‘Cause I’m Broken When I’m Open

I have written a post on my other blog that fits with what I was trying to do with this space. I invite you to join me in my other online home.

When Grief is Messy

 

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Closing Time

I’m thinking of closing this blog. I had great aspirations of sharing my journey here and realized that I have another blog that also shares my journey. And a blog under my fiction pseudonym. And another blog I forget I even have that was more a private journal of thoughts and dreams. I’m overloaded and need to streamline.

I wanted to be a little anonymous here, so I could talk about family and dysfunction without worrying about family stumbling upon this space and disowning me for sharing the darker side. Part of me still wants that. At the same time if  Claire and I can get our acts together enough to actually write the book we’ve been discussing for the last year, all of this will be public anyway.

So I’m thinking of closing this blog and directing everyone to my other blog. My journey blog. The blog I’ve been writing in 2006. The place that feels more home than this blog ever has. I’ve paid for this domain for another year, so I have time to decide what to do with this little space.

If I move to my other blog and stop blogging here, will you join me? Will you make the leap to a different space?

Will you follow me there?

If you do, know that I will try to be as honest and open there as I have attempted to be here. I will talk about all the things I have talked about here. I will invite you in to my little corner of the world, have you sit in the comfy chair, serve you tea (or beverage of choice) and a gluten free muffin. We will converse together about the vagaries of life. We will share triumphs and losses. We will live and we will learn.

Will you join me? Will you come over to http://chasinginspiration.blogspot.com?

I hope you will. I’ll be looking for you.

Age of Consent

vosges mist

I’ve been thinking a lot about consent lately. What it is. What it isn’t. And how this fits into my world view. I’m not just talking about consent in sexual relationships, though consent is a HUGE part of sexual relationships. From the one night stand to the committed monogamous relationship. Without consent, enthusiastic consent, sexual partnerings are not equal. Ever. Consent goes deeper than sex. It should be a part of the very fabric of our lives. Which is why I’ve been thinking about it so much these days.

I’m a Christian. I’m learning that I’m a very strange breed of Christian. I believe in love. And acceptance. And inclusion. I don’t believe I have all the answers. The Bible is not to be taken literally in all cases. God gave us free will and expects us to actually use it. I believe in ethics before theology. I think sin is overused as a focus for faith. And seriously, why should we be focusing on sin and hell when God is all about life? I’m not sure I even believe in hell. And I’m not 100% sure that Jesus died for my sin. Or of how the concept of the trinity really fits into the foundations of Christianity, which is first century Judaism. I disagree with the religious right. And I wish the United States would get back to separation of church and state because this entire policing morality shit is really messing us up.

I question things. A lot. And I’m okay with not having a definitive answer. I am not okay with doing harm. I don’t consider myself messed up, backslidden, or apostate. I consider myself a person trying to do the best she can in this world.

What has this got to do with consent? In one of my daily excavations of the internet I link clicked myself to a blog post by a wonderful woman who for reasons of her own has deconverted. Her post centers around consent and the fact that Western Christianity has a consent problem.

This makes me sad. Not because this woman experienced a lack of consent through her fundamentalist upbringing. That makes me angry, actually. That faith was used to beat submission into her. That it’s used to tear away a person’s right to belong to themselves. That is abusive and wrong on oh so many levels. And I know it happens in almost every denomination from the fundamentalist conservative right to the liberal left.

While her experience make me furious, what made me sad was that she’s so very right. And this is part of what’s so very wrong within Western Christianity.

Think about it. Do Christians ask permission before they evangelize or proselytize? Do we teach our women to submit to their husbands because for some strange reason men just know better than us women? Or are less emotional?  Do we teach that emotions aren’t to be trusted? That we belong to God and therefore aren’t entitled to live our own lives? That we should be holding each other accountable whether or not we have been invited into each other’s lives? That boundaries don’t belong in a community of believers because we are one big happy family?  That saying no to a request from a sister or brother in Christ is just…wrong?

Do we expect everyone around us to live life according to our rules? To never question authority? That women don’t really have dominion over our own bodies? That men are to be held to a different set of standards because there are apparently different rules? That there is no room for other religions, philosophies, points of view because whichever brand of Christianity we belong to is obviously the right one? Is there room in heaven for those who do not comply with our particular brand of faith?

In general, no. And this makes me sad. For us. For everyone else. Because aren’t we supposed to be different? Safe? Non-judging? Inclusive? Compassionate? Loving? When people start telling us we aren’t, there’s a problem. A huge problem. And some of it comes down to what we teach , or don’t teach, about consent.

I can’t speak for all Christians. I can only speak for myself. Consent wasn’t in any of the lesson plans in the curriculum of my faith. I was presented with a lot of mixed messages about a lot of things, which lead me to believe that no one denomination has it right. That no person has all the answers. That maybe there are many ways to interpret the bible. And many ways to live life.

