100%

I took a job at a community college several months ago. I’m doing administrative work in the reception area of a small campus. It has a very warm, family feel about the place. I work closely with 2 other ladies, and it’s been actually a lot of fun.

One of the ladies I work with is a pastor’s wife. She takes her faith very seriously and talks about it openly. She has 3 daughters, and she’s a very hands-on mother. She adores her girls.

She’s also very bound up in fear. Her first reaction to any kind of problem is to be afraid. Once I realized that’s how she responds to things, I could predict her response to any situation. If there’s nothing happening, she seems to dream up things to be afraid of.

I have to confess it has been annoying at times. I want to point out to her that she doesn’t come across as having a heck of a lot of faith in God. But I remember how bound up in fear I used to be. I can remember that just leaving the house to go on a walk was difficult for me. I can remember how fearful I felt in church or in a public place.

It seems to me that the main way God helps us to get past our fears is to give us situations where we are fearful and then to be faithful to us in the midst of those situations and to see us through to the other side. There’s always an other side, God is always there.

I have been a finalist for a full time programming position at a local community college for the past month. I think I have a good shot at getting a job offer, but they have been having trouble getting in touch with my references. They are mainly retired, and have been on vacation. One of my references wasn’t even in the country for the past week. So, I’ve been waiting on pins and needles.

Yesterday while I was praying for the phone to ring, I realized that my anxiety about hearing about this position was a lot like my coworker’s fear. It was a lack of a trust in God that everything is going to work out perfectly according to His plan 100%. I either got the job or I didn’t. Either way, I know His plan is good, and I trust Him.

100%

Being Misunderstood

I think one of my biggest frustrations is that what people get from me isn’t what I intend. I know there’s something different about me. When I was a child I was painfully shy. I was scared when I went into new situations and met new people. I think I was rather serious as a kid. Stoic. Hard to relate to others. It has haunted me my entire life.

I go into social situations nervously. I try to smile. My seventh grade English teacher told me I always looked somber. When I worked at Harris Teeter, they wrote ‘smile more’ on my evaluations. I felt like I was trying to smile all the time.

When I owned Curves, I heard often that people thought I was unfriendly. It’s not unfriendliness…..it’s fear. It’s not knowing what to say. It’s feeling like a misfit.

The parties I’ve been to where there’s drinking and everybody is having a great time and I’m standing by myself feeling horrible, trying to look comfortable, knowing I don’t, and praying for the night to be over.

Going to church week after week, standing in the lobby, alone, watching people talk to one another and wondering how they do it, what they talk about, how they make friends. Wondering why nobody is talking to me….is it my face? Am I crazy? Do I look insane? What’s wrong with me? I can’t wait to get out of here, I can’t wait to get to the safety of my car. I can’t do that again.

Even in AA, it’s been hard for me. I have such a hard time sharing. I feel like the things I say are stupid. I judge myself. I judge myself harshly. So I go to meetings and sit quietly because I have nothing intelligible to contribute. And I seem unfriendly.

I was struck once again by the theme of relationship in “The Shack,” the movie that I watched this past weekend. Relationship. God is in a loving, harmonious relationship within the persons of the Trinity. God wants relationship with me. And I guess he wants me to have it with other people. Trust is hard for me though, and I do keep trying. I do.  In fact, next Sunday I’m trying out a new church. Bleck!

I’m very fortunate, very blessed to have a husband who thinks I hung the moon. He doesn’t see the weirdness…..or what he does see, he finds attractive….we get each other. It’s amazing, and wonderful… It restores my faith in the power of relationship. I know….deep down, that God sent this man into my life to help heal my heart. And I’m grateful and glad.

Being Misunderstood

Sin in All its Glory

Sin. We don’t like to talk about it. We don’t even like to think about it. But sin is at the heart of the gospel as much as forgiveness is.

The separation from God occurred because of SIN. Sin is turning away from God.

In the book “Eve,” W. Paul Young describes it like this: “Look and understand. Adam no longer sees what you see. In turning his face away, he believes he is alone.”

Adam turned away from God. That’s what sin is. Breaking fellowship. When we look directly at God and see His light, there is no darkness. As we turn away, we see the darkness and shadows. We believe we are alone because we don’t see the light anymore.

