Archive for the Semi-confessional Category

Why do you go to church?

“Why do you go to church? What is your main purpose of showing up? (not collectively, you personally)

I was asked this question sometime before Christmas, and my initial reply was, “Way to ask me a question I’m not sure I want to answer.” This was following a discussion where I vomited out my distrust of Baptist churches, megachurches, and celebrity pastors (and other celebrity Christian leaders ie James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jr, Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, etc).

So why do I?

“But I know if I don’t go, I’m going to drift back out into the wilderness riding on my self-righteousness. Still, if I wasn’t serving, I don’t know if I would go. Even though I don’t ever regret going.”

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV

I went to church during the Christmas season even though I wasn’t serving. But in full disclosure, it was largely because my friend Stacey was singing again and I was NOT going to miss her first Sunday back with the worship team. And our campus pastor was preaching, so it was like a double bonus. And I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience from arrival to departure. Pastor Trent mentioned early in his sermon about our campus feeling like home, which the sermon series wass “Home for Christmas,” so it stands to reason. But as I thought of it, I thought, “Yeah, this church has always felt like coming home.” I have always felt welcomed. I have always felt “a part of.” I have made many friends there, some very close.

Through the course of the sermon on the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, Trent pointed out that we can do all the right things, but if we are doing it for the wrong reasons, it’s just as much of a sin as the “obvious” sins. (I greatly paraphrased that.) I can attest personally to that as the “good little Baptist girl.” Though I was just really good at hiding the “obvious” sins. Anyway, as he wrapped up he said, “If the only place Jesus has led you is to church, you might be following religion and not Jesus.” That didn’t complicate my attempt to answer why I go to church at all. (That was sarcasm which doesn’t always come through in written form.)

When I was a kid, I went to church because I had to. My parents’ rule was, “As long as you live under our roof, you will go to church.” Because they did not further qualify that statement at the time, and because I was already a master at finding loopholes (when I began writing this, I had just had a convo about that with one of my blunt friends), this good little Baptist girl went to Roman Catholic mass with her best friend for several months. Granted, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to church, I just decided I didn’t want to go to the one I thought I wanted to go to when we moved to town. (That’s a whole story in itself that I’ve probably written about before.) But I eventually found a Baptist church where I felt “a part of,” and that’s where my relationship with church started going wonky.

I loved that church. I went on my own without coercion, though a lot of that was because I had a couple of good friends there. But I felt “at home” beyond that. There was no “air” in the air there. Just a bunch of ordinary folks. Until we moved into the new building. I don’t know if there is a correlation. That’s been many years ago, and I was just a teen. But it was after we moved that I heard the thing that caused me to leave. I don’t remember how long it was after we had moved to the new building, but I vividly remember the openly racist sermon. That was the Sunday that church was no longer home because if ALL of my friends were not welcome there – white AND black – then neither was I. I walked away for many years. When I started going back to church it was for a lot of wrong reasons. But I found a church that felt like family, that wasn’t lily-white, and was Baptist. I got burned again because there was so much dysfunction due to factions with control issues. And when a faction tries to control a control freak who hasn’t yet learned that a controlling nature is a character defect, there’s going to be acting out. And I acted out. And then I quit. And I think I have been to a certain degree shunned.

I went into the next church search leery. However, it wasn’t a long search before I found another church that felt like home, and I went all in. I did it because despite all the issues at the previous church, I had a fresh encounter with Jesus, and it changed everything. Slowly though, because I still have a lot of issues.

I still have a lot of religious resentment. I don’t know for sure if that is why I am having such a hard time answering that question. I’m not entirely certain of my motives. I love my church. I love serving there. But sometimes I question if I made the right decision in choosing my church. I know I don’t have to go to church to worship God. I can worship Him anytime because He isn’t confined to a gathering of believers nor a building (and a church is the people, not the building). I have believing friends outside of church who are blunt and have no problem calling me out for my self-righteousness, so I don’t need church for accountability. I can listen to sermon podcasts anytime. Every “good” reason I can think of for why I would go to church can be accomplished outside of church.

