The Golden Rule Can’t Be About Me.

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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!

I just wanted the summer off…

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…But it isn’t happening. I stepped away from my career and planned a real break for myself to further heal. I envisioned a book in hand, iced lemon water, my behind parked on a partially shaded lounger (I like to sun my legs–for vitamin D purposes). So far I’ve only read two novels in June, (neither one under an umbrella). The amount of novels stacked on my ‘give away’ and the ‘it’s a keeper-find room on the shelf’ pile is a barometer of how much time I took ‘off’. (TWO is incredibly low!).

And now June, that glorious stretch of sunny mornings full of smells of flowering trees and light-sweater-evenings; yes, that June– is on her very last breaths.  As always, she peaked without notice and promptly faded. Like a pink sunset turning purple over rolling green golf course hills; the kind that everyone admires for, oh, about an hour in between ‘other stuff that needed to get done’, like actually finishing hole 17 and 18 before it’s too dark to see the balls.

Sigh.

I’ve got three ‘dates’ today and two other friends in my text messages wondering when I can chat or meet up this week. Coffee with a neighbor in a short bit, a young man coming to weed my garden at lunch time, another young man we ‘sponsored in the game of life’ coming and going from my back door whenever it strikes him (long story–too identifying to share details), and a baseball game later this afternoon. Phew. I don’t know how I let myself get this active again. This social.

I like to hide and write and read and heal and do things that no one but me even knows about. Leave anonymous comments on blogs… The usual introverted socially awkward and anxious-personality things to which the rest of us here in blogville might relate. But most people I know on a face to face level–don’t, it seems. They like to stay busy from sun up (ridiculously early this time of year) to colorful sundown (quite late this time of year). A friend recently sent me a photo of her workout stats. It was seven in the morning. I replied that here I thought I was doing well rolling out of bed at seven. (Being showered and presentable to others before nine is like running a marathon, for me).

But what I really wanted to say, to her and to near-everyone else who flutters around me like stressed out butterflies afraid to land on something and sit still for a minute– is this: why are you insistent on pushing through all that pain and then wearing the results of ignoring said pain like a badge of highest honor? I know your knee hurts you; badly, because you complain about it all the time. Why keep running on bad knees?

It seems a lot of people are hiding from painful things behind a wide smile and an offer for coffee. I know they are actually quite tired, underneath all that caffeine. I know many bodies, including my own, have been running on sheer adrenaline for a long long time. Because we are starting to get deep wrinkles and thinning hair and near every woman I know snaps openly at their husbands. In public. Like it’s normal or something to be that way.

Why is it that our basic human nature likes to pretend we aren’t feeling any pain. Is that pride? or is it just plain dumb? Scripture says ‘all we like sheep have gone astray’. Farmers have told me there is no dumber animal; than a sheep.

For me it was some combination of both pride and stupidity. I kept running and planning and making more ‘dates’ to do more things leading to all sorts of nervous breakdown stressed out moments. Thinking if I just push my way through life, like the strong girl I was, then those yucky feelings, those twinges of physical pain, those bursts of emotions–will go away like a stray cat that you refuse to feed.

Annoying things don’t just go away. Strays eat from your garbage when no one is looking. And stress accumulates everywhere, the more you ignore it, the deeper it accumulates into your very being; changing molecules and cells and personality until you become someone you never set out to be. All I have to do to guarantee I will snap without provocation, at my husband (or grown children), is to let myself get ‘too busy’ for my own tired and worn out britches. Bam. The meltdown happens. Every. Time.

I miss my quiet time, I miss blogging regularly, and reading others’ blogs. Getting into my novels in the partially shaded sunshine. Hanging with God because I have made time for that. Finally. Until June happened and I let myself get caught up in the busyness somehow. And right now I really wish I could sit still for a long while and catch up better here…

But I have a date and I already sent a text saying that I was ‘on my way.’ Perhaps I can achieve some semblance of summer over coffee with a friend. I’ll insist on sitting outside; at the very least.

