It gets me every year: why Mother’s Day still sucks.

Why am I so easily annoyed and prone to anger flares this week? Fighting back twitches of something or other in my gut? I rarely watch TV, especially when spring hits and I’m once again outdoors whenever I can be outdoors. I haven’t been out shopping, in an actual store in a long while- (just online and at greenhouses).

But I don’t need to see the tear-jerking television commercials and the glossy store displays to just know that Mother’s Day is approaching again. My heart won’t forget the fact that my own mother is the abandoning sort, and that most mothers are not supposed to be that kind.

My yearly, early-May, grouchiness toward my husband and my uptick in stress symptoms reveal what’s coming next. Mother’s Day. And all the mixed emotions that cause this day to be so fraught with pain and ongoing weirdness; for a child abuse survivor like myself.

Do I reach out to her? Send a card? Do nothing?

Did Mom step in? Stop the abuse? Affirm me? Or did she just abuse and mock me like my siblings and father did?

Yeah. I don’t need to remember that kind of Mom on ‘her day’.

Honor your father and mother so that it may go well with you, implies that one’s father and mother were the godly sort to give sound wisdom and lead children closer to God; not impede that process, not toss their own kids to the wolves. What is God’s command when one’s own mother abandoned, neglected, abused, and pushed her own child further into the clutches of other abusers; of devouring wolves? Ignoring her child’s cries for help from the clutches of evil? And how evil was she, in her own right?

These parallels to an ostrich in The Book of Job come to mind, when I think of my own Mom:

The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
    though they cannot compare
    with the wings and feathers of the stork.
She lays her eggs on the ground
    and lets them warm in the sand,
unmindful that a foot may crush them,
    that some wild animal may trample them.
 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
    she cares not that her labor was in vain,
for God did not endow her with wisdom
    or give her a share of good sense.
Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
    she laughs at horse and rider.

Job 39:13-18

I don’t need to know the answers, to just how given over to evil my own mother may actually be. I know enough: that many times she acted like an Ostrich, burying her head in the sand and pretending things were just fine, when they clearly were not. That she let her own nest be trampled, too. That she was harsh with her own offspring. She continues not to acknowledge any wrong doing, though I have told it to her plainly now; several times in great love and realization that if she does not own up to what actually happened, she herself is in danger from the hidden sins she will seemingly not bring before God (to be forgiven). Though I do forgive her.

And so, for now, as things still stand, I feel I can best honor my birth parents by realizing the heaviness of their influence over me. How much their abandonment hurt me, and continues to hurt me. Not from a place of unforgiveness but from a place of understanding that until they can also walk in truth, themselves, then true and healing restoration and reconciliation simply can not happen between us. But, maybe in their own private way, they have confessed to God, and are sorry, and perhaps we might reconcile in Heaven where this can truly then be behind us. I just don’t know. But I have to be prepared to own the loss, to feel the loss, and to be honest about the loss: regardless.

Therein, by being truthful about it all, I am honoring God, and being as Christian as I know to be. Which means I will acknowledge that this yearly tradition of ‘everyone honoring our mother’s’ really hurts me. Leaves me feeling abandoned by my own mother all over again. Guilty for seemingly abandoning HER all over again. Questioning my choices all over again.

I will feel that pain, enter into the confusion, take it to prayer again as I have many times. Since denying that I feel so weird, and hurt, about Mother’s day, just makes me lash out and hurt those around me, who do love me well.

And then, once I admit to myself what is really going on inside my twisting orphaned heart, I will look around and see what needs doing, what acts of service to others might be before me. Who and where can I show the love I so desperately want to cultivate? The kind of love that I did not always receive but so desperately have always wanted.

Because I feel like God answered me a long time ago, when I lamented about my seemingly orphaned family situation: you can not have that; but you can be that for others. And, therein, in honoring James 1:27: true religion really does take care of the widows and the orphans in their distress; and keep’s one’s self unstained from the world.

Reach out to an orphan this weekend, not to try and heal or fix them, but just to show them that you are present, that you hear them, and that you won’t abandon them; too. They’ve had enough of that.

And please realize that there are lots of ‘quasi-orphans’ out there too, as well as grown adults who find this time of year to be very difficult to navigate. When it comes to a Mother’s abandonment, I am starting to see that there may actually be no age limit, for when one finally ‘gets over it’.

“She thinks she’s too good for us.”

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 NIV

Once I separated from abusive family members, who had normalized perversion and had exposed me to adult-only content at such a tender age that I cannot recall ever not being exposed to it, I slowly regained my innocence. My mind was renewed and transformed by Jesus. The Holy Spirit/Jesus did most of that work. I believe the hardest thing I had to do in that renewal process was to just make myself fully available to it.

I could only be fully available for that working-over from Him, after I actually cut ties with unrepentant abusers, and others who had been so normalized that they still couldn’t see what had happened as abuse. Otherwise their continued hold on my mind would have been such that I doubt I ever would have fully seen the damages done to my own ability to discern appropriate from the inappropriate. Therein, once I had unyoked myself from evil, I was able to yoke myself to Jesus. And then He began the greater work in me.

Off color jokes (I put jokes in italics as I came to see such things as the intentional normalization of perversion, desensitizing everyone who hears them to the greater acceptance of evil, and thereby stealing the innocence of children too) became disgusting, they simply were not funny anymore to me. Which is why I wrote earlier that I regained my innocence. As suddenly I could see what innocence even looked like, for the first time in my life.

Uncouth behaviors and inappropriate comments no longer tempted me to laugh along and/or brush them off. Such things became just that: uncouth and inappropriate. I was frequently upset all over again too, at how my own mind had been washed over, in my upbringing, to just accept these behaviors as normal. And I was continually amazed at how powerful God’s hand in my healing was– to then so handily undo that brainwashing and give me a real washing clean too. I was also grieved at how much of my life I had spent saying and accepting such perverted and uncouth things myself, as if they were funny or entertaining or pleasurable somehow, instead of alarming and evil things– to be coming from a professing Christian’s mouth.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 12:16 NIV

Looking back on my childhood, I saw that there were many times where certain relatives, and others in our church family, were obviously unsettled by my family’s outright perverted words and behaviors. Those relatives or church members kept their distance and didn’t even attend the events my parents or older relatives hosted. When we ran into them while out and about, they acted aloof and a bit cold around us. My mom, in particular, had a ready excuse as to why some people in the extended family, and even our church, seemed to shun us:

Oh, she thinks she’s too good for us. Mom would mutter and wave her hands in dismissal over so and so’s uppity behavior in not wanting to mingle with us lowlier sorts. It was like an inverse interpretation of Romans 12:16 which exhorts us to: be willing to associate with people of low position. Basically, the rule I learned (was brainwashed with) as a kid, was this: to not go along with outright perversion and crass joking made you a prude. Prudes are uppity and think themselves too good to associate with others. That’s BAD.

