Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's almost enough to make me believe in God

My daughter's honeymoon hotel room.
A few months ago I got a nasty message from a blog reader, which informed me that I was a hypocrite and that they were done with me. It was anonymous, of course. It was interesting, because it was written in an Irish brogue of sorts. I have to wonder, is this a version of putting on a fake voice and accent when making an obscene phone call? Seriously, if someone wants to say something like that and they believe they are right, they should have the courage to put their name to it. Nasty anonymous comments are just cowardly.

I honestly can't remember everything that this anonymous person said, but one thing really stood out. They said that I was a hypocrite because I allowed fornication to take place under my roof. It is a fact that two of my adult children had their significant others living with them in my home. It had been a long-term situation, pre-dating my Christianity. I had known there there would be those who would be judgmental about it, but most Christians I knew were so loving that it just slipped my mind.

One of the most disturbing things about this anonymous message is that it must have come from someone who knows me, or my children, pretty well. It isn't as though I went around writing about these things. It is always disturbing when you find yourself in a position of looking around you, wondering which smiling face is actually throwing knives at your back.

At any rate, I decided to talk to a couple of my pastors about it. There were two churches I attended, and so I had a few pastors in my life. While neither of them accused me of being a hypocrite, turns out they both agreed with the anonymous comment, and both encouraged me to enforce different living arrangements for my kids. By the time I spoke to Pastor Matt, a couple of weeks had passed since my conversation with the first pastor, and you know, I had prayed about the matter, and I was absolutely convinced that God was not telling me to take matters into my own hands and lay down the law. I had made an appointment to speak to Pastor Matt because I was serving on the prayer team at the church, and while it was okay if someone wanted to judge me, it wasn't okay if I brought that judgment on the church. So I decided I should tell him and volunteer to step down from my position on the prayer team. He was very nice, and did make several suggestions for things I could do, but I told him no, that this was not what I thought God wanted. I told both the pastors that if God had a problem with the situation then God was perfectly capable of handling it.

In the meantime, I honestly did feel rejected. I am not saying that I was, just that I felt that way. And that opened the crack wide enough for me to start reflecting on all the questions and doubts I already harbored about my faith. I am all for the God of Love, but I had an awful lot of problems with the God of Judgment. This is nothing new. I have written about it many times. And I started bringing it up again then. I think people thought I posted things for the purpose of challenging their faith, but in all honestly I posted questions looking for answers, although by now I should know that those answers don't exist. At any rate, I ended up walking away once again.

Meanwhile, within a matter of weeks after these discussions, one of my kids and his significant other (1) got engaged and started planning a wedding for next year, then (2) got a place of their own and moved out of my house, and then (3) decided they didn't want to wait for a year and do a big wedding and are getting married next month instead.

My other child I also expected to marry her significant other, but didn't really think it would happen in the near future. They too were talking about 2016. But funny enough, there was a surprise pregnancy, and they decided to get married before that got too far advanced. They actually just celebrated their two-month wedding anniversary yesterday.

So I'm sitting around thinking, huh. I haven't spoken to either pastors for a long time, and one left me with the impression that he thought I was arrogant because I put my thoughts above God's or some such thing. The whole entire thing felt to me that "church rules" were being placed over what I absolutely believed God was saying to me, and over what I thought was the loving response. And a part of me wants to say, "I told you so. I told you that if God had a problem with it then he would deal with it. And he did, pretty quickly." The problem with this is that it would have to imply that they were right, that God is who they say he is, and that he actually did think that this situation needed to change, and well, I don't really agree with that anymore. I have rejected the Judgmental God. I have rejected the "narrow path." I have not rejected God, although I struggle with maintaining a relationship with him. It is difficult to have a relationship with someone you don't know, after all. If God is not the God of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, of Joshua, of Paul, then who is he? I know of some local churches I could attend, but you know, I have read The Book, and all those things I don't like are in it. So on what do those other churches base their faith? Maybe one day I will venture forth and find out. In the meantime, Sunday is the first day of my weekend, and Sunday morning is the ideal time for me to get my house cleaning done.

As for the coincidences and synchronicities in my life and my children's? I think it is probably God, first confirming that what I had heard was not wrong, and second just saying, this is creating a problem for Sharon with others, so let's fix it.

I came to the conclusion that I am a waste of time for those Christians who really wanted to nurture my faith. Most of them are gone now, and I miss them, but really and truly how many times do we need to go through this? When I started asking those questions again, one of my pastors said, "Do we have to dance this dance again?" And I replied, "I guess it is just mine to dance." He left me then, and I danced alone for a bit and then wandered off, to explore the universe in its amazing vastness.

I have flip flopped on this often enough that I feel I must have managed to alienate people on both sides of the issue. So if you are with me still, I have to thank you. You can't trust me perhaps. If I tell you I know the truth, you will know that next month the truth I know may have changed. But there are a couple of things I can tell you. I am not a hypocrite. I am absolutely and totally sincere, and I am in sincere pursuit of something that I suspect may be just beyond our grasp, and that is The Truth. Maybe it is impossible for us to know what the absolute truth is. We can just do the best we can.

