Jesus Follower. Clergy Abuse Survivor. Praising Jehovah-Rapha and looking UP!
Life has given me clearer skies and much better mental health. Therefore I felt it was time to overhaul my blog. Some old posts remain, as do a few followers. Other posts may be revived in the future. Thanks for being there for me while I walked through the fog of abuse. ❤️
Last week I had the thought that showing up is 9/10 of the battle (courage is not the absence of fear, courage is acting in spite of fear) and the other 1/10 of the battle is sticking it out to the end (perseverance).
This week I had the thought: you can’t fight another person’s battles. Doing so would defeat the entire point. As a Christian, I believe all those holes we get from a battle are spots where the light of Christ can shine through us uninhibited by our self. By nature of that process — one simply cannot fight in the place of another who would benefit from engagement in a battle (humbled, wizened, strengthened, etc.)
I’ve caught myself fighting another person’s battle for them, in the past. In my family of origin, triangulation and emotional incest were common occurrences. I found myself ‘handling’ ‘managing’ and ‘parenting’ my parent’s and other family member’s dilemmas as if they were my own. I am a fighter at heart. Engaging in battles came/comes naturally.
Particularly with my children’s battles. I was easily engaged in those to a harmful point; still can be.
But I am starting to see that this is not only hard on me; it could be crippling to others as well.
Again, I am a fighter at heart and can often sniff out a battle brewing. It is hard to sit on my hands when something is off and I know it; even when I know it would be harmful to engage myself in it. What bothers me most is when someone doesn’t even realize they are IN a battle. It’s clear to onlookers that there is real trouble, say, in someone’s marriage, or workplace, or family dynamic. But the person who is meant to be in the middle of the storm with a sword in hand — drank a cocktail of delusion mixed with denial and went to sleep instead.
In those cases, not engaging means keeping my mouth shut; until the sleeper awakes. And if he or she doesn’t ever awake; again — it’s not my battle to fight.*
*Note to self.
Have you ever entangled yourself in another person’s battle? How did it turn out?
I have a little blog with little traffic. Some times, I can tell when someone has liked a post but hasn’t actually read it; or made a decision to follow me based on actual content. (Since they clearly didn’t read any.)
I know, I know, some existing subscribers like to read posts directly in their emails and when they do that; it won’t generate any traffic…
But when the blogger who just liked several posts, without seeming to have read them, is not a follower and is also the owner of a ‘marketing’ blog… or happens to have just posted about a (fee-based) guest blogger opportunity…I call it click bait. And I presume that little blogs with few likes and few followers are more likely to become targeted by the big blogs who naturally think us little blogs can’t wait to grow up and be big blogs; just like them! And so we will be indebted to their ‘like’ or their ‘follow’ and thereby like and follow them right back, increasing their own following and likes…or maybe we might even buy what they are selling.
This actually doesn’t happen all that much anymore, although a few recent likes did give me some pause…but back when I was very little, my earliest ‘fans’ all had very large blog followings of their own, and most of them dropped off liking my posts after it was clear I had become a regular follower of theirs. Coincidence? Or am I just jaded?
Well, jade is a favorite color; so there’s that. Sometimes I wish that WordPress was a tiny bit more like twitter wherein you could clearly see the follower/following ratios. That would make it all far more interesting. All of which has me pondering what exactly Jesus meant by His comment that in order to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven we must change and become as little children. Are we jaded; and need to return to being trusting children? Do we need to regain our innocence? What is truly meant by this comment that Jesus made anyway?
Little children are still sinful- innocent as we might like to make them out to be- they aren’t. Little children are not exactly trusting by nature either–babies reach a certain age and are often scared to go into the arms of strangers. But, little children are aware of the little things, far more so than grown ups. They are more honest too. They know that darkness is inherently creepy and light is much better. Little children take in the little things in ways that grown ups tend to brush off or rationalize. They haven’t learned to posture themselves and be fake. They are real. They like what they like and ignore what they do not.
And so it is the little things, when you are little… Like comments! That is where it is at; for me. Show me you actually read my stuff with a thoughtful comment, and then I will be intrigued about you, will inevitably read YOURS and probably will comment back. Though I completely understand why someone would be content with a blog with a little OR large following; without feeling the need to comment back or follow back or ‘like’ back. I’m good with it ALL, really. Except, well, being click bait. It’s fake, for one. Plus, it’s kind of voyeuristic when you think about it. To view a mere title on a new post and then click like or follow simply in order to use something you know nothing about for your own purposes…
When I was a child, I definitely noticed the little things. It frequently terrified me, being so hyper-aware. Sometimes that hyper awareness saved me from further abuse, other times I was made to feel even smaller and was abused because of having those natural intuitions and fears. Regardless, the way some men would stare at me when I was wearing a swimsuit was never lost on me. I noticed the way adults in my family talked or laughed like a villain from a movie I shouldn’t have been allowed to watch. And I still shudder at how certain grown ups, and one dentist, carefully gauged my mom’s reactions while winking at me right in front of her.
