Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


Leave a comment

God and Human Emotion

Image result for images of the bible

Last Sunday’s sermon had me crying through at least half of it. I’m not exactly sure why, but I have some ideas that might have contributed to my reaction. The message came from an interesting passage in Hosea.

It’s not one of those things that is talked about very often, but God was really ticked off at “His People” and sent Hosea to tell them so. In spite of God’s consistent and constant love and provision, Israel was going through the teenage phase. (Clue number 1 to my reaction.) Yes, I know that rebellion and separation are the developmental tasks of a teenager. I honestly believed mine wouldn’t go through it the same way because there was a time when we were incredibly close. Plus, I would give my life for him. Why would he rebel against that?

Anyway, back to God. He was done with them, finished. If they cried out for help again, He wasn’t going to help them. In fact, He was going to let them go to a place where they would be “devoured.” Pastor Debi asked if we have ever reached that point with someone in our lives. She didn’t really indicate that would be wrong, just that it happens. In fact, she said that sometimes you have to protect yourself from vulnerability from those who repeatedly harm you in some way. (Clue number 2.)

She said God’s heart was breaking. He was absolutely heartbroken. (Clue number 3.) I know what that feels like, but I wasn’t even consciously thinking of myself. It genuinely made me cry to think of God in that way.

No sooner had God thrown up His angry hands when He recanted. Of course He will come to their aid. Of course He will forgive them. God’s love is persistent. No matter what.

Debi pointed out that for those folks think that God is big, out there, and so far removed from us, we are actually made in His image. That includes the full spectrum of human emotions. That includes the phase of being totally pissed off.

I have often told clients that sometimes it is not about what we choose to do, but why we choose to do it. At one point in my life, it was my spiritual growth to stand up for myself. When I was in my twenties and just entering the therapy world, I was a nightmare for my family. Every word uttered became introspection for me and I needed to declare my conclusions to the world, especially if it was about them.

Later, I realized my spiritual growth was to stop judging so much. I tried to be the next Mother Theresa. No matter what, I would respond with love and kindness. Even if that meant being a doormat, so be it. It was what God called me to be.

Now I am balancing the two (I think). I am learning to draw boundaries with people who consistently hurt me. Even if it means walking away, I am doing it. But I am trying to remain open to whatever happens if they come back to me. I don’t think it will be hard though. I’ve always been like butter if someone offers me a genuine apology. I’m emotionally learning the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, even though it’s a concept I’ve known intellectually for years.

It’s a half-baked thought, but I wondered if the entire universe/world/earth goes through the same phases. The Old Testament God is pretty tough to grapple with sometimes. There’s a lot of events like entire armies being drowned in the sea in the name of justice. Then the New Testament comes along and Jesus blows it all away in the water. He is one big heart. His biggest beef was with the Pharisees, the avid churchgoers and leaders. He hung out with the prostitutes instead.

Anyhow, lots of food for thought. Thanks again Pastor Debi for the push to keep growing.


6 Comments

The Way It Should Be

This is the pamphlet from a church we visited recently. The service had the same feeling as its bulletin. Tim and I were both moved to tears by the end of the service. We know we are just at the beginning of a relationship with these folks, but I have no doubt that it was no accident that we found them just in the nick of time.

The church I attended when Tim (deceased) was dying had been my church home for 7 years. It indeed felt like home. I was heavily involved, sometimes volunteering and eventually as paid staff.

About 2 years before Tim’s illness, the church hired someone that turned everything around. Our staff was amazingly close and functioned like a relatively healthy family. Until then.

I’m not sure what personnel was thinking when they hired someone who openly said he was “not religious.” It was obvious this was a paid job for him, not a ministry. There was formal skill, but no heart.

He didn’t like the role I played in the church so he slowly but surely made my life miserable there. The details are not worth getting into, but let me just say there are many, many stories. He really turned the fire up when our minister went away on sabbatical just when Tim was diagnosed. It is quite unbelievable but unfortunately true. He did his best to undermine me while I was desperately trying to help my dying husband and family while still working at the church. I needed that spiritual connection.

