Thursday, October 29, 2009


I get it! I get it! I understand why God watches us suffer. I understand that he doesn't just watch; he feels it all with us. I understand that he protects, at all costs, our freedom to choose. I understand that if we lost our freedom, we would loose our God because His love cannot exist without our freedom to choose it - or reject it. We wouldn't just lose our God; we would lose ourselves. What a cost! What a dilemna! What pain!

He didn't just bear our pain for a few hours on the cross. He bears it now. He bears it long ago. And he bears our anger at Him, our blame of Him. He bears it all because we must have our freedom or His creation ceases. Agape cannot exist without the freedom, everyone's freedom. And everyone's freedom brings heartache and loss and grief and suffering and emptiness and hatred......... and love.

If he stops the freedom, in order to protect us from hurting, then he hurts us eternally. We lose our existence. And so, he goes to all extremes to protect our freedom. Then, why would anyone choose to create, knowing they would be creating such pain for themselves and for us?

Perhaps the answer is in our beloved-ness. That is who we are to Him. Not just loved, but the place he chooses to deposit his own identity - his own Agape. This love must be so great to warrant experiencing this pain.
I want to fathom that love.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I Needed a Pastor as a Therapist

I knew I needed a pastor as a therapist! I knew Stephen was the right one! I also fumbled, on multiple occasions, with the words to explain this to Stephen. But today, what has rumbled in my gut, came to light in my head.

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

The Rules Don't Apply to Me

I sent Stephen another email. I forgot to tell him in our session yesterday that I had forgiven Paul. Then, after I sent it, I wondered why do I do that?

Stephen is not condemning of my email, but he does remind me he has asked me not to do therapy via email. Email is for scheduling only. He handles me with mercy while presenting the rule. Funny, but last time he actually did a little therapy himself in the form of reassurance prior to reminding me of the boundary. Every once in a while the boundary has a little flexibility in it, but he holds it for my sake as well as his.

I do not do boundaries very well when it comes to those in power positions. I tend to function out of the belief that the rule doesn't apply to me. I was wondering why when it hit me, "Well, duh!"

In the abusive relationships, the connection told me I was special and I needed to hear that. To believe the rules didn't apply to me allowed my mind to separate from the truth. Boundaries are there for a reason and the reason was to protect me. Instead, I see boundaries as the right to deny me. Denial of something I want, need, and deserve. Ouch!

I am more important than Stephen's other clients. I am more important than his time in preparation to work with other counselors in training. And under that lie.......?

Well, I know this much. God will bring his truth and healing and He will do it much the way Stephen handles me - with truth and grace.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sexual Misconduct Policy Committee

In past blogs I mentioned my hope of meeting with the Sexual Misconduct Task Force from the Disciples of Christ region. I knew a task force had been appointed to look into issues I had complained about 2 1/2 years ago. I had been told they would contact me, but when it didn't happen, I let it go. My identity is no longer founded in the past abuse. I really wasn't eager to stir it up again.

This past May I was contacted once again and this time they asked to meet with me. Having already been provided with my written suggestions, the committee had begun a rough draft of the new policy. I was sent a copy to review. Parts were good, parts needed work.

One issue I pushed for was immediate psychological testing of anyone accused of misconduct. How easy abusers pull the wool over people's eyes. Other issues included an open policy concering information provide by the accused. When I made my report, it was read verbatum to the minister, but I was not allowed access to his response. I felt abused again by the church. I was being exposed and he was being protected.

Years went by after my reporting him until my disatisfaction lead to my confrontation of him 2 years ago. So much emotion was ripped back open.....though it was a good experience for me and I have since moved on in ways I might never have.

This summer committee listened intently to my suggestions. I was shown very obvious respect and kindness. It was a good experience. I hope the new policy will help others in my shoes. It should be completed and voted on this November. I should probably write and ask for an updated draft. Whatever the end product, a victim and the church met and agreed on a great deal. It was good to experience unity and God's love in such a way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Done that Learning Thing

Been learning a lot!

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?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Shame is Shattered

I have been meeting with Stephen now, on and off, since last January. Working with him has been challenging. He is a pastor - or once was - and now functions in pastoral ministry within the counseling office. His eyes light up as he talks about agape and our God.

Stephen prays. He prays a lot. I think he would say that he prays continuously. As I enter his office, I smell the scent of incense he has burned in his last moments before God. In some ways this has been intriguing and in other ways it has challenged my alienation from God in a most uncomfortable manner.
Slowly my relationship with God has returned. I first began praying again on a regular basis. I found it easier each time we met to talk about God moving in my life. But the best just happened. The shame is shattered.

I have envied Stephen's connection with God. It is so real and so accepting and so filled with an uncanny understanding of God's love. He breathes it in and out and, well, I have never seen anyone so enamored with the presence of God. There is no judgment in his having this and my not but rather a constant encouragement to see what I do have - it is there, don't you feel it, see it experience it? I have had that at times in life but never with this foundation that seems so unrockable. Instead, shame has always rocked my foundation.

Two weeks ago I began rereading The Shack. Having signed up for a discussion group at my church, I read and highlighted and turned down the corners of every important page. Passages leaped off the pages - things I had failed to see in the first read. But the overall issue wouldn't go away. Like Mack, I did not believe God was good, nor did I trust him. I judged Him guilty and I hated him for abandoning me. I could not reconcile my pain with God's mercy. I knew all the rationalizations of free will and God's creation but it didn't change my anger at God.

And, little by little God bored down into the pit of my soul.

After the abuse and over the years of dealing with it, I was smothered with a lie. The lie said "there is something terribly wrong with me." As I tried to embrace the truth that what happened to me was abuse and not my fault, I rattled the cage of that lie. I even disassembled it in my adult heart. Yet, deep deep down, underneath it all, formed before I had the power of language, I had first believed that lie; and still hidden,without words to speak it, the lie hissed its insidious poison.

Something was horribly wrong with me and I could not face that "truth" that was really not truth. I hated myself and that wrongness of my being but hating oneself cannot be held within for long, so I turned that hatred outward. Someone must be blamed, so I blamed God.

With pounding fists, the child lay across the mattress, screaming into her pillow. "I hate you God!" "I hate you God!" I remembered doing this throughout my childhood but I didn't remember why. I only knew I ended up there from time to time. For the past 9 years I have lived with that hatred in my conscious. Then this past weekend I realized my hatred of God was my defense from facing that false truth of something is terribly wrong with me. As I realized the truth that nothing IS wrong with me, the shame crumbled and I was flooded with the most wonderful sense of God's presence that I have ever known. It wasn't a knock me down kind of presence but one that carried only love. One without the shield of my own shame to block it. It felt kind of like a warm bath.

With the shattering of the shame has come my forgiveness of God and others that I could not find the ability to forgive. Shame always prevents us from forgiving, for someone must be to blame. We cannot handle shame so we project our anger onto others and mine was best projected onto God. Rather than hate myself, I hated Him.

The lie was exposed. The shame shattered. The hatred of God dissipated because it no longer served any purpose. What a sweet, sweet relationship I have drunk of these past few days.