Sunday, January 17, 2016

Leaving Shannon

I will always feel just a little bit "left."  

The pattern of leaving Shannon started young.  

My father walked out of my first birthday party, shortly before I took my first steps, and my family unit was over.  June 1, 1981.  My dad was gone.  He didn't want me (and my mom) anymore.  

Fast forward several years, my mom had remarried and they had my little sister, Blair.  Her leaving had a much greater finality to it.  She was hit and killed by a car in front of me, the only eye witness.  May 26, 1989.  I was not quite nine.

After that my mom and step-dad slowly left me emotionally; their grief was all-consuming. They had nothing to give for quite some time.  

A few more years passed and one of my grandfathers suffered a fall, a traumatic brain injury, and died.  This man was a giant in my life, in all of our lives, gone.  July 1996.  

I exited childhood, entered adulthood, found faith, and a calling found me, and eventually found the guy who would become my husband.  I choke on those words.  Husband.  He was anything but that.  His leaving was a daily rejection, visceral and physical in nature.  He clearly communicated to me that I was worthless, on a daily basis.  My presence in his life was a hinderance, a burden and I would never be an acceptable wife, or woman.  His every action communicated that, for nearly ten years.  Until finally I left.  March 2012.

The leavings that occurred after my decision to leave my marriage were staggering.  Friends left 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.  My church told me to leave, 2013.  My aunt, a loving figure in my life, died, 2013.  Ultimately, my best friend of 14 years decided I was selfish, a burden, and she left too, 2014.  My brother's cancer returned and threatened to make him leave as well, 2014.  Thank God he didn't. 

To say being left is written in to my being would be accurate.  A black mark against my existence.  A wound that has affected how I relate with others.  

Despite that, I have continued to move forward in my life.  Committed to the idea that the past is not where I exist.  I continued placing myself in situations where I again could be left.  Enrolling in seminary.  Making new friends.  Dating, developing relationships.  While doing those things I have struggled through the fear of being left, again.  I have steeled myself against risk.  Protecting my heart and soul from rejection by only offering my mind to those relationships, those scenarios.  But as my commitment to growth required me to, I began offering my heart, knowing I could be left again, at a deeper level.  And it has happened.  More have left.  

I have come to the place where I now understand I will always feel just a little bit "left."  

Through no fault of those in my life and no fault necessarily of my own, there is a broken piece of me that will continue to feel those wounds.  There is this desperate little girl inside of me that is willing to do whatever it takes to no longer feel left.  She'll perform any task, dance any jig, climb any mountain just to ensure that no one ever leaves her again.  To silence her is impossible, but what I can do is to help her feel heard.  

People will leave. I will need to leave some of them.  They will be unhealthy or we will be unhealthy for each other and one of us will decide to go.  I'll leave jobs or churches or friendships of my own accord.  And the little girl will scream, she will want the pain to stop.  She just wants to STOP losing PEOPLE.  It hurts.  But that is not real life.  People come and go and it just is.  The problem comes from expecting that to not be.  And from interpreting other actions that are not leaving as rejection.  Every subtly as a mark against you.  

You can't stand in  a group of people without someone there having abandonment issues.  Perhaps everyone there does.  It's written into their story.   Someone left them and they carry that wound with them.  It enters their relationships and how they interact in their workplace.  They're just slightly skittish wondering if there is a landmine somewhere that will result in being left again.  

I forget, we all do, a couple of things when I relate this way.  Most of what everyone else does to me, around me, says to me, has nothing to do with me.  It is them telling their own story.  They are speaking from their own place.  Their actions and words, or lack of words is, about their own needs, fears, inadequacies, selfishness, on display.  But I/we don't see that.  We see their actions as a statement about us.  And when we misinterpret (interpret from a self-centered approach) another's actions we are almost guaranteed to feel badly.  When we forget that the same ego in us that is driving us to think it's all about us, is in them driving them to think only about them, we are destined for pain.  

We also forget that leaving isn't always a bad thing.  Sometimes people have left me and months or years later I have been grateful because the pain has lessened and I see that their leaving was the best thing for me.  Sometimes we have left people knowing we were doing so out of good motivations on our own part.  I have ended some friendships where I know the other person was wondering why, possibly feeling rejected, but ultimately it was the best thing for both of us. 

