Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Three years ago, after I ran across Stephen's name in a book on forgiveness, I emailed and he replied. For a week we volleyed email back and forth. His response to my story of abuse was a comment that went something like this: "Abuse distorts the natural longing of a woman for a pastor."
That statement caused all sorts of stirrings inside of me. I was intrigued with hope and smothered in fear. When I asked him what he meant, Stephen directed me and my question to my therapist of the time, John. But John, had no more of a clue to what Stephen meant, than I did.
Stephen's statement scared me. For me, longing was nowhere near natural. The two words didn't belong together. The "longing" I felt for the attention of those in spiritual authority, or any kind of authority, enslaved me. It held me captive and the guard was my own fear, fear of falling once again into an illicit relationship. The longing equalled pain. Was I stuck forever in this longing?
Stephen's statement also beckoned me to discover exactly what natural longing must look like. Could something I felt be normal? The fact that a woman could long for a pastor and that be a good thing was foreign. Could I ever accept as normal my longing to work with Stephen? Could it be true that I was denying myself some good Agape love out of the fear of this longing?
Nine years ago I began a long relationship with my first therapist, Cheryl. One of Cheryl's greatest contributions was to teach me to hear what I was telling myself and then to adjust it. That process was arduous. To change the pathways formed in your brain over a lifetime does not come easily. In little ways Cheryl taught me that I was normal - but her "normal" kept getting hung up on my fundamental conservativism that said her belief was humanistic and subtlely evil.
So, I chucked God.
The fruit was there. I got better. If the fruit was there, then it must be good. Only, I couldn't weave it into my faith.
In time, I had to move on. My years of finishing my teaching degrees ended, and with it, all that wonderful free therapy with Cheryl. One time, I figured that between my individual work with Cheryl and the couple's work we did with Dan, I had saved about $100,000!
Briefly, upon leaving Cheryl, I saw John, but once Dan had an opening in his private practice, I hopped back on his couch. Dan is cool. We were a great fit. If I wanted to feel at home and comfortable, I'd have never left him. However, Dan and I both realized, after a time, that what I finally needed to work through wasn't happening with him. I knew where I needed to go. I had known my time with Stephen was "planned". The problem was convincing Stephen.
But why did I need Stephen, and why couldn't I finish this up with Dan? That was the topic of a couple of pointed sessions with Stephen. "Didn't Dan have enough love?" I was at a loss to explain to Stephen why I needed him. I just knew I did and through it all I had learned to trust my gut. Somewhere in there, either God or me or both of us, convinced Stephen to give me time he didn't have to offer.
I knew it wasn't that Dan didn't have enough love. What I didn't know was that the missing piece was Dan's lack of a passionate relationship with God while simultaneously believing he wasn't a rotten filthy piece of crap . My very conservative faith had told me that inside, I was just that - rotten and filthy and garbage. My paths in life had reinforced it. That is why I believed I needed Christ, because I was human and humans stunk and I stunk the worst of all of them. I mean I screwed 2 pastors, come on, I must stink.
Earlier Stephen had asked why I would fear the agape love of relationship or deny myself that love? I just kept thinking - you just don't know how screwed up I am inside. Then Stephen started telling me that there wasn't anything wrong with me. He kept telling me that I was fine and why didn't I move on and let go of this process. There I was trying to convince him that I wasn't fine - only the truth was that I was fine; I just wasn't finished! There is a definite difference.
Stephen's passionate love for life and Christ just kept drawing me. I learned to live in the present moment. I learned that my life fully lived honors God. I learned that by living in the present I could avoid the painful longing but it was a hell of a lot of work.
Why couldn't I just rest in that sweet love that Stephen seemed to live in. I remembered what it tasted like. I had experienced that endearing relationship before, before the abuse and my demented way of seeing myself through the shame stole it from me. For 8 years I worked with secular counselors because I didn't trust anyone who represented God. And for 8 years they helped me. They taught me. They cried with me. They accepted me. But, I still couldn't have my faith and my belief that my humaness was good.
My faith said I was a wretched sinner. My history said that something was terribly wrong with me. Those beliefs didn't align with therapy. Isn't that human of you, Diane? What are you telling yourself? What would you tell someone who was your friend? Do they deserve this self flagellation? My therapy said no, I don't deserve this self hate. My faith said I did.
The truth that being human involves weakness wasn't balanced with the truth that we are created in God's image and are beautiful in his sight. For me, that "in His image" stuff was a minor foot note to the pages of wretched dissertation scratched out in my heart.
There was something terribly wrong with me.
Three weeks ago, I read Stephen's writing on the Orthodox church and how their focus is not on sin as a blackness within us, but sin as our choices. I read where they see life, death, and hell differently from those conservative beliefs I have had. Yet, no one I have known has carried the Spirit of Christ like Stephen. God is on him, in him, through him and it is sweet and undeniably God. In Stephen I had seen a passionate committed love of Christ function side by side with a healthy acceptance of self and others. He modeled truth to me until it finally crashed through the shame.
Suddenly everything everyone had been saying to me all these years broke through the false mirror. "There is nothing wrong with me," came out of my mouth and in its place a peaceful sweet presence of God flowed in.
There is nothing wrong with me, if I choose to adjust my faith. There is nothing wrong with me, if I look at the Bible through the lens of culture and the humaness of those who wrote it. I can believe it is inspired without feeling guilty for not covering my head or keeping my mouth shut in church. For 8 years, I have not been running from God, but from what I now believe were lies.
...........I think the prodigal daughter is home.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Maybe the most useful new tool is "living in the present". I discovered, that if left to what happens naturally, I spend most of my time thinking about tomorrow, real or fiction, or rehashing the past. My mind seldom embraces the details of the moment - the air I breathe, the blueness of the sky, the touch of the computer keys, the presense of those I love.
I have discovered when panic hits, the key to calming my mind, is bringing myself present. When the aching longing of someone's approval reverberates within, I bring my focus to the present and the longing eases. There isn't much room for lies in the present. It simply is.Did you ever think about it honoring God when we live in the moment? This is what He created us for. This moment is what He lived and died for. Where is abundant life? In the past? In the future? In my imaginings? No, it is right now in the present. I presently live in His presence. To live life fully honors His gift of sacrifice for us. He died so we might have life more abundantly. Not in the pie in the sky by and by, but now - this moment.
A real eye opener for me - living life fully, honors God. Or is it - living life, fully honors God? Or - living, life fully honors God?