So at this point, I have pretty much talked myself out of going period. I mean, why go at all when I don’t have to go? I occurred to me that there is something that I can only participate in at church. Communion. Generally all Christians believe that there are only 2 sacraments that are instituted by a “local, visible” body of believers, and that is baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion). I could argue the baptism with the accounts of Cornelius and the Ethiopian Eunuch, but it is not relevant. Besides, I’ve already been baptized – twice. But communion was always done in a context among a group of believers gathered together to commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice as the once for all Passover lamb. Yeah, I could show up at a church just for that (and I’m not going to go into the whole open/closed communion debate), but from Jesus instituting the practice at Passover before his crucifixion to throughout the epistles, communion was done among a group of believers who knew each other. While I just popped off with the argument for closed communion, I don’t think the point of commemorating the Lord’s Supper with a local church you are a member of was to be implemented as a legalistic requirement. Because my dad and I are living proof that you can go to the same church every time the doors open and still be covering up sin. But I digress. I believe the point of doing it local with folks you know is for the community aspect of it. Communing with fellow believers in commemoration of the one thing we all share in common: Jesus, and Him crucified.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 19-20, 24-28

If I make going to church about what I get from it, I make it all about me. This is not what Christ calls us to. Following Him is not a self-centered, self-focused endeavor. If we are to be followers of Christ, if we are being remade into the image of Jesus, then our lives should reflect a desire to serve others. And since I am a member of the body of Christ, it stands to reason that I have a role to play that benefits the entire body. I have been uniquely gifted, just like my brothers and sisters, to serve the body. This is perhaps why I love to serve in the capacity I do. And so I guess ultimately, this is why I go to church.

“…on a break”

I didn’t intend to go on a 3 month hiatus. However, I probably should have started that hiatus intentionally about 3 months or more before I stopped writing. Or I should have just stuck with fiction. Because I was not well.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

I was in a funk for a while. Okay, to a certain extent I still am, but I am no longer the “batshit crazy” I was. And it was one of those things I saw coming, but not entirely clearly. I let a couple close friends in on what was going on with me to the extent I knew because there was a certain aspect of it that I have been through before. I know that after a period of high stress, when I start coming down, I’m going to have panic attacks followed by depression. I have not ever been through that cycle since getting sober. So when I started having the anxiety, I started reaching out. It didn’t seem as bad as the panic attacks of the past, but I have not forgotten how bad that depressive period I had 5 years ago was. Never before nor since has life been that dark. Thank goodness.

In the meantime, I just wasn’t snapping back. One of my friends told me that we didn’t necessarily have to search real deep to find the cause, and I told her, “I’m not afraid of going deep, but I don’t know where to start digging.” Granted, this was my first holiday season since my mom died. Naturally some of the funk was grief, and I was on a heavy stress cycle for several months following her death. I got emotionally involved in the election, feeding on fear and outrage and what I viewed as hypocrisy that I felt was my duty to expose. (It’s not.) And then the election did not turn out as I expected leaving me to eat a lot of the words I was saying.

I sat down and tried to write just after the New Year. I have no idea what prompted me to write the following, but I am sure it was to point out something I saw in someone else rather than taking care of my own side of the street.

I can abstain from drinking, but if I am miserable, desiring the escape that drinking gave me, I’m not sober. Without the “spiritual awakening,” I am just a dry drunk going through the motions and never finding peace. With that attitude I can never do the 12th step because I can’t carry a message I haven’t really received.

Ironically, I got a call the following day from a friend who was checking on me, and she asked me if I thought I might be on a dry drunk. I answered that the thought had crossed my mind, because that was about the point the light start to flicker as if it was about to come on. After we hung up, I texted one friend and asked for prayer for the digging I was about to do, and another to see if she noticed anything glaring from my behavior that might indicate a blind spot. Within a day or 2, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was indeed on a dry drunk and had been for quite some time.

Dry drunk is a slang expression infamously known in the sober community. It describes a person who no longer drinks or abuses drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways.