All of which then led me to think, in my own adult life, that by continuing to talk to people who displayed open perversion or uncouth, rough and even dangerous behaviors, I was somehow willing to associate with people of a low position, which made me better than others who were not willing to tolerate people of low positions. Therefore: tolerating perverts was better than being uppity, than being known as a prude…

Except there is a footnote to the Romans 12:16 verse which says an alternative interpretation is to be willing to do menial work…in other words, Romans 12:16 does not mean we are to be willing to associate with those who tell dirty jokes in the presence of children. It means we are to be willing to do menial work ourselves, alongside those others who are also doing menial work. We are not to consider menial work to be beneath us.

The irony in that is that it is pretty basic, menial work in one sense: to separate ourselves from evil and to let Jesus renew our minds as we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5). It is menial work to start to tame our own tongues, knowing that sin begins as desires in the mind and then gives birth to words and sinful actions (James 1:15).

As far as putting up with perverts, uncouth joking, crass and evil behaviors? The Bible has a lot to say about not tolerating that, and not emulating it either. There’s likely a very good reason some relatives ended up shunning my family in my childhood: as I am now doing myself. Dividing out from evil has nothing to do with thinking one’s self better than another. It has more to do with simply being unable to tolerate wickedness, and especially not the destruction of children’s innocence, when you are yoked to Jesus.

Grieving an Abuser

Love God above all else is the main rule of Christianity. Followed by Mark 12:31, love your neighbor as yourself. God’s love motivates us to rise above, or perhaps more fitting: to step down from our inherent love for ourselves.

There was, therefore, quite a bit of tension as I went through therapy processes and began to heal from past abuse. Since I found the therapy process to be inherently self-absorptive, navel-gazing, looking inward and asking what ‘I’ needed instead of looking around and being willing to sacrifice for what my neighbor might require.

It is because of this vein of self-preservation and self-focus within the therapy process itself, that I believe few therapists will outright recommend cutting ties with difficult, even abusive, family members. Because to estrange oneself from others, especially family, is so very difficult and rife with complications. The cascade of grief which ensues any cutting of ties is a complicated and difficult thing to navigate, especially in someone already riding a wave of unresolved trauma.

In the cases of more egregious forms of abuse, like physical abuse, spiritual abuse and pedophiles, I don’t see how one has a choice but to cut ties with those who are not willing to disclose or admit to, or repent of, such forms of abuse. Because when it comes to those harmful and serious forms of abuse, wherein the abusers themselves remain unrepentant and unwilling to confess, as well as those who remain in denial about such kinds of abusers living amongst us, such people pose an ongoing danger to the innocent. If those aware of who the abusers really are, do not attempt to do or show or say something (even if the something is simply refusing to share airspace with them) to warn others, what is the point of disclosing abuse in the first place? May as well stay quiet and save yourself the entire difficult process which is abuse recovery, then.

It was in trying to honor Jesus’ command that I walk in truth, that I love others as I love myself, that I felt I had no choice BUT to cut so many ties, after I disclosed my own abuse, and then my abusers denied it, and then no one else in my family took it seriously enough to remove their own children or grandchildren from those I had just disclosed were known child abusers. My disclosure merely had the effect of labeling me as the outlier instead of busting up the wolf party so the truly innocent sheep could heal and mend what remained. The abusers continued to get invites to gatherings while I then felt I had no choice but to remove myself from such gatherings, on principal. Because I simply, out of loving my neighbor as myself, could no longer collude with a family dynamic that made it unsafe for children to be present within it.

And so I then had to deal, and still am dealing, with the complicated grieving process which occurs when we cut ties with family members who are still alive, but are partaking of and overlooking egregious sins (often against children) which lead to death and therein are headed down a disastrous road that might end in eternal death if they don’t turn around. Therefore, it was also out of love for my abusers, themselves, a love which stepped down from a self-preserving love for myself, that I disclosed and then cut ties as I waited for them to confess and repent.

There was great relief, I will add, when I cut those ties. My adult children and spouse were never fully comfortable around my abusers. We all had found them exhausting and unlikable. However, my adult children and spouse did not have shared history as I did. Therefore they did not also experience the waves of grief, the sense of loss, the direct gaslighting (denying that what happened had actually happened), the ongoing inner questioning (had I really done the right thing in cutting ties?), which I then had to navigate.

It is not easy, and it remains hard, as my abusers age and the world is full of plagues and pandemics and rioting, which means life became even more perilous and unpredictable this past year than at any point in my life. Any day any one of my abusers might die and then I’ll need to deal with grieving someone’s death, after I intentionally estranged myself from that person.

That will not be easy. A person in my family with whom I now have limited contact, shared with me that the main reason she will not estrange herself from family members is for that very reason, it will make grief too hard. When they die (we all will eventually), she will just feel too bad if she had stopped talking to them. And so, it seems she waits to live and she readily opens herself and her children up to further ongoing abuse too, while the abusers remain alive. She lets those she loves, including her own children, right into the wolf pen, because she can’t stomach chasing him off with a stick in case he dies in the wilderness never to be seen again.

I think I’d rather chase away the wolf, enter into new life, freedom, and have some grief too, so that I don’t have the ongoing guilt of elevating my self-interest above the basic protection of innocents, in letting a wolf make his home in the sheep pen. For it is incredibly self-absorbed and self-preserving to willingly invite known pedophiles, child abusers, spiritual abusers, physical abusers, into my home, where others, including children, are present. Even if they are family. Jesus assures us that all who leave behind family to follow Him will be rewarded ten fold in this life and the next.

It still isn’t easy to actually do that. But we are warned it won’t be easy to live out the commands of Jesus. And so, I also don’t see that I really have a choice but to keep doing exactly what I have done, and keep myself as separate as I possibly can from those who believe that it’s ok to invite pedophiles to their party, and to just pretend abuse didn’t happen so that their own life can be easier somehow. And I wait to adjust my boundaries until my abusers confess and repent.

