Yoga by any other name is still Yoga

There is a theme in my recent posts. The theme might be summed up as my recent return to embracing my childhood work ethic, after years of chronic illness left me unable to be as active as I would have liked to be. I was stuck in a state of exhaustion and pain which also had me questioning my former life of hard work as well.

My childhood on the farm was one in which lifting hay bales was known to be a better way to build muscles than lifting weights. Then I saw the rise of popular workout regimes (which I won’t name here) where you do things like pound tires with sledgehammers. And this is not done in order to remove the rubber from it’s metal rim to fix a flat, either. People are paying membership fees in order to pound giant tires just to pound them… as exercise… and then posting their sweaty pounding sessions on instagram.

The pride filled, ‘I wanna look like that in a bikini too’, part of me wants to try it with my own tire and hammer…while the former farm girl in me scratches her head and thankfully I am usually able to bring myself out of the temptation.

Working harder with my hands, at some task or other, (even if it’s just running a vacuum across my floors) has been something I feel called to start doing again with increasing vigor and intention. Just to be more active in general and use my time more wisely, not necessarily to look better in a swimsuit.

At the same time: spirit checks and a general mistrust of a lifestyle that is too focused on ‘self-improvement’ continues to keep me from trying the latest workout fad.

A Christian friend who, pre Covid, liked to take long walks with other Christian friends–outdoors in good weather and shopping malls in cold weather–for health reasons; physically, mentally, and spiritually–shared my reservations about getting into the ‘work out life.’ She had similar spirit checks about getting too involved with self-improvement efforts. She understood all I was feeling about it and even shared some of her more alarming experiences when she had tried joining some workout groups of other women in gyms and yoga studios too. Yikes.

But I hesitate to even bring up these feelings with most, as exercise and physical health seem to be generally accepted almost as acts of godliness that aren’t to be questioned.

When I got sick with PTSD and anxiety disorder (and then discovered I had toxicity issues from supplemented foods, environmental exposures, and so-called healthy foods I was eating)–I was told many different things would heal me. The exercise fans told me I just needed to push and exercise my way right through all the pain and then I’d be fine. The therapy fans told me weekly therapy and only mild to moderate exercise, was needed, so I didn’t up my stress levels and could figure out where my thinking was messed up, as physical and mental stress is what had conked out my body.

The standard doctors wanted to give me antidepressants to fix it all. Most of the natural doctors and nutritionists wanted me to take supplements (one even said that certain supplements boosted serotonin and were like natural prozac). The advice ran in all directions. Yet there was a common thread with every therapist and doctor I consulted, from the naturopaths to the conventional ones. From the new age and the buddhist to the Christians. I heard the same advice over and over everywhere I went for help. I braced myself to hear it, as it was so common:

Have you tried Yoga? Are you meditating? It’s been proven to work!

Being a contrarian by nature: I naturally made it my goal to recover without doing yoga and meditation. My avoidance of those methods was more than general contrarianism, though. I was well aware, prior to getting sick, that Yoga prepared the body for death, not life. That it even might open doors to the occult. Same with meditation. That my heart can’t be fully for God while doing a downward facing dog. That if I blank out my mind, anything could enter it. That it is impossible to separate the religious element of Yoga into simple ‘exercise’, and that the devil likes to convince us, by appealing to our pride usually, that his ways are actually beneficial, healthful and restorative; not deadly. Usually sin and evil hooks us by seeming to help us tremendously; only to ultimately lead to death and a numbing of conscience to where we accept worsening sin and evil; in the long run.

And so now that I am being more active, I am looking around at other active people and paying attention to what has happened in the ‘gym scene’ too.

It looks like the swinging hammers at tires phase may be dying out. But, Yoga is really everywhere, now. Except it’s morphed into something else and isn’t being called Yoga. It’s so 2010 to still call it yoga… It’s yoga with prefixes like restorative or hot now, or else it’s just stretching and breath work and preparation for real exercise. In other fitness circles, they proudly boast their method is a blend of yoga (Hindu) and taoism.

Not like it matters, though. Even if yoga was always still being called yoga, most Christians I know would not have a problem doing it to try and keep or restore their health. Just as they haven’t for nearly a decade now.

