Thursday, February 17, 2011

imperfect prose: a year later, light

One year ago this week (Valentine's Day, to be exact), I made the fateful decision to leave Brian behind for the weekend and take the kids to Philadelphia to visit our adorable nieces and nephews (plus their parents, of course).  I did not realize, of course, that while the women in my family were baking pink and chocolate cupcakes and while the kids were sledding in the backyard, I'd go into a full-blown gall bladder attack.  And by the next morning, I'd be in surgery.  

So many people loved me through the process and through the recovery.  I could have been relaxing in the love of friends and family; instead, the luxury of receiving unmerited kindness was almost killing me.  I'm not sure why I never posted this entry -- it's been sitting in my draft file all year.

I think it's now ready for the light of day.

sister and sister-in-law making the Valentine's cake I never ate

February 28, 2010 Journal Entry

I can't even believe how overwhelmed I am with life. I feel like I'm going to die. I have digressed to the place where I feel like every person is my Enemy. That everyone is lying to me and unable to tell me the truth or love me for more that their own gain. I am so damaged.   Even kindness feels like a slap in the face. Actually that should read: Especially kindness feels like a slap in the face.

In so much of my experience, kindness was the 1 in a 1-2 punch. It makes me nervous all this kindness. All these words of care and well-wishing. All these phone calls "just checking on you."  My experience tells me this is a bunch of b.s.

I don't believe a word of it.

I hear: Aren't you better yet?  When are you going to get off your lazy ass and start producing again?  When are you going to stop lapping up all this good will like a baby and start being a good-will dispenser again?

The kicker is that I thought I'd moved past this, had outgrown this kind of paranoid paralysis. but maybe I've just been reinventing a more sophisticated mask.

I don't know, but I'm not sure how I'm going to get out of it this time.  I feel like I've already used up my 9 lives of second chances at emotional health.  When do I finally get disqualified for normal living in community and ministry? For that matter, when do I finally get diagnosed as mentally unstable?  Because these are not sane thoughts.

I feel angry that people tell me I should be patient with this recovery but, it seems true to me that when I don't meet their expectations, I'll be called out.  So I'm having a hard time believing this advice.  This includes my own children.  I'm wondering what kind of wounding is happening to them now while I'ms so physically and emotionally absent.  What episodes am I going to hear about one month, one year, ten years from now?  These are not questions pulled out of thin air.  I have proof.  Lists of evidence of those who have shown kindness with one hand and followed it up with violation with the other.  I have shameful tales of violation that can not be told in this space.

God, it does not feel like your grace is sufficient for me.  Why do I believe it to be for everyone else and not for me? Help me Father, Jesus, Spirit.

And help comes in the question:  Am I suspicious about the same issues in other people?

Yes. I think I am.  So the mix-up is in me.  The anger I'm feeling from the offerings of good gifts is not about the givers at all, it's pointed toward me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I am a wounded wounder.  I want to be a wounded healer.

gorgeous get-well flowers from a friend

And the Word makes me new one more time.
I Peter 3:13 - 21:  13. Now who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?
HA!  Is this a rhetorical question?  Do you really want a list?  My experience tells me that the more good I purpose to do the more people will want to harm me.
14.  But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't worry or be afraid of their threats.
I look up commentary. I need help.   Wesley says about verse 14, "But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye; and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.  The very words of the Septuagint, "Let not that fear be in you which the wicked feel."  Fear ye not their fear.
Isaiah 8:12,13:  Don't call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don't live in a dread of what frightens them. Make the LORD of Heaven's Armies holy in your life.  He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.
Looking through the various translations, I stop short with the NASB: It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And he shall be your fear, and he shall be your dread.
15. Instead you must worship Christ as Lord of your life and if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.  16.  But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
Wesley admonishes about verse 15 (maybe it's not admonishment but I always picture him delivering words with a stern frown on his face) that we have a filial fear of offending God and a suspicion about ourselves lest we speak amiss.  Ironically, it seems, a true fear of God lets the rest of us off the hook in the fear and suspicion of each other department.
17. Remember it is better to suffer for doing good if that is what God wants than to suffer for doing wrong.
Why does this statement from Peter feel patronizing?  Out of all people, he should know about suffering for both good and wrong, shouldn't he?  The problem is that I feel like it is impossible to know if I am wrong or right about anything.  Who has that kind of confidence?  Again I can produce a list, times I fought for what I thought was right only to discover I was wrong.  I have layers of shame leftover from these times.  So how can I know if I'm suffering for doing good or wrong?? How can anyone know?? Even if our deeds are purely good and adequate and competent and timely (and, really, how often is that?) what about our motives?  As soon as I'm aware that I'm doing good, pride kicks in -- along with self-righteousness and pretty soon someone or something will be sent to humble me.  So is that suffering for doing what is right? I'm not sure I've ever done anything good, ever.

It occurs to me now that most of my life is spent feeling the same thing about other people.  Questioning their motives, scorning their attempts at doing good.  And I'm not just talking about individual people, but whole movements of people.  Like the Baptists, for example.

Epilogue, February 2011
I never finished the post.  That's where it stopped.  Apparently, I became so convicted about judging the good Baptist folk, I couldn't go on?  Maybe I was ashamed gushing the violent feelings attached to relatively minor surgery.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I'm grateful to say that I've grown a lot in this past year.  Gotten off my sick-bed of self-hatred, bitterness, fear, self-righteousness and have begun to walk into a new day of relational and emotional and physical health.  It sure feels good to be breathing the free air again.

It's God's kindness that leads to repentance.  In this experience, recovering from surgery, I think God showed his kindness as bubbling-warm casseroles, jewel-soft flower arrangements, timid voices questioning "how are you doing?" on the other side of the phone.  God used all those good deeds in my life to speak to me, a living word, a good-intentioned scalpel to slit into the festering places rotting up my soul.

 I bless the Christ of God;
I rest on love divine;

And with unfaltering lip and heart,

I call this Savior mine.

His cross dispels each doubt,
I bury in His tomb
My unbelief,
And all my fear, 
Each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace,

I trust His truth and might
He calls me His, I call Him mine,
My God, my joy, my light
’Tis He Who saveth me,
And freely pardon gives
I love because
He loveth me,
I live because He lives!

Linking up with Em this Thursday.

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