I see the hope in all of this, though, because Jesus said to take heart, for He has overcome the world. And so, I toss aside what therapists generally advise and other relatives of mine are doing (and not doing) and I grieve and take the hits of the hard stuff now, knowing it might get even harder later too when there is actual death to deal with on top of mere estrangement. And I cling to the words Peter said when Jesus asked His followers if they wanted to desert Him as well: Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?

When it goes outside, we go too

I appreciate where I came from, and where I still live. The farming metaphors are reminders of what Jesus often references in the Bible. The rough on the outside, but often kind on the inside, farmers of Middle America also remind me, in many ways, of the Bible apostles.

A decade ago, one such farmer worked with us at our small business. He was an evangelist. We liked to catch one another at the coffee counter as often as possible: to share what the Lord had put on our hearts that day.

One morning he left me an index card on my desk.

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”

Luke 10:2 NIV

He had underlined, but the workers are few. Reading through his farmer scrawl convicted me and challenged me all at once- to ramp up my own evangelism efforts. To get to work for Jesus.

I know enough about farming to know that nobody harvests unless somebody has first planted and tended. And so my coworker often shared the ways he had scattered another seed while he was out and about meeting customers. Other times, working side by side with the other guys, he had felt the need to do some tilling, and had exhorted one of them.

The thing is, though, here in Middle America the weather regularly shuts us down. Time and again. We are forced to find something else to do today because what we had planned for the day is no longer going to work, due to a turn in the weather.

This is more of a problem in the Spring, when lingering winter cold and storms can blow in suddenly. But when conditions suddenly open up and seed planting time goes, we go too, heading outdoors to get after it.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.

1st Corinthians 3:6-8 NIV

In the late summer and fall, when the crops can be harvested, we tend to have less fickle weather and a longer season to bring it all in again. Even still, the farm country adage remains a pretty year round thing: when it goes outside, we go too. And so as I watched my rough on the outside, kind on the inside coworker dropping whatever he was doing, often, in order to tend to the Lord’s work, I noticed he was always watching the weather, in a sense.

And it seemed he prioritized seeding over harvesting too. Because the window is a bit narrower, the whole process a bit more delicate: when it comes to planting those original gospel seeds. Takeaway being: those who are first coming around to Jesus are going to require a lot more of our time, and a lot more of us dropping what we are doing and tending to them.

He had a way of knowing when someone’s heart had been freshly tilled and was eager for a seed of truth. Or when a storm had just passed through and made a muddy mess and now the soil needed cultivating; to break up the cracked and hardened topsoil. Or when something good and true in another was ripe and just needed someone to pull it all together and bring it into the barn so it could feed others. He was flexible, willing to switch his workday course if he had opportunity to plant, water, till-soil, or harvest for Jesus.

The weather is always changing in Middle America. As is the climate in the world, it’s openness to the gospel, and it’s acceptance of our discipleship efforts. As evangelists we need to watch out for all those things. Therein we can learn the timing involved with planting, tending, and harvesting. When the field work doesn’t go, we find other things to do, indoors, to redeem the time. Knowing that a morning cloud break, (an opportunity to witness to someone) may turn into an afternoon of rain, so we better go quickly, whenever we can go.

If a newbie believer with the freshly tilled soil of hard life circumstances, asks us a question about Jesus, or seems to need encouragement, we see that kind of thing as a break in bad weather. We understand we are dealing with a tender shoot that needs extra care, not a hardened head of ripe grain (which often needs a bit of rougher handling to separate the seed from the chaff). We drop what we are doing and get busy working His field instead. And then, stuck inside later that day while it pours, we will be glad we went into the fields when we had the chance.

And so I’ll repeat the challenging Bible verse a farmer-for-Jesus once left on my desk. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Do you see the calling in it? Are you willing to drop whatever you are doing and go to work in His fields when the opportunity comes?

Speaking Christian. Avoiding Christianese.

The abusive minister in my family could slip phrases like ‘I want you to know this, so you can pray for her’ into verbal exchanges; which were otherwise not exactly Christian. He could quickly crank out a heartfelt pre-dinner prayer in public, or private. He could sit with dying people and say the right things. He could sing old hymns as well as a professional gospel singer.

That confused me. Because when it was just close family or old friend company… he told perverted jokes without blushing, sexually harassed me and other young girls without remorse, and sang all the lyrics, by heart, to the bawdiest of songs, too. Then slipped back into an old spiritual hymn as if he had never been uncouth.

One of the reasons I couldn’t see, or admit to myself, (let alone disclose to others), that he was abusive, was because he could sound and behave very Christian. Because Christians really have developed their own language, complete with cliches and phrases unique only to The Fellowship. Like it’s been on my heart, or we need to pray for her, or I’m struggling with that.

On the upside, the ‘lingo’ makes it easy enough to find other Christians ‘out there’. On the downside, hearing Christianese is not a guarantee you’ve found a sincere, or a wholehearted, brother or sister. Plus, the use of these phrases can make us seem aloof and stereotypical, or even triggering, to wounded Christians and/or the unbelievers we meet.

Personally, I don’t mind some Christianese amongst the fellowship. But when it comes to engaging with strangers, or those I don’t know that well yet, I tend to take a different approach, without even thinking about it. I think it’s because I, myself, remain pretty cautious about people, in general. And so perhaps part of what I do, when meeting someone new, is a bit of a test of my own: to keep me safe from a potential poser.

I go biblical

I like to slip direct quotes into everyday language. For instance: I am over how frequently karma gets referenced. I intentionally say, instead, we all reap what we sow…The serious contenders might pick up on the bible reference; and appreciate it. The others leave me be, or ask questions which can open doors for further dialogue.

In the video above, I noticed that few Christianese phrases are soundly biblical. I think that’s key. Reading and studying the Bible for myself is how I began to gain the confidence I needed to break from abusers, to leave a religion I didn’t want to be in any longer, and, eventually: to heal.

Years ago a restaurant server with an arm sleeve tattoo, read aloud the Bible verse spiraling through the leaves (after a friend at the table commented on how much she loved his tattoo). He then shared the specific chapter and verse, as that part wasn’t written on his skin. My friend looked straight at me Is that really what that verse says? If anyone knows it by heart it’d be you!

