We quasi-adopted a young man years ago. It’s complicated. He isn’t really ours, but I do love him as a son. He never lived full time with us. Though that wasn’t because we didn’t want him under our roof. That was always my desire. However, it wasn’t possible to break what family ties he did have; and wouldn’t have been right to do that either. Instead, he traveled with us and ate a lot of meals with us and worked with us and spent a lot of time with us, including some sleepovers.
But he isn’t truly ours. And now that he is an adult, this becomes evident on days like Mother’s Day when he calls on the same day as the birth children phone me (or are visiting face to face with me).
My sons and I have our own language. We also have zero subterfuge and can quickly get right to the heart matters. The good stuff. The things I like to talk about and hear about.
Bonus son still hesitates to go there. My birth sons were this same way as teenagers. I spent a lot of time being present and available and talking about small matters until they were ready to open up and share something deeper or more meaningful. But after their rebellion phase passed, they did enter adulthood much more willing to have the kind of relationship I always longed to have with them.
It struck me that this is how we are with Jesus. When we are adopted into the family of God it is important to live there, eat meals there, to be born again and start our formative years over at God’s table, as a fully adopted birth child who doesn’t want to return back to the home in which he was formerly raised.
Only then can we grow up to know the same language He speaks. And get right to the heart of the matter without any subterfuge. This is His desire. To know us as if we were birth children from the start. To repair the rift after our years of rebellion have passed.
I want to encourage anyone reading this to go ahead and cut the ties with your family of origin, or with your old former life of sin, and move in with Father God as a fully adopted infant about to grow to maturity– live full time in His house; learn His language and the way He speaks, and let Him see to your development in every way.
If you look around and see brothers and sisters in that same house–you are truly blessed. But don’t let them distract you from getting to know the Father as fully as He desires we know Him.
Galatians 4:4-7 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
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?
You may have noticed my tag line by now – clergy abuse survivor. I hesitated to identify myself as such. It can be limiting. Plus it might open me up for presumptions and false judgements.
But by readily admitting something key (and ugly) that molded me and my faith — those of similar belief as I hold might give me more credit; not less.
Being a clergy abuse survivor means that I saw directly into the nest of at least one of the (evil) birds Jesus said would roost in that yeast-inflated mustard tree. I realize I just mixed parables there–but yeast represents sin, and I personally believe that Jesus’ mustard tree parable was more along the lines of the church growing through unnatural inflation; than it was a sign of robustness and good health.
I think that’s why I am a little disturbed by this new way of ‘doing church’ — where we sit in front of a screen and tune in to a sermon or a pared down Sunday service and think that we’ve just had church together. And I’ve actually felt this same disturbed feeling in my heart before– it’s actually brewing for at least a decade. Back when it first started, I sensed we were ill prepared for what lie ahead. And now I see just how right I was to feel that way.
About five years ago, a minister friend and I were chatting. He was sharing some of the burden he felt for the congregants under his care. I recall saying to him, some of what I had felt stirring my heart, which went something like this:
“If something causes the church to go underground, into hiding, is your congregation ready and prepared, do they know how to have church themselves in their own homes–alone or with one or two or three? Because the way I see it, the task of every minister should be teaching every person and family and home they serve how to survive and keep being and doing church when there is no longer a church building to go to. And I do feel that someday churches will be hit with something, and our only option might be our own homes.”
My friend went silent at that curveball which he hadn’t seen coming. Then he slowly nodded. I was not sure if he fully got my sense of urgency; so I continued explaining how at our house, we had been doing just that. We’d been practicing ourselves, confessing sins, praising in songs, doing our own communions, praying more, skipping church services so that we could figure out what it meant to be the church in our own home. That way, if and when the time came; we knew how to do it on our own if needed.
I’ve been out of touch with my minister friend since this virus hit, and last I heard he had moved to a new, small congregation from the one he was serving back when I shared an urgency I had felt so strongly on my heart. So I have no idea if he began implementing some changes to prepare others for a time like this. Or if he fell back into the same old routine; where the minister holds court at the front and most everyone else participates simply by showing up.
Unfortunately: I had lost touch with my own strong feeling, and had slipped back into the easy participation of sitting and listening, being polite and withholding, instead of fully participating, diving full in, to a church gathering of two or more. So when our small fellowship stopped meeting recently, my husband and I tuned in to an online sermon and church service the next Sunday morning.