 

 

 

10 Christian sayings that can also be Cringe-y.

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  1. 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
  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…
  3. You’re too blessed to be stressed! Everything to God in prayer. (Lyrics to the song: What a friend we have in Jesus).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 
  7. 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
  8. Eat the meat, spit out the bones. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. Galatians 5:9
  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.’
  10. 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 helpFor 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

 

 

Thoughts on God as Mother–a survivor’s approach to Mother’s Day.

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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!

 

 

Smelled Like Funky Religion To Me.

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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.

When it’s Good to be Stubborn like a Mule.

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Mules, the (usually) infertile offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, sometimes get a bad rap for their stubborn attitudes. The truth is not that black and white, though. A horse will try to impress or please its owner by carrying far more than it ought to be carrying, or outworking or outrunning itself (we just watched the movie Secretariat, and that was one of the concerns was that he (the horse-Secretariat) would actually injure himself racing if they just ‘let him run full speed’ without reigning him in. So while a horse runs the risk of hurting itself, if the owner or farmer isn’t careful–when a donkey or a mule reaches its limit–it stops. A farmer, therefore, doesn’t need to be as cautious about overloading or overworking a mule or donkey. They know their limits and when those limits are reached–they stop working. Mules are also far more willing to fight off predators like coyotes, rather than fleeing or rearing up in fear.

It could be said that Mules and Donkeys have really good boundaries and sense of self. The key to setting any good boundary is just that: you have to first know your own limits. An impossible task if you are bent on people pleasing and making whoever owns you happy. And make no mistake, if you are a people pleaser (something I am intimately familiar with being myself!!)–you are owned by someone–that someone being whoever you are trying to impress or keep happy. Doing that will come at  your own expense.

For a Christian this poses a real dilemma. I want to be owned by Jesus. I am HIS servant and no one else’s. But if my actions are consistently horse like; meaning I am ever willing to impress others, even if it injures myself, how can I say that I belong to Him?

As I was pondering this, I thought of the fact that Jesus rode a donkey — not a horse, on Palm Sunday. The donkey wouldn’t have agreed to that if he wasn’t up to the task. A horse, on the other hand, may have been exhausted but he would have given the ride anyway. I don’t believe Jesus wants us to serve Him or anyone else; if we aren’t truly up to the task. He desires that we get to a place of health where we can handle burdens again–before we try carrying them.

I also thought of the story of Balaam and his donkey, the donkey saw the angel of death and refused to move any further which kept Balaam from meeting the angel of death. Does it mean something that the only animal to ever be recording ‘talking’ is a donkey, an animal that will absolutely refused to be pushed beyond its own ability-to-bear-it-limits?

My conclusion is that boundaries are really, really important. Especially if you are a service animal (as Mules and Donkeys are known world wide to be). Especially if you are a servant of Jesus. Having people destroy my boundaries in childhood destroyed my ability to serve God and others without it costing me greatly.

As I learned how to be more like a Mule myself, it involved some hard choices. My horse-like brain wants to people please and make it all better again (at my own expense). It seems I still struggle knowing my value. Mules and Donkeys know their value; horses not so much. So as I made this transition to what some might call ‘stubbornness’, I’ve been called mean, crazy, rigid, unyielding, and even unforgiving. It’s ok. Balaam beat his donkey for its refusal to lead itself, and him, into death. I can expect similar treatment when I start to assert myself with people who once held my reigns.

 

“I love Jesus. I just have a problem with His followers.”

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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.

The End.

 

Abandonment

alone branches bridge brightIt seems like a lot of people I know, from my therapist to half my facebook friends have already, or are going to, participate in the ‘word of the year’ trend. I’m still not entirely sure what that even is, but I think I gather the basics–you pick a word, then be intentional about it and/or notice how often you see it in the following year. Or something like that. One friend had ‘joy’ as 2018’s word and she put up a lovely post about all the ways she discovered joy in the year 2018.

