Archives For shame

This isn’t a story I want to tell; rather, it’s one I have to tell. It may seem to meander some as I set it stage, but every word represents the truth as I understand it. 

First, the distant past. It would seem that seventy some years ago, my paternal grandparents split up because my grandfather was abusive (they had two daughters at this point). Later on, they tried to reconcile, and my dad was the result. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last, and my dad was forbidden from knowing his dad (or his dad’s side of the family). I’m told he saw him for the last time at the age of twelve. Fast forward to the early fifties, and as they were playing my dad and his sisters found out their mother was remarrying that very morning. I’m given to understand that neither my aunts, nor my dad, had any idea about the nuptials.

Not too long thereafter, at the age of fifteen, my aunt came down with a case of the pregnants. My understanding is that, at some time after their wedding, my step grandfather began touching his step kids. For instance, kids being kids they would have the radio on at night; because it was ostensibly loud, dad would come into the room to turn it down. Apparently, the radio’s knob isn’t what he fiddled with. It was, again, at this time that my aunt got pregnant and moved out. 

As is so often the case, no one talked about it at the time; it was much, much later that folks began to compare stories. There were other things, too: this same man would stay up late watching “snow” on the television. He also apparently jabbed babies in the back of the hand with his fork should they dare reach across his plate at the dinner table… By the time I was born, he was older, nearing retirement age. Perhaps he had beaten whatever demons afflicted him? Who knows? What I heard is that despite what my parents knew about the man, I was left there as a toddler (my grandmother was home). When my mom picked me up, she smelled a funny smell. In fact, she called my cousin, stating that “his sweet baby face smells like semen.” Whether this is true, or not, I’ve no idea; it is however entirely consistent with the man’s character.
Blessedly, I have entirely no memories of this incident. What I can tell you is that, as I briefly sketched out above, it’s not the only such story to swirl around this man. In fact, upon her deathbed, my grandmother threw her hospital tray at him, inviting him to “Go to Hell!” Apparently, she could no longer ignore the the reports she heard, and wanted to clear her conscience in light of her impending demise.

Ladies and gentlemen, abuse is cyclical. Growing up, my dad was distant. Sarcastic and cutting when he was present, but all the awhile emotionally unavailable. He was long gone before he ever left our family. I can’t say with any certainty what he went through as a child; he’s never spoken to me of it. In fact, we don’t speak at all.

That is the legacy of abuse. It destroys families and shatters lives.

We all know that, since the beginning, sin is a pernicious condition endemic to our race. No one can escape its effects, there isn’t a single soul who hasn’t sinned; evidence of it is everywhere. Into this sin-darkened world a light came, proclaiming a new way.

A way to be free.

But as stated above, sin is pernicious, and doesn’t want to let us go. We don’t always choose that freedom. And the Bible itself says “there’s pleasure in sin for a season.” It feels good–so we don’t want to let it go. Or in letting it go, we don’t replace it with something else, and fall again into same old same old (wondering how we got oursleves here).

Jesus said (I’m paraphrasing), of demonic harassment, that having found the house [soul] swept and in order, it returns with seven spirits worse than itself. Now the context may be possession, but the application is further reaching. You it isn’t enough to just repent, and cut a sin out of our lives–that activitity must needs be replaced by something positve.

Something God-honoring.

If you know you need to stop doing x, pray, confess, and put y in its place. For instance, if you’re struggling with pornography, make sure you have the accountability of a trusted same-gendered believer. Moreover, don’t put yourself in the situation where you’re going to be tempted. Don’t have a computer in your house where you can be alone with it, but rather out in the open. Moreover, don’t take your tablet/smartphone/what have you into the bathroom.

Beyond this, when temptation arises,  call your accountability partner and let them know what’s going on. Have them pray with you. Flee that sexual temptation by:

Going for a walk

Going to the gym

Going for a drive.

Writing, journaling, painting…

In short, some creative (rather than destructive) endeavor.

Whatever it takes to replace that sin in your life with something good.

The same goes for any sin. If it’s overspending, over eating, whatever. Do your best to avoid the situation, and fill that void with another healthy, God-honoring activitity. It may take time, but don’t beat yourself up for your stumbles.

Just keep moving forwards.

How about you? What do you do to combat sin?

