"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Road to Healing (aka the Path of Pain) part I

Hmmmm...I'm finding it harder to blog these days. Not because nothing interesting is happening; more because I'm so busy actually *living* my life rather than lost in depression and reflection about *how* to live it. The last of the walls have crumbled (Praise God!!) and I'm finally free to live the life God has called me to live.


You'll recall that the beginning of this blog was an accountability thing. A tool to get me to consciously focus on the GOOD that God had brought into my life. Unexpectedly, focusing on that also brought a lot of the ugly to the surface. The more I desired to see the good, the more the hurtful was made apparent. The more I didn't want to focus on my pain, the more God nudged me to DEAL WITH IT, ALREADY! You see, I thought that hiding it, pushing it aside, denying it existed *was* dealing with it. It wasn't. It wasn't even being "spiritually mature" as I had so labeled it. God never asks us to "suck it up and press on". Press on, yes; forget what is behind us, yes. Suck it up, NO!!! Go to your brother before you present your sacrifice. Not let the sun go down on your anger. Bear one another's burdens. Cast your burdens on the Lord. Take His yoke upon you. But He never, ever, ever tells us to suck it up and handle it.

And, so, I find myself in a place of healing. A place where I am finally free to be (and rediscover) who it is that He has created me to be. A place where the direction of this blog changes of necessity. And it occurs to me that many in the church culture may be struggling, drowning, in the same "slough of despond" (yes, I love Pilgrim's Progress) in which I found myself for years. So, perhaps, for a little while, I'll share with you some of how I arrived here. Some of the missteps that happened. So that you may avoid them or at least dig out well before I did.

I've become very guarded over the last several years. Time was when I was very open with pretty well everyone. Very trusting. Naively ready to let you know the core of what I thought, what I believed, who I was. Because I really wanted you to know me. And I really wanted to know you. I was willing to debate my opinion with you because I really thought that my opinion was valid. I had confidence in my intelligence, my talents, my assessment of facts and perceptions of people.

Things happened over time that changed that. Wounds became scars. Confidence in my ability to read others and their intents became blunted. Criticism and ostracism took its toll. And my own lack of understanding why it was happening began to cause me to second-guess myself in many areas. Was I competent? Did I have anything to offer to anyone? Was I a fit wife/mom/homeschooler/minister's spouse? And if I was, why was all this mess happening in my life?

I began to create a protective cocoon around myself into which only a very few people were permitted, and then, never fully. It's a lonely place to be. It's a place where you need help but can't ask for it, knowing that if you do it will lead to more criticism for not being strong enough to do it on your own. Not spiritually mature enough to work it out with the Lord yourself. Not whatever enough to please the accuser. And if you do ask for help, you may be put in a position of negatively affecting your helper's view of another person. But you don't want to cause negativity in anyone else, either, so you paste on a smile, soldier on, and gradually lose who you are under all the layers of facade that protect you.

I lost my ability to see myself as I once had. I began to buy the lies others believed about me: about who I was, what my role was "supposed" to be, what my family "ought to" look like, what my personality/spiritual failings were. I began to live as though their expectations were reality. I stopped being who GOD said I was and began trying to be who "they" wanted me to be. I believed that "fighting back" was pointless and feared its repercussions on my husband's position and respect (which, in itself, was attacked on a regular basis). I resented the circumstances that had put me in this place, was aggravated with myself for allowing myself to be silenced and shoved aside, felt helpless to change anything about it. So I did what all good ministers' wives are taught to do (well, at least those that go to the seminary my husband attended): swallow it (it's called "submission" or "perseverence" or "a quiet spirit" - all terribly solemn and mature and taken out of Biblical context), pretend all was well so as not to affect my husband's position, and quietly fall apart in isolation and depression. But above all, DO NOT ASK FOR HELP FROM ANYONE.

Why not? Because ministers and their families aren't really a part of the body of Christ. They are somehow superspiritual and need no assistance from the rest of the body. God and God alone should be sufficient for them. After all, they've reached the pinnacle of Christianity if they're ordained, right? Their needs and frustrations and failings must not be exposed; if they are, how can the laity ever believe in the spiritual authority of their calling? In short: if you want your husband to keep his job and your family to be supported, by golly, you'd better be perfect. And it helps if you can play piano, too. And dress impeccably (but without vanity or materialism). And have beautiful, groomed, well-mannered children. And host open-houses in a spotlessly-kept domicile. And never lose your temper. And float gracefully through all the criticism leveled at your beloved and his methods. And be *pleased* and *grateful* that committees of people who never got to know you decide every aspect of your life and inform you after the fact: where you will live, what salary you will have to work with (subject to alteration without discussion), what colors may be on your walls, and whether you are spending whatever you have been graciously permitted to earn in a manner of which they approve. And attend all the "right" functions - and enjoy them all. And most importantly, cheerfully and graciously allow - nay, welcome - "churchy" needs to interrupt whatever plans you may have had for family or alone time with your husband; after all, his calling to "the church" (which, by the way, is *not* his calling, but that's another story...) is high and lofty and unassailable and takes precedence over his mere covenant with his wife and responsibility as a father...

I'm not and I don't. God just didn't use that cookie cutter on me. What's a girl to do? Short answer: NOT what I did.

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