I’ve been known to spout out the statement, “I’d rather do hard stuff now than to do the work of figuring out why I drank again after the fact.” I still stand by that statement, but I was so far off track with my program that I went right back to Step 1. I looked at what happened, and I had stopped doing most of the things I did at the very beginning. Not all at once, but one thing here, another thing there, until I was barely working a program at all. I went back and started doing the basics again, and it’s getting better. I still backtracked the progression, and identified the first cause: I decided that I got it. I thought I had the program figured out, I had my alcoholism defeated, and I could chill and coast. Well, once I think I’ve got it is when I’ve lost it. And it happened not long after I had a year’s sobriety. It became complicated when life started happening and hitting me with major life changes like a separation and death of a parent. Because I wasn’t doing the everyday basics, I started running out of steam because I was no longer operating on a firm foundation with the help of my Higher Power. I was white-knuckling and had more than once incident where I was just about to drink.

I’ve looked at those instances where that obsession to drink returned, and I’ve wondered how I was able to not drink. Like that last Thanksgiving with Mom when she was in the hospital. If I’d had to drive by Petit Jean Liquor one more time, I was going to stop. I had already planned it out and knew I could pull it off without no one knowing. No one would have known. But the thought occurred to me, “I’ll know.” Despite the fact that I called no one under such “noble auspices” as not wanting to interrupt anyone’s Thanksgiving, I didn’t drink. Note: I should have called someone. About a week and a half before this past Christmas, I was on my way to work on a Friday morning when I recognized that feeling I used to get when I was drinking and I knew I was going to drink that day if I didn’t do something. I made a call that day and answered the greeting with “I want to drink.” But I didn’t. I know that may or may not make sense. I didn’t want to drink more than I wanted to drink, but I was craving that escape. That numbness. I didn’t drink, and I made it to my 3 year anniversary a couple of weeks ago, if by the skin of my teeth.

Just this week I was telling a friend about my first drink. How I was given that “way of escape” in the verse I quoted at the beginning. A big, wide door that I could have walked through without drinking, and without losing a friendship. To this day I don’t know why I decided to participate. I don’t know why I kept drinking when that first drink tasted so bad. I eventually came to love the effect of alcohol more that I cared about any moral implication of drinking the way I drank. What I do know, though, is why over those months when I wasn’t putting forth much effort towards working my program is how I kept from drinking in spite of myself.

God’s mercy and grace.

There is no other explanation for why I didn’t drink. Because I was half-assing the program (if that much), I had no mental defense against that first drink. I’m a firm believer in free will. I don’t believe that God forces anyone to do anything against their will even if it is in their best interest. But at the same time, I have no doubt that when I took that 3rd step the first time, surrendering without reservation, turning my will and my life over to the care of God, that even when I tried to take my will back, He kept me sober by doing for me what I could not do for myself. Or perhaps the better way of saying that is that he kept me dry while my life got more and more unmanageable knowing that the unmanageability would eventually hurt enough to take action to get the serenity back.

Prompting the brave #nablopomo

I signed up to blog every day in November with every intention of making myself actually do it. I remember how I did this 2 years ago as well, and I think I wrote maybe the first 4 days. It’s day 2, and I couldn’t come up with a topic, but I joined a Facebook group that promised a writing prompt every weekday.

When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?

I also remember a few years ago when Petra did a writing topic challenge, and we kept getting loaded questions. We made it 3, 4 posts? So here I sit with today’s writing prompt, and it’s a loaded question. Earlier today, it wasn’t quite so loaded and I started to write about seriously entertaining the thought of a career change. Not only thinking on it, but mentioning it to a few close friends.

As I thought about expanding on that, I got very anxious. I’ve also talked about my anxiety with a couple close friends in the last few days. I haven’t had a bout with prolonged anxiety in a while. Not since my first 6 months or so sober. I wasn’t concerned so much about my recent anxiety because I know the pattern of high stress followed by anxiety followed by depression. Since it’s been going on a few weeks, I let my some of my inner circle know because I haven’t gone through the entire cycle completely sober and without an antidepressant. I need other eyes on me so I don’t start isolating.