'Dysfunction Junction: Cold Spring NY Photowalk' photo (c) 2010, Nick Harris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I don’t want you getting the wrong idea–I wasn’t beaten as a child. The spankings I got, I earned (helping your buddy try to burn down his grandmother’s garage, anyone?). I wasn’t a battered child, but I’ve got come to the conclusion that abuse is never just physical.

There are psychological, and emotional, abuses, too. And if I was abused, it was in this way:

I was ignored. One of my earliest memories is being told to go away, relax, unwind, watch T.V. And then later, when she checked on me, my mother was aghast to find me drinking a beer in front of Sesame Street. Why? “Because it wat daddy do.”

When I fell, got hurt, got a boo-boo, there was precious little soothing; instead, I was indoctrinated with the mantra “I’m alright.” Even though I most decidedly was not alright. They say the lessons learned earliest go the deepest.
And are hardest to overcome. I’ve been alright far too many times when I shouldn’t have been. Been okay in places I never should have been…

If my mother’s chiefest failing was practiced indifference–emotional diffidence, my dad’s was indifference followed by the bitter wash of sarcastic chasers. I would go from being ignored to verbally masticated, spit out, left to put myself back together…

And I had to be alright.

After their inevitable divorce, the neglect only deepened. My mom, of course, didn’t share her pain; instead, losing herself in work, she hoped (I think) to give others something she couldn’t give herself: an intact family.

And my dad? Our relationship was as defined in the divorce decree: I saw him twice a year. His second wife hated my brother and I…

Divorce touches millions of families. And my life, seen from the outside, may have appeared to be, while perhaps less than ideal, a privileged one. I was white, lived in Scottsdale, had a roof, clothes  food. In short, the basics.

It has taken me years to pin down just exactly what I didn’t have:

A sense of love.

Part and parcel with growing up latchkey was, I guess, a sense of parental guilt. There were precious few boundaries, and even fewer consequences. I was left to my own devices, to indulge in whatever I wanted.

It’s a wonder I just got into smoking, and not drugs. My interest in porn was labelled “healthy curiosity.” If my childhood was defined by anything, it was these three things:

Neglect

Pornography

And Stephen King

I turned inward because there was nowhere else to go, no one to go to. My mom eventually had a live-in boyfriend, who’s example, and idea of culture, consisted of pizza, cigarettes, and “martoonis” in front of the T.V. This was my exemplar of manhood.

I wanted to escape, but had nowhere else to go. My dad didn’t want me, my mom was too busy, and this is “white privilege?”

None of this was talked about. I had to navigate a broken family, adolescence, on my own.

Habits developed then have not always been conducive now to  building healthy attachments. I’m almost 45 years old, and still bitter about what I didn’t have. Why couldn’t I have a normal, loving family? Why don’t I have meaningful relationships with my parents, brother, etc?

For years, as a growing Christian, I thought it was my job to put up, shut up, keep the peace. I allowed so many unhealthy things to happen, so many hurts to go unaddressed. I want to let my parents off the hook, say they did the best they could…

But I don’t believe it.

That’s why I want so much to be done with them. I can’t seem to get past the things which they’ve done, or I’ve done in relation to them. I want to say there’s too much water under the bridge. I don’t feel listened to.

I want to be done, but can’t. Because…

Because God.

He’s the God of second, third, thirty-third, and seventy-times-time chances.

Because He’s given me chance after chance, though I’ve blown it time and time again, I can do no less. I have to try.

If there’s a lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s this: the things we like least in others are usually the things which dislike about ourselves. That hurts to admit.

I’m not perfect (far from it), and neither are they. They dealt with their own demons, as I’ve dealt with mine.

God help me, I’m willing to try.

That’s the best I can do.

It’s not bad to feel ashamed when we’ve done shameful things. There is such a thing as a healthy regret. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t.

image

This post is not about that kind of shame. But rather about the shame that we, the culture, and church project. The kind that makes us worry more about our reputations, than about getting the help we need.

Continue Reading…

A Purpose in the Pain

randomlychad  —  August 26, 2012 — 18 Comments

Friends, we have have recently been through some deep waters together. I had a purpose in sharing those stories with you; it wasn’t to shock you, wound you, or crush your spirits.

