Pot Lucks, Trauma, and Relationship

What does trauma, pot lucks, and relationships have to do with each other?

In my world a lot. 

Advent tears

For so many years grief was an abstract concept. I was a  “Christian.” I didn’t acknowledge anxiety, depression, mental health… (sadly so many still don’t.)

I overcame.

When diagnosed with PTSD my response to the doctor was “That’s impossible, I have the peace that passes understanding!”

 After all, in our Christian cult if our prayers weren’t answered it was a lack of faith or disobedience for whatever sins we may have been involved in – and that covered a multitude – from owning a TV, to women wearing pants, to listening to secular or Christian rock, to reading books with any magic like C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, to being in debt for anything – ever – to… 

The list of don’ts was very long. The do’s were summed up quickly. 

Especially sinful was going to the “arm of the flesh” – the doctors, the lawyers, the insurance salesman. Psalm 91 was our “assurance policy.”

If you lacked faith to trust, you didn’t love God and He wouldn’t love you. It fed right into my perfectionist upbringing where nothing was ever quite right – not good enough, perfect enough. Too much ice. Not hot enough. You look like a slut in that shirt. 

“Perfect love casts out fear.” If we were afraid, we didn’t love God.

Fear, control, and manipulation is used far too often within church relationships, to persuade insecure people to confirm to what an individual person believes is truth.

When Micaiah died there were little comforting words of “I’m sorry.” Instead people wanted to know where we had “missed it.” It was their “truth.” 

When I finally started to pursue the long road of healing which began with recognizing we were in a cult, the emphasis of the trauma was placed upon on the loss of our son and traumatic circumstances surrounding his birth. Though I had common trauma reactions from the horrors of the birth, it took years to realize my trauma was spiritual abuse, not the birth. 

For an introvert, pot lucks are difficult enough – for a survivor of spiritual abuse – they scream conversation. 

“Pot luck” dinners are opportunities for relationships. 

Relationships that often judge and hold to expectations of what a Christian does or doesn’t do. Like church on Sundays.

Christians always go to church on Sunday.  (“Forsake not the assembling…” they said. “If you’re not in church, where are you? they said.” 

Relationships with people who have all the answers instead of simply loving silence. 

People who always have the last word because they know better how you should believe or feel.

The same platitudes and attitudes that had been present in the cult.  People are people.

After speaking at an event not long ago, I was told I couldn’t have been in a “Christian cult.“If it was a cult, it wasn’t Christian.” Therefore, I couldn’t have been a “Christian.”

I loved Jesus and had devoted my life to following him – enough to die for him. But I wasn’t a Christian because my theology was wrong.

Just recently someone who I called “friend,” someone whom I trusted enough to plead “please don’t go there it’s painful for me”  – someone who Dave also told to leave certain doctrines alone – a leader -felt the need to instruct me in my most painful place – again. We don’t communicate, we don’t have a relationship, but the last word was dished out without any thought to what had been shared in dark places of honest vulnerability.

I wish I was dead to this. I’m not. It’s like Paul’s thorn to me. I cry out for God to take this last piece of healing and deliver me so I can laugh and not cry. Instead he says, 

“My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

My pain enables me to remain silent with others who are suffering and suffer with them. 

 

Everyone who draws breath will be wounded and judged. It’s all part of this great journey we call life. The more visible you are, the worse it is.

It’s OK. We are in the company of all of humanity with Jesus as our  shining example of humble forgiveness.

 

Let it be. Agree to disagree. Choose to be silent.

It took a long time to realize that it’s the people not the birth that triggers a traumatic response. 

It was people who I trusted to mentor me in The Way of Life, who instead lead me – us –  to death. 

I was in a one sided abusive relationship with Jesus. God was not love – God was a judgmental jerk. He resembled judgmental humanity more than sinless perfection. 

For a short time, God provided a safe place to heal and be. Mature and kind leadership loved us. We could leave when it hurt, stay when it was safe, discuss our beliefs with mutual respect. It wasn’t based upon being in church on Sunday, tithing, Sunday school attendance, or meeting the expected belief system of that church leadership.

We could serve in our strengths, be used in our wounds, and accepted in our own, unique, divine story. 

The church is our battle zone. It’s where the music of worship can sound like bombs, the words of leadership whiz by like bullets, and the attitudes of people are a beheading.

For me, healing in community has been more therapy by immersion than by love. I want to call Dr. Leo Marvin and ask him for a copy of Baby Steps, instead of Bob’s, Death Therapy. 

We can’t be healed if we don’t know where the wounds are. 

People expose the wounds.

God heals.  