To which I replied, “I don’t know! I’d have to look that one up. And I’m not that much of a Berean.”

The server looked directly at me for the first time, and said, “Oooo, Good one!”

Then he explained to the others at the table what I had meant by that Berean quip, as they’d had no clue. And so he gained a point, with me, for actually knowing the Bible fairly well. But, something about the way he didn’t even pause to see if I wanted to explain my own witty comeback for my own self…. seemed unsettling. I didn’t trust him fully. Therefore the competitive/prideful part of me wished I had been cheekier and said something like, “Oh, well, I got stuck on Leviticus 19:28 and now I can’t recall any other chapter and verse in the Bible…” but then I would have broken my lifelong rule to never, no matter what, be rude to someone who has the power to spit in your food…

Another time I exchanged first names with a lovely young couple I met while vacationing at an oceanside resort. The girl was prettier than Salma Hayak, if that’s even possible. I usually try and make some correlation to such things (celebrities, and Bible characters too) as it helps me remember people’s names. A few days later I ran into them. I remembered her name but called her husband Matthew. “Mark” she corrected, and I blurted out, in all honesty, “Shoot, well I made a mental note that he had a disciple’s name, so at least I wasn’t too far off!”

Later on Prettier-than-Salma sat down next to me at the cheeseburger bar on the beach. Though we hadn’t moved beyond first name exchanges: I had spoken her language with my disciple reference. She freely told me her entire testimony, and her dad’s and her mom’s. When I took a final bite of cheeseburger, and was about to eat my weight in onion rings, she started to share some pretty private details about her purity-ringed honeymoon… and I almost vomited up my cheeseburger. So I tried to stop her TMI-ing with a self-deprecating, and slightly uncouth, joke about my own marriage…all of which didn’t come out as I had intended and then ended up pretty stereotypically Christianese-ish.

Oh, I did see that Prettier-than-Salma was right, basically, as she exhorted me: our words are a powerful witness to others and you need to be more respectful and honoring to your husband so that others might be drawn to Jesus through your example of marriage. I mean, yes, true. But had she just honored her husband, or herself, sharing bedroom details outside their bedroom? Plus: I was eating food while she was oversharing. It was like a ‘sanitized’ peep show. At a cheeseburger stand… I was uncomfortable. I make jokes when I’m stressed out…

By that point I had well over a decade of experience and commitment to marriage, and raising children as well. But, I was also still so insecure about my own standing with Him too. I certainly wasn’t going to mention Titus to this girl, who seemed further along than me in some ways, and the older women teaching the younger because…well…

Bless her heart.

And my own heart was also reeling from the trigger of her sudden segue into bedroom-talk. Something which I hadn’t even known yet was a trigger. And, even now, it remains hard for me to tolerate whenever Christian married people start sharing too much with other Christians about their bedroom lives. Since that kind of thing has now just been so normalized, you know, because we need to be a good example to the world where the unbelievers have no good example to follow.

Now I know how much I just disagree with all that. Fundamentally.

At the time I hadn’t made those correlations yet. So I soothed my hurt heart in ways I did understand. I.e. honeymoon girl would learn soon enough that marriage doesn’t stay a honeymoon and that try as you might, you are going to be a bad example to others sometimes too. Even when you think you are being a good one. Although part of me wondered if this couple would make it long haul… wherein you can say it like it is and be completely understood and loved just the same. Marriage anniversaries trump honeymoons. Just like Biblical Christianity trumps Christianese. Which is why we all have to intentionally move beyond the honeymoon phase, the expected stuff, to enjoy the real stuff.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NIV

Christianese isn’t worthy of the doorframe. Even if it soothes the conscience. Dig deeper into The Word and let it unsettle what else needs to go. Let God write His Truths on the doorframe of your very heart, as you teach it to your children, and pepper it freely into your own words, too. It’s worth the effort. And it opens doors. Though sometimes some of those encounters can be frustrating; there is always something to be gleaned.

While I think I made the right move with not ‘going Leviticus’ on the arm-sleeve tattoo guy… I do wish I had been further along in my own healing, and therein would have been able to respond better than I did to the girl. As I think she desperately needed, herself, to hear more Bible straight talk and less seemingly-holy compromise.

Now that I’m another decade into all of this healing and developing better boundaries stuff: if a door opens again with someone who shares private bedroom details… I hope I can be wiser in how I respond. I pray I find the courage to hold a hand up and say STOP- private things need to stay private in my airspace, and if you continue, I will have a lot to say about the sanctified voyeurism of the Purity Movement and the normalization of bedroom talk amongst professing Christians.

If nothing else, asserting my own boundaries would have kept my cheeseburger-in-paradise a lot happier in my own gut.

(Truly regrettable is that her Christianized TMI-ing had me leaving behind some onion rings.)

Thoughts create our feelings. Our feelings don’t create our thoughts.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18 ESV

…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 ESV

We have all, at some point, felt our way closer to God. Sometimes the feels come on a roller coaster of coincidences, another ‘God Thing’ we can’t wait to share with our believing friends. We share those stories to relive the feels again ourselves, and to watch others get some feels of their own. A washing with strong emotion can also happen with worship songs, or while hearing another’s personal testimony. Either way, feeling the flow of strong emotions, as they relate to God, can leave our insides more expansive, our excited chests breathless, and our faces full of tears (happy or sad, or both at the same time). We often feel renewed faith and hope in such moments.

However, sometimes I struggle to feel all the feels which seem to come so easily to my brothers and sisters in Jesus. This seems a common thing, in abuse survivors. If it seems my emotions toward God have disappeared again, when I am feeling flat or struggling a bit too hard to even get the feels, I know I’ve again slipped somewhere in my thinking, not at all in my feeling, about God.

I then begin to pay attention to my thoughts, in order to correct them. Because I learned something very simple when I was healing from past abuse, and this was the key to my healing:

Our thoughts CREATE our feelings!

After I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and PTSD, I finally saw that I needed to disclose the truth about what my childhood had really been. Keeping those details to myself, out of a skewed idea of what forgiveness looks like, had become detrimental to my physical and mental health.

What had happened to me wasn’t my fault or my responsibility. Yet, the entrenched consequences of childhood abuses, and what they had changed in me, were my responsibility to bear. Therefore I wanted to try and mend what I could.