In every church I have attended consent has rarely been a topic of sermons or conversation. Respect, sure. Honoring the autonomy of others, sometimes. But consent? Never. Submission, oh yes. Submission to parents, to authority figures, to husbands, to God – this has been preached and taught in spades. But consent? Not so much. Without consent, well, I’m not really an individual, am I? Without consent one doesn’t have to worry about things like rights. Or questioning authority. Or questioning at all.

I want to be different. I want to be a Christian who cares about consent, respect, and honoring the autonomy of others. I want to help build a community that is all about love and inclusion. I want to honor the individual for all that is unique and wondrous about her. I want to be a safe person and live in an environment that is safe for every person, every gender, every race, every faith system. I want to enter into your hopes and joys and fears. But only if you give me the consent to do so. It’s not my right to tell anyone how to live, how to love, or how to believe. It is not my right to judge.

I want to apologize to every person who has been hurt because someone didn’t honor your right to be yourself. Because someone took away your consent. Or imposed their world view upon you. I’m so sorry. What can I do to be different? To be safer for you? I can’t change the rest of Western Christianity, but I can change myself.

Photograph by David Penny

 

 

 

I Need You to Need Me

Actions have consequences. In scientific terms, this is cause and effect. Effects aren’t evil. They don’t have intent. They just are. There are natural consequences to everything. Some are easy to understand. Touch a hot pot, burn your hand. Combine bleach and ammonia, create a noxious gas cloud that could kill you. Throw a ball for the neighbor’s dog, gain a friend for life. Pinch your younger brother, draw the wrath of your mother. Even if he started it.

Sometimes the consequences aren’t what one anticipates. This usually occurs with people. My cousin was often quite mean to me when we would visit. He was only two years older but would act like there was a ten year gap between us. One day he was teasing me, calling me a baby. And then he dropped the gauntlet. There was no way I could complete a “highly” complicated Star Wars Rebel Fighter out of LEGO. I was just a girl. And a baby at that. Really, my friend? You’re going to challenge me to a task that married two of my greatest loves at the time – LEGO and Star Wars? You bet I handed him his ass. I was expecting my cousin to act the way my brother would whenever I bested him: to pout, call me names, and break apart the Lego creation. Instead my cousin looked at my Rebel Fighter with respect and invited me to play with all of his Star Wars Lego sets. We remain friendly to this day.

Sometimes consequences are confusing. They don’t seem to fit the situation, or the consequence comes in two parts that appear to negate each other. I remember one day I stood up to my brother’s bully. Sure, I got punished for punching the girl’s face, but I was also rewarded with praise for standing against those who wished to do harm. The message I learned? Hand someone their ass but don’t get caught doing it. The intended message? I’m fairly certain my parents meant for me to learn that standing against injustice is good, but there are ways to do so that do not involve violence.

I have a friend who loves her boyfriend so much she would do anything for him. She wants to take care of him to the point I start to feel smothered on his behalf. He is very independent and hasn’t had the best luck with girlfriends in the past. It’s not that he isn’t willing to share his life with my friend. He is very open and kind. But he doesn’t want her to take care of him. On a rare occasion where he and I went out for coffee without my friend, he told me his perfect relationship was with someone who wanted to be with him, not someone who wanted to be needed. In his mind, need was a slippery slope to inequity and losing one’s self. Wouldn’t it be better, he argued, to be with someone who doesn’t need you, who chooses to be with you because they love you. They want you. Out of all the people in the world they choose you.

I thought about this as it applies to action and consequences, trying to map out the logic of how this young man felt. There are far more potential consequences when dealing with people. Unlike the science experiments we had in high school, people can be unpredictable and the consequences may not be what we expect, therefore it is almost impossible to create a logic tree that includes all potential outcomes. But I had to give it a try. I wanted to understand.

So I asked him, that if a woman has a strong desire to take care of her boyfriend/spouse and is motivated by a need to be needed, what might be some possible consequences of this action. Together we came up with three:

  1. She could develop a codependent relationship with the boyfriend and be set up to play the role of caregiver throughout the life of their relationship, which could lead to resentment and inequity on both sides
  2. He could push her away or end the relationship because he doesn’t want to be the object of need for another
  3. By doing for him or taking care of him, she could be denying them both opportunities to grow into their human potential

These are by no means the only consequences that could be experienced, but they were the ones that were foremost on this young man’s mind. So why these consequences in this situation? He looked up at me and told me that his mother took care of his father. She anticipated all his needs and desire. Her life was about him. She often said she was nothing without him. And his dad? He once shared with his son that he felt smothered at home, which was why he often had “business trips” out-of-town. He didn’t want to be his wife’s sole focus. He wanted her to have a life that was rich and rounded. He wanted the same for himself. He felt trapped.

So this young man watched and learned and went to therapy to start to figure out what a healthy relationship looked like, because his parents’ relationship seemed to be one of the many opposites of healthy. One of his conclusions was that he didn’t want to be needed and he didn’t want to need. He recognized this as an extreme view and acknowledged that over the lifetime of a relationship there is give and take. But he didn’t want the foundation to because of need. It had to be choice.

