Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trusting, healing, and learning to let go

As I have reviewed a number of posts here, I have realized that I am very critical of the church. I feel I have the right to question the things that I see the majority of Christians doing that bug me to no end; things that make me frustrated, sad, and even a bit cynical. I have used this blog many times as a platform for trying to appeal to my fellow Christians (including myself) to rethink the way we operate; to operate more in love, acceptance, and tolerance, and less in judgment, condemnation, and narrow-mindedness. I feel its important to get people thinking, especially about the things I just don't see as right or just. But I am realizing that maybe its less of a call to action for others, and more my subconscious way of venting my anger over past hurts, and trying to let go of my distrust in little bits and pieces.

For a number of years, I attended a church that, ultimately, left me feeling battered and bruised. I know many people who still attend that church who love it and feel at home there. I often wonder why we've had such different experiences while sitting in the same auditorium, listening to the same sermons. But I never find any answer that makes any sense.

I was worn down by the attitudes and words of a number of church members. Ones who wouldn't come through for me. Ones who didn't care when I was going through trials, or worse, would kick me when I was down. Ones that scrutinized everything I did and thought that was different. Ones that got so caught up in the hope of the Rapture, that they forgot about the hurting people around them, including those within their own church. Ones that were so set in their own principles and legalism that they hurt those with "flaws." Ones who condemned those with depression, and especially those on antidepressants. Ones who criticized those who chose not to spank their children for every transgression. Ones who tried to minimize the challenges and difficulties of those going through their own or a family member's addictions. And unfortunately, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

My desire to serve was constantly road-blocked seemingly because my husband wasn't an elder or deacon, and it was sometimes implied that I wasn't "as holy" as other women in the church, and therefore unfit to serve. Things were said by leaders, both to me, and from the pulpit, that were soul-crushing to me. Actions by others in the church only served to make me feel alienated and unloved by them as a community.

I finally left that church when I just couldn't take feeling any more beat down, and didn't find a home church again for 4 1/2 years...because I wasn't interested in really looking. (I, not we, left the church. One day I just refused to go anymore. My husband, while understanding of my pain, didn't feel the same way about the church that I did. I know rebellion was probably the wrong response, and I regret that it eventually took my entire family out of church for a few years, but I had to do something because I was dying inside.)

I hate to bag on that church - a lot of good has come out that church, too. It just didn't for me. But for the sake of this blog - one that I hope helps someone, somewhere out there - I need to be honest about the things I experienced. I can't say that its an abusive church, but I am fairly sure I was abused by that church. And I do know for a fact I am not the only one. (I have talked to a few other people who suffered similar hurts and feel the same as I do.)

Recently, I have been going through some really challenging personal issues. (That not many people know about, and I like it that way.) These are serious issues, with serious implications no matter which direction I choose to move in. And some actions I may take could cause me to be harshly judged and condemned.

But there is a silver lining. And a pretty bright one at that.

The church I now attend has been so much more supportive of me. Because of my past experiences, at first, when the pastor reached out to me and sent me a request on Facebook just weeks after I started regularly attending that church, I was absolutely terrified. I left his request in my inbox for close to a week before I finally decided to take a chance. He is in regular, honest communication with me. He genuinely likes and accepts me. He chose to put himself out there and really get to know me. His compassion and unrelenting desire to pray for me and my family - whether asked for or not - has helped me learn to trust that the leadership at our church isn't out to wound me, but rather to heal me with their sincere love and compassion for me.

Through my recent trials, I have also kept extremely guarded with those who have befriended me. There are some - even my new best friend - whom I wanted to reach out to so badly for support, but was very afraid to talk to for fear of judgment, ridicule, condemnation, and failure to really listen and understand. I was afraid that these friends would abandon me based on my choices, choosing their principles over me as a person, as had happened to me in the past. After an entire month, I finally talked to my best friend yesterday, terrified that all I would hear was rhetoric, Bible verses being used to tell me I am wrong for the way I am feeling, and a complete lack of compassion and desire to try and understand what I am going through and the tough choices I have to make. But instead, she listened - really listened - and validated my feelings, and assured me she would support me in which ever direction I take, even if it pans out as the "wrong" one.