Well, turns out there was something else behind my recent episodes of anxiety which explained why today nearly turned into a full blown panic attack. I’m not going to go into any detail whatsoever as to what the trigger was. But I just about flipped out initially with the full manifestation of the mental chatter I’d had all afternoon. That chatter is dangerous for me because I know how to silence it. No, I know how to temporarily muzzle it.

I remembered that I have a tool chest. And I used it. I first resolved not to do anything rash, and then I called someone. Ok, I texted her, but she told me to call, and I knew she would. And you know, the mental chatter stopped. The old me would have gotten drunk. Maybe not today, but it would happen soon because it always seemed like the easy way to take care of my issues. Keep the feelings stuffed and suppressed.

Today, I faced my feelings, and I didn’t isolate. For me, that was brave.

Onions and old wounds

“I’m so afraid of the way I feel.” – Lindsey Buckingham

StairsToNothing-WM

Some days are rough. When they string together into a season, it really sucks. Some days I just want to stop feeling. Except I don’t. Lord knows I’ve done enough numbing.

I know that healing is painful, and slow. I know that sometimes you have to push yourself through the pain because that is part of the healing process too. Like when I had my appendix taken out. I was sick as a dog for a week prior to the surgery. I mean, it ruptured, so, yeah. I was BAD sick by the time I had emergency surgery. It is a miracle that I wasn’t sicker. I was exhausted, hungry, and sore after the surgery. I didn’t want to do a thing except lay there drugged up wishing someone would leave a donut close enough for me to reach even though I wasn’t allowed to eat. But my mom made the nurses make me get up out of bed and walk no matter how much I complained about the pain. Not because she wanted me to hurt, but because that was just part of the healing process – getting up and moving forward.

Once upon a time, I broke my wrist. I was in 5th or 6th grade. It was a playground accident, and it was a complete accident. I would even go so far as to call it a freak accident on a seesaw. I told no one because I knew that if my dad caught wind, I would be held solely responsible for both cause and effect. Obviously it wasn’t a bad break, but I found it really hard to get through basketball practice with minimal use of my left hand. The physical pain was mild compared to the emotional pain I expected to receive. It’s probably why I have such a high tolerance for physical pain now.

Hiding an injury from a parent out of fear of punishment for getting hurt in an accident is not normal.

The kids and I were heading home from the dentist last week, and I had some road rage going on. Big surprise to anyone who’s ever had to ride in the car with me. Anyway, Jamie says, “I don’t think I have ever experienced road rage.” I said, “Good. I hope you don’t.” After a bit more discussion she said, “Well, it is a lot easier to be mad and yell at someone when you aren’t face to face with them.” Could it be that a childhood of helplessness and unresolved anger is behind my road rage?

I had to get the pimp car fixed last week. It was something I didn’t think I could fix, but the tow truck driver was confident I could have done it myself. Anyway, after fixing the harmonic balancer (fancy name for crankshaft pulley), they recommended an oil change (it was really low), and coolant flush (coolant was really dirty). I declined having them do it because 1) I already had the oil and filter purchased to change the oil, 2) I’ve flushed coolant before and can do it myself, and 3) I look for any ways I can to save some cash. Well #2 was a huge mistake. I managed to break the petcock. Not so bad that I can’t work around it, and it still works, but still. It was frustrating and I bitched to Petra who proceeded to tell me that I don’t have to do everything myself even though I am capable because I don’t have anything to prove. Um, yes, I do. It’s irrational and insane, but yes, it is almost a compulsive need to prove that I am capable of doing it all and am not “stupid” and “irresponsible.”

I’ve reached a point where I have gained back all the weight I had lost and now need to either lose some weight or buy bigger clothes. I am opting for the former. I went to the doctor Monday because I had some paperwork for him to fill out for my insurance, and I needed a couple of prescriptions redone. Especially when the nurse reminded me I have asthma and I looked at my inhaler that expired over a year ago. My doc told me not to beat myself up over the weight gain as it is a normal reaction (physically and mentally) to what has gone on over the past few months. And now I can rein myself back in and “eat an apple and go for a walk” instead of binging on carbs and sugar.