I decided who was trustworthy, and who was not, by the little things. I didn’t figure out how to guard my time and talents from those who would drain it, though, until I was older. Other than that, though: Not much has changed.
I hope to stay little in as many ways as I can; including blogging.
Schadenfreude: pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
My son asked me if I had ever heard of Schadenfreude. I said I was sure I’d heard it before but I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. He laughed and said, ‘Oh, you know how the Germans like to come up with a word for everything…”
Indeed. I looked it up online and read it aloud while we chatted on the phone.
I admitted that I have felt schadenfreude. And I love finding a word that describes so accurately something I have felt myself. That recognition moment is the ultimate ‘lightbulb’ going off, combined with a wordie girl finding a new word — it was a blissful moment.
Typically, after feeling schadenfreude, I then regretted feeling it because it seems so very unChristian and I have tried very hard my whole life to look like a good Christian; inside and out. So then I overcompensated for feeling glad about another’s demise by rushing in to help the very person that I was at first secretly glad to see suffering and then later felt bad about feeling good about and eventually that cycled off and I found that I genuinely drummed up some real empathy and love. Time and again, though, — that whole process ended up disastrously.
Being human is messy.
Seeing people reap what they sow is rewarding; sometimes. Other times it calls for keeping a wide path; while the inevitable destruction happens. And with those I truly do love, the family which God let me choose for myself –I find that schadenfreude rarely occurs. When they are in pain; I am in pain.
And so naming things has value. Recognizing your feelings is sometimes all we need to do. We don’t have to act on everything*. (*Note to self).
(Trigger warnings throughout this post and I apologize for the length — sometimes writing for ‘me’ gets wordy–and I appreciate any readers who will actually plow through this one).
Juanita Broaddrick has shared about being a rape survivor and when I first owned my own story, I stumbled upon hers and was engrossed in it. (‘allegedly’ Bill Clinton* raped her in 1978– he denied it but I believe her, not him). Anyway, she wrote that it (the rape) ‘never goes away’. It clicked with me, being both at once depressing and also legitimizing for what I was going through myself. 1978 is a LONG time ago. But in reading hers, and other stories, I began to see that owning your story is so very difficult because once you do — it will never go away again (delusion/denial/dissociation allows it to ‘sort-of’ be gone).
*yet another reason why I am not political anymore — in the last presidential election both sides had way too many ties to rape and/or sexual assault claims.
Traveling triggers my PTSD. Traveling also relieves my triggers and has been one of my favorite ways to deal with things like family drama during holidays, certain seasonal events with bad memories attached to them (for which I prefer being out of town), and my health (which benefits from milder climates). Many of the blogs I follow have shared similar thoughts about travel; so perhaps traveling is a common tool amongst trauma survivors and/or the chronically ill.
First off — as many other blogs have already shared — I am aware that not everyone is on a chronic illness spectrum that allows it, and/or has the kind of extra finances on a regular basis — to include frequent travel in their own box of coping tools. I am trying to be sensitive to that, while also being real and honest in sharing my own story.
There is no doubt that our healthcare system and what we actually know about health in general is in real crisis. More and more it is only the wealthy and/or the very smart/highly educated who are able to navigate through their health issues with any real success. I believe sharing our N=1 stories, with the paradox/gift that is the internet, is one tool God is giving us to fight back against some of this oppression. And that motivates me. Another motivator is more selfish. I find great help for ME by writing out my thoughts until they make better sense. And so here goes:
Travel is great; and travel is terrible. There’s nothing like a reset in a different location far from home to clear my mind and my body. But, there’s nothing quite as horrible as being triggered far from home. You’d much rather be in your safe chair in the living room with the shades closed. Your own bed. Your favorite blanket…equally awful is booking a room that looked great online and turned out to be so run down the stained shower stall triggered events that happened in the squalor filled, imposed poverty, bathrooms of my youth.
ALSO not pleasant.