Three months after Tim died, I resigned. It should never have happened. Had I not been grief-stricken, I would not have done it. And it should never have been accepted. There had been other resignations over the years that were rejected and mine, without a doubt, should have been. I was deeply involved, faithful even when in crisis, and dedicated to those people I ministered to. I literally had an impeccable work history.

The craziness that came next was lawsuit worthy. That is not my heart though, and I certainly did not have the energy to pursue one. Besides, where would that have left me if I had won? A church of worship and job where I had to sue in order to be treatly justly and compassionately.

Over the last 8 years I have tried every now and then to heal my heart. I reached out when my books were written. I reached out when the church started addressing end of life issues. No matter what I tried, the door was slammed in my face.

Finally this summer, the minister moved and a new personnel committee was formed. This was a long time coming but I finally had my chance to make peace. I reached out and asked when I could come in and meet the committee. I made it clear that I didn’t expect anything to be done. I didn’t ask for justice, although truth be told I certainly could have. What was done to me was inexcusable. I just wanted to be heard. I had been silenced as well as the rest of the staff 8 years ago. And what was worse, the church folks let the congregation believe that I was just a “grieving widow” and left. I couldn’t believe they would desecrate our sacred memories like that.

I just wanted to tell my story and I felt my heart could finally heal. Just hear me. That’s it.

I was more than stunned when I got the call back that the committee “wasn’t interested.” They are only interested in moving forward in the church. They weren’t “equipped” to hear me. Equipped for what? Listening? They are in more trouble than I thought if that is the case. He said they talked to the church lawyer who advised them to “forget it and move on.”

I couldn’t believe after such a long wait, the final door was slammed. I didn’t think the church could hurt me more, but they managed to do just that. I’m not sure what is going on, but that is most certainly NOT how the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to behave.

I’m dumbfounded.

My human side wants to attend there again. Make sure my story gets told to anyone and everyone that would listen. All these years I’ve kept silent in order to “be the bigger person” and remain professional. I want to create havoc for them the way they injured me.

But like my new pastor says, that isn’t my heart. It never will be. And besides, how could I possibly waste a Sunday morning going there when this warm and nurturing door has opened up for us? This is no coincidence.

Thank you, God for providing this new place, for however long we will be there. And thank you to those folks that understand the true mission of Christ and follow that call- the way it should be.


3 Comments

Lost

Nope, not talking about the TV show. I’m talking about a text I sent my friend in Georgia. She asked how I was and I said I was spiritually and emotionally lost.

I am very, very aware that things in my life could be much worse. I am very aware that other people are suffering unimaginable situations which make mine pale in comparison. I know that any of the things in isolation that I face I could handle with relative ease. But the accumulation and what feels like a relentless pace are rendering me confused and unable to recover in between.

In the last three weeks:

-I was not rehired for a position that was important to me, apparently because of the integrity that I stood up for
-I walked in a place to find a guy I had only dated for a little over a week (but had been friends with for years) was a liar and manipulator, right in front of my eyes
-A relatively new friend turned on me because he didn’t check out the facts
-I said goodbye to my sister who moved to Tennessee
-A former friend of mine where the relationship turned sour vandalized my property and I spent a couple of days with town officials and police
-The relatively new friend of mine that I forgave (because everyone deserves a second chance, right?) turned on me again and left me completely stranded with a massive house project and a great deal of stress because he again, didn’t bother to check out the facts
-Had a very beloved client in crisis mode which entailed phone calls to paramedics, supervisors, family members, etc.; He is doing much better thank God, but it was very scary while it was happening.
-Received a phone call asking for my attorney information because of the legal action suit filed against me with the IRS; turned out it was a scam but it scared the crap out of me until I figured that out with my research.
-I’ve made about 40 phone calls to handle my father’s medical, financial, and legal issues. I also worked on his house which he is trying to sell and have become an amateur realtor overnight. Sometimes there is stress with the family about these issues, and sometimes we work together well. The list has been endless.
-Continued to be a mother, homeowner, business owner with all the stresses and time constraints that everyone else has. Nothing unusual about that. I’m just more exhausted when managing things because I’m stretched so thin from everything else.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things. The upshot is that when I have some time alone with my thoughts and feelings, they go in crazy places. One weekend I was toying with the idea that the universe was getting revenge on me because of something I did in my twenties. I hurt someone very badly and she forgave me. So I thought maybe the universe was mad that she didn’t punish me.