And we sat in silence and listened. Speaking to one another a little bit, later, about what we’d heard.
But that isn’t church.
There is no intentional coming together of the living body, in watching a screen.
The following week everything inside of me seemed to go awry. I was irritable and unkind. Finally, the dam broke and I found myself crying out, though I tried not to yell, — we are doing this all wrong; we need to have church ourselves! A time where we sputter and wing it and bake some bread to break just for us and cry out in prayers–and it’s awkward and messy and beautiful just the same. Because this thing we did last Sunday where we sit passive and listen is no different than watching Netflix or the news. That is NOT church. And my spirit needs church more than ever right now…
Not to say there isn’t value in listening to online sermons. There is. I am ever thankful for the internet connecting us to one another and the ready information we can still seek and share (it may not always be the case). And if someone is truly alone with no ‘two or more’ to gather with, then online fellowship has to suffice in this hour. But a screen in place of a person isn’t church. If we don’t physically gather, we are in danger of hardening our hearts. For it is all too easy to become passive watchers; rather than active partakers in worship and study. If by and large most of us tune in to a screen, and tune out the urgings of our own hearts for real contact, what does that say about the church in this hour?
Zoom and Skype may bring us closer to that real connecting point; much more like face to face. Which is important. Even the apostle Paul knew the value of meeting face to face thousands of years ago.
If we have two or more people in a home — we can still do church and we can still be church. Gather together. Open the Bible and study and expound, the Holy Spirit will be the teacher. Enter into the initial discomfort of singing worship without a worship leader’s guidance, and saying humble unplanned prayers together. For Jesus has promised us He is there wherever two (or more) are gathered. Believe it. Don’t forget it.
The reason I forgot all that once burned in my heart about how to ‘be the church in my own home’ is quite simple. It was some mixture of laziness and complacency and a yearning for an easy sense of comfort rather than temporary discomforts which bring a more lasting satisfaction.
Laziness, complacency, and seeking momentary comforts are a dangerous combination in this hour.
So this week the two of us muddled through our own thing. Coming together quite simply.
My week, so far, has gone about the same as last; lots of curveballs and weirdness and a few health scares too. There is no magic fairy dust exemption of reality; merely from gathering as a church. But my heart is much more settled now that I know we still have a true gathering church after all; and it meets with Jesus at my own table.
(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?
- 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:
- 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…
- You’re too blessed to be stressed! Everything to God in prayer. (Lyrics to the song: What a friend we have in Jesus).
- 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 us 1 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 me This 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 life 1 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!).
Scriptures that Changed my Heart
When Jesus refers to a hen gathering chicks; that’s ‘mom-behavior.’ In Isaiah, God refers to Himself acting as a woman in childbirth.
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).
Happy Mother’s Day!
(Trigger warning: the following prose touches on suicide)
I am looking the demon in the eye
The one that lives inside my mind
The satanic child, which evil parents,
And evil parents before them, birthed.
The one who thinks it is ok
to behave in terms of me, me, me.
Though I tried to deny it,
Did not want to believe that me
were one and the same:
There is a reason I cannot go inside small closets
Or airplane lavatories
And why I freak out when a dress is too tight on my chest
or the sweater too itchy.
I know why I avoid certain stores at certain hours
And shop online a lot–
For fear of being suffocated, bound up, or caught unaware
In ancient burial clothes in a modern casket.
It is because the evil which was birthed inside of me is suffocating, and killing,
my God given self.
I’m being wrapped in a life-taking shroud
bit by bit
And I know it. Yet I still wanted to deny it.
So I blamed small spaces and past childhood abuses
for all my phobias and excessive needs
And I gave away my scratchy sweaters and too small dresses.
But that wasn’t enough,
To be fully delivered from evil.
I see that I must cut myself off from more than just
‘they’ and ‘them’.
“Be ye separate”
“Do not be unequally yoked”
“What does darkness have to do with light?”
means many things external: sure
For me it means I also must reach inside my heart and soul
and sever a big part of me as well.
I need more than a boundary wall with gates that let the good in and keep the bad out.
I need more than just books on the shelf like ‘not being codependent anymore’
I need an internal exorcism
Of my very self.
Which is why I am looking the demon in the eye.
They say it all begins with identification
Admitting there is something bad, no: someone bad, that lives inside my heart.