First we say that sin is not sin. That we have done nothing wrong, have hurt nobody. Then we say that there is no God. Or that God isn’t who he says he is.

I can’t say breaking God’s laws are ok. Because they aren’t ok. But at the same time, I’m not saying that I don’t have my own issues that I struggle with. I struggle. What I don’t do is declare that what I have chosen to do is right, when it obviously goes against God’s word.

I don’t really have a personal interest in whether or not dogs and cats live together or where they go to the bathroom. If someone wants a cake, I would give them a cake. I don’t care what they do with the cake.

When I worked in a grocery store I sold a lot of booze to alcoholics. I could tell they were alcoholics. But it wasn’t my business whether or not they went home and drank themselves into oblivion and got into trouble. I’m sad for them because they suffer, and they don’t have to suffer. I feel bad for the people they hurt. I think if they cause physical pain to other people, there should be intervention. But as a cashier, I wasn’t in the position to judge whether or not that was the case.

If a homosexual couple wants to marry, I say let them marry. But not in my church. I go to a church that says sin is sin, when sin is sin. I don’t go to church drunk on Sunday because that would be a sin. I can’t attend a wedding ceremony of two gay people in my church because God only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman in my church. There are churches for gay people to get married in. Don’t force me to go against my own beliefs in my own church. That’s what I ask. You want the government to say it’s ok for gay people to get married? Fine. I don’t think that’s what’s best for society. I’m not going to support that. But I haven’t joined a protest or picketed a gay wedding at city hall.

I think sin separates us from the love of God. I would like to remain within the sphere of God’s love, and I hope for that for every human being. That means that it would be immoral for me to say sin is not sin in order to be inclusive or avoid hurting someone else’s feelings. God is a forgiving God. God wants to forgive us. He wants us to live in His love. He longs for us and he pursues his children voraciously. But God never says sin is ok. He does something better. He says he forgives it.

Forgiveness is an amazing thing. It’s receiving a pardon without being deserving of it. We don’t do anything to deserve forgiveness. Even repenting of our sins doesn’t earn us forgiveness. We turned from God. We did that. God forgives us while we were still sinners. He takes us from the lowest of the low and puts us on the highest hill. We are not just lost and undeserving sinners who were forgiven, he adopts us and makes us sons and daughters. Heirs to his kingdom. From the lowest of lows to the highest places. I haven’t done a single thing in my life to deserve that. Neither has anybody else. That’s a great story. Much better than “I will redefine this thing I want to do to make it ok for me to do in my mind because that’s what I want to do.” But what do I know?

 

 

 

Sin in All its Glory

Taking Responsibility

I laid out a lot of negative things regarding my ex-husband, and I want to be super clear about what my part was in all of this. Because I do think someday my kids might be interested to know, and I owe them my honesty.

The substance abuse I have spoken of was something that happened off and on for a very long time. I think that might be the worst part. Because it’s something that can be arrested.

I attended meetings off and on over the years….AA meetings. When I was attending them, I stayed sober. The one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I don’t want to be in a culture of drinking. I can’t hang around people who drink. It’s just not something I’m able to do.

I wasn’t there for my kids. I let them down in so many ways over and over. Every time I made a bad decision. It had to have impacted them. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to them.

 

I think it was the depression that caused me to sleep so much. I slept so much. I didn’t take care of the children the way I should. I wasn’t nurturing. I wasn’t reliable. Not at the end of it.

I didn’t clean or cook at the end of my marriage . I didn’t take care of my responsibilities.

I spent a lot of money we didn’t have near the end. I didn’t always spend money that way, but near the end I did.

Those are the things I did. Unplugging from life. Abdicating. Giving up. I wish it hadn’t happened that way for a lot of reasons. I’ve paid a high price for it.

Some things you can’t make amends for. Sometimes you hurt people more than you realize. At the time I didn’t realize it. I do now.

Dr. Phil says that a person can’t begin to forgive you until they feel that you really GET what you did to them. I believe that’s true. I would hope that my kids would feel my heart and know that I get it to the bottom of my soul. I would love the opportunity to be their parent now to the best of my ability as a healthy, sober woman of God.