My kids have been struggling with some of the bad things they are watching around them and wondering why their father died when other people survive cancer who are not doing good things with their lives and just hurting other people. I have no idea how to answer them because it makes me burn up inside when I see it too.

The whole thing that happened with Tim- the massive amount of support we had, and the amazing story that became my books- maybe I am seeing another side to it. While all of that positive stuff is true, maybe there is also a side effect that I am just realizing. It made me think that the world is a lot kinder than it really is. It made me trust more than I should. It is different when you have this big thing that everyone gets excited about being a part of. This great thing happened to us during a terrible thing that happened to us and the community around us was transformed with us. But lately, I just see so much yuck, I wonder what happened to all that good will?

And every time, after all my crazy thoughts, I circle back to my church. I don’t know why in the last couple of months this is coming back so strongly, but I always end up there now. I am lost and hurting, and I hate the fact that I don’t have a pastor to go to anymore. I lost them over five years ago, the church family that was a pillar of strength for us during Tim’s illness. Three months after he died though, some bad things happened because of some bad people, and I lost them. Sure, there are a few close friends that I still have, but I have lost the church as a whole. My son is growing up without a church home. And my heart aches so badly because I don’t feel I will every recover from the loss of my minister and how abandoned I feel.

Today is a good day. I still have people who love me and are there for me. Some came and helped me with that massive house project. One went grocery shopping for me this week. But overall, I feel like I mistrust the world and I have no idea how to make sense of life or my emotions. And I’m angry that I don’t have the man to turn to that I did trust at one time.

Lost. It’s a good description word. I will just keep getting through each day and tackle each obstacle like I always do, but internally I’m lost. It is what it is.

P.S. My apologies to those of you who like it better when I’m funny and positive 🙂


2 Comments

Music

“Music is my life and I want to sing it, Music is my life and I want to share it, Music makes my life worthwhile.”

I will get into copyright trouble for quoting that without the author’s permission, but those are lyrics I remember from fifth grade chorus and it still pops into my head.

Frankie had his first band concert last night. He plays the tenor sax. It’s almost as big as he is. He was in the back row behind a snare drum and warned us we probably wouldn’t be able to see him. He was right. Couldn’t even see a hair on his head. But I recorded it all and loved every minute. I have such warm memories of concerts and music growing up. Who would have thought I’d be watching my own kid someday? And yes, I wondered a couple of times if Tim was watching from wherever he is. I just came across a journal entry I wrote in 2011 where Frankie said he thought his dad lived in a castle with lots of windows. Each window represented someone Tim loved. So if Tim wanted to watch Frankie’s concert, he just had to look out the “Frankie window.” I was imagining that last night as I recorded the concert.

A couple of years ago, I resigned as a music director from a church I loved very, very deeply after seven years of working with them. It was ridiculously sad and I’ve done nothing but flounder around trying to find a place for Frankie and I to attend since then.

Our neighbor is a pastor of a Baptist church. While I’m not a Baptist anymore in a theological sense, we have enjoyed going there. They have been slowly and patiently trying to get me to participate over the last year. The band has actually agreed to alter their practice schedule to accomodate mine. After a long talk with the pastor about all my fears, I finally agreed to a six week trial.

Music is such a deeply spiritual activity. I know I’ve missed it. As I watched all those kids on stage last night, I was very grateful that someone has pursued me again and encouraged me to use my gifts. He predicts in six weeks I will no longer be fearful, but actually be excited to be going to church again!

So our house is going to grow musically again and I think that’s a great thing. Music does help to make life worthwhile!