I began a basic, Christian based, program for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to attempt to heal from those past traumas which I was finally ready to disclose (in safe ways). During my weekly sessions my therapist reinforced the point that if I am feeling one way (anxious, sad, upset) then somewhere or other I had been thinking thoughts that had led me to feeling those feelings (feeling flat, empty, or emotion-less: also being feelings).

It took a while for that truth to sink in. In time, as I began to change the highways in my brain, I saw clearly that it really is my thoughts which then create my feelings and fuel my emotions.

When we think a thought, synapses form in the brain and the result is a lot like building a road, on which to make future travel easier. Therein, the more we think the same/similar/common thought, the sooner the thought pattern itself becomes a very well traveled road. The more we affirm these common thought patterns, the well traveled road becomes a paved highway, and then a super highway, in our minds. And this is the problem. Who wouldn’t want to coast down a super highway, versus trudging into the tall-grass wild, making a little cowpath for ourselves, knowing it could be years before we even have so much as a dirt road going, from all the constant capturing, and correcting, of one’s own thoughts- one painstaking bit at a time?

That is hard work, and it takes a long time, to start to walk where we haven’t walked prior in our thought life. Avoiding that work, is also how we end up back on those super highways of our thought life. Falling back onto those well traveled roads is done fairly automatically, too, often without us noticing it. But, for the help of the Holy Spirit, convicting us in our minds and thought life, bringing up the pattern and showing us how to change it: I don’t know that it could ever even be done, in my life or another’s.

As I began to work on changing all that, and as the Holy Spirit helped me with that work, I started training my brain to enter the wild and build a new path. Turning around again whenever I caught myself on the old super highways of my own mind. It was then that I noticed how my very thoughts, themselves, were slowly changing and seemingly ‘automatically’ going to the cowpath that was developing. Shortly thereafter, my emotions began to open up as well, eventually I felt like I was entering the full range of human emotional experience for the first time in my life.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV

This containment of one’s thoughts process is biblical: to take every thought captive is spiritual warfare. It is how we are able to easily tear down strongholds of the mind that the devil had a hand in building (see all of 2 Corinthians 10 for context). Yet, this kind of simple warfare, of examining our thought life and changing it to be obedient to Jesus, is rarely talked about in church settings. We’d rather share our feelings there, or retell our experiences trying to get others to feel strong feelings instead.

It isn’t necessarily that hard of work, to build new roads in one’s brain, since you can only ever do it one captured and reframed thought at a time. A single thought isn’t actually heavy at all. Even the biggest lie/thought I once told myself was easy enough to put down. Especially when picking up ‘the truth’ instead, was even lighter to carry than any lie had ever been. It can, however, take a great deal of time until you notice some progress, since that new road in the brain needs to be done by re-routing one single thought at a time.

It was also hard for me to even believe that thoughts fuel feelings, at first. In part because it seems most of us initially approached God with our emotions forward and our brains parked in neutral. I felt like I did. As a child, I adored going to church, seemingly for the experience of it. For the way the big bricked building with the beautiful stained glass windows up front, and all down the outsides, made me feel. For the way the Sunday school choir director would joyfully pound on the piano after worship and lead us in song; before dismissing us to learn the fun lessons and fill in the coloring sheets in our classrooms. I often had an outbreak of goosebumps during those songs and while hearing those stories.

I felt like God was special and like I was also special, by default. Plus, it was the one morning a week that my parents put on their best clothes and acted somewhat loving toward me, at least when others were watching anyway. I had already learned my lesson, quite young, that I’d have to sit very still and not whine about being hungry. Otherwise Mom or dad would take me to the basement, where no one was watching, and scold and spank and unleash on me the same contempt, which was a near-constant threat outside of church. When I was sitting still in a pew, quiet, daydreaming, pondering the sermon, or simply enjoying the music: mom and dad became safe people I wasn’t scared to sit beside.

The only problem was that I was almost always hungry in church. Living in the kind of home I did, if I didn’t make my own breakfast, I didn’t get any. And I rarely woke up in time to fix my own breakfast before church. But other than the being hungry part: I loved being in church on Sunday mornings. The protestant minister who abused me wasn’t our home-church pastor. And the minister who abused me, didn’t abuse me inside of an actual church setting, either. Even still, as an adult I worked through a period of being triggered, simply by being in the kind of church I grew up in, or just from seeing robes and choirs and pianos and pews hearkening to my childhood. But all that can be for another essay.

The point I am making here is multi-faceted.

  • Everyone needs to be convinced about God in their own minds, to approach God with reason, and thinking and responding in their mind to the truths found in Scripture. For that is where emotions stem. To try and sway anyone closer to God on sheer emotions, with moving worship, or experiential proofs, is wrong. We must retain simple logic, and easy truths in our evangelism efforts. All the more: when witnessing to an abuse survivor, or someone who grew up in a home that was outright antagonistic to the gospel. They will not respond well to emotional sways. They want to be approached and convinced on the intellectual level. Wherein, they themselves can make up their own minds. Can willingly go into the wild’s of their own thought life and build a new road, coming off the super highways that got ingrained on them in their own childhoods. Taking captive any errant thought and bringing it to obedience of Jesus; and the truths found in His Word.
  • The emotions will follow. The feelings will come. On their own. Our job as witnesses of the gospel is to share the truth, to reason with others, to engage them on the thought level, and convince them in their own minds of the value in turning from sins (repenting) and choosing to trust Jesus for their eternal salvation. While I was healing myself and I sometimes noticed myself feeling ‘flat’ or disconnected in a worship or other Christian setting where many others seemed enlivened: I also realized that it wasn’t necessarily because my own thinking wasn’t wrong at all. Sometimes that was because the ‘audience’ as it were, were collectively being told (in spoken or unspoken ways) to put our brains in neutral and give in to the spirits in the air, to the feelings, and the emotions and the lighting or the band tempo or what have you. I didn’t like that. Rightly so, too. I wanted to be able to make up my own mind, first, before I gave in to the emotions others around me were so readily entering into.
  • It takes a lot of time investment to disciple others properly. Time investments which few Christians in our modern, microwave, touchy, everyone’s feelings matter church world will have the patience to do, or the extended work ethic to dive into. As doing so will likely lead to some theological arguments, it will require needing to understand, yourself, the apologetics side of Christianity, as well as a basic understanding of how much of the occult world has crept into it, in order to walk beside and support someone coming out of the fog of abuse, or the fog of an unchurched, or false religion, or spiritually abused childhood. Because all of that needs to be done on the ‘thinking’ or intellectual level. Especially if someone grew up in a home where witchcraft, or the occult, or even simple atheism was instilled as ‘the way to think’, from childhood on. Then they aren’t going to be able to feel much of anything toward God, for a while. Those old super highways of thought ‘God is angry’, ‘God is bad’, ‘God isn’t real anyway’ ‘God is too patriarchal and Mother Earth is divine and She is not gender specific’ are going to leave them feeling not much of anything about God. And all of that should be expected as a normal thing, not as a broken thing, in someone with such a past.