I hate that I am so ‘high maintenance’. That is NOT me at all. I am a big fan of simple and I believe less is often more. I’d rather simply spend more time with my husband than have him valiantly work long hours to pay for frequent escapes and vacations that meet all of my (many) ‘needs’. But I hate, even more, being reminded of my trapped childhood inside a house without locking doors and window coverings (there was frequent voyeurism) and an environment so utterly devoid of care that it was squalor from the time I could remember to the time I finally said NO to enduring holiday dinners in a filthy kitchen that smelled of cat urine combined with rotting tuna and cabbage. And so we usually travel like we eat: as basic as possible but very well, and constantly considering all my ‘avoids’. And I thank God for blessing us enough to keep doing it.
To have a triggering episode (physical or mental) while away from home can be THE WORST thing ever. And so I end up having less actual vacation time than I feel my body and brain could benefit from because I inevitably blow the entire budget on non-triggering accommodations and foods, alone. My main travel rule is nothing less than ‘3 star’. And my husband can tell you where the cleanest gas station and restroom stops are in cities which are hours away from ours. I’m thankful he remembers these things as I don’t always remember it — even though bad restroom stops are huge triggers for me.
Complex PTSD, for me anyway, is this strange combo of amnesia and photographic memory.
Our last winter vacation included a lot of open air, high balconies. These were very triggering for reasons I couldn’t immediately identify. I worked through it. I eventually saw some root issues I hadn’t seen before–like a lot of trust issues with myself, with strangers and also with people I know (I kept having obsessive thoughts that someone was going to hurtle me off a rooftop–or that I would hurl myself off accidentally or something too). I am still working on my fear of heights and have accepted that me jumping out of an airplane to try and overcome it just isn’t happening. EVER. I do have better insight into what is causing it all, though. But my body, which had been doing fairly well prior, physically tanked on that trip and then really tanked after returning home.
The trip I took this summer, after radically changing my diet, was noticeably different. It involved a lot of driving, stretches of poverty-stricken areas, and a lot of switching of hotel rooms. At one roadside restroom stop (after dark) the only bathroom was located away from the service station in a dimly lit corner of a parking lot. I hesitated but I really had to pee!
When I entered the dirty bathroom a woman, my age but aged far more than me, was just leaving and she was sobbing openly. “Why would someone do this to me? I really need my medicine!?” Someone had just stolen something or other from her handbag. I offered to help her, I asked her what kind of medicine it was (thinking I could maybe give her some of my own stash of Advil and minerals, etc. and then quickly realized it was not a simple over the counter ‘medicine’ she’d had stolen…) but just as my eyes were opening wide and making that connection, she blurted, “oh don’t even worry about it” and with two hurried steps, into some bushes beside the unlit restrooms, she was in utter darkness and I had no idea where she even went. I used the restroom anyway, in anger, squatting over the disgusting toilet and clutching my own purse in my lap and thinking to myself that if some drugged up cad was going to try and accost me, he was in for one hell-of-a-fight before he was gonna take my purse or my dignity.
The old me had returned. The scrappy, brave, don’t push me, tough girl who grew up with scraped knees and a mean left hook. Those haven’t been my thoughts in well over a decade now. I wouldn’t have even considered that bathroom a year ago, and would have insisted my husband accompany me if I had no other choice. Because I’ve been crippled on a very physical and physiological level — by fear and body pain — nearly to the point of defeat.
In the area we recently traveled, most three star properties, which I knew were my limit, were the equivalents of two star and less in other locations. Everywhere I went, memories were surfacing. Weird ‘feels’ were constant. Hairs standing up on the back of my neck every hour or so. I was definitely flaring PTSD-wise. But, strangely, my neck was NOT tight, my muscles were not in knots and I slept fairly well considering. Plus, summer itself is triggering for me as the worst of the abuse episodes happened from extended family members who would take me on trips (to isolate me) or to their homes for extended stays, usually in the summer when I wasn’t in school. So it is hard to say what exactly the triggers are sometimes — because the way the wind blows through the leaves in the summer can be enough to trigger me.
Yet this last summertime vacation was so triggering based on the locations we traveled through. The change in landscape from where I live, and being brought back to childhood by the sight of a certain kind of plant, a lack of trees, restroom breaks with toilets that didn’t flush (or sobbing women who’d just been mugged), and/or a distinct color of rocks and soil, was jolting.
Yet, I did notice that I wasn’t as jolted as I had been for so long now, either. And I slugged heavy bags, and coolers of food and water, in and out of vehicles and hotel rooms for days, without any upper back pain. I didn’t have dizzy spells or nausea. I slept ok and when I didn’t get enough sleep I could still function the next day. My neck wasn’t killing me the entire time. I only took two Advil, total, in over three thousand miles of travel. The hardest part of the trip was finding decent food as much of what we could find in gas stations and roadside restaurants was on my avoid list. So I just ate a lot of steaks. Crappy ones at that.