It wasn’t even to evoke sympathy. No, I simply wanted you to share in my journey; in order to do that I needed to authentically represent the things that happened. After what you’ve done for me, I owed you that much. It was because of you that I got to go to bootcamp. So it is as much your story as it is mine.

I could have broken down each session, given you what I heard, and learned, but I wanted you to partake instead in my internal journey. Each of the stories I shared last week represents a stage in the process Jesus led me through during bootcamp. Like an onion, He gently, lovingly peeled away the layers.

Showed me where I’d been hurt the deepest, wounded the most.
But allow me to back up a little bit first. Going into it, I had an idea, a dream of healing, but I was frightened. The only thing I clung to heading up to Colorado was tale of the woman with the issue of blood. Like her, I told myself if I could but touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, I would be healed.

Never did I expect Him to reach down, and touch me the way He did.

But He did, friends–O! how He did. The weekend began with John Eldredge repeating two refrains:

“You have a heart, and it matters, ” and “You were born into a world at war.”

As a man, and this is not meant as a reproach, merely an observation, I can’t recall the last time I heard either at church.

From there, John and the team laid the foundation that my heart–every man and woman’s heart, really–has been wounded in that war. In the process of uncovering those wounds, I was forced to confront the “Poser,” or the false self, I’d constructed to hide the wounded boy within. What were my fig leafs, and why didn’t I want to be known?

That is a deeply personal journey for each one of us. Suffice it to say, God was faithful to show up, blow down my house of cards. The truth came diamond-hard, and slug-ugly (God the diamond, and I the slug). And I got something from each and every session. Where before I lived with rejection, He gave me a new name:

Loved and Accepted.

As surely as the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west, He spoke that to my heart. But He wasn’t done with me yet. He wanted me to know that I was “loved and accepted” before He dove deep in my heart to wound me to the depths of my soul.

What do I mean?

I mean that for me, and for you, too, there is a theme to our wounds. And that God is faithful to wound us in our deepest woundings to bring those things to light.

Because He wants to heal them.

First, He knocked out my foundation, which was this:

Nearly everything I have done in life up until now has been for a singular purpose, namely my dad’s approval–his affirmation, his validation. Despite clearly getting the message from him, and others, that I didn’t have what it takes (who did that message really come from, who worked so tirelessly to take me out?). This explains why I continued for so long to allow him to wound not only me, but my family as well.

I wanted him in my life.

What boy doesn’t?

But that rejection, that craving for approval, wasn’t the deepest thing about me. No, Jesus went past that to my deepest heart.

It was the penultimate session of the retreat. Already I was struggling to remain present, my mind and heart drifting to home, and its cares. Despite this, worship really moved me. God was there. I belted out the words to Tim Hughes’ Everything harder than I’d ever sung anything in my life (I’m very much a joyful noise person).

And then Morgan Snyder got up to share. I realized–God showed me via Morgan’s story–the deepest thing about me wasn’t a life lived balanced on the knife’s edge between a fear of rejection, and a desperate need for a approval.

No, the deepest thing, the thing that felt truest of all, was that I believed I was alone. This was brought powerfully to my attention by:

Yes, that is the much-seen video of Derek Redmond losing out on his last chance for Olympic gold, but rising anyway, choosing to complete the race. God showed me three things, spoke them indelibly into my heart:

1) I believed I was the man running the race alone, the watching world waiting for him to fall. That I was essentially fatherless.
2) All I had longed for from my father, I already had–had had–all along. He so gently rebuked me of this.
3) Like Redmond’s father in the video, Jesus has got me, His arm already around me.

He told me “Son, you’re not alone. You’ve never been. This race that you run–life? I’ve carried you all along. We will finish together.”

I was shell-shocked, stunned, hadn’t dared hope God would speak in such a personal way. But He showed up in the midst of my fragile faith anyway.

At this point, we were dismissed to an exercise, a time of silent reflection and prayer. We were to get alone with God, take these questions to Him.

I couldn’t do it.

I went back to the bunkhouse, locked myself in a bathroom stall, and just balled.

For half and hour, I cried. I grieved all I never had, but had had all along, I grieved how I had spurned my Father. I cried in great heaving sobs so hard my chest was sore for days afterwards.

I cried tears of joy, because for the first time in my life I knew who I was:

My Father’s son.

How about you? Do you know who you are? More importantly: do you know Whose you are?

You can.