In general, what’s happened in the exercise world since I last looked into it, seems to be about what has happened in the church and the world, too. The deception has morphed into something so puffed up that if one wasn’t aware of the dangers such things held as seeds; one isn’t going to now recognize the fullness of its rotten fruit, either.

Meanwhile: I am thinking this is just more proof of the lateness of the hour. And that I might have to find a hayloft and an old school farmer who needs it organized. That may be about the only safe thing left for my hands to do right now.

Do Christians need a wake up call from other Christians?

Jesus said, ‘For wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.’ (Luke 12:34 NLT).

I’ll return to that concept.

But first: I liked a lot of what this article had to say. However, based on the ‘no politically-bent comments will be posted’ disclaimer at the beginning, I excitedly presumed I was going to be reading something soundly spiritual. A wake up call for the church to come out of the worldly realm of politics, not a call to choose the less corrupt side of Joe Biden (in the author’s opinion). That is what I didn’t like about it. Oh, I am wary and alarmed of all the ‘Christian Trumpers’, too. As I’ve written before, I simply realize I don’t have to pick a monkey in the world’s circus.

The article gave me pause in another way as well. I began pondering the idea of Christians giving other Christians ‘a wake up call’. This caused a lot of self-examination on my part. As, of course Christians need to give one another a wake up call is usually my thinking. Recently I’ve been questioning my thinking though.

I’ll return to all that as well. First, I’d like to address the political bent in that linked ‘wake up call to the church’ article. Wouldn’t BOTH Biden and Trump; who represent the ultimate manifestation of ’empire’– be like Satan tempting Jesus with a shortcut to all that He eventually had coming anyway?

Empire being in direct contrast to the throne of the lamb (Jesus). Therefore, following the Lamb OUT of Worldly Empire is the ultimate wake-up call which God gave in Revelation (and much of the Bible, the way I see it). By the way: I learned the ‘Empire versus following the Lamb’ concept from the book ‘Reading Revelation Responsibly’ by Matthew J. Gorman. (This is NOT an endorsement of that book. I took some things from it, but found other things troubling–like his quoting of Eugene Peterson.)

Had the title of the linked article been something like, “Why I am voting for Biden; as a Christian” I likely wouldn’t have read it. Not because I am for Trump, either, as stated above and elsewhere on my blog. But because the Lord called me out of my former political involvements, as I’ve also stated several times here. That is why I don’t spend much time reading why Christians vote the way they do. I find it distracting and fear it also might prove tempting. 

The wake-up call went off, for me, after the stock market crash in 2008 and the resulting behaviors of the politicians of the ‘Christian Right’ in bailing out the banks. That event, along with the Lord putting several Christian ‘end timers’ into my path, sparked me to study eschatology. As well as to actively work to get out of debt, and to try and change some other things I’d accepted as ‘normal’.

I couldn’t in good conscience vote for any option for President since waking up and then seeing the unfolding of more (and more) wake up alarms in the world, America, and in American politics too. The hour seems too late for me to risk further involvement in politics and I shudder at how involved with the worldly empire I still remain. Or, as the above linked article called it, accepting ‘Satan’s shortcut’.

Thanks to what began unfolding for me in 2008, I better realize the dangers of colluding with worldly empire. Particularly in order to try and gain what I will eventually have coming anyway (if I can restrain myself from involvement in these sort of ‘bull fights’ and stay content at the Throne of Jesus).

The way I see it (and I could be wrong, these are just my opinions): God has already given wake up calls to the church. The calls were/are often being ignored…I ignored plenty of wake up calls myself in the past! I get it. My heart’s desire was not entirely sold out for God. I pray it is more sold out now than prior. I was a living reflection of Jesus’ words about ‘wherever your treasure is, there will also be the desires of your heart.’

For most of my life I preferred to stay in bed with the world, hitting the snooze button; lulled by the words my adulterous lover was whispering to me which made me not even notice the annoying sound of alarms going off every few minutes.

And now, over a decade later since my big wake up call moment in 2008– our world is even closer to global ‘oneness and unity’ through one world religion and government. The NAR (New apostolic reformation–Paula White, etc. — Trump’s inner circle religious posse) and the RCC (Biden’s religious posse) are like two sides of the same coin, seeming to be different and somehow antagonistic from one another. Yet ultimately I fear everyone will end up in the same spiritual condition by following either side: little gods who bow down to one another, trying to be as God and re-build a unifying worldwide ‘tower of babel’, which is like thumbing one’s nose at the real God. 

