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12 August 2009

More from the past

I don't know why so much of these posts focus on my family of origin. I guess because the recent visit with them reminded me of things from the past. And i haven't children of my own on whom to focus. And my parents are coming for another visit next month. And so many things from then still effect me now.

The church we attended when i was growing up was also a bit twisted. What i'm going to share, granted, was the opinion of a couple of Sunday School teachers but it did seem to be the attitude of that church in general. And it did tend to effect the way i see the world.

These Sunday School teachers said, "Whatever you love God will take away from you." At least, that is what i heard. In retrospect, what i think they were trying to say was, "God will do anything to draw you to him. If that requires removing everything you love to put you focus on him, then he will do it." Now i'm not sure how scriptural that last one is, but it has a different flavor to it than "God will take away whatever you love."

The POINT of the story was not to harden our hearts against God, to be willing to go where he leads. But it did tend to get lost. The teachers would tell stories about folks who said (when they were young), "Oh, i'd NEVER be a missionary." Or, "I'll be a missionary, God, i feel called. But DON'T send me to Africa (China, South America, etc., etc.)" Or, "I'll do anything for you Lord, but don't ask me to __________."

Of course, ultimately the thing the person ended up doing was be a missionary, going to Africa, China, South America, etc., or that they ended up doing ____________. I assume the point behind these stories was not to put limits on God, although there was the undercurrent of "you better not tell God you don't like ______________, or that is the very thing you'll end up doing." Or even, "Don't be honest about what you don't like, 'cause if you voice it God is sure to make you do it."

But, to a kid's ears, this is kind of saying God is a bully. He's gonna send you out to do the job you like least, the thing you dread or hate.

Another part of this was that anything i really wanted to do my mother told me would never happen. Most of the time she would just stop me directly but if for some reason she wasn't able to do that, she complained until i gave it up as not worth listening to her. If that didn't work (like my desires about college), she told me it was a pipe-dream & would never happen. As a child i felt fenced-off & stopped at every desire. Some kids, of course, have the type of personality in which this kind of challenge would spur them on to overcome the closed doors. I know that these type of folks are greatly regarded in our culture. I'm not that personality type, however. I managed by closing down, retreating, waiting, waiting, waiting, believing that somehow it would yet all happen for me.

So, why am i thinking of this now? For a few reasons, actually. One is the struggle for a child. I don't understand why God gave us this sincere, deep, resounding, aching desire for a child when that is not going to happen. (Many other folks share this desire without having it fulfilled, i know.) Another is that i'm feeling so limited in working. I woke up in a lot of pain today - turns out somehow i dislocated (well, that sounds too dramatic, but i messed it up somehow) my left scapula/clavicle shoulder area while sleeping. I've been in pain most of today & working was so difficult. I don't think i've been in excruciating pain, just severe discomfort, but i've wanted to cry most of the day. And, i'm afraid that if my energy level continues as it has been i won't be able to work any more. What will be left for me? I'll simply be an inert vegetable, not doing much of anything. And, so i've been praying, please, please God, don't take work away from me!

And in the back of my head i hear, "God will take away whatever you love."

Another reason? Frankly, our pastor seems to have the concept of a bully God. Now, HE wouldn't say so, he would flatly deny it. But that is what comes thru to me when he preaches. It may very well be influenced by my childhood issues about the bully God, but that is often what i hear from him.

That is NOT what my head believes, but i think i'm still struggling with my heart. Believe me, i know how many manifold blessings Duane & i have. I think of them every day. I try to live with an attitude of gratitude today. And i've often thought of & prayed for Sara Frankl today as i know that each & every day she is in extreme pain. Yet, a piece of me still believes that God sends us where we do not want to go, to do what we do not want to do, to talk to people with whom we do not wish to speak, to in some way bring glory to him. And sometimes, yes i think it is true! But i do not believe that such things are intrinsic to the nature of God. I guess i just think that is the way things happen, sometime.

BTW, i ascribe to the explanation that Land of Shrimp posted in a comment a few weeks back:

Long, long ago my dad told me that God would not fix our earthly concerns, but we could turn to God for the support we needed, and the strength we needed to face our earthly concerns. Not fix them necessarily, but face them so that we could continue on.

That pretty much describes my belief, also. I do believe God does miracles & miraculous things happen from time to time, but over all things happen as they happen & God is available to us to support us thru them.

This has sure been a challenging day, however.



Land of shimp said...

I've been struggling to figure out what to say that might help. Your body hurts, it feels like a betrayal of good things. You're afraid of what will come. That's so understandable.

I struggled, and struggled. What would be the perfect thing to say? There isn't one.