My friend wants to take care of her boyfriend because that is the model she learned. You show someone you love them by taking care of them. She didn’t realize her family of origin had some serious codependency and caretaking issues. She didn’t know how dangerous these things could be to one’s health and wellbeing. The good news is that she is open to discussion and willing to see another point of view. She is willing to learn. This may lead her to therapy where she can begin to learn examples of a healthy adult relationship and gain the language and skills she may need to build her own.

Her new actions will have new and fascinating consequences. This is the process of growing toward our better selves. Beliefs lead to choices. Choices lead to behaviors and actions. Actions lead to consequences (or results) that lead back to beliefs and choices. I wish these two the best as they walk their relational journey together.

Human relationships are so messy sometimes. At the end of the day, we have to do the best we can with what we know and be willing to learn and grow. Sometimes growing means saying good-bye to beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve us. Sometimes it means learning that what we think is healthy is actually maladaptive behavior that is hurting instead of helping. Sometimes it means there will be pain in the process. Ultimately it means we become closer to that better version of ourselves we are striving to be.

Knowing and Believing

For years God has been trying to get my attention regarding some specific weeds that are choking the life out of my spiritual garden. For years I’ve either dismissed Him or haven’t been listening for Him, and the weeds have been allowed to continue to grow and flourish. But God is full of second, third, tenth chances and this time I heard the message loud and clear. Maybe it’s because Claire and I spent some time last year doing some work that humbled me while at the same time preparing the ground. Maybe it’s because I’m not currently working and have nothing but time right now to talk with God. Maybe it’s also because God has a quirky sense of humor and decided to use a deceptively simple line of dialogue from one of my favorite fictional novels to drive His point home. Either way, as I was laying in bed rereading some of my favorite scenes, this line set off a clanging in my head complete with noisemakers and flashing lights.

Knowing isn’t always believing.

Deceptively simple, isn’t it? In the context of the story, the line is meant to point out that knowing something intellectually doesn’t equate believing it, of trusting it to be true. In the case of the book, the heroine knows she wasn’t responsible for the death of her fiancè, even believes it most of the time. She knows she doesn’t have to carry her burden alone, doesn’t need to protect her loved ones and friends from the trauma of her life, but her current actions point to knowledge with a lack of belief. Knowing without believing.

As I was reading this exchange, the proverbial light bulb when on in my head – I know many things about God, about His nature, about what He says He wants for us and His immense love for us. I know about the Holy Spirit, the Trinity. I KNOW and I fully believe this deep love of God, the relationship with the Holy Spirit, the redemptive love of Jesus…for other people. I only believe some of it for me. When I told Claire of my revelation, one I’m sure she had already deduced, she asked me one question that I’m still mulling. Do I know why I don’t have expectation?

What a good question. I’ve been sitting on that question for a long while and all I can think of is that deep down I’m not sure I’m worthy. And deeper down I’m afraid that all this goodness of God will be snatched away and I will be left broken and bleeding, alone and cold and that voice in my head that tells me that people like me, people from my family, good things just don’t happen for us, that this voice will be right. I’m not at the bottom of why I don’t have these expectations. There’s something else there, something that flirts with the edges of my conscious mind and disappears when I try to focus on it. The thing is, now I’m angry. I should be able to expect good things. God didn’t say He loved only some people. He loves the world. Every. Damn. One. Of. Us. Just look at the oft quoted verse that we all love for it’s validation that we are special to God but seem to forget when we interact with Him and with everyone else.

God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.John 3:16, Amplified Bible (AMP)

If this love is mine, why shouldn’t I have expectations of God? Why shouldn’t I want something different, something more from my life? Why should I simply know and not believe? Claire once told me that she holds God to His promises. She actively reminds Him of what He promised and let’s Him know in no uncertain terms that she EXPECTS Him to fulfill them. She may not know what that fulfillment looks like, but God promised and He must follow through.

I admire that in Claire. That chutzpah. I have stood before God and held Him to the promises He has made other people. I haven’t done that for myself. It never felt right before, but lately knowledge and belief have been merging. My husband and I spent a long weekend at a lake a few hours from our home. While he was out chopping firewood,  I stood at the water’s edge and I argued with God. At first, tentatively. Who was I to engage the Creator of the Universe in such an irreverent way? I’m His daughter, that’s who. And daughters argue with fathers, even while they love and adore them. My conversation became more intense. I reminded God of some of the promises He spoke to me. I told Him I didn’t see the outcome of these promises in my life. I demanded He remember these promises, the same way He remembered His promises to Israel. I have been trying to uphold my part, now I need to see Him uphold His. I expect Him to uphold His.

I don’t know what my future will look like. But I know, I believe it has to be better than it is now. I have an expectation.