See, the reason I had such an emotional connection to God, even as a child, is reason itself! I was frequently sitting in those wooden pews surrounded by colorful images of Bible stories… and hearing the basic gospel truth. I listened intently and comprehendingly to the sermons, all of them. Still remember some of them too. It was a solid truth to which I was able to respond, on an intellectual level, and then also on a heart level even as a young child. When I confessed Jesus, along with the others reciting the weekly liturgy, I did believe it in my heart. The resulting emotions I then felt were very real; and powerful too. Because they were based in hearing the truth and responding to it. My thoughts about God led to my feelings about Him.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ

Romans 10:17 ESV

I heard truth, on an intellectual level, and then made up my own mind to trust God, to take Him at His word. That basic instillment was strong enough to keep a seed of faith alive all through the other abuses, some of them spiritual, that I then endured in childhood too.

Whereas, I have a brother in Christ who grew up in a home very similar, in some ways, and yet totally opposite of my own. While I was taken to a Protestant church religiously whenever its doors were opened to us (Wednesday nights, Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings)–his upbringing included parents who hosted spiritual retreats with homegrown folk music and vegetarian food. The adults around him talked about energy healing, self-enlightenment, reading people’s auras, and unleashing kundalini power.

Naturally, the superhighway that his parents put into his brain is going to be antagonistic to God, even though as a child he always had some sense that God was real in spite of that, and as an adult he did hear the gospel truth and respond to it. Yet, the old super highway his parents instilled likely remains, and surrounding himself with people who focus on emotions, on the experiential, on the spiritual side of things, and not on the inner thought life itself (wherein we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Jesus), might only leave him feeling less connected to God; not more. The best way to reinforce and encourage him to demolish that super highway which he didn’t build, but which his very upbringing built, is to reason with him and tell him the truth as plainly as possible. That way he himself can continue to step forward into the tall grass and start a new way.

This, by the way, is the same method to strengthen anyone’s faith.

We keep offering up proofs, letting them be convinced in their own minds, that God can be trusted. That God is good. Or we might need to point out the ways evil has made inroads into the church, letting another decide for his or her own self which road to take, and which fellowship to trust. Reinforcing that we all need to turn from our sins and resist evil, daily. And we then leave the feels to come entirely on their own.

A stronger emotional connection with God, and being more in touch and better able to feel our own emotions, will come. As a result of one’s thoughts fully aligning with the truth of the Bible.

Take captive every thought. Then give it time, with yourself and with others. And while we wait please bear patiently with one another who seem slower to grasp it all. Especially those formerly abused, and especially those who were raised up to think and believe that God is horrible and a false religion is true.

Give it all even more time, and more patience, and more intellectual reasoning: in those cases. The new road, and all the strong feels we might feel upon it, will get built. Jesus Himself will make sure of that, on His timeline though. Not ours.

Rather than following the modern seeker friendly way, where I too often see the same mind numbing tactics abusers use, wanting others to put the thinking life into neutral in order to just rev up the heart and all the insecurities therein, playing on a person’s loneliness and quest for belonging in order to think you can secure them to Jesus that way…please just don’t. Honor those among us who have been manipulated by such things in the past and seek to awaken people’s emotions the old fashioned, slower, more thought-filled, and respect filled way instead. Reason with them. Just as God Himself calls us to reason together with Him, though our sins be as scarlet, He really has washed them white as snow.

Joshua’s ultimatum was given to the church; not the world

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:14-15 NIV

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord is one of those mic drop Bible verses that has since made its way onto t-shirts and Bible covers and wall decor.

As someone with a drawer full of Bible verse t-shirts myself, I see a problem in the way we might approach this verse. If we use this verse as an us against the world battle cry (which we tend to do with a lot of Bible verses), we fail to see it’s real value. It is meant to be an urgent call to examine ourselves, not the world, and to be willing to get rid of what evils and idols we cling to ourselves. Even if that means we will need to separate from our beloved church friends, who may not, themselves, be willing to put down whatever old evils and beloved idols or prior sins they once drug in to camp too.

Lyrics to the gospel song, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus. Though none go with me, I still will follow.’ also come to mind when I read this verse.

As a clergy abuse survivor, I see how our general acceptance of idolatry and false gods and dangerous spirits, some of those harkening back to Egypt; remains a problem within the modern church. One that then opened the gate for all manner of predators to come in and get by with abusing children right inside the very walls of the church, too. The world has nothing much to do with all that. It’s the church’s refusal to parse out its own self; that caused that issue.

If we read Joshua’s covenant from God in its entirety, see Joshua 24, we see that he is talking to Israel, (which in modern correlation would be like a sermon given to the entire assembly of professing believers). He was not lecturing the nearby Amorites or the far away Egyptians, just to be overheard by the Israelites who would then find that edifying and affirming that they were ‘separate’. Not even close. He was parsing and exhorting Israel herself! He drew a line in the sand, ‘come clean NOW, or go back to Egypt where you came from!’

In a modern sense, we would say Joshua was talking TO THE CHURCH, and entirely about the problems he was seeing therein. Sins and evil that people, not willing to fully convert and wholeheartedly follow God; had brought into the fellowship willingly. He was not so much urging the church to remain separate from the fallen world, as much as he was urging the church to examine itself and then kick out all the worldly bits. Idols and beliefs and ways of living to which they were still clinging, in spite of all the ways God kept delivering them from those very things!

I am going to go ahead and make the leap here and say the following. The ultimatum, therefore, choose this day whom you will serve, was given to the church, still applies to the church today, and therefore remains all about the church’s own collusion with evil, with idolatry, with sin. Not about its inherent separation from the world. Which is actually a laughable concept, given the apostate state of things today.

