality and seize control.
The similarities between the "Upside-Down" and the inward spiritual journey intrigued me.
The "Upside-Down" illustrated a confusing season in my spiritual journey. A time when I entered into my own "Upside-Down." Nothing made sense, especially what I knew about myself. The air, thick with distracting flotsam and jetsam, felt weird and unsettling. In this unfamiliar reality, my glaring weaknesses and unconquerable fears confronted me. Everything indeed was upside down.
In the spiritual journey, there is a season which is often referred to as the Wall (Critical Journey, Hagberg & Guelich). When a person hits the Wall, doubt and uncertainty infiltrate their faith. He/she might express frustration by saying, "Things just aren't working anymore." "I thought I knew what I believed about God." Or they may experience a feeling that there has to be more. She/he wrestles with God over their identity and purpose, and the question of who God is.
For example, Moses hit the Wall after he experienced a tragic failure (Bible, Ex. 2.11-15). He left the only home he knew in Egypt and fled into the desert. Moses entered his "Upside-Down" and sifted through debilitating confusion and unsettling questions. He faced his own egocentric world and found healing, which ushered in a more authentic understanding of who God is.
Before hitting the Wall, I lived in the "Right-Side Up." Life was mostly predictable and controllable. The world made sense because culture and institutions offered identity and purpose. There was no need to question anything. My identity came from who others and society said I was. It was all straightforward (or so I thought).
I did not realize that the American culture clouded my ability to know who God said I was. I gradually became a "Right-Side Up" person - I thought I knew all the answers. I was unaware that my soul was contracting, disconnecting from God, others, and the world.
In my early 50's, a perfect storm formed. With a challenging job and a difficult family circumstance, I hit the Wall. I woke up in my hazy, dark "Upside-Down." My soul was tired of striving to be good enough and exhausted from self-hatred. My mind was perplexed by the question, "Where is the abundant life Jesus spoke about?"
The journey into the "Upside-Down" exceeded my own spiritual understanding. I needed help with my inward journey if there was to be a transformation. So I began the discipline of spiritual direction. This ancient practice offered companionship as I traversed the inner terrain of my being.
Think of the spiritual director as the character "El" (short for Eleven) in Stranger Things. The director:
* sees behind the curtain of reality and knows there is a way forward.
* taps into the hidden power of goodness and encourages me to move forward.
* walks with me through the crazy "Upside-Down" world of my ego.
* helps me sort through the lies and illusions I believe about myself - which are the real monsters in my life because they have the power to poke through into the "Right-Side Up."
The kids in Stranger Things could not have overcome the enemies in the "Upside-Down" without the help of El. I need to remember this when I am battling my own "Upside-Down." I need the assistance of a spiritual director trained in the nuances of the spiritual journey.
If I am to be who God made me to be, I must journey into the "Upside-Down." Facing my false self or shadow brought healing and freedom, moving me into the "Good-Inside-Out," God's kingdom.
Image: Stranger Things Art The Upside Down, Personal License found at