And I know that I know, now, that a lot of the physical manifestations of PTSD came from physical toxicity and that can be healed through diet changes. I KNOW this based upon my traveling experiences alone and the differences between last winter’s vacation and this summer’s road trip. Wherein on one I was eating my old diet and the other — a diet which eliminated known toxins.
But, if my experience is indicative of a larger pattern: I don’t think my PTSD went away. It just isn’t as hard as prior. Which is a gain, but it is still hard.
I do not think the actual PTSD triggers will ever go away– no matter how carefully I watch my diet. Evil is still evil and it is everywhere and in some spots of the world it is definitely more concentrated than others. I am coming to believe that my PTSD is the devil’s toll for living in a world over which he rules. Certain parts where his dark influence is greater than others are those very parts wherein I will be more triggered.
I am accepting that. As a Christian my hope for eternity is in Jesus. In this world, my hope is also in Jesus, who brings light to the dark. Pretty sure that He is telling me my daily bread is going to have to be carefully managed and that that’s going to lift off the heavy yoke that I feel has been over my back and my shoulders for life — since suddenly I can sling a heavy suitcase and not have any neck tension whatsoever. And since I was prepared to fight myself with a potential restroom stalker rather than run and hide under my husband’s cover.
But I’m still gonna insist on staying in three star and above hotels, and I don’t think I’m ever going to drive through certain parts of America ever again, either.
I have an agnostic, leaning-toward-atheist, friend who believes all you need to do in life is to follow ‘The Golden Rule’. Always treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. She asserts that if you do that, you will get back out of life what you put into it. Furthermore, she’s been known to say that if everyone simply followed The Golden Rule, the world would not be the world as we know it (I think she meant ‘bad’ in general. But, IMHO: the world as we know it is increasingly narcissistic– we have become ‘lovers of self’, just as was prophesied by Paul to Timothy).
I agreed with her but added some thoughts of my own too. Since I believe all people are capable of evil, by nature–we need help keeping The Golden Rule. Such help comes in the form of Jesus, specifically His Word (Jesus IS the word!).
By the way, friend, God’s word/AKA Jesus is what gave us The Golden Rule…
And, not surprisingly, she didn’t believe The Golden Rule originated in the Bible. Citing chapter and verse did nothing. I’m not one to argue, I’d rather let the seed do what seeds do (die, or, lie dormant and sprout when least expected– six years later, in a crack that developed on hard cement). My Golden Rule friend is actually basing her life on two Biblical principles, without realizing it. The Golden Rule is one, and the idea that we get back what we give out is number two, i.e. we reap what we sow. (I didn’t even ‘go there’ on that point–seeing how the Golden Rule Bible verse played out!)
Anyway, I believe the key to understanding Mathew 7:12 (the famous ‘golden rule’ precept) lies in Matthew 7:11.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:11 that though we are evil, we still know how to give good things to those we love. How much more, then, does God the Father, (in Whom NO evil resides), KNOW how to give good gifts?
Sadly, I know the sin nature of people, myself included. We are capable of committing evil under the right (wrong?) circumstances. And I’ve also experienced what the devil is capable of as well–so there’s no doubt in my mind that the dark dude would LOVE it–say, for instance, if the recent earthquake in California had resulted in total annihilation instead of the fairly serious damage that was caused (sadly). The fact that this world is still, for the most part, orderly, and that many people enjoy long lives relatively free of major devastations, is one of those ‘good gifts of a righteous God.’ His hand still has sway over this world and is undoubtedly keeping order, IMHO. When that restraint is lifted, I believe it will get very ugly indeed–I just hope I’m not here to witness that!
But back to The Golden Rule. It struck me recently that we, in our selfish nature, have twisted even that genius summation of all the law and prophets. Time and again as I’ve been attempting to heal from PTSD, I have received advice and responses from professionals, friends, and family that have come from a place of ‘their experience’ instead of truly trying to understand, and respect, mine.
All too often, when we are faced with another person’s pain, we respond exactly as we presume we would want to be responded to (with all of our personal quirks, belief systems, dislikes and affinities) instead of listening and then selflessly responding as that person would like us to respond (or outright needs us to respond in truth, whether they want the truth or not).
I think we err in this way because treating others as we would want to be treated seems so noble and good. So… without reproach. So… Golden Rule-y! But if we overlook our own ability to be fallen and sinful (and self-focused), we could cause others more damage than help.
You are feeling sick and so I’ll just give you space, because I just want to be left alone when I’m not feeling well. (Perhaps the hurting person wants and/or needs someone to bring breakfast in bed–and then lunch and dinner too!)