She is the very same one who denied there was anything evil in there.
She tells me it’s all good, and warm, and empathy
Truth. Not lies.
Lies are the hallmark of evil
And we don’t do any of that deceptive stuff in here…
(insisted the demon– from her bedroom in my heart)
She learned in therapy, alongside the righteous parts of me,
That I have rights and boundaries
Needs and feelings that are allowed to be expressed
(Except when it’s not really helpful. Except when doing so is outright mean).
And…Except when the seared child rises up and asserts her satanic birthright.
“Your parents are evil and so am I. You inherited me. And now I am your birthright too, to be passed on to others. You can’t live without me. You and I—we are ONE and the same! If I go, you go as well!” She is screaming.
But back when I couldn’t look the demon in the eye, couldn’t quite name what was still wrong,
This is what she said, instead
“I deserve. I deserve. I deserve.” (In a wounded baby voice)
Reminding me of all she’s been through in life.
A hard life. A cold life. Void of love.
Abused in every way.
I tried talking sweet to her.
As the therapists all suggested, I wanted to let her grow up, alongside my battered little girl.
But there is no fixing her. There is no pacifying her. She shifts shape and morphs and reacts no matter what I feed her. The trick is to starve her completely.
She deserves the lake of fire, now.
Because she is no innocent child. And my battered little girl, whom she tortured the worst, did eventually mature. She has grown up. She gets it. But even she is tricked now and then by the witch in my own womb.
The symbiotic barnacle on my soul is full of control and contempt
She has abused others, too, in every way. Beloved others. Others who I never would have harmed had she not dwelt inside of me, becoming more and more a part of me.
Father Yah it is time now, to reach in. With the sword of Truth, Your Word, and Your Spirit.
You have been coming to me in dreams and visions
Telling me it is time to surrender. Jesus’ cross looms overhead in these dreams
Urging me to trust it.
I almost gave in the other morning.
I stopped yielding because something told me it wasn’t time yet
That you were merely preparing me for some awakening soon to come.
Today I had the awakening.
I saw the demon inside;
Except I am not sure where the demon stops, and I begin
Because it’s been there so long that the demon is now just a part of me.
And I was horrified.
Depressed to the point of just wanting to die.
And then I got comfortable enough to look at her.
I want to cut her out like the deformed growth that she is.
Is this why they were talking about the popularity of Dr. Pimple popper on Christian radio yesterday? And I couldn’t stop listening, turning up the volume and sensing something in my spirit needed to hear it?
“A majority of us get a satisfaction from watching things come out of our bodies that don’t belong there.” The host said with a giggle, as his co-host said ‘eww’ for the hundredth time.
He added that others ‘are completely grossed out by it.’
Indeed. I love popping pimples.
And now I want to watch my own exorcism.
The giant zit has formed a white head, visible to all, and finally: visible to me.
It stares back in the mirror and begs to be pressed in on
Puss and blood will gush out in sweet release
when the witch finally dies
Ah, yes, and those recent dreams and visions You have given me
They give me hope
Jesus is calling me forward to the cross
even in this
So long as I move toward Him, so He can put the demon, put me, to death.
He is the doctor who will lance the cursed disease
And rise up in me a new spirit, a new creation
Revealing what He intended for me, to be, all along
He, and I, together, will be like Jael with her tent peg and hammer
Her hand steady enough
to get rid of evil, popped eardrum to popped eardrum, while it slept
on her own lap,
in her own tent,
her own husband colluding with an evil kingdom,
its wicked and powerful soldier-king assuming that she was cut of the same cloth as her husband, thereby trusting in her offer
only to be surprised at his own demise
by a mere woman
Ah, Jael, that most blessed of all women in the Old Testament
Who grew up in the midst of evil,
Married into evil
Watched evil get passed again and again
to the next generation
yet she rid her tent of evil just the same.
Can that really be me, as well?
Father, I pray it be so.
Perhaps God reached down to steady her hand
Perhaps He will do the same for me
Because this demon inside is too big for me to kill alone.
I cannot give up the ghost, without Your help. Without first surrendering
Admitting my own powerlessness against the generational curse
The lineage of evil
That was my birthright
I can’t return to the womb and go back to the breast, fixing my Oedipal complex myself
Because it is just as the proverb suggests:
The parents eat sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.
The cards were dealt. It was out of my control.
