I've been writing about our search for a church where we can be comfortable. I've really struggled with our Lutheran church. Our pastor, without a doubt, loves Jesus very much. He also is a passionate man & speaks with much ardor. He also speaks with authority. An authority i often feel is not warranted. He also has a history of depression, & i think i have mentioned that because of my own background, i hear his depression screaming, even screeching, in many of his sermons. I don't think most other people hear that, but because i am "sensitive" to it, it comes thru very clearly for me. I have believed this to be a "function of me" - my problem & not in general a problem with the church itself. Still, i've known it to be a problem with which i grapple for a long time.
Because of my history (depression & a worse psych diagnosis), i've worked with a therapist (John) for a long time. I now only see him about once a month; he helps me stay "balanced." Our belief systems don't match. We agree on some things, on other things we do not. He is Unitarian. I know some Christian folks feel a Christian should only see a Christian counselor, but this has worked very well for me. (Due to the severity of my previous diagnosis, there were very few Christian counselors qualified to work with me.) However, some time ago i said to John about the Lutheran pastor: "I wouldn't trust him for counseling. If i had a spiritual issue for which i sought direction, i would not go to him. I'd be more likely to discuss it with you."
John's response was, "That is a problem." Because he knows that we don't share beliefs, he could not direct me on these issues.
He is right, of course. I've just not known what to do.
I was raised in an unloving home & an unhealthy church. I learned early that being excited about something at home or church was not safe. Still, at school & with friends i was an exuberant child until i was about 12. At that time due to some circumstances with friends & with a teacher, i learned that it just wasn't safe to be excited about anything & share it. If i had been able to feel safe at church or home OR with friends or at school, i think i would have been ok. But having no safe place anywhere, i gave up. I learned to stuff any joy or delight into the cellar & stand on the trap door!
Interesting, it is about that time i began to have problems with chronic fatigue, too.
The last time i remember ever letting myself be really excited about something was when i was 21. I think i've mentioned it elsewhere & the details aren't very important, but that balloon was popped & i never let myself have (show) any kind of passion again. I think i stuffed myself into a straight-jacket & have lived in it ever since.
It had to be a straight-jacket because if i had energy i didn't know what to do with it (except hurt myself) & i would make myself lie perfectly still. I mean this literally. I was afraid to use any energy i had because my world view was so negative. My mantra was "Don't make it worse. Don't make it worse." I was often suicidal although i feared standing before God & saying, "You weren't enough for me." I was afraid anything i would do would make the situation worse (like hurting myself & becoming paraplegic or something). My thoughts & energy was so very negative. I tried to be positive & put a funny spin on my life. I could do it most of the time. I did often give thanks to God for my blessings & the good in my life. Yet i was still so very empty & i often wondered why my life was so barren.
The chronic fatigue has been very, very bad in the past 3 years. I see my ability to do many things slipping away. I've had to give up life dreams. I've had to face that i'm no longer able to do cooking/housework & have had to hire someone to come in. I've never been very good at those things, but to admit that i can't do them has been very hard. When i finally took the step, when i finally admitted that i was failing at my tasks & couldn't do them & then found someone who said she could help me, i was excited. For the first time since i was 21 i was really excited. When it didn't work out, my balloon was popped again. After all those years, nothing but a popped balloon & wasted passion. Passion doesn't feel very safe to me.
I saw myself being stuffed back into that straight jacket. It isn't safe to get excited.
I've long had a relationship with God that is very intellectual but not very emotional. I usually feel empty inside & know that as a Christian that is not "suppose to be so," but i've not known how to change it. The negativity at the Lutheran church has been getting to me.
Yesterday i attended Community Church by the Lake & Saturday night i listened to some of their podcasts. This pastor (his name is Don) has a different approach. Not so negative. Listening to the podcast, i thought, "This is someone i could go to to seek spiritual advice, if i needed it. This is someone i could trust." It is not that he is "soft on sin" as some churches accuse others of being. He knows that we sin & need Jesus, but his focus is on the greatness of God not on our smallness. It makes so much difference! One of the things he said, in talking of the failures of the Children of Israel, was that they lacked passion & wanted to be passive.
That caught my interest at the time, but last night in reviewing it, it really came clear to me that i've kept myself straight-jacketed & not let God work in me.
Suddenly, as if just realizing that i've closed my life to the passion for life, the realization opened the flood gates. I was filled with passion! If i had the energy, i'd have been dancing thru the house. It felt wonderful! (And now, it feels kind of scary & unsafe, but i don't care, i'll embrace it.)
Another thing Don said on one of the podcasts (the recent sermons have been on Israel's flight from Egypt, their sin, & the 40 years in the wilderness) was that the Children of Israel didn't trust God & complained. They believed - most of them - that God brought them into the wilderness to destroy them. They did not see that God wanted good things for them. Don said, "If you believe God is out to get you, to trip you up, to do harm to you, you're in a very bad place. God is the GOOD guy, & if you have come to see him as the bad guy, where do you go from there?"
It is true. In our quest for a child, my depression - often extreme depression - & difficulty in seeing a future for us, i have often thought that God is the bad guy, out to trip me up & screw with my head. I've tried NOT to think those things. I thank God every day for our many blessings. I talk to him frequently, even if it is just to be honest & say that i don't trust him much. But those things, even the thanksgiving, have been so empty. I've been wanting to die for a while now. I'm not suicidal. But i've seen no value in my life. I feel worthless with my lack of energy & inability to do anything. I don't want to leave my husband (die), i think it would hurt him, but i can't feel that i'm a helpmeet, or a benefit, or anything of good. I've not placed any value on my life for a long, long time. I remember at 16 telling my mother that if i was lucky i wouldn't live to be 20. (I was punished for that.)
I'm so excited, so passionate, to thankful to God for coming & filling me, i think i would burst if i didn't share it. I've so long wanted to die & my spiritual life was intellectual only. It felt too scary to embrace & love life.
I don't know where this will go. I would like to think that now i'll recover my energy (& i will have to learn discipline in how to use it if i do) & maybe even have children. But that may very likely not happen. It doesn't matter. I now can see that i do have value, even if i am bed-fast most of the time. Duane & i have a future (i'm not saying our marriage was bad, just that i couldn't see a future or a reason for a future without children) & i can believe, trust, have faith that God has good for us in store, even if it is not what my desires would give me.
What is also interesting, i don't think we will attend that church, tho i could be wrong. I think i will listen to the podcasts. I think with this passion i probably can attend the Lutheran church & not be discouraged. You see, i can now very clearly see that the problem there is not just a product of me. What he is preaching is bondage - the negativity, the criticism of other churches & their forms of faith & worship, the focus on our sins & foibles, all of it - it is bondage. God wants us to know his freedom. I'm not sure that ultimately we won't end up leaving, but for now my passion is for that bondage to be broken, to still attend that Lutheran church, knowing the freedom that is ours in Christ. (I love the liturgy. It helped me begin healing long ago & i would miss it greatly if we didn't go to a liturgical church any more.)
It was exciting to share this with Duane this AM. (Last night he shared all his fun from the SAR weekend with me, & then fell asleep as he was exhausted.) I think our lives will be deeper, richer. I'm using the same words to thank God & talk to him, but the emptiness is gone.
I know that the emptiness may return, some. This high of excitement is not really sustainable as life's realities creep in. However, just being open to having a passion for living & for being part of God's kingdom is likely to prevent the staleness, the stark emptiness from returning to that dead level.