As I hung up the phone, I felt the weight of six long years of extreme fear and distrust begin to lift off me. I felt a new sense of trust and courage beginning to form. I felt a sense of a future that holds healing for me. I felt like it was okay to finally begin to let my walls start to come down.

I'm not going to lie. Breaking down walls I have been building up for so long is going to take a lot of time and work. During those six years, I have built up a lot of resentment, cynicism, bitterness, distrust, and even some unforgiveness. There are literally people I will see in public and purposely avoid, ducking down store aisles and turning my head to avoid eye contact. I am just not at the point yet where I can talk to them face-to-face without feeling insecure and/or angry. I just can't face those who hurt me so badly, especially when they have no idea how badly scarred their words and actions left me.

But I feel a glimmer of hope. I feel myself finally beginning to trust again, and to heal and let go of the hurt. And its so freeing!

I thank God that he has put a church full of people in my life that are restoring every dark, hurt place in my heart. People who don't care if I think outside the box or am a little...um...different. People who don't cast condemnation on me for my weaknesses or vulnerabilities. People who genuinely love and and care for me. And it feels so good!

As I sit here writing this, I am shedding happy, grateful tears. Tears that I am smiling through. :) Tears that are finally filled with hope and not with fear and pain. Thank you, my new friends, for everything you don't even know you're doing for me. Words can't even express my gratitude.

Have you ever allowed past hurts to make you distrusting of new people? Have you let go of those things? How did you finally begin to trust again and move on? I'm curious to know what worked, what didn't, and what the process holds for me. Any advice?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mr. Hyde sits in that pew

This is the most heartbreaking blog I'll probably ever write. In fact, who knows if I'll even ever have the courage to publish it? Its a post I don't really want to write, and am terrified to even address, but I feel it needs to be addressed. Because I know far too many women who suffer so much pain at the hands of their husbands. And the church - the one place they should have solace - usually has no idea.

Mr. Hyde sits in that pew. He's the man sitting two rows behind you. He's the man who sits two rows in front of you. He's the man who sits two chairs over from you. He very well be the man you're married to. Or, he just may be you.

He is the man that is successful. He is the man revered and respected by his community. He is the man who provides financially for his family. He is the man who walks his kids to Sunday school. He is the man who smiles, shakes your hand, and makes small talk. He is the man who is always dependable and kind toward everyone. He's the man who waves goodbye and tells you, "God Bless" in the parking lot. He's the kind of man the single women would like to marry someday. Yes, he is a good man.

His wife is the woman who smiles as if nothing is ever wrong. His wife is the bubbly, kind one. His wife is the one who bends over backward to please anybody and everybody. His wife is well known in her community as the quintessential "supermom."

But then the doors close and its just them, and everything changes....

His wife is the one who stays up sometimes once everyone goes to bed and cries, wishing things were better. And wishing somehow she was better, because maybe then he'd love and respect her more.

His wife is the one who makes excuses and justifications to herself for his impulsive, abusive behavior toward her and her children. Deep inside she knows its wrong, but she convinces herself this is only going to happen once. No...twice. No...three times. No...

His wife is the one who endures his repeated verbal lashings and insults. She convinces herself she deserves this treatment for being such a sorry excuse for a mother and wife.

His wife is the one addicted to antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications, convinced she is crazy and unstable. And she feels so much shame for it.

His wife is the one who is regularly maritally raped to satisfy his urges. She convinces herself that the shame she feels for having her personal, bodily boundaries violated is a small price to pay to make her husband happy.

His wife is the one starving for attention and approval from the one person who's opinion matters most to her, and is left each day feeling more and more empty. She convinces herself that there must be something wrong with her that's making him so avoidant.

His wife is the one who feels like a child, and never an equal. She convinces herself that this is what being a submissive wife is about.

His wife is the one who is insanely jealous of the women she knows who are in good, healthy, loving marriages with men who love and respect them every second of every day.

But she puts on a smile and acts like nothing is wrong. She goes on with her life. She lets people believe the person she knows, is the person everyone else perceives him to be. She bites her tongue and never says a bad word about him. She never tells anyone of the tears, shame, guilt, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, or inner turmoil she feels.

And the church never sees that anything is wrong. She can't let them. She won't let them.

Nobody believes that that man could possibly be Mr. Hyde. They don't believe he is capable of hurting his own wife to such a degree. They don't accept that these things could possibly go on in the homes of such wonderful, God-fearing people.