But this inner demon is no innocent child, no mere product of her upbringing. Like the manipulative cretin she is–now that I am on to her, and the mess she has made of my life, she whispers, ‘Have it over with. People with your ACE score are high risk for suicide.’
She is an ancient ghoul, Eden’s blight, bent on the destruction of anything beautiful that remains in me,
and in my family’s lineage.
Like teeth set so on edge that they tense the jaw and wrinkle an already-stressed face
Father Yah said, centuries ago, “NO MORE shall this proverb be a saying in Israel!”
The soul that sins, is the soul that dies.
The children will not be held accountable
For the sins of the father.
Generational curses only exist; so long as we let them.
So long as we oblige, collude with, or ignore, the evil inside our own bodily tent.
I will watch you be removed. I am not too squirmy for such things.
But no demon on earth, or hell below, is going to convince me that my own death is better than my God given lot in life. God is too good a Father for me to believe that lie.
Put the demon in me to death now,
please dear Jesus, put her to death.
I surrender all.
Father, deliver me from evil.
Deliver me – from…me.
Lest I be guilty of a bait and switch I need to say this before anyone reads any further…this is probably not the post you think it is going to be. Because I do not agree (anymore) with the title of my post. I have heard this sentiment (or some variation) many, MANY, times. I used to say it (or some variation of it) myself. Over a decade ago I stopped calling myself a Christian and said instead that I was a ‘believer’, to distance myself form Christians. When I first stumbled upon this famous quote by Ghandi– I loved it! I felt justified:
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (Mahatma Gandhi).
Again: please note: such sentiments grieve me now.
Back when I relished such statements–back when I regularly made them myself, I was not fully understanding who Christ was, or what He did, or His huge, grace-filled, heart for His church/Christians. Oh, I have understood that, in my head, since childhood. But save for one near-death experience in my youth that started a born again process in my heart; it has taken years to truly thaw my frozen heart. And all the while my heart was thawing, I kept looking to other humans, or my own works and personal operating system.
I am not saying I have it all figured out now. Nope. Just that I think I have come far enough in healing from sexual abuse that I am starting to root out the bitterness (toward the church–one of my abusers was a protestant minister) that had me agreeing with, and repeating, such sentiments.
I am also a student of scripture. And as strong as my feelings/emotions and damaged neurological development may be on a certain subject, when I keep seeing the truth written plainly, over and over in The Word, eventually I come around.
The Bible is clear that if you love Jesus Christ, you WILL love His church; because He loves His church. See this list of Bible verses about Jesus’ love for His bride–the church, for proof. (The list isn’t exhaustive.)
It isn’t about us–it is about Him. We aren’t gods in our own rights; God is God. Of course we aren’t like Christ. That’s the entire point. There was only one of Him. No one else’s death and resurrection could ever be powerful enough to save the ENTIRE world (if they but repent of their sins and turn to Him in belief). People who are looking around at the church (filled with human beings) for something which only Jesus can offer them (healing, restoration, salvation…) are missing the point of it all. They will be disappointed. Every. Single. Time.
At times I still fall back into the trap. Because it was humans who damaged me, I still want it to be humans who undo that damage. But I know now that such thinking leads to disappointment, addictions, resentment, unmet expectations, and a host of other ents and ions which make life, marriage, and close relationships, HARD.
When I attended a Christian event expecting the people there to meet my needs (without even fully realizing that’s what I was doing) I came away angry, and justified that my beef with God’s people was…justified. “Everyone there wants to just ‘fix’ me!” I lamented to my husband.
Yup. Some sure do. It happens. I don’t know why. Maybe they are codependent (though I dislike labels and psychobabble!). Maybe they aren’t quite sanctified themselves. Maybe I have a note on my forehead that says ‘I am bitter at the church, and I have a right to be, and you can be the one to take that away from me if you play your cards right’. Maybe they have the same thing wrong with them that I have with me and they are mirroring things they want to hear from others. Or, maybe, God is urging them to try and help me heal. Either way, I see now that at times I can benefit from such attempts, if I lean in and ask pointed questions…Other times I have the power to detach and not react to off-based attempts. If nothing else, it’s a reminder of how not to treat other people.
And so it happened again today. After church a woman in my small group interrupted me mid-sentence (she displays some ADHD tendencies–no biggie to me though, I have similar issues!), presumed my motive behind my explanations to a book I was recommending, took what I said about my son out of context, and then told me that she wanted to pray over me and heal me of my doubting, my reactiveness, and my need to apologize for myself.