But it matters not. Let me confess. I DO NOT KNOW THE TRUTH. In the end, maybe I don't really have to. I just need to try to live in the best way that I can. And that requires LOVE for all, always and especially my children.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Lots of feels

It is 6:30 in the morning on my day off work, and I am here, awake. I have a lot of feelings inside me and I am sitting here with tears in my throat and in my eyes, longing just to be able to write my feelings down and push them off into the world. Like the words from the Anna Nalick song, "2 a.m. and I'm still awake, writing a song. If I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to." But maybe I just really don't have the courage. One day I swear I am going to write my novel so I can say all the things I cannot say, turn loose all the feelings inside of me.

Half of the feelings I feel are vapors in the wind anyway. As I sat here at my desk, I watched a cloud outside my window. For a moment it was the stunningly clear face of a pitbull terrier. But in seconds it morphed, first into a kitty, and then on to several indistinct stages on its way to becoming the blank cloudbank that it is at this moment. And that happens so often with problems. You have a dagger in the heart, but then it dissolves and is gone, unless you happened to put it into writing or other communication where it becomes immortalized, or kind of. For me, writing and getting things out is cathartic, but the problem is that when you get things outside yourself sometimes they take up residence in others, and become things totally other, and totally beyond your control at all. Things that are minor can come to define you.

The other thing about writing is that often it helps me to figure out just exactly what it is that is hurting. Like right now. The immediate cause of my distress is that my daughter, who is 18 weeks pregnant, was experiencing anxiety this morning at 4-something. I woke up. Presumably she has gone to sleep and I am still awake. This anxiety, this problem, will probably dissolve when the winds shift. But in me it stirs something far deeper. Whether large or small, my child is suffering, and I am powerless to alleviate the suffering. I can, and do, talk my head off in an attempt to fix things, but honestly sometimes I know that just makes it worse. That's the other dangerous thing about words. For some reason the same words can mean completely different things to other people. She is anxious, so in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety, I employ the analytical mode, trying to explain why the problem is not quite as bad as it feels, and/or how to avoid problems in the future. This works well for me, but my daughter is in emotional mode, and she absorbs those words completely differently, internalizes them as criticism, which they are not intended to be.

Emotions. Sometimes you just have to get control of them. I remember in the second year after Michaela was kidnapped, I just felt angry, and it finally dawned on me that my anger was nothing more than sorrow that I had turned inside out and thrown outside myself because that was easier than feeling the sorrow. That was a big thing. But the same thing happens with the little things. We feel pierced by that dagger, which would probably dissolve in a minute, an hour, a day, unless we let that sorrow become anger and let it out into the world where it will inevitably cause more hurt. I personally have counted the cost and decided it is not worth it. That means I end up with a lot of feelings that get bottled up inside. Perhaps I need to find another means to transform and express them, through something more positive than getting angry. There are a lot of things that never ever get resolved, because I don't speak of them. In the end I guess I don't trust that they would get resolved if I did.

This child, the one whose anxiety woke me in the early hours today, was born five years after Michaela was kidnapped. One of my strong memories is from when she was a little baby, and she was crying. I picked her up and held her and said, "It's okay. Mommy is here. Mommy will take care of you." I was reassuring her from my heart with every intention of making everything right, of keeping her safe and protected and not letting anything hurt her. But in that moment I was flooded with the knowledge of the truth, that this was a lie. It was a promise I could not make. I had said the same sort of thing to Michaela, but in the end I had not been able to protect her. She suffered the most brutal fear, grief and pain, and there was not a single goddamned frickin thing I was able to do to prevent that, or to save her from it once she was in its clutches. I completely and totally failed her.

And I have completely and totally failed all my children. It hasn't been as dramatic as it has been with Michaela. The daggers that have pierced them have been the kind that mostly dissolve in time. But they have all suffered grief and sorrow, and there is not anything I can do about it. I have made midnight trips to the grocery store for chocolate, taken them for manicures, sat and listened, hugged and cried. But the only way I could actually have prevented my children from being hurt was if I had taught them not to love. Jobs, money, those things all can cause stress, but only love can pierce the heart, and it can pierce deep and hard and leave shards that don't ever completely go away. I know, because I have them myself.

My daughter and her husband, they are happy and excited about the baby they are having. But they have feelings inside them that perhaps they don't even understand. Do they understand the huge vulnerability they are being drawn into? They are both smart kids, and they are both very self-aware, smart, imaginative and creative, so maybe they do. Or maybe it is just a vague sense of unease. I know that as they have thought about their child, they have been drawn to look back on their own childhoods. In doing so, they have encountered the things that hurt them. They think, they hope, that these things will be different for their child, that their son won't encounter the cruelty of other kids, for example. But somewhere deep inside, as they consider their own hurts, they may be coming to realize that those things are going to hurt even more if they happen to their child than they did when they happened to them. I looked it up this morning, that quote that I just kind of know. I discovered it has a source, author Elizabeth Stone. It is, "Making the decision to have a child -- it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."

Well, I guess I am kind of placing my own thing into other people's minds here. I think it is valid to a point. But really it's my own point. For me, it is magnified, because it triggers that deep sorrow of not being able to save Michaela from suffering. But the fact is, I can't save any of my children. I can't make any of them happy. I can't protect any of them from hurt. I can just hope that they have the emotional wisdom to live well.

To you, Michaela, I just want to say that am so sorry that I was not able to protect you from harm, that I was not able to save you. Wherever you have been, whatever you have been through, I just hope that you have been able to feel always that love that is beyond life and death, there in your heart, forever.