They believe emotional abuse is just phsychiatric babble that sensationalist non- and rebellious Christian women use to justify their own shortcomings. They believe these women are being overly sensitive. If there are no physical signs of abuse, then a woman will be just fine. If they can't see it, it doesn't exist.

The church indirectly teaches that women should endure these things because they're bound to their husband through the covenant of marriage, and that no matter how bad it gets, a woman should never have doubts about her marriage or her husband.

So the woman only sheds more tears and feels even more shame, guilt, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, and internal turmoil. So she smiles and remains quietly in agony.

I speak of all this because I see it. I see the shame, guilt, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, and inner turmoil on so many Christian women's faces. Under those smiles, I see so much fatigue. And I occasionally see their tears.

I hear it. Multiple women have confided in me that these things go on behind their closed doors. I hear stories that make me so sad and angry.

I feel the heartbreak of it. I feel their shame, guilt, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, and internal turmoil. Their emotions run so deep that once the guard comes down, it all pours out like water through a broken dam.

So look around you next time you're at church. That smiling woman you're shaking hands with may be living with Mr. Hyde. That man who seems like such a great guy may, in fact, be Mr. Hyde. You yourself may be married to Mr. Hyde. You yourself may be Mr. Hyde.

Church, please, believe these women! Love these women! Be a friend to these women! Help these women! Don't just tell them to go home, pray, and be more submissive. That solves nothing, except to make them feel even more alone and helpless.

So, I speak to all the women out there. I speak to all the men out there. And I speak to all the churches out there. Something has got to change.

Women, speak up!

Men, get it together!

Churches, believe these women when they tell you their home is not a home, but a battlefield, and help them heal!

Please, I beg all my readers out there, consider these words, on behalf of all the women out there living in this situation, and vow to do something about it.

Be a woman who isn't afraid to speak up.

Be a better man.

Be a more aware and caring church.

So I ask, what do YOU vow to do? What can YOU do to help the women married to Mr. Hyde? What can YOU do to help break this cycle?

Monday, July 11, 2011

R - E - S - P - E - C - T

"Find out what it means to me. R - E..." Okay. Show of hands. Who doesn't have that song stuck in their head now? Anyway...

I have probably touched on this topic in many ways, in many blogs, before. But probably never very directly. So, here ya go. Here's my direct addressing of something that really, really bugs me: lack of respect.

I wrote in my blog entitled, Don't Be Loose With Heavy Words, how much I dislike people loosely throwing around words and phrases that can be hurtful to certain people/groups of people. In various blogs, I have touched on how much I hate political "sides" bashing one another. I just get so bothered that so many people out there think its okay to bash people if they don't know someone personally.

I know we all have people, or groups of people, that we don't care for. That's life. That's human nature. But throwing around insults and hurt-loaded words?

My main issue is all the hatred toward the President or former president(s), or certain other politicians, media personalities, or...whomever. I guess what finally made me sit down and write this is a car I saw on Saturday plastered in Obama-hating stickers. Some of them were just so rude and mean! (I wish I had taken a pic so I could share it here.)

A lot of people will say, "Well, I think he's a lousy president. I'm allowed to voice my opinion." Yes, you are. I love our Constitution and love that we have the right to free speech. Don't get me wrong on that! However, when you bash someone, who do you think comes out looking worse? The person/persons you don't like...or you? In regards to the car I saw, I felt sorry for the president. And I immediately had a distaste for the attitude of the owner of that car. I just don't think I would enjoy sitting down and chatting with someone so openly hateful toward another person.

A lot of people will also say, "Well, its not like I know the guy. He'll never hear my insult, so who cares?" Well, I, for one, care! It doesn't matter who you are insulting or if they know you are, saying hurtful things to, or about, anyone is wrong! Whether you think they deserve it or not, whether you think they've earned it or not, its still wrong. You don't know that person personally. What right do you have to judge them? What right do you have to hate them?

Whether Obama or Bush - both of whom have many philosophies and/or policies I don't care for - I doubt they are horrible people on a personal level. I may hate that Bush started an unconstitutional war that has cost thousands of lives, but I don't hate him personally. I am sure he's probably a nice, more-or-less "average Joe" guy if you put all politics aside. The same with Obama.