4 years ago, he suggested a 30 day no-starch diet to break my addiction to carbs. Of course, I was also running regularly then too. So I decided to put myself back on a healthy diet high in vegetables and fruits. And running when the weather is nice enough. Twice in the past week I have gotten a bunch of veggies to roast. (Fiber is my friend. Seriously.) But my veggie prep time is slow. I am clumsy with a knife, so I can’t rush. My left hand has enough scars. But, I digress. Jamie decides she is hungry whenever I am doing this slow prep work and gets in the way while bitching about how slow I am and how I’m doing it wrong, and blah blah. And it really, really pisses me off.

It’s a trigger.

Once upon a time, I decided to make a bologna sandwich. I was maybe 12 or 13. Old enough to do it myself. It was during summertime so we had fresh tomatoes, and I was going to slice a tomato for my sandwich. Well, Daddy peeled everything, including tomatoes, so I proceeded to peel the tomato as that is what you do when it’s all you know. He walked in as I was doing it and had a conniption over how much of the tomato I was taking off with the peel. He went on and on and on until I melted down and just grabbed my sandwich and ran out to the barn sobbing with the sandwich I no longer wanted.

I vowed to never ever peel another tomato again.

And when Jamie starts bitching while I’m prepping, I relive that tomato incident all over again, which of course means I am very snippy with her.

Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to heal from all those old wounds, not to mention how on earth do you?

You may believe that if you begin to cry you will never stop.1

I remember wondering “How broken do I have to be?” Now I am wondering just how broken I really am. I like fixing things. When I fix a light, a car, mower, or appliance, I feel empowered as if I do have some semblance of control over the world around me. There has been so much helplessness that fixing material things makes the broken parts of me not seem so terrifying. I can look at myself and say, “You know what? You’re not stupid. You can fix stuff. Not everything, but a lot of things. You pay your bills on time, and when you don’t, it’s not intentional. You’re not a failure.” And that works until I get tired from going wide open like I’m Superwoman.

That’s when I feel the wounds of that broken little girl.

That’s when the that old familiar voice starts in. “You’re in over your head. You’re a fraud. You’re about to fail big in front of everyone and they are going to point and jeer.”

I know it’s a lie. It’s just hard to fight your mind when you’re already tired and worn down – when you’re still hurt.

Psalm 13 New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

1 Woititz, Janet G. (1983). Adult Children of Alcoholics. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc p198

“It takes some effort to look like this!”

DOLLY

I had an appointment with my feelings doctor a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those where I tried really hard to direct the conversation where she wouldn’t ask me any probing questions. I failed. I should have known that I would have to leave out a significant even from the previous 3 weeks to get past that question. Heck, Petra had already asked me that question so I really didn’t want to have to answer it twice in one week. Thankfully we didn’t stay on that topic, so there was no meltdown. But she got a little more probing in another area.

She always asks me about playing with the church band, exercise, meetings, and any social time outside of those. She knows my history of anxiety and depression, and I had already disclosed a panic attack I’d had the week before. I know I am doing all the things I need to be doing to keep myself busy and not isolated. Nothing good ever comes from when I isolate. But then she asked me if I enjoy the activities I’m doing, and I said, “Yes, I really do. But it often takes a lot of effort to make myself do it.”

Someone told me once, okay multiple times, that the dread of doing something is almost always worse than actually doing it. As I told my therapist, I don’t think I should have to work so hard to make myself do something I know I will enjoy.

I think part of it is because I let myself get overwhelmed unnecessarily. Like what happened with that panic attack. Something unplanned came up that had to be taken care of right away, and was something I shouldn’t have had to take care of as it was supposed to have been taken care of 2 months ago. I was angry over a resentment that got picked at. Well, that was the evening the kids decided to both barrage me with “When are you going to teach me to _______?” That was when I walked outside, grabbed the shovel, and called my sponsor because self-talk wasn’t working and I needed someone else to tell me the same thing I was telling myself but not believing: “Stay in today.”

And, no, I didn’t bury anybody with the shovel.

But I got some probing questions which I didn’t answer. Later, though, I had a completely unrelated conversation (initially) in which I verbally vomited all over Petra, and said, “Huh. That’s what my sponsor was trying to get at earlier.” Funny how that happens.