Thesis + antithesis = synthesis. Things can often seem so different between the thesis and the antithesis, that it’s tempting to think there isn’t actually going to be some ultimate synthesis waiting in the wings by going along with one of the two choices we seem to be given. There’s Satan’s shortcut temptations again.

Which is why choosing either side seems dangerous, adulterous, and even idolatrous, to me.

I see Jesus as the third, usually unseen and un-marketed, option. I hope to cling to Him, to ‘otherness’ and not be sucked into oneness (otherness versus one-ness is a concept I heard from Carl Teichrib, a researcher and author of the incredible book: Game of Gods. I am working my way through it, and so I can’t endorse it YET, but let’s just say I am in awe of the research he has compiled and his insights into what is happening in the world and in religion).

I think historically that is what it meant to BE a Christian: to choose Jesus as the unseen and un-marketed third option whenever the world put forth a thesis and antithesis option.

But again: I may be wrong. That’s the beauty of the gift of free will. We all get to use our own free will in these matters. And we also get to choose whether or not to push the snooze button and keep sleeping, when God sounds those wake up alarms. It can be risky to try and wake up sleepers–it may also not even be part of God’s plan for us to go around ‘sounding alarms’ either, when the human heart ‘wants what it wants’ to quote a popular song lyric. But we don’t need popular songs when we have the Bible. It has already said all which can be said anyway. Like this verse:

Song of Songs 8:4 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

This verse, the article I linked above, as well as Jesus’ words about my treasure dictating the desires of my own heart: has me re-examining my own desires, including my eagerness to ‘warn others’ and ‘sound alarms’ and all that. What is really behind all that anyway?

Hopefully I can turn my own desires back to Him whenever I find myself tempted toward adultery and idolatry with the world. Thereby my example might also urge others to return to Jesus as first and only love.

Perhaps it’s best to leave the actual wake up calls, the sounding of alarms and all that-to God. And not insist that people who still desire to push snooze ‘get up already‘.

Would you want to have a friend, let alone a lover, who doesn’t even desire your company enough to get out of bed when you call for him to come and meet you?

Then what makes us think God wants us going around trying to wake up adulterous lovers for Him?

Maybe its best to let the sleepers sleep. And let those of us who are awake– return to, and try to keep, our own desires for God.

The Accepted Idolatry of Spouse & Family

Much has been said already in the blogs and youtube videos I follow- about how God has allowed for ‘the removal of our idols’. Sports, entertainment, leisure, restaurants, nonessential shopping…few mention church fellowship ties, or family ties, and how they can also become an idol before God.

If you’ve read my recent posts, you will see my insistence that we can still have church in our own homes ‘wherever one or two are gathered.’

Now I feel led to add an addendum to what I’ve already shared:

As humans we are very good at making other people into idols in our lives. With social distancing, it seems even that insidious idol has been revealed (for those with eyes to see and ears to hear). In many cases it has even been physically removed or threatened, as well.

We see horrible stories of infected people dying alone without family or spouse by their side. And I keep seeing news reports and stories of how spouses are willingly living separately and keeping their distance from one another to prevent spread of sickness. Particularly if they work in healthcare or had been traveling. Famous examples are in the news too. It was reported that Prince Charles stayed away from his wife during his illness. Oprah Winfrey insisted her long time partner stay in her guest house for fourteen days after he returned from travel.

This is, indeed, a very strange time. But I think there is meaning in what is coming through our news channels as well. I think these rich details, much like the rich details in scripture, are being put into the world for a deeper reason — for those who are willing to ponder it and pray about it.

In my own life the Lord has revealed my idolatry toward my spouse, toward my children and even toward those family members who once abused me in unconscionable ways. That last one took me a long while to see; as I was already keeping my distance! But idols grow in our hearts and physical distance is not always enough to knock them down. I also came to believe that one of the horrible effects of such acts of evil is to leave behind a type of bondage to the victim; which must be brought before God in order to be broken. And therefore I’m not convinced that we love and adore all our idols; sometimes we are fixated on an idol in ways we can’t even comprehend and need help untangling from. In this way we allow it to control us long after it’s initial evil attempt to control us!