For Dave, his battle zone rages. Bullets whiz, bombs drop, sirens blare. Church is hard – really hard. It’s performance and failure, death and financial loss, expectations and damaged relationships – wrapped up in  “praise the Lord brother, God is good.”

For Dave, church is the tears my father cried when he returned to Normandy Beach after fighting on D-Day. Overwhelming reminders of pain, death, and friendships lost.

For those who love us, for those who know, they understand you’ll find us serving God out there. In the pain. In the loss. In the suffering.

It’s our sanctuary.

Where Dave goes, I go. When Dave leaves, I leave. My journey is to see him let go of the voice that says, “What kind of man lets his son die in a cult?” 

Love heals. 

 

My heart may continue to race when I am among the church; I may experience the stale smell of fear in the musty odor of basement pot lucks…

But I also smell redemption…

..in the kindness of the pastor who understands.         

A mom who grieves.

A father who has given his life to raise his family.

A refugee who has fled. 

In myself. 

In being who I am.

In who He is.

Love heals. 

 

Note: I would be remiss not to say that we have a few close friends and pastors who are “safe.” Dave has two. For me, a person who has always worn my heart on my sleeve – outside of blogging and writing I am stepping away from wounding relationships, becoming less trusting, and guarding my heart. For those who would question that attitude as healing – Jesus only had 12 he trusted, and among those there still was a betrayer.

Shalom

 

 

God’s Will: When You’re Straining to Hear His Voice

It’s in those moments when you need answers – real answers. Not the prayers that we toss out in gratitude and thankfulness, or the ones that sail on a breeze as we converse with Jesus over the every day issues of life. Not the chatting. Not even the pleading when life is dark and we can’t hear, see, or feel a glimpse of God.

blue flowers

It’s when your waiting to hear his voice about the decisions in life that matter, but you’ve settled into into living in the now and not yet so every moment is a moment for God. And yet it’s there. Haunting your thoughts. What do I do Lord? Where do I go? How? When? Is it you Lord? Is it you?

Here I am Lord send me. 

Here I am Lord. I’m listening. 

The decisions – the big ones. The moves, the missions, the jobs, the ones that change your life as God changes your heart to pursue his will.

The will decisions.

What is your will for my life, right now, in this moment of time that will affect many, many, future moments, and an equal amount of relationships and some of their moments.

We were away for a few weeks attending to some business, visiting some family, witnessing our son graduate from basic training. We had made all the decisions before we went… where to stay so as to make a completely non-affordable trip affordable, how to travel… drive to there…fly to here…fly back there…more driving. Almost every carefully thought out plan was upended as we arrived. 

Did you pray about it?

(Gosh, I hate when people ask that. First, it can sound really self-righteous, second most of the time you are asking someone that would have prayed, third, “delight yourself in the Lord and he’ll give you the desires of your heart…” When we are in daily communion with the Holy Spirit his presence in always seeking, always listening, always intervening, but we live in a fallen world. Things happen. Last but not least, if someone hasn’t prayed, you are insinuating that is why bad things are happening!  Living in communion is prayer. But I digress.)

Life is about choices and many if not most of the choices we make, we listen to the spirit’s guidance and hope we are interpreting what we think we are hearing correctly. Communication between two humans can be difficult enough – communication with God has a certain amount of guess work combined with a large dose of faith.

I’ve had those moments of almost audible prophecy (that came to pass) and absolute assurance, but most of the time it is that gut feeling. An inner knowing that He is with me in the decisions, even if I am still not sure my decision has heavenly origins.

Our relationship with God is not based upon being in His will, but in being in him.

Being in Him is being in His will.

It is being sold out to follow Jesus despite the costs, despite the pain, despite the struggles. It is living in the place where He is the first thing we think of when we wake up in the morning and the last One we think of when we lie down at night. It is when our life is so intertwined in His that “we live and move and have our being” is more than a religious platitude, but the savor of His divine breath mingled with our own.

It is when we cease to look to God to fulfill our every need, purpose, and desire, but allow ourselves to be fully seen and known in naked vulnerability and brokenness.

It’s when we understand that just like a baby, newly birthed, smelling of life and love, nestled safely in the arms of her mother – His delight is right there – in that moment, in that vulnerability, in that helplessness, in that inner cry of innocence.

baby

We are fully His, and His delight is in loving us. 

That is His will for us, and in us. Pure innocent love. Pure innocent trust. Not straining to hear His voice. Not striving to do His will.

Not asking for anything, but trusting in everything. Not striving for results, but resting in relationship. Not anxious in seeking, but content in being.

His voice is the voice of Love. His will is the will of being.

His grace is sufficient.