What does that mean to us, today?

It means that when I know or see that another Christian in my own circle or camp, allowing or partaking something which I can clearly see harkens back to Egypt, whether that is a book written by a New Age spiritualist, or a diet plan promoted by someone who channels spirits, or more alarmingly: siding with an abuser: I try to speak up about it. Or, at the very least, if no door opens for exhortation: I just resist whatever it is, myself. And when the opportunity arises, I share that as for me I don’t do Yoga, or read books like that one, or burn sage sticks, give space for a wolf in the sanctuary, or what have you, because I am a dedicated Jesus follower and that stuff doesn’t jive with following Him.

And taking Joshua 24:15 seriously also means that when I disclosed my own abuse at the hands of a Protestant minister, I knew it would cost me my family. In time I saw that I would never quite fit in again, either, with a lot of the brothers and sisters in the modern church world.

In the absence of any visible Joshua’s, I am, myself, speaking up more and more when I notice things the church at large is tolerating and passing off as just one more thing covered by grace.

And that’s ok. Because as I wait for more of the church to decide whom to follow, on our collective way to the Promised Land, I stay quite busy purging my own tent clean of all that I once drug into it myself.

“our contemporary obsession with creativity” – And how I try to avoid that obsession entirely.

Calling one’s self ‘A Creative’ is a big part of our modern obsession with individuality and uniqueness and our quest for our fifteen minutes of fame too. We all want to be autonomous to the nth degree even as we are, ironically, being herded into more and more sameness and oneness by the spiritual realm which seeks to resurrect the tower of babel and man’s ultimate rebellion against God…

And so those who refer to themselves, or others, as ‘A Creative’ or ‘Creatives’, raise my suspicions. Creative is best used as it was meant to be used: as an adjective to flesh out a noun; not a noun to flesh out a better-than label we seek to put upon ourselves and others. But that’s not the only word that raises my inner word-nerd flags.

Others have pigeonholed me as an artist. As my life, and the (sometimes dumb) things I do with it, is kinda, well, colorful at best and downright weird and self destructive at worst. Stereotypical artist’s way there. But, honestly, I’m good with just being known in my real world life: as a writer. Since writing is my favorite thing to do with my fingers. To me, being labeled as an artist seems like I should be tossing pottery from a wheel or setting up a fresh blank canvas on an easel in my living room.

Nevertheless, a professional woman in my town once caught me off guard when she said to me, ‘I wish I could get away with dressing like you do’. I looked down and realized my hot pink skirt had a dirt stain from tending the vegetable garden. My hands went to my head where I remembered that I hadn’t combed my hair since showering, and could only imagine how bad all that was looking mid-day.

Well, you know, you’re an artist. She explained. It suits you.

Therefore I guess I can get away with uncombed hair and stains on my skirt.

And so, that is exactly why I put the words ‘A Creative’ in air quotes in the opening sentence. Because I think we crossed some threshold now, where the word artist, and all the other labels that have sprung from it, are overused. To the point of it now being a cliche. Just like artists getting away with dressing a certain way is well on its way to being a cliche as well. One that I, as a writer, now use intentionally in order to bring forth certain traits in a fictional or real character. That way the reader can see just how much that character enjoys her place in that artist world. In short: someone who is entirely too proud of being a creative, and/or wearing the artist label.

Just as the modern art world doesn’t exactly jive with Biblical Christianity: pride doesn’t jive so good with following Jesus, either.

Yes, I know, the word well would have been proper grammar, but I used good intentionally to make a point. Because a part of me can still hear my high school English teacher correcting someone in class who asked to leave school early, with an, ‘I don’t feel good’ declaration. To which we all received another grammar lesson: I think you meant to say, ‘I don’t feel well’-so go to the office and call home then.

Sometimes, to make a greater point, a writer needs to dim the voice of old English teachers who are married to grammar. As those types are not always so aware of the overall effect which too much high-brow, perfected language can do to a piece. Therefore, I break some rules. I suggest other writers do as well.

I also view many of the popular habits of writing and writers themselves, with hesitation. Writer’s groups can easily make it too much about the writer instead of the work. Creating all these categories to explain ourselves which have become so overused now as to become cliches of their own. And so I throw in some bad grammar on purpose and I don’t always clean up these blog posts all the best either. In order to keep myself off the writer’s high horse.

Because most horses scare me. Especially tall ones. And because God’s gift to me isn’t so much about me as it is bringing glory to Him. I could convince myself that me doing my very best is what brings Him glory. But the educated Apostle Paul intentionally made himself common and lowly, trembling and hesitant. And all throughout the Old Testament the soldiers were being told to go into battle on foot, with sticks and stones and other things: against those enemy riders yielding swords on horses and chariots. Therein is how God works miracles through His people.

Artists who don’t get their insecurities met in Jesus will end up trying to write or create their way there instead; and that is futile.

When I first started this blog, I would sometimes include posts ‘about writing’. I can still see the ‘writing and publishing’ ‘blogging’ categories I once created, in my categories tab on the back end of things. A lot of those posts are now set to private.

When I began feeling like I had crossed a major threshold of healing, I revamped this blog, sometime in late 2019. And I’m still deciding what to do with it all, if anything. But lately I am drawn again to the writing and publishing side of being a writer. I ducked out of most of that when I got sick, as it was too overwhelming and because my abusers were frequent readers of the content I was publishing, too. As I heal further, I’m feeling more ready to put content into the world in those old fashioned ways again: even, perhaps, with my real name attached to it. All of which has me revisiting the very craft and art form of writing itself.

Pre-healing, I viewed that world of writing one way; and somehow God protected me supernaturally from a lot of its pitfalls. Post-healing, I am taking a critical look at that creative world which so much of the greater world wants to label me right into. I am also realizing just how much God once protected me when I was in the thick of it. And how much no part of me wants to identify with some of it, again.

It’s important to note that while a lot of bloggers, and writers in general, seem to share pretty freely about their lives: we only ever see but a fraction of an author’s complexity. So it is with me and what I share on this anonymous blog. In my real life, things are far more complex than this anonymous peek into it can show.

For instance, I have published some things both the old fashioned way (where I got paid for it) as well as the modern way of self-publishing where I assumed the cost of putting content into the world, myself, for various reasons (having a blog is self-publishing and most anyone can do that easily enough, and pretty cheaply, these days).