I don’t like it when people talk bad about my family so I am not going to say anything bad to you about yours. (Perhaps the person recovering from abuse desperately wants to hear someone say her parents/siblings/uncles/grandparents are given over to evil!)
I don’t like physical affection so I will listen to you cry about this but I am NOT going to hug you. (Perhaps thats person wants a hug, or someone holding their hand).
Prayer makes everything better for me so I am going to stop on this sidewalk and pray right here, right now, over you. (Does the person even want to be prayed over right now, let alone in public?)
My minister said forgiveness heals and so you just need to forgive it. (even though David spent chapters of the psalms calling down curses on his enemies in order to purge and deal with his emotions!)
I could go on, and on, but perhaps others can add their own thoughts and examples of ways we respond to hurting people based on our experiences; not theirs.
I suggest we get better about asking.
What can I do for you?
What do you need right now?
Do you want a hug?
Honor the responses to those questions. Get to know someone who is hurting and treat them as they want to be treated. And please stop telling abuse survivors they just ‘need to forgive’. Most of the time they need to get good and angry before forgiveness can happen.
The Golden Rule is a wonderful precept! Yet it can go really sideways when we start seeing everyone else exactly as we view ourselves. Which leads me back to where I started: humans are becoming increasingly narcissistic. And it’s the ultimate narcissistic foible to forget that we are still…self-focused humans ourselves.
All of which makes me want to close with a word the early church used often:
…But it isn’t happening. I stepped away from my career and planned a real break for myself to further heal. I envisioned a book in hand, iced lemon water, my behind parked on a partially shaded lounger (I like to sun my legs–for vitamin D purposes). So far I’ve only read two novels in June, (neither one under an umbrella). The amount of novels stacked on my ‘give away’ and the ‘it’s a keeper-find room on the shelf’ pile is a barometer of how much time I took ‘off’. (TWO is incredibly low!).
And now June, that glorious stretch of sunny mornings full of smells of flowering trees and light-sweater-evenings; yes, that June– is on her very last breaths. As always, she peaked without notice and promptly faded. Like a pink sunset turning purple over rolling green golf course hills; the kind that everyone admires for, oh, about an hour in between ‘other stuff that needed to get done’, like actually finishing hole 17 and 18 before it’s too dark to see the balls.
I’ve got three ‘dates’ today and two other friends in my text messages wondering when I can chat or meet up this week. Coffee with a neighbor in a short bit, a young man coming to weed my garden at lunch time, another young man we ‘sponsored in the game of life’ coming and going from my back door whenever it strikes him (long story–too identifying to share details), and a baseball game later this afternoon. Phew. I don’t know how I let myself get this active again. This social.
I like to hide and write and read and heal and do things that no one but me even knows about. Leave anonymous comments on blogs… The usual introverted socially awkward and anxious-personality things to which the rest of us here in blogville might relate. But most people I know on a face to face level–don’t, it seems. They like to stay busy from sun up (ridiculously early this time of year) to colorful sundown (quite late this time of year). A friend recently sent me a photo of her workout stats. It was seven in the morning. I replied that here I thought I was doing well rolling out of bed at seven. (Being showered and presentable to others before nine is like running a marathon, for me).
But what I really wanted to say, to her and to near-everyone else who flutters around me like stressed out butterflies afraid to land on something and sit still for a minute– is this: why are you insistent on pushing through all that pain and then wearing the results of ignoring said pain like a badge of highest honor? I know your knee hurts you; badly, because you complain about it all the time. Why keep running on bad knees?
It seems a lot of people are hiding from painful things behind a wide smile and an offer for coffee. I know they are actually quite tired, underneath all that caffeine. I know many bodies, including my own, have been running on sheer adrenaline for a long long time. Because we are starting to get deep wrinkles and thinning hair and near every woman I know snaps openly at their husbands. In public. Like it’s normal or something to be that way.
Why is it that our basic human nature likes to pretend we aren’t feeling any pain. Is that pride? or is it just plain dumb? Scripture says ‘all we like sheep have gone astray’. Farmers have told me there is no dumber animal; than a sheep.
For me it was some combination of both pride and stupidity. I kept running and planning and making more ‘dates’ to do more things leading to all sorts of nervous breakdown stressed out moments. Thinking if I just push my way through life, like the strong girl I was, then those yucky feelings, those twinges of physical pain, those bursts of emotions–will go away like a stray cat that you refuse to feed.