Sometimes I forget that I am going through a very difficult season. That’s when I wonder why it is so difficult to get out of bed in the morning and get ready. Many times I sit on the edge of my bed trying to work up the motivation to get dressed for work. It’s not that I don’t want to go to work. At least not really, because I normally enjoy being at work once I’m there. I work with really great people who made me laugh and laugh hard.

There is something to be said for the effort of putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing when I don’t want to. It is, after all, what grown ups do. When I enjoy the activity that I have to put so much effort into making myself do, it is worth the effort.

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When we share our junk

PJ_Bridge_WM

I have a page sitting in draft. It’s my story – the condensed version. I’m in a big debate with myself whether or not to publish it. Because it would make me really vulnerable which is why I haven’t shared it with very many people.

I read a post by Sarah Bessey the other day titled The Sanitized Stories We Tell which got me thinking about my story again. Early in the year I told my story at a speaker meeting. In front of a room full of people and into a microphone.

And I told a sanitized version.

See there were things that happened that affected me in a massive way, but I was just, shall we say, collateral damage. It is much easier to tell what happened to me personally than to tell that other junk and how it affected me.

I remember having a conversation once about people giving their testimonies and why that had stopped. It was said that they stopped doing them so as not to “glorify sin.” I have never heard anyone glorifying sin while giving their testimony. I wondered how anyone could even make that leap, but I think I know how. That is the kind of attitude that comes from growing up in a rigid fundamentalist legalistic religious culture that confuses behavior modification with heart change.

That attitude is uncomfortable when people talk about how bad they were. That attitude produces people who say when a brother or sister has a public moral failure that they must not have ever been saved. They become uncomfortable because they have never broken any of the no-no sins like drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, cussing, or having sex outside of marriage. They weren’t rebellious or troublemakers, always doing what they were told, and always putting up a nice looking facade.

Are they uncomfortable because it defies thier legalistic rigid religion? Because God shows grace where we don’t/can’t/won’t? Where we weren’t given grace?

We play a seriously flawed and deadly game when we wear a facade of righteousness. If we are able to keep all the right rules, what do we need Jesus for? Why did he have to die? When we put forth this appearance that we have God now and everything is always okay and we have our life together, we set other people up for failure. The truth is that we are all epic failures. But we don’t have to be defined by our failure.

We absolutely do not have to feel like we are alone in our failure nor in the failures of our loved ones.

And that is why I want to share my story. So someone out there with a similar story will know that they are not alone, and that there is hope.

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Freedom

You would think that growing up in the United States this concept wouldn’t be such an issue for me to grasp. Of course, growing up as a kid in the U.S., and in the Bible Belt South no less, I took a certain aspect of freedom for granted. Serving in the Air Force took care of most of that entitlement mentality. Actually, serving one short deployment in the Middle East took care of that though not at the time. But even still, I did not understand freedom because I didn’t know what it was like to not be free.

Or so I thought.

I was never a slave so I couldn’t understand what it’s like to be a slave. I was never in jail so I couldn’t understand what it’s like to be a prisoner. I am predominantly European Caucasian so I couldn’t relate to ethnic oppression. And I grew up as a Christian in the U.S. in the Bible Belt in the 70’s and 80’s where being a church-going Christian was just normative and therefore, couldn’t relate to religious oppression.

What I finally came to realize (thanks to some outside intervention) was that I was a slave to alcohol and a prisoner of my past. I was oppressed by a domineering father and a rigid religion as a child. I became so weighted down with guilt and shame as a child, and the only thing that was alleviating that pain was alcohol. I didn’t feel the pain of not being good enough while I was drunk. I felt confident. I felt free.

The freedom I thought I had while drunk was a lie.

You are never free when you are spending all of your time and energy on trying to be “good enough” particularly when deep down you know you can never be perfect. Perfection as the standard will always leave you feeling inadequate. Eventually, you will realize the futility of trying and will throw your hands up in surrender because your life is unmanageable.