But I struggled because I believe in your worth. I believe that even if your physical house breaks down, your spirit will find the way to continue on in ways you can't glimpse yet because we don't get to see the path ahead, we only see the road behind us, and under our feet. I believe that someone with a good heart, such as yourself, is worthy of good things but that we don't always get to choose the shape of those things.

I wanted to be able to hand that belief to you somehow. Make it solid. A package you could open and know the truth, and the reality of it.

I don't know how to do that, yet I believe it to be true. What your mother said, Kathryn, it wasn't even based on you. Yes, it was directed at you, but it came from her own narrow, very personal view of life.

My own mother is a strange and complicated person. I don't know her particularly well, I primarily grew up with my dad. She believed in motivating through criticism, that someone would become a better person if she reminded them (in this case, her two children) how flawed they were, constantly.

All it did was to create two people who lived in constant doubt, fear, and shame. She didn't mean to do that. She wanted to raise good, kind, considerate people. But the way she went about it was deeply flawed.

She once said to me, "You cannot hope to have a happy life, you can only hope for a life with the absence of unhappiness." ...and Kathryn, it was at that moment that I understood that she was quite simply wrong. Happiness is not something that comes to you via a UPS delivery. It was a stunning moment, I knew, absolutely knew in the core of my being that my mother was as incorrect as she could be. Wrong, the opposite of right.

Then I started to ask myself, what else was she wrong about? Was she wrong about me? Did I hear different things from every other person who met me? I did. I heard them constantly, yet I discounted them because, well, they must be wrong! This person who gave birth to me said I was deeply flawed, a disappointment. Never good enough. Surely, she must be right. Surely she must have some superior knowledge of me that the people who met me, interacted with me, and judged me to be something wholly different than her estimation. Right? No. She was, and is, a person who doesn't actually believe in happiness. Even if it is fleeting, transitory, anything. It's some deception, not to be trusted because it will leave. Good things are a fluke, but misery, well if you worked hard, you might dodge it. That was the world according to my mother.

And I mention all this because I think if you look at your own mother, and your parents in general, your family of origin, you will see something very similar. You will see that there are areas that you KNOW them to be wrong in. Absolutely, with every fiber of your being, you will have the resonating truth that ..."Hey, wait, that's just flat out wrong!"

I don't even think you'll have to look far. Man, I'm willing to wait, if it takes you five minutes to name a list of ten things you are certain they were wrong about, I'll be so surprised.

So don't believe that they were right about you. Look at their track record overall, not at what was pointed at you, look at them as a whole. Were they right about much? Because I'm getting the sense, they were not right.

Land of shimp said...

(and in an amusing turn of events, I went on so long that my comment has to be broken in to two parts, sorry!)

Part two:

They were wrong about you. These fallible, flawed people were just wrong about their estimation of you.

You know how I know that? It is very likely that I will never meet you, Kathryn. But I read your words here and I know you to be a good person, worthy of good in your life. You may not get to choose the shape of it, but we never do.

And if you are saying to yourself, "But you don't really know me." I know enough. I know you love your husband, I know you love your pets, I know you look at trees, and land and love them. I know that you give your time, and heart to your church, and the people in it.

I know you have love in you, and around you. I'm probably the last person to run around quoting the bible, although I've got a copy here, I was raised an Episcopal.

And here's what I remember from Sunday school: Corinthians 13. The greatest being love, right?

Maybe it feels like we lose the things we love because it opens more opportunities to love different things. More things throughout the course of our lifetime...but the thing is, we don't ever lose anything we love. Ever. We still love whatever it is whether or not it is in our presence, a solid thing in our lives.

I don't think love is actually about the package, the thing, the job. It's the act of loving and until we lose the love, we haven't lost anything other than the feeling of permanence. My Father-in-law was a much loved man, and he died in an accident six years ago. The love for him is still there in his family, they just no longer have Jerry there, to love him actively, in person. But the actual love continues.

I don't think we lose love, we lose the things we love from our immediate existence, in part simply because life moves, changes, and is transitory.

We have a person we love and think, "What will happen if I lose so and so!" So and so will not be there, and it will hurt, and the reason it hurts? Because the love remains.

So I don't think God takes away that which we love. We will lose everything, no thing, no person, no time or place is permanent. That is just life, ever moving, but we take the love with us and go forward.

I don't know if that will help, but I hope so :-) And I truly hope your body stops hurting very soon. This might sound flip, and I really don't mean it to, but an ice pack, a good book, a comfy blanket and a couch might help ease that for a bit. We need rest to heal.

Rest your body and spirit.