Annoying things don’t just go away. Strays eat from your garbage when no one is looking. And stress accumulates everywhere, the more you ignore it, the deeper it accumulates into your very being; changing molecules and cells and personality until you become someone you never set out to be. All I have to do to guarantee I will snap without provocation, at my husband (or grown children), is to let myself get ‘too busy’ for my own tired and worn out britches. Bam. The meltdown happens. Every. Time.
I miss my quiet time, I miss blogging regularly, and reading others’ blogs. Getting into my novels in the partially shaded sunshine. Hanging with God because I have made time for that. Finally. Until June happened and I let myself get caught up in the busyness somehow. And right now I really wish I could sit still for a long while and catch up better here…
But I have a date and I already sent a text saying that I was ‘on my way.’ Perhaps I can achieve some semblance of summer over coffee with a friend. I’ll insist on sitting outside; at the very least.
I really shouldn’t complain. Other people have real problems. Who gets to judge what a real hardship is anyway? I’ve endured serious trauma (witnessed sudden death–had emergency surgeries) in the past, but my paper cuts still hurt.I pour out my complaints before Him and tell Him all my troubles.Psalm 142:2
I’m too blessed to be stressed!Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry…
My childhood made me who I am and I turned out well so it’s hard for me to find any fault in my upbringing. This attitude served my own personal denial/delusion. Telling myself I turned out ‘well’ also spoke to my prideful nature. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us1 John 1:8 ….and all the ways wickedness deceives those who are perishing, they perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.2 Thessalonians 2: 10-12.
You need to forgive and forget about it. forgive yes, that is a command of God. But if there isn’t repentance there cannot be reconciliation, and where there has not been repentance then a good boundary must be maintained for the sake of your own spiritual well-being and the hope of your offender’s salvation too!…and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.Matthew 18:15-17For whoever does the will of my father in Heaven, is my brother and my sister and my mother. Matthew 12:46-50 God’s will is that all come to a knowledge of the truth in order to receive eternal life 1 Timothy 2:4 when that happens there is also evidence of a changed life and (usually) attempts to reconcile old offenses.
God’s got this! This is another tricky one that I see a lot of truth in. BUT. This saying also served some pretty major denial mechanisms in my life and allowed me to spiritualize away sin and other behavioral problems which needed addressing. Some things just need to be talked over THOROUGHLY with God, and perhaps a trusted counselor or friend, before we spiritually shelve it away by insisting: ‘Gods got this’. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.James 4:3Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from God. Acts 3:19
People could say the same thing about meThis humble statement seems really spot on to me! Along with a similar adage: ‘but for the Grace of God, there go I’. What beautiful sentiments these can be. However, I have often said such things in order to commiserate with someone or to stop gossip in its tracks but then NOT followed up with the message of salvation in Christ. I have realized I need to also exclaim the glory of Jesus and His blood buying eternal life as payment of personal and collective human sin. Paul’s comment to Timothy glorifies Christ, not self:The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life1 Timothy 1: 14-16
Eat the meat, spit out the bones. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. Galatians 5:9
All sins are equally bad in the eyes of God, no one is worse than any other. This one has a lot of truth to it, on the one hand. On the other hand, scriptures are clear that there are sins ‘which lead to death.’ Plus, this mindset can become a dangerous belief system that excuses the inexcusable. I dealt with this belief system in my family of origin and later on, in my recovery. It is a common tactic of abusers, and those who support abusers. It is called: ‘sin-leveling.’ Downplaying a criminal offense as ‘no worse than stealing a piece of gum in elementary school’ can reduce something traumatic and unacceptable, like the rape of a minor by an adult within the church, into mere whispers in the back of church. Because, well, ‘what was she wearing? Did she seduce him?’ and ‘I don’t want to judge that, because I’m a sinner too.’
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I think some confusion about this popular adage stems from 1 Corinthians 10:13, about God not tempting us more than we can bear, and providing a way out of that temptation.In terms of hardships, though, yes, God might give us more than we, in our human condition, can handle, in order for us to turn to Him for help. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 1 Corinthians 1: 8-9
First off: I am not making an argument toward God’s femininity. This is not that post. I refer to God as Him, and when I pray I address Him as Father. Because Jesus refers to Him as Father in Scriptures; I do as well!
Why explore God-as-mother, then? Because this post is personal. I had a lot of abandonment and abuse from both my father AND my mother. Self-help materials and other forms of support ABOUND, in terms of overcoming a broken father-bond.