I was happy for her. But it also made me sad. I had some joyful times this past year. But I am still grieving my reality too. And part of that reality is emotional turbulence that makes me nauseous (literally).

I didn’t intentionally choose the word abandonment as a word of the year or anything. I just kept noticing it everywhere. In self-help therapy books. In novels. In movies. In the lack of invitations I received (and plenty that I refused to send) this past year.

I especially saw it in the mirror.

I was abandoned as a child. It’s a ‘root’ thing. It is at the core of much of my remaining emotional turbulence.

It’s a tough reality. But 2018 was definitely the year in which I owned the word ‘abandonment’ to the full. I spent most of my years prior choosing words like happy! Peace! Faith! Love! (exclamation point included). I never, ever, would have intentionally chosen abandonment. Not in reality and certainly not as a word of the year.

This past year I have been owning it. It hasn’t made it much easier. Abandonment is rough. Yet I also believe it would be even rougher for me, at this stage of my life, if I was still pretending my word was something else.

Here’s to 2019 bringing me a better word!

 

Giving a good inheritance when you didn’t receive one.

baby sitting on man s shoulder

We have spent some time in the past few weeks helping our son who lost his job last month. All of which has me pondering an old and very painful subject: treating your children well when you were not treated well by your own parents.

I think it is a common theme for adults who were abused as children. The deep conflict and desire to do better for my own children was a continuing internal conflict as they grew–it really peaked when they were teenagers. As I parented them through those rebellious times I realized, for the first time, just how little may parents had cared about me. There were waves of anger then. And pain. And confusion. Along with pointed questions to which I wasn’t sure I knew the answers.  Can I trust myself to be a good parent to my children when I don’t even know what that looks like?

All I knew, and still know, is that I WANT to be able to give my children what I never had, myself. At this stage they are grown. But there are still thousands of things to consider. Millions of moments I can do good for them and to them. Like planning out their inheritance. And giving some of it to them now, if they need it.

Proverbs 13:22 (KJV) A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children: but the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.

My parents received a real estate inheritance from their parents. However, I won’t be receiving anything from my parents. I was already written out of their estate years ago. The way that unfolded is so unbelievably strange that were I to write out any of the actual details, even if I were to fictionalize them, it would most assuredly give away my identity.

I was ok with that (not receiving any inheritance). While I adore money because you can’t travel far or buy new shoes without it; I don’t really care about it. Besides, all the money in the world wouldn’t have made up for the fact that had I received an inheritance from them I would have been bound to abusive people who think it their right to opine and control—and all the more so if they once gave you something which was (sort of) valuable. 

In terms of wisdom passed down: love, traditions, etc. there isn’t much to speak of there either.

My spouse also did not receive an inheritance. Although, on both sides, there was/is some wealth to go around. The strings and forever-type-of-attachments which went along with receiving the inheritance we might have received; were something to which we both said:

No. Thank. You.

As for us, we were careful to set up a plan for after our death which will treat our children as well as we can; with as few strings as possible. This involved a few moments where we went against professional advice.

So be it.

We will be dead. Who cares. Furthermore, if the kids blow through what we were able to accumulate through a few decades of business ownership–well, they will ‘have one heck of a story to tell’. Therefore a part of me just wanted to leave the whole thing to the courts and fate to decide.

But there’s that proverb I love. The one about the good man who leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.

What does a good woman look like? She is wise. Loving. Prudent. She takes good care of her affairs. She gives her children freedom, and choices. She does not bind them up with strings, expectations, and obligations. She allows them to fail. She doesn’t turn her back on them when they do.

A good father shows up when his children need help. When they lose a job or get in trouble with the law. Without too much judgment. And cleans their garage and buys them a snowblower and chips the ice from their driveway, and then takes them out for sushi that he doesn’t even like to eat.

My husband is a good father. Very good.