It is our attitudes and beliefs which need to change, a turning BACK to God in full repentance and wholeheartedness of faith and love for Him, and trust that He will free us from whatever has us bound if we ask and seek that from Him–in this way I feel idols can easily be destroyed before God; through His power to save and sanctify us.

It was still a painful discovery, though, every time He showed me an idol I had made from another person. And inevitably, once I knocked it down, I healed a great deal. Other times my troubled relationship with that person I had made into an idol (particularly my spouse and children) then grew and improved. Because I was no longer trying to control their every move–as we tend to do with idols. Think of the super fan in the stadium or before the television. It is as if he can will his favorite team to a victory through his screams and clenched jaw and strong desire to control their performance.

Do we do similar controlling measures with our spouse, children, family members, church family?

I have certainly been guilty of that in the past!

1 John 5: 21 Dear children, keep yourself from idols.

Luke 9:59-60 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Luke 11:27-28 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

1 Corinthians 7:32-34 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs–how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband.

Luke 14:26  If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

Right now the world is telling us we must be prepared to separate from a sick family member and die alone; in order to stop the spread of a sickness and, in essence, be able to live (to die another day).

God’s word has always been clear that real disciples are willing to lose everything, including parents, children, spouse, in order to gain Him.

Is eternity in His presence enough of a reason to separate our hearts from our idols; even  the idols we make of other people– which can seem so blessed and holy and not like idols at all?

Or will we choose to cling to our life here on earth– for who knows how long?

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Kissing is Abuse (A Survivor’s Thoughts on The Purity Movement). Part 2.

(Continued from part one here)….As an adult, coming to terms with my child abuse, I can remember feeling literal pain when talking with sisters in Christ who had upbringings that fell in line with The Purity Movement. They recalled childhoods wherein their fathers sat around the dinner table expounding upon the Bible. The minister in their family would lead worship songs and take them to summer camps (without assaulting them). Their mothers guarded their encounters with other children and adults. They actually threw out, or burned, the questionable toothpaste and the smut books…why hadn’t God put me in one of those homes instead of the one I was in?  That realization hurt. As an abuse survivor: The Purity Movement can sting in so many ways.

I was jealous for what these sisters in Christ had been given. Their caregivers had shut the door on the devil. Mine had invited him in for coffee! In contrast, I felt even more defiled and abandoned–and unsure if I even belonged within Christianity. I also learned that jealousy can be physically painful. It hollows out your chest cavity and burns your guts. I felt weak; exhausted. It wasn’t fun to sit through these stories others shared. But it was necessary to my healing. It also wasn’t fun to finally share my own stories of defilement. But it was necessary to my healing. Because it was my story. I’m more like Tamar from the Bible than I am Laura from Little House on the Prairie. And owning that made for a whole lot of pain; but it also made all the difference too. My own religious double-mindedness was disappearing, the more I owned the truth.

In time those feelings of jealous pain passed and I began to take a hard look at my relationship with Jesus. I wasn’t following Jesus because someone had been sure that I was ‘kept pure’, leaving me determined to ‘stay that way’ by jumping under Jesus’s Umbrella until marriage. No. Furthermore, my sexuality is only one part of what Jesus purified. The Purity Movement runs the risk of making everything about sex, instead of about Jesus. Sex was a frequent topic of discussion in my perverted upbringing, also with a hyper focus on the ‘sexual status’ of young girls. And so if we are ‘truly guarding’ a woman, then shouldn’t her sexual status remain private? Is ‘ensuring virginity’ something God told His people to do? We know they often made it public in the Old Testament but it is unclear if that publicity was a command of God. Because I grew up with religious people hiding their own perversions, who also loved to find out such intimate details about others, (particularly young people)– I question whether showing off a daughter’s purity cloth, or a modern day purity ring, isn’t simply more evidence of the human tendency to get fixated on sex; and particularly the innocent sexual status of young people. It’s a scary thought, to me.

Furthermore, our depravity goes much deeper than sex, it involves greed and pride and a host of other ills too. True purity is about much more than celibacy. It’s about turning from our very nature as fallen humans. And so ultimately: I can’t credit the way I was raised, any certain movement or published book, for my salvation and restoration which covers everything about me: including my sexuality. I can only credit God Himself for it.