There are 2 ways you can surrender. You can throw your hands up and say “Screw this!” or some variation of that thought, and proceed to do whatever you think is going to make you feel good. This is the path I took initially. Outwardly, it worked. I appeared to have everything together, but I was not working through my problems. I was just numbing and escaping. Therefore, life just kept becoming more unmanageable until it got to a point I couldn’t cover it with a facade.

The other way to surrender is to throw your hands up and say, “I can’t do this anymore and I need help!” This is the point I eventually came to. My life had gotten so unmanageable that I was coming apart at the seams. It is taken a lot of therapy and a couple of 12 Step groups to sort through and work through my issues. But they couldn’t really resolve my religion issues.

I had God issues because of my Daddy issues.

If I couldn’t ever measure up to my dad’s standards with my behavior, how could I ever hope to measure up to God’s standard of absolute holy perfection? Plus since my dad had so many issues that he never addressed, I had contradictory information on what good behavior was. Because of his abuse, he abused, and I projected onto God’s character that abuse was normal. And you know what abuse does to the abused? It makes them feel less than. Shamed. Not good enough. And it was rigid religion that allowed that abuse, because wives submit absolutely to their husbands, children cannot ever question their parents’ behavior, and daddy’s are the absolute boss and never wrong. This was God’s way and so God must be like my daddy.

Except He isn’t.

There wasn’t really one event that opened my eyes. It was several things. Sessions with my therapist. Chats with my sponsor. Chats with friends. Blog posts. Books. Sermons. But one thing that stood out from a sermon, and I think it was one Pastor Jared preached, where he said, “Don’t forget who you are, and don’t forget whose you are.” And it really started sinking in who I am in Jesus. What that really means. That God the Father’s love for me is not contingent on my behavior. It never was. It’s dependent on what Jesus did.

I can quit trying to earn God’s love because grace is given out of love.

That’s when I realized I was free. That’s when I understood what freedom really is. Because that’s when I finally understood what it means to rest in Christ; to “Be still and know that I am God.” Jesus did all the work for me. I’m not ever going to be Mary Poppins, “perfect in every way.” Freedom comes from knowing I don’t have to be perfect because Jesus was perfect. As Pastor Benji said last Sunday in his sermon,

We’re cleansed from the Stains of Sin & freed from the Chains of Sin!”

Gal5-1-WM

“The needs of the many…”

I am really struggling right now. When stuff hits the fan, it really hits the fan. I’m not struggling in isolation, though. I’ve shared with several close friends what is going on. I’ve even shared it with my co-workers because that morning I wasn’t coming to work until my daughter was home, I felt I needed to tell them why.

I have been put into the position – again – where I have to step up and take charge. Only this time, I have had a little taste of sanity, and I can see how life has become unmanageable again. I’ve had enough of the insanity and uncertainty and dysfunction. I am now in a position where I am forced to make some big decisions, all of which are going to involve uncomfortable (at best) confrontation.

I also struggle with how much is too much to share publicly. I absolutely won’t put this stuff on Facebook, but technically if I put it out here on my blog, I am putting on Facebook since I auto-publish to Facebook. There’s also the little matter of not having shared what happened with family except for one cousin.

Above all, I don’t want unsolicited advice nor do I want a big outpouring of sympathy. I’ve played my own role in the dysfunction that does not leave me a completely innocent victim. There has been complicity on my part in the past that enabled things to progress to the point they have. However, that does not mean that I must maintain status quo out of misguided duty whose purpose is to keep up appearances.

Sooner or later you can no longer hide the effects and consequences that accompany the disease of alcoholism and addiction. Then you are left with decisions on whether to let things continue to spiral in a way that sucks your family down with it or to protect the truly innocent from further harm from a disease none of you can control.

This is where I am. Facing a decision that I don’t want to make. Do nothing knowing things are going to continue to get worse (as they have been) while sucking multiple people down, or I can take a stand with the knowledge that the stand itself has the potential for loss. Yet I keep hearing the voice of Spock, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one.”