If looking from a biblical perspective, too, we are told to honor those in authority over us and pray for our leaders. Do we have to agree with them? No. But are we called to respect them and honor them? You betcha. But the problem I've witnessed is, the majority of the most hateful comments I have heard about our president, or other politicians, have fallen from Christian lips. I have heard some pretty hateful, and even vile, things said about our leaders. Its heartbreaking. We preach tolerance and reverence, yet we don't always practice what we preach. And, I'm sorry, but that is just inexcusable.

I was having a discussion about tolerance with a friend the other day. He said (and for valid reasons, but reasons I won't share because they are his reasons) that there are people he just cannot respect. I told him that we can learn to respect people by learning to separate the self from the ideologies. We can respect a person without accepting what they believe. Every person the world over has different beliefs about the world and how it should be. We're all taught different things through school, culture, religion, and experiences. So while I don't agree with a lot of people, I try and separate the self from the ideologies they hold. As long as their beliefs don't turn into actions that directly harm or abuse others, then I try and give people the benefit of the doubt and believe they are a decent person until proven otherwise.

I think a part of respecting others, is knowing how and when to censor our words, actions, and even bumper stickers, toward others. Is it really that hard to keep your hateful, hurtful words to yourself?

I guess why this bothers me is the larger picture. What benefit does throwing hate and hurt around have? Whom and/or what does it benefit? It has no positive impact whatsoever. It makes you look bad, and it adds fuel to the already raging fire of hatred and intolerance in this world. I am weary from dealing with all the negativity every single day. Navigating this world and life is tough enough without all the hurtful and hateful things I read, see, and hear all around me constantly.

So let's have some maturity, tact, discernment, kindness, and respect for others - no matter who they are! Be the bigger person! Because two wrongs - two hurts - never make a right.

What do you think? Do you think withholding respect is every justified? In what ways have you witnessed lack of respect lately? Or better, in what ways have you witnessed respect?

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?"

About a month ago, I saw an article by The Huffington Post stating that a scientific study has proven that whining is the most annoying sound in the world.

So, sorry, Jim Carrey. You've got it wrong.

Duh! Tell me something I don't already know! Every parent, throughout time, all over the world, already knows this. There is nothing that grinds your sanity down to powder in seconds flat quite like whining does. The torture level, I'm convinced, is akin to waterboarding. Possibly worse. (Though, I've never been waterboarded, so don't quote me on that.) And I have a 3 year old. I know "whine torture."

So while whining is the clear winner, based on scientific "proof" - not that we needed it - I have to say, I could probably come up with the runners up. And they are also all kid-generated noises.

First Runner Up - Ear-splitting screams. And I'm not talking about the ones that send a parent running at Maurice Green speeds. You know, the ones when you just know your child got really hurt. I'm talking about the ones my girls do when they are mad. The loudest, shrillest screams ever! Honestly, I am amazed I am not deaf yet.

Second Runner Up - What I like to call "boy noise." I don't know what it is about boys, but they just make obnoxious noises without even realizing it. When I worked in daycare, I experienced it. There were boys that would be coloring pictures and making all these weird beeping, booping, squeaking, squawking, popping, buzzing, humming...you name it...noises. And they didn't even know they were doing it! However, the girls in the class, and my own girls, don't do this. And my own son is definitely no exception to the rule. In fact, he may be the worst boy noise maker who ever lived. I have certainly never met a rival that comes even close. I kid you not, my son has gotten sent to his room countless times because he just cannot be quiet, and after a certain point, I can't take any more beeping, booping, squeaking, squawking, popping, buzzing, humming...or anything else. Five minutes of respite from unnecessary noise here and there is all I ask. Five minutes!

Third Runner Up - Armpit farts. This may fall under boy noise, but I think it deserves its own spot. I would personally like to not thank whomever taught my son to armpit fart. Any time he is changing clothes, or takes off his shirt because he's hot, or he's bored, or...anytime it strikes his fancy, really...he armpit farts. And to a 9 year old boy, armpit farts are the funniest thing ever. So while he's rolling with laughter, I am rolling my eyes. Enough with the armpit farts already. The novelty has worn off!

I know there are many, many more, but if I was the judge, the trophies would go to those.

What do you think? Do you agree that whining is the most annoying sound in the world? What other noise(s) do you think deserve a trophy for most annoying sound in the world?