I don’t believe it is ever too late.

Taking Responsibility

What Constitutes Abuse?

We throw the term around. “Abuse.” But what really constitutes abuse?

I can tell you that, while my ex-husband would disagree, I suffered a lot of verbal and emotional abuse over the years. I don’t say it lightly at all.

I mentioned his body shaming. He might say he was was thoughtless or insensitive. I say he systematically used insults to  keep the upper hand in the relationship. For him, everything in life is a competition, and our marriage became a battleground.

For him, fat, cellulite,  and stretch marks were a moral issue. What I ate was a moral issue. I had no business putting extra food in my mouth if my skin wasn’t taut. And it wasn’t. Not since I’d been a preteen. It was the perfect storm coming together of me being insecure and him using that insecurity to maintain control over me.

Boobs like “flaps.” Big  legs. A square butt. It was “gross” the way my tummy puckered after having 3 children. The fat on my inner thigh. My feet so ugly I had to always wear socks. Legs so fat I couldn’t wear shorts.

He said I was big,fat, lazy, ugly and stupid. He said I disgusted him. When we went somewhere, he would walk in front of me because he was embarrassed to be seen with me.

Money is usually at the root of most marital quarrels, and it truly was in our marriage. There was a difference in philosophy for sure, but it was more than that. He made the money decisions in the family. I would ask permission to make purchases and mostly, his knee-jerk reaction was “no.” He thought I would spend money like crazy if he didn’t keep me on a tight leash. He would circle purchases on the credit card he deemed bad purchases, and ask me to “explain myself.”

 

Everything had to be his way. My preferences weren’t optional because they were wrong. Whenever I tried to do something, he would tell me I was wrong. So I would do nothing. And that was wrong too.

Im leaving out a lot of what he said and did the last year out of fairness to him.

Yes, this is a dude who hasn’t missed a church service in 30 years. Everyone thinks he’s a “great guy.”  He helps in soup kitchens. Need to move? He’ll be there at 8 am on Saturday morning.

He describes himself as “humble” and “compassionate.”

Meanwhile I was dying a little every day.

So, I suppose perception is nine tenths of the law. To me it was abuse because it systematically destroyed my self esteem. It drove me to the depths of despair.

It didn’t stop there. He used criticism to control me. I tried so many times to tell him that it wasn’t motivating for me to hear constant criticism. Once again he made it into a moral issue. If his intent was to try to make me better, then it wasn’t criticism.

Dinners were especially awful. Not only would he criticize my cooking, but he would encourage the kids to do so also. A practice they haven’t disposed of entirely to this day. Time and again I tried to tell him how it made me feel, but it was deigned to be my own fault for not being able to take it.

He would drive aggressively in the car, and when I reacted, he would chastise me and tell me I didn’t trust him. He didn’t care about my comfort.in fact, I think he enjoyed scaring me.

He would flirt with waitresses in front of me.

He would make a comment like ” you’re a terrible singer, and when I objected, he would say “Gosh, can’t you take a joke?”

When we went places, he would ignore me and talk to other people. Afterwards, he would tell me what I did and said ‘wrong’ that embarrassed him.

As I state these things, they sound horrible. They were. I’m sure some of it was out of frustration on his part. But the fundamental callous attitude with regard to my feelings was permeable.

I ignored the red flags when we were dating. I didn’t know myself well enough. I had a trust that when he proposed to me it was because he loved me and could put his physical hangups aside and be devoted to me. I was wrong. He really didn’t love me. He admits this. I was naive. I thought he felt the same about me as I felt about him. I was wrong.

The end result of all of this is that I rebelled. I spent a lot of money on things I couldn’t afford. I got morbidly obese. I also abused substances. He really only cared about the money component. He didn’t care about me.

I didn’t get up and decide to do these things to him. These things weren’t planned. I just couldn’t cope anymore and my bad habits and addictions were fueled by hopelessness and despair. That’s not me making an excuse. I’m not proud of myself and I’ve worked hard to turn my life around.