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Never say never

Never-WM

I’ve done a few things lately that I swore I’d never do. Like plucking and shaping my eyebrows. I wore my bushy, manly brows like a badge earned from railing against conforming to western feminine culture. But then I decided to get my eyebrow pierced, and one of my coworkers talked me into eyebrow maintenance.

And I haven’t gotten the piercing. Yet.

I also said I would never get back up to 200 pounds. But I did.

It’s not the number on scale so much as the clothes that are no longer fitting, or at least not fitting comfortably. And the reason my spare tire got reinflated is that I stopped eating healthy and running regularly. I stopped being disciplined about my physical health.

It’s a discipline issue.

I was reminded that I know how to eat healthy, and I know how to exercise regularly. I’ve done it before. I lost 40 pounds, and felt great. (Physically) I can do it again, but I have to discipline myself to do it.

I made myself a schedule. That would be another thing I wasn’t ever going to do. Oh, I’ve been all about putting appointments on the calender, but not planning out my days like I did.

Because it seemed legalistic.

I stood at my whiteboard and wrote down everything I have to do every day (critical tasks) and at what times. Like work and sleep. I made those non-negotiables. Although even that is within reason because of Thursday night rehearsal. I’m not getting home before 9pm from rehearsal, and therefore won’t be in bed by 9pm. But that’s also (normally) only twice a month.

I then listed out essentials like church and meetings. I don’t have to do these like I have to go to work, but I am making them non-negotiables nonetheless. My spiritual and emotional health are dependent upon those.

Then I worked in “me time.” These are also non-negotiable because 1) I need alone time to recharge because I am an introvert, 2) I need time for self-care (exercise, meditation, reading), and 3) I have interests that I am going to work on that I need alone time for – like writing.

I even scheduled social time even though church, meetings, and the running club constitute social time also. But it’s a more specific social time like coffee/dinner with friends.

All because in order to do everything I want and need to do for my health, I need some serious discipline. I know me. I know what I do without structure, and it is largely unproductive.

And so now I am telling myself that I should not say, “You will never be able to get your life manageable because you will never be organized.”

I’ve never really tried.

When I realized my greatest loss

I have a way of knowing things intellectually and even believing them intellectually, but without it fully sinking in. I suspect it is a manifestation of a coping/survival skill I picked up as a child. I’ve been piecing together things through my recovery.

Who am I?

I’ve been exploring that question my whole life, and never really coming up with a satisfactory answer. My Christian friends have and do tell me that my identity is found in Christ. Yes. That’s kind of the Christian no-brainer. I’ve been adopted into the family of God because I’ve been redeemed by Jesus. But…

Who is God?

Because of my poor relationship with my dad along with a lot of hellfire and brimstone rendering of God, I had a warped view of who God is. My distorted childhood view of God (which lasted well into adulthood) was a vengeful God lacking grace. If you’re not the perfect Christian, He is going to destroy you. Sure, Jesus washes your sins away, but when he does that you’re not supposed to sin any more.

I had to learn who God really was.

Thankfully, He didn’t leave me in my ignorance, and I finally grasped the concept of sanctification that occurs between justification and glorification. I slowly understood that I can’t/didn’t/won’t earn God’s love, that it is freely given through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

I had to learn who I was

I learned I was a victim. I was a co-dependent, reality-escaping victim. I was afraid of everybody. It impacted every single area of my life. I felt trapped, and in all honesty, I was trapped. I was bound in a trap of my own making. A trap that was constructed with distorted truth and outright lies.

Identity crisis

I was at a crossroads of sorts, torn between who I’ve always thought I was and the reality of whose I am. I felt trapped between a cage that was at least familiar, and between fear of the unknown. I finally met that point in co-dependency where I asked myself who I would be if I dropped my victim status. How would I manage to live without it.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

My greatest loss was that of my old distorted and arbitrary identity. It was great not because it was good, but because it was heavy. It isn’t going away without a fight. It still screams for attention. But I have tasted something much better. Freedom. Freedom to be who I was made to be. Freedom to have purpose and worth. Freedom to be loved by my Creator not because of what I do (or don’t do). Freedom to love, as I am loved.

My greatest loss is turning out to be an amazing gift.