Paraphrasing an old saying about good boundaries: a good father (and/or mother) doesn’t carry their backpack for them when they can carry it themselves. But good parents DO help push the bigger boulders out of the way.

Oh, to have had some help with the boulders in my path…sigh…

Which takes some extra money. And time. And energy. And where do you get all those resources; especially when you yourself started life with a negative balance? When you are still recovering from pushing your own boulders all by yourself??? Worse than no inheritance, you received debt upon debt wrapped around your neck like the noose of a slave?

If I let myself ‘go there’ I’d be ticked for days. Feeling sorry for myself; and with a great deal of ‘right’ to go there, too. It would be just for me to do it. But I am too exhausted for it. I know that going there will deplete me of further reserves I don’t have. So I am choosing to see this part of my life as a miracle instead of a pout moment.

Because according to the proverb — the sinner’s wealth goes to those who are just. So maybe God saw to it that we cared about things like justice and truth and so He made sure that the negative numbers we received from our parents would be filled to overflowing in our lifetime.

Even though I am not sure I trust myself to do good to my children; apparently God does trust me to do just that. Because I now have enough holdings to give my children a real inheritance; that they can then pass on to theirs.

I just hope that it isn’t merely finances that get passed along. I hope that there is also plenty of faith and love and wisdom and tradition and that all little and big things we did for ours (that were never done for us) are both appreciated and imitated again and again…to start from less than nothing and to be able to give an inheritance, both now and later… A good one… With nothing attached but love…Well, when I view it that way — I am ready to push more boulders out of the way.

 

 

Receiving holiday cards from ‘no contact’ people.

photo of red mailbox mounted on wall

It started up again. During the season of ‘Christmas Cards’ my husband is tasked with sorting the mail in order to filter out the holiday cards from family members from whom I maintain ‘no contact.’ He looks them over to make sure there isn’t anything I absolutely need to see or know about. You know, just in case someone writes something like ‘I am sorry I assaulted you’ in the margin or something…. Then he gives me a choice on whether or not I want to see it/read it. Sometimes I do. Sometimes not. After I am given that choice, he seems to relish tossing the cards/letters in the trash can.

Witnessing his discarding of the cards actually helps me, tremendously, to get over the boundary breach that is created whenever such cards come into my world.

Yesterday, while looking over the latest card-about-to-be-discarded, my husband commented, “You know, I forgot to tell you but a few weeks ago I read this article about churches that are incorporating electronic tithing. They recommended printing out paper slips for the pews that say ‘I give electronically’ so that when the collection plates are passed, the people who give electronically can still put something into it. The studies show that offering those slips really boosts the number of people who give electronically in a congregation.”

I wrinkled my forehead. One of the things I love best about him is that he often has these very deep insights into things. Occasionally they are so deep (even for me) that they make no immediate sense.

Seeing my confusion he explained: “Your family must think that if they still send us a card, it proves something. Like people who give electronically to churches but still want to throw something in the plate to either participate or to prove to the people next to them that they do actually give…so voila, they have a slip for that which says: ‘we give electronically’. The truth is those people had already given an offering. And they knew it, and God knew it. Why do they need to use a slip of paper to prove it? Seems like a main reason to grab one of those slips would be prideful — doing it just to show other people that, yes, they actually gave something. I think your family is doing this card sending stuff to us just so that they can say, ‘Well, we still send them cards. They are the ones with the problem against us.'”

Indeed. Their continued holiday cards are a lot like a ‘we gave already’ slip into a church offering plate. My estranged family already gave me what they had to offer. It damaged me tremendously. I told them how damaged I was from it. But their response when I passed their own offering plate right back to them was not a deep digging into the pockets of their past. They offered up no new resources, financial or emotional or relational, which could have helped me heal quicker.

All they offered, and all that they are still offering, are empty pieces of holiday papers. Because they already gave; and it sure seems that they aren’t going to give any more than that.