The term ‘Daddy Issues’ needs little explanation in our culture. It’s widely acknowledged. It is frequently implied, in a church setting, that someone with ‘daddy issues’ (an absent or aloof father, abusive, an addict, etc.) ends up having ‘trust issues with their Heavenly Father.’ It is also common cultural knowledge that a female with ‘daddy issues’ is prone to self-defeating and even dangerous choices with men in her life. As someone with such issues, I find the cultural acceptance of broken-father bonds actually makes it easier to talk about, and thereby heal.
We don’t talk as freely about a broken relationship with Mother. Aside from step-monsters (a friend’s nickname for her stepmother) and mother-n-law jokes. Seriously, though, the position of Mother is near-sacred in the human race. This is evidenced every May by the abundance of weepy commercials urging you to remember your saintly Mom on Mother’s Day!
Dad’s, generally speaking, don’t get that kind of reverence.
Mother’s Day can be tough for survivors who were abandoned by their mothers. Compounded by a culture which often doesn’t want to hear it; at least not in the month of May. Likewise, Mommy Issues can be even more taboo to talk about in a church setting. When I have broached that subject with others I feel sometimes like I have hit a bit of a ‘wall’. A few times, I have had friends slowly and softly say, ‘maybe my mom wasn’t as innocent as I once thought.’ Which gives me hope. But, I realize that coming around to one’s ‘mommy issues’ is not easy. I suspect that for most of us, the reality of having a mother who abandons you–who is the opposite of the classic ‘mama bear’– is even harder than abandonment from ‘dad’. For myriads of reasons.
It sure is for me.
Reverse Mama Bear Syndrome
My mom was not a Mama Bear (another term which has become commonplace in our culture and needs no explanations). The way she FIERCELY protected herself, and the storylines she still tells herself (she refuses to acknowledge I was abused), the way she intentionally numbs out from everything unpleasant, was a bit like a Mama Bear. But instead of protecting her children she protected the immature child within her own psyche. She is in FIERCE denial to this day. So I found myself, at a young age, becoming like a Mama Bear over her; protecting her from life and the turbulent family dynamics–instead of the other way around. In psychological terms, when children become overly caring for a parent(s), it’s thrown into categories like emotional incest. Today, I am going to call it ‘Reverse Mama Bear Syndrome.’ (Because I’m feeling cheeky.)
Reverse Mama Bear Syndrome left me fiercely protecting the story of denial I was telling myself in my own head (Mom was abused as a small child. Mom can’t help it. Mom would be different without dad. Mom cares, she just can’t do anything; because: DAD). This translated into my faith life; big time. I didn’t trust God to protect me. I felt I had to protect Him. For years I found myself flaring, claws coming out, if anyone suggested anything that didn’t line up with what I knew of God. Softening the blows of what others think of Him, as if He couldn’t handle those things Himself. Explaining Him to others in ways that made apologies (As someone once said: The Word of God is like a lion– let it out of the cage and it can take care of itself just fine!).
Isaiah 42: 14 For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.
There is another verse which struck me recently, too. The background: King David’s ‘crown’ is being threatened by his own son, Absalom. Absalom is seeking to usurp his father and take over Kingship of all of Israel. One of the advisers to Absalom warns him about the fighting prowess of both David and David’s men.
2 Samuel 17:8
You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops.
This gave me pause. I thought to myself –did I really just see God comparing His behavior to a Mama Bear?? Let me explain: Defeating evil through warfare, with a Godly person at the forefront leading those armies (King David is lauded as ‘having a heart for God’), is a common theme in the Old Testament. For me, these OT battles bring up images of, and also trust in the promise of, heavenly armies, and the battle God has ultimately won on the cross, and will win again in the final end, against all forms of evil on earth and beyond.
God’s behavior is also likened to a Mama Bear in Hosea 13:8
Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them.
It’s pretty clear that when you give your life to Jesus, God is a Mama Bear over you. So I don’t need to be so fiercely protective over the immature little girl in my psyche; and I certainly don’t need to be fiercely protective over Him. That’s His job. The only thing I need to do is step back and let Him roar, (or whatever noise Mama Bears make).
I recently visited a healing room. The strong smell of incense, upon opening the door, warned there could be funky stuff inside…and my nose is rarely wrong. The room was filled with tulle and pillows and swords and crowns. Some visitors looked right at home while others looked a bit uneasy.
I wasn’t seeking a healing or praying for anyone else’s. I went there because friends invited us to an event. I also share some things in common with the proponents of healing rooms.
I believe in healings.
I believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit are at work today.
But there were things about this healing room that I found too weird for my personal comfort–and weird is not meant as a pejorative. I like weird. I am quite weird by usual standards. (Which is why I get these invites). Furthermore, I can’t stand incense. I get an instant headache whenever I get but a whiff of it. I avoid places that use it. Unless I’ve already entered the front door to an event where I was expected.