Yeah. I do all those things. Even though I wasn’t exactly doing them in that moment; the shoe still fit! I also like this woman a lot. She is strange and lovely and childlike and willing to say things that others who are too…. aware of themselves and how they are coming across… would never utter; all of which I adore in another. So I bowed my head and gave her my hands and made myself ready to receive her ministry over me.
By this time we had meandered outside on a busy sidewalk and it was there, in public, that I let her do her thing. She’s a prophet-type of personality who believes she hears from God regularly; I’d gathered that much in the short time I’ve known her. I’d been praying for her since I met her, as we had an immediate connection and my husband and I talked regularly about her, by name.
So when she assumed a prayerful position over me, but then paused and asked, ‘now what’s your name again?’ I felt a sting of rejection. The old insecurities rose up and threatened to take over. The old wounded me, most certainly, would have been lit to the moon; just by that alone. But I want to love Jesus’ church, for His sake if nothing else. And love isn’t ignorant, it doesn’t turn a blind eye; but it does understand. And I knew she was prone toward spaciness, that she had just met an entire group of new people, that my traumatized brain often forgets things as basic as why I just walked into a room. So I gently repeated my name (again).
In her prayer she told me I had been under-appreciated since birth. (Yup.) And that I had a good deal of anger inside of me, but that a good deal of it was…she paused… righteous. (Yup to the anger and good to know it isn’t all bad…). Then she said God wants to give me a new word to replace the word unappreciated….and after a short pause she excitedly said, “Surprising! That’s your word! Because you are surprising and you love surprises and God wants to give you surprises.”
Sure seems I have been given my ‘word for 2019.’ It’s a lot better than unappreciated, and a whole lot better than what I had felt was my word for 2018: abandonment.
She finished the prayer by telling me my heart had been healed and that I would no longer be plagued by reactiveness and self doubt. (or something like that). I just smiled and nodded. Being healed didn’t feel much different than prior. It still doesn’t.
Yet I can’t stop thinking about the word she gave me: surprising. Or the fact that if I believe that I had a real victory; it will become more real. If I doubt it; it won’t.
Right after the prayer I said something which she again presumed meant something else than what I’d said. Instead of asking me what I had meant by it, she said something that belied that she was insecure and doubting HERSELF.
You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
I laughed because, again, you can’t make this stuff up! It also proves that if I take the veracity of this message based upon its deliverer…I will shoot holes all over it; I will be like Gandhi, admiring Christ but shunning Christians, and I will not have the victory that God is trying to give me. The victory is somehow tied up in embracing and loving the flawed vessels through which it is coming.
I saw me; when I looked at her. Boy, did I ever see me.
So I dropped all proper etiquette and playfully cried out “Aha? What’s that? Are you doubting yourself? Did you even listen to what you just told ME about not apologizing for yourself, about not being reactive and about not doubting?” “Physician heal thyself!” I quoted, as I blew her an air kiss. By this point she was getting into her vehicle and I in mine. I saw her laughing and shrugging her shoulders.
It doesn’t always go like that. I’ve received healings and advice before. But I’ve never had the hutzpah to repeat it right back to the one fixing me. This is a new development. But looking back on it all, the greatest moment of intimacy between us as well as the greatest feeling I had of being healed, was when I cheekily quoted her the proverb Physician heal thyself…
Well, after that, we went out for lunch. Whereupon God gave me a surprise when I ran into one of my abusers and his wife. They acted fake-happy to run into me. But I intentionally ignored them; as I am trying to maintain no contact. (And some of them make it difficult by showing up in public places at the same time as me; or by sending me cards, etc.) Noticing that I had turned on my heel and walked the other way, the wife gave me lip, claiming I was being uppity. I swung back around and told her that since her husband is a child abuser, he ought to be in jail– not going out for lunch– and so of course I am going to ignore you!
They left in a huff. Her mutterings sounding like something my mother might say, and has said to me a few times too.
I ate my food with shaking fingers. Then shook for a bit after we got home.
Ordinarily a day like this would have wrecked me for weeks. Luckily ‘I’ve been healed now‘, by Jesus, of course. He just happened to work through a woman who seems to be just as fragile and broken as I am.