It's hard to carry that wounded little girl around inside of me.  Sometimes I wish she would just grow up or move on, get over herself already.  So selfish and self-centered, god, it's annoying.  I don't usually treat her with kindness.  I want to squelch her and shut her up.  Usually I'm the least kind to myself.  Shutting her up doesn't make her go away, it just prolongs the pain.  The path to health is compassion, a willingness to listen to how much it still hurts.  Understanding that the pain from some of those wounds is deep and really hard to heal.  The path to healing probably means I need to abandon the phrase I repeat to myself "just don't cry."   As if crying is a sign of weakness, or maybe more accurately crying means the pain is real, and if I don't cry I can still deny feeling it.  

There are still broken parts of me.   But rather than seeing those pieces as hinderances to overcome, maybe they are gifts that create in me an awareness of how better to interact with others.  Perhaps I spend so much time trying to squelch the pain that I forget to use the pain as a tool to be more authentically me and in so doing give the gift of my whole self to those I love.  I fail to see my broken parts as gifts, I want to be shiny and new and whole.  But the only time I have truly been able to sit with another person and help them hold their pain was when I was willing to acknowledge my own.  That I had been there too.  Hell sometimes I was still there in that moment. I may always feel a little bit "left."  There might not be this place of illusionary complete security on this planet for me.  But if there's not, then that wound is still with me because it is useful.  God wastes nothing.  Not even broken little girls.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Is God Safe?

Dan asked me recently if there is anything more secure than God.

It didn't sit well with me because my immediately, albeit internal reaction, was that there is nothing secure about God!  God is good and God is holy but he is also dangerous, wild, risky and prone to commanding his followers to do a wide range of risk inducing scenarios.  You don't get credit for being a safe and secure Being if it is in your practice to knock up teenage girls in a culture that regularly stones women for adultery in order to get your son to the planet.  It certainly wasn't the safest thing he could have done for Mary.

This of course doesn't negate God's inherent goodness nor does it mean that we should spend any less time fully devoted to the path he is guiding us toward.  It just means that path in no way guarantees our safety or security.

I think that's one of the reasons that every time God prompts me to do something I get a little skittish.  I know what following God has cost me thus far and that column stacks pretty high.  I further know that following him won't be the path to financial security, it won't necessarily have anything to do with my desire for world travel.  It won't even be necessarily the "best thing" for my children.  The life I could create on this planet by my own hand would have a lot more secure elements to it than the one he has for me.  Basically as I see it following him means completely being uninterested in what I want out of this life and I'm selfish so I'm not sure that's the best idea for me.

I can think of a lot of things that "feel" more secure than God.  I can think of a lot of things that sound less risky than doing the will of my always mysterious, sometimes dangerous Father.  I just have no desire to make a life of my own creation.  It appeals to me not at all.  If I'm not in the middle of where I feel God has called me to be than I want to be fighting my way back to that center.  Ludicrous, given the costs I have paid to be there, staggering financial debt, the scorn of many of my former friends and some family members, being mocked by those who supposedly love me and overall the complete abandonment of a "safe little life."

My life with God doesn't feel safe.  He makes those security alarm bells within me go off like fire alarms at times, times like right freaking now!  No, my God is not safe or secure.  What he calls me to doesn't feel like the best thing for me.  My family and those who care for me would love for me to just get a freaking plan already.  But this life I have chosen to have with him is not one of my own making and there is no charted course that I can see.  It is one of trust, it requires obeying, it looks unconventional, but the rewards?  They are far beyond any cost I have paid.

I might grow old and not have seen Italy.  I might never live at the beach.  I might never have more than enough to barely pay my bills each month.  But this life with God means that I will not live a quietly desperate life and die with my song still in me.  Because the song that God has placed within my heart is required for each moment of monumentous faith where I step outside the plan I would have made for me and into the one he has for me.  God did not feel safe to Abraham as he was guiding Isaac to what he believed would be his death.  God did not feel safe to Mary when she had to tell Joseph she was pregnant.  God didn't feel safe to David before Goliath.  And God did not feel safe to Jesus in Gethsemane.

God is not here in our lives to coddle our egos and only put us in positions where we can accomplish things by our own power.  When we are quivering and afraid yet still speaking his truth, when he must show up or we will fail, when everything in us wants to run the other way because we know we can't do this thing he is asking of us, then he has a chance to show us just how faithful he is.  He gets to show up for us.  He gets to remind us that we don't place our faith in him for nothing.  No one loves like this God I serve.  No one enjoys showing up for his children more than he does.  No one loves creating masterpieces out of would be disaster more than him.  And no one is better at that than he is.

I am quivering.

I am afraid.

I am inadequate.

I am walking toward him anyway.