When we finally left I told my husband the experience ‘smelled like funky religion to me!’ Which confused him. He hadn’t even noticed the smell of incense. So while I didn’t actually see any sticks burning– at some point I know that room had burned incense.
I was leery of the healing room going into it, and leery of writing of the experience here, (lest I offend someone). In both cases I simply went for it. I even engaged in quizzical conversation with a leader there. She wasn’t sure, herself, what all the pillows and tulle was about, or the columns, or the sword stuck into a rock (I didn’t even ask about the other sword hanging on the wall)…some people had shown up one day and ‘decorated’ and she was as surprised by the outcome as I…as we chatted on, I round-about shared the pain of my family estrangement. She suggested a character in the Bible as an example in moving forward. God had shown me that same character in the Bible too.
That coincidence wasn’t enough to convince me to drop all my guard, though. Incense aside, I am biased against religious icons and props. Maybe my conservative protestant upbringing shows there. Mainly, though, I have healed enough to heed any feelings of unease in my spirit. At one time I would have gone into self doubt or blame and shame and, eager to please, gone along with whatever my friends suggested. This time it was clear what I was to do. Spirit checks urged me to keep some distance unless/until God leads me back.
Yet the incense lingered, as incense does…so I looked up several scriptures. I have been ruminating on Psalm 141:2. May my prayer be set before You like incense, my uplifted hands like the evening sacrifice.
Maybe God likes incense? The temple incense instructions are detailed in Exodus30, as well as stern warnings against offering ‘strange’ incense. I was curious if that incense had ever been recreated. The Bible’s version prolly smelled better than today’s stinky sticks. Either way, I suspect God likes heartfelt prayers and worship best of all.
Mules, the (usually) infertile offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, sometimes get a bad rap for their stubborn attitudes. The truth is not that black and white, though. A horse will try to impress or please its owner by carrying far more than it ought to be carrying, or outworking or outrunning itself (we just watched the movie Secretariat, and that was one of the concerns was that he (the horse-Secretariat) would actually injure himself racing if they just ‘let him run full speed’ without reigning him in. So while a horse runs the risk of hurting itself, if the owner or farmer isn’t careful–when a donkey or a mule reaches its limit–it stops. A farmer, therefore, doesn’t need to be as cautious about overloading or overworking a mule or donkey. They know their limits and when those limits are reached–they stop working. Mules are also far more willing to fight off predators like coyotes, rather than fleeing or rearing up in fear.
It could be said that Mules and Donkeys have really good boundaries and sense of self. The key to setting any good boundary is just that: you have to first know your own limits. An impossible task if you are bent on people pleasing and making whoever owns you happy. And make no mistake, if you are a people pleaser (something I am intimately familiar with being myself!!)–you are owned by someone–that someone being whoever you are trying to impress or keep happy. Doing that will come at your own expense.
For a Christian this poses a real dilemma. I want to be owned by Jesus. I am HIS servant and no one else’s. But if my actions are consistently horse like; meaning I am ever willing to impress others, even if it injures myself, how can I say that I belong to Him?
As I was pondering this, I thought of the fact that Jesus rode a donkey — not a horse, on Palm Sunday. The donkey wouldn’t have agreed to that if he wasn’t up to the task. A horse, on the other hand, may have been exhausted but he would have given the ride anyway. I don’t believe Jesus wants us to serve Him or anyone else; if we aren’t truly up to the task. He desires that we get to a place of health where we can handle burdens again–before we try carrying them.
I also thought of the story of Balaam and his donkey, the donkey saw the angel of death and refused to move any further which kept Balaam from meeting the angel of death. Does it mean something that the only animal to ever be recording ‘talking’ is a donkey, an animal that will absolutely refused to be pushed beyond its own ability-to-bear-it-limits?
My conclusion is that boundaries are really, really important. Especially if you are a service animal (as Mules and Donkeys are known world wide to be). Especially if you are a servant of Jesus. Having people destroy my boundaries in childhood destroyed my ability to serve God and others without it costing me greatly.
As I learned how to be more like a Mule myself, it involved some hard choices. My horse-like brain wants to people please and make it all better again (at my own expense). It seems I still struggle knowing my value. Mules and Donkeys know their value; horses not so much. So as I made this transition to what some might call ‘stubbornness’, I’ve been called mean, crazy, rigid, unyielding, and even unforgiving. It’s ok. Balaam beat his donkey for its refusal to lead itself, and him, into death. I can expect similar treatment when I start to assert myself with people who once held my reigns.