Eventually it became clear that few people are walking in sexual freedom, no matter their backgrounds, or marital status–and that those who had been public about private matters often lived to regret it later (as Joshua Harris now seems to be doing). I had to wonder if it was because they’d never believed they had a reason to wrestle with their own purity status? Or if it was because in their own ways, they were also victims of sexualization (which is abuse, too)–except it would be taboo to ever call it that in a Christian setting! Meanwhile, I wrestled openly with mine, and asked God for salvation from my damnation as well as the healing of my broken sexuality and past abuse. I came to believe that eternity, purity and sexual freedom is found through ongoing repentance. Active trust in Jesus, not my own past or present action (or inaction), is what makes me pure.

Therein is the freedom. In admitting your own defeat and declaring “Jesus makes and keeps me pure!” Having said that, I actually have no problem with people attempting to keep their homes pure, for their children’s sake. I would likely do the same, could I redo some things myself in the way I raised my own. But I truly hope I would never ‘broadcast’ the virginity status of any young person (even with their expressed permission — young people are too young to understand the ramifications of that). Nor would I take part in putting a young person on some sort of public faith based platform or pedestal, as few adults have the kind of maturity and groundedness-in-Christ to handle such exposure. Putting young people into the public eye prematurely is rampant in modern Christianity. (Amending this on 8-23-19 to add: I believe every now and again a young person comes along who does have the kind of maturity to be in ministry at a young age. Often that person has been given an inordinate amount of wisdom AND has also endured so many trials that they are more than ready for a spotlight or platform. However, maturity really is necessary to be in that kind of ministry or have that kind of platform. Unfortunately, I also know ‘older people’ in ministry who still lack maturity.)

The idea that we can even ‘stay pure’ in the first place, is another thing that gave me pause, about The Purity Movement (after I peeled through the hurt, anger, jealousy, and outrage over ‘broadcasting the sexual status of young people’). The way I see it, it is impossible to spend any amount of time on earth, single or married, and not have your mind defiled to some degree by your own thought processes.

Jesus said if a man even thinks about a woman in ‘that way’ then he has committed adultery with her in his heart. Which tells me that even the best homes (and marriages) — are still not pure enough for God’s standards — no matter how careful they have been. The antidote isn’t merely avoidance of the devil; it is utter dependence on Jesus.

I am no longer painfully jealous when I hear about other people’s upbringings. I am all the more aware of what Jesus continues to give me. And I cling to that the way only someone who can’t hear the word ‘kiss’ without flinching, would cling.

Wrong as they were about so many things, and implicit as they were in the abuses of a child (me) — my parents behavior, and the actions of a wolf in shepherd’s clothing— was the conduit for me to respond to the Holy Spirit’s offering of Christ’s purity in every way I needed it.

For that I am thankful.

Nevertheless, Shut De Do is a favorite song of mine and I often think of that song when I think of my upbringing. If only someone watching over me had shut the door and kept the devil in the night.

 

 

When Kissing is Abuse (A Survivor’s Thoughts on The Purity Movement). Part 1.

Trigger warning — details about sexual abuse follow. I have enjoyed reading about the fall out from the I Kissed Dating Goodbye author’s change of heart– here’s a synopsis if interested. So much has already been said, from many angles. Please bear with me as I attempt to explain my own feelings. (Or feel free to move along to another post as this  one will get lengthy!) Update: I have so much to say on this topic, I am turning it into two posts!

Joshua Harris’s popular Christian book was something I’d never heard about prior to leaving the protestant faith I was born into. To date, I still have not read his book! Therefore the things I write here should not be taken as reflections of his former work or current change of heart about it.

Nevertheless, posts about Harris and I Kissed Dating Goodbye kept triggering me. I sat with it a while before it hit me. When I was a preschooler, a minister in my extended family started abusive contact in the form of kissing. And so I learned that kissing brings with it a whole lot of guilt and yucky feelings. I still have mixed emotions about kissing. Jesus was betrayed by a kiss. And it seems I was as well. Like Judas, my betrayer was also imbedded within Christian leadership. It’s hard to enjoy something that holds a sting inside of it. The very title of the book, with the word kissing being so closely associated with a Christian movement and leadership; triggered me.