And, back when I first did all that, and began to be known as a writer, it garnered a lot of response from the people I knew in my real life. As well as some letters and emails and feedback from total strangers.

One thing I heard a lot, when I first started trying to ‘be a serious writer’, was a reference to a certain book. And had I read it, yet? Had it changed my whole life, yet? And what was I waiting for, because it’s a must read! Most of the people telling me about this book, were Christians. On the conservative bent, too. I heard so much about this one book that every writer just had to read, that over a decade after I first felt the pressure to read it… I can still remember the title as if I’m hearing people urging me toward it all over again.

And therein is the uncommon grace of God. Because no part of me felt compelled to pay that book any real attention years ago. Even though so many people suggested it, Christian people I admired and trusted too, that it’s shocking to me that I was never even curious enough to look into it, let alone that I didn’t rush out and buy it and read it immediately. All I remember is feeling a turning in my gut and a turn off in my mind every time another well meaning person labeled me an artist and wanted me to read the famous book that had gone around all the church and social circles like a bad head cold.

The book I am referring to is ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. There is absolutely nothing Christian about this book, that I can tell, based on this interview with it’s author. It seems incredibly new age and self-interested. However, I am suddenly curious about this. As I love to study religion and the ramifications which happen when we pass something around the Christian church which was chock full of falsehoods.

I think I am healed enough now and ready to read this book. Which is why I have a used copy coming and will share my thoughts after I dive into it. But I’m not delving to learn what to do, it will be more as a what not to do lesson and I am assuming it will give me a revealing look into what the church in my lifetime has been more than willing to tolerate; as well. Because it sure seems to me that ‘our contemporary obsession with creativity’ as outlined in this interview with the author of The Artist’s Way is a big part of why we are so thoroughly given over to that which was first put forth in 2 Timothy 3:2.

And, honestly, it likely won’t even make a dent or a ruffle or even raise a single eyebrow. Because I’m an artist. We get away with such things.

“I saw great faith”

I saw great faith among the Nazi’s during the war, but it was in the wrong person.

Corrie TenBoom, from the book Plenty For Everyone

I’ve been reading Corrie TenBoom’s books over the winter. I am seeing many parallels between what she lived through and our current times. Learning how other followers of Jesus endured through hard times is inspiring to me.

When I got sick with PTSD and went through CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to heal, one of the basic tenants was to examine my fears. I first had to determine whether or not those fear thoughts were rational or irrational. Many times my fears were not based on any rational thing and were easy enough to refute (2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.). So I took the thought captive and dismissed it.

For those times when a fear proved to be rational, then the refuting process is a bit different. It often involved coming up with a plan of action.

And so part of my plan of action, as I saw what was unfolding before me the past year of Covid lockdowns etc., (wherein I saw that there were many valid, rational ‘concerns’) in order to better prepare myself for this hour I am now living in: was to be in prayer and word of course. In addition, I felt a desire to study what other Christians had done in the past, when living through troubling times. That is how I ended up with a slew of Corrie TenBoom’s books on my table.

It has proven very fruitful to do that. I highly recommend reading about the faith of believers, like Corrie TenBoom, who have gone through very real times of persecution in the past.

For it seems we are once again in a time where people around us are displaying great faith, but in the wrong person (or people, or things, including IMO: vaccines).

…And there was no longer any sea

At one time Revelation 21:1 disturbed me. I couldn’t reconcile that the new earth will not have an ocean to gaze at or beaches to stroll upon at sunset and sunrise. (Seems there won’t be a sunrise or sunset either in the new earth…) As you can probably tell by the photo on my blog header, I’m a big fan of the sea. Some commentaries assure me that biblical mentions of ‘the sea’ are referring to multitudes and nations and wicked/evil things in general; not the literal ocean which may actually be part of the new earth after all.

But I wasn’t convinced.

Then I came across this excellent video by critical issues commentary in which he explains how the Jews viewed the sea (beginning at six minutes in). Paraphrasing: “They saw the sea as the abyss, where the devil and demons were. They weren’t like us, building condos right next to it, they tried to stay away from it. They were afraid to die at sea as if the body couldn’t have a proper burial they felt they had no hope.” All of which also adds a much deeper layer as to why the disciples were so very scared and upset, as Jesus slept, when the storm came upon their boat at sea.

Understanding how those living in Bible times viewed the ocean (something to be avoided), compared to how we tend to view it today (something to attain to, beaches and locales to put on our bucket lists), also gave deeper meaning to one of my favorite Bible verses, James 1: 6

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind

James 1:6 NIV

Knowing that the sea represented the abyss and the place where demons and the devil dwell, to the original writers of the Bible, gives this verse a much deeper meaning as well.

At one time I saw the ocean, and it’s waves, as a very powerful thing that deeply symbolized our need to ask/pray to God in faith not doubting. Since anyone who has waded into the waves in the ocean, knows how easily you can get blown and tossed about by the current.

But if I approach this verse with the understanding of the sea as a very real representation of evil…it adds another layer to an already powerful understanding. When we pray and ask God, in faith, without doubting (in Him and His dominion over evil), then even the very forces of evil, the devil himself, cannot shake us. It will be as if we were anchored so tight to the Rock of God that no strong wave or current will ever be able to move us.

But, if we do not ask in faith, if we doubt God’s power and dominion over evil, that is when evil will easily be able to toss us about, as a wave of the sea tosses the sand beneath it.

Understanding that the sea represents evil, makes this verse entirely about God and His power in the face of the very representation of ‘the abyss’, and the subsequent trust we choose to put in that power because we know how absolute it is; not about me and my ability to stand strong or swim my way out of a riptide…

An added irony in all of this: is that many people I know are getting vaccinated, and some are even willing to overcome their vaccine hesitancy: specifically to be able to travel again.

One of the top travel destinations remains: ‘the beach’ and ‘the ocean’.

As I pondered that, I also grieved that I myself may not be returning to the ocean again, especially if it requires getting a vaccination.

But I am choosing to trust God as I make my peace with it all–that whatever plan He has for the future, when the new heaven and new earth appear, that the beauty and wonder of that new creation will be such that I will not even think to miss the beautiful oceans of this present age. That hope in what is to come steels me to remain in the faith, clinging to Him, and withholding on those earthly temptations, the checking off of ‘bucket lists’ and such, things which once so readily sucked me off balance- like waves of the sea.