I know my addictions were fueled by his treatment of me because when I left that environment and went to a place where I was loved and nurtured, I got sober and strong. That’s how I know.

In AA we talk about not taking another person’s inventory. I do agree with that. But I think this attitude of just making a list of my resentments and praying for him wasn’t helpful when I needed help desperately.

This isn’t about finding a scapegoat. I think I’ve talked a lot about my issues here. I’ve certainly worked hard to overcome them. If it seems like I haven’t accepted responsibility for my actions, I have. I’ve made amends to the best of my ability. Now all I can do is continue to make amends and live my life well.

I have a lot of forgiveness for him today. I’m not angry and bitter. I was. But I laid all of that to rest. I really did.

I think it’s important to shine a light on this kind of abuse. Especially since it occurred in a so-called Christian marriage in the church. We know God hates divorce. But he hates abuse too. He hates all sin. Including mine. And being married to a bipolar, alcoholic is no picnic. The church had no idea how to deal with the two of us. Do I need a scapegoat? No. I know what I did, I know who I am. I know I’m forgiven. By God. I know I’ve changed and I know God has blessed me with a second chance.

I was at the hairdressers this week and the lady who does my hair is a Christian and she’s known me for 30 years. She’s a joy. I was saying to her that in my marriage today I have a closeness, a warmness and I wonder ‘Is this normal? Is this special? Because it feels special.’ She said ‘It’s normal!’

Praise God!

What Constitutes Abuse?

Change is Hard

I don’t know how to tell someone to change. I’ve changed a lot, but I think it’s mostly been that I was open and cooperative with God. It’s not easy, that’s for sure.

I was thinking today about the fact that I’ve been able to let go of so much anger and unforgiveness.  How is that even possible? I guess I’d have to point to the 12 steps. It’s a process of looking at your own stuff, taking responsibility, being humble and keeping your own counsel.

I really gave it to my ex-husband though. I called him names and railed against him for everything I was angry about. It didn’t do any good. He didn’t apologize to me. It made me feel better temporarily, but it was when I made the decision to stop trying to get even that I started on the journey to forgiveness.

I told myself over and over that Jesus stood before his accusers and said nothing. He could have defended himself easily. He could have shut all of their mouths. They were wrong, and He knew it. He took it. Thank God he did, because we would be lost if He hadn’t.

So it began by keeping my own counsel. In AA they talk about the ‘restraint of pen and tongue.’ How true! I would have made a lot of progress earlier in my life if I had understood that wisdom.

The second nugget that was helpful was on acceptance. I’ve quoted it here before. ‘Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.’ It’s hard to accept that your life isn’t the way you would like, with people all treating you the way you would like, but in the end, we are mostly a bunch of sick, sinful people trying to get along in life with our own fears and insecurities. We hurt each other, not because we are cruel, but because essentially our own lives are unmanageable.

I’m happier today because I’ve been able to set aside my own agenda and substitute God’s. Ultimately it’s about trusting Him. His ways are definitely not our ways, but they are infinitely better.

Change is Hard

Guy Talk

You know, there is a conversation in America right now that is important. That’s the issue of ‘guy talk.’ There are a lot of angry women in America, and they have some valid points. As Christian women, we need to have this conversation. That is, that ‘guy talk’ is not ok.

We elected a man who has made many, many comments denigrating women. His comments aren’t ok, and women are angry. As they well should be. Because this kind of talk hurts women. It devalues them. It’s inappropriate in any setting. It shouldn’t be blown off.

At the same time, men have been winking and nodding forever. It has never been front stage like this before. But it has been a part of the culture. So, let’s take this opportunity to say that it’s not ok, and we aren’t going to accept it as part of the culture or a wink and a nod. Our men have to stand up and say that they are going to value women more than that.

I do think there’s a bit of a double standard, however. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, the Clinton machine mowed her down. She was a young, impressionable intern, starstruck and totally taken advantage of. Bill and Hillary Clinton threw her to the wolves. Hillary did it too and she was a part of it because of her own political aspirations. It ruined her life. She has never married, and has been unable to have a career. It’s shameful. Where were the feminists then?

Let’s make sure we’re fair about this, and let’s have this conversation. It’s important.

Guy Talk