Triggers aren’t the problem. Avoiding pain is the problem. Therefore it’s taken me a while to process through this one and again, apologies for the length on these posts and thanks for anyone who ploughs through it all with me!

When I left protestantism and began exploring other Christian faith traditions — The Purity Movement came onto my radar. I was uncomfortable with it. I was still trying to reconcile what had happened to me — with my own sexual purity stolen by abuse, and the discomfort I still felt from the continued voyeurism, and focus on my body, which I had experienced growing up.

I tried to make sense of what I was feeling. I knew that the way I was raised had been wrong. But I did not feel The Purity Movement was ‘getting it right’ either–and it took me a long while to realize why I felt that way. As a survivor of voyeurism, I saw how The Purity Movement, and book’s like Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye zeroed in on young people’s sex lives (a non existent sex life is still a focus on another’s sex life), forcing teenagers belonging to the movement to inadvertently become ‘public’ with very private information — thereby the adults and others looking on were also, in some ways, participating in voyeuristically viewing teenagers in terms of ‘sex’.

That irritated me.

I was also secretly jealous of the homes that had attempted to keep their children pure, adding yet another layer to the convoluted onion I needed to peel.

The Protestant home I grew up in was outwardly Christian (church attendance, having funerals and weddings ‘in the church’, getting confirmed in the teen years, and sprinkling/baptizing babies). But my immediate family was not ‘hit’ by the Jesus movement, that gained momentum in the 70’s and 80’s; or the homeschooling movement that took off in the 90’s. Though there were some charismatic gospel records that made a rotation on the record player.

The minister in the family practiced a strange mix of religious behaviors with licentiousness. When I first began to take my faith seriously, the ‘trained theologian’ in the living room mocked me openly about being a ‘fundie’, asking why I was ‘getting so weirdly religious lately’. He would talk quite skillfully and sincerely about ‘faith’ when needed, but show a very tawdry side if he knew his audience would actually appreciate a ‘minister who cusses’. He was ‘intellectual and modern’, about faith, often arguing from a near atheistic-sounding viewpoint, (that is when he was willing to talk ‘shop’). Ordinarily he avoided religious discussions, preferring instead to start gossip, or share jokes lifted from raunchy comedians.

His influence left a heavy mark.

…But the truth is, many family members seemed to operate with similar double-mindedness, as the family minister had.

My father was often perverted and displayed some serious lapses in moral judgment. He had another side, though, that would surface at church. And in the sweeping Christian movements of the 70’s through 90’s, we had frequent encounters with people who were participating in all kinds of faith movements and new rules — which left impressions on me, and contributed to my longing for a ‘serious’ faith walk myself. My father sat piously, listening to a visiting minister (not the one who abused me), or a religious relative passing through the area, as if in total agreement. One such visitor even insisted that Proctor & Gamble products had a satanic seal and should therefore be boycotted by all Christians, prompting my dad to dig out some deodorant and toothpaste, as well as a magnifying glass to look them over. The next day at the dinner table he was troubled and asked my mother, ‘Maybe we should stop buying that brand–what if that really is the sign of the devil on our toothpaste?’

Like the rest of the family my mother didn’t watch after my purity, storing her vast collection of explicit romance novels on my bookshelf, and ignoring the other pornography to which I was being exposed. Yet she also had her own type of faith and devotion life too. One which she occasionally shared aloud. So I wasn’t sure what to expect in that moment…and my hopes were kindled a bit. But she just snorted and waved her hand in front of her face in response to dad’s momentary crisis of conscience. Our P&G toothpaste continued without interruption. But I remember spending a lot of time looking at that tiny moon-man symbol, fearfully wondering if that’s why I kept getting cavities.

After toddlerhood, all of the abuse escalated, throughout the family. One abuser was beyond reproach, though, being a minister.

I blamed myself.

(See part two for more).

 

 

The Golden Rule Can’t Be About Me.

smiling woman holding black smartphone
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

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?
  • A prayer?
  • Some space?          

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:

Maranatha!

Smelled Like Funky Religion To Me.

blur close up environment incense
Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

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.

TOO LATE.

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.