“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind…”
I have a story to tell but I don’t quite know how to start it. For many years now, it has been like a loose stone jangling in the back of my head. Or maybe it has been more like a prickly place just under my skin; a constant source of irritation. I suspect that it is important for me tell this story; to actually articulate it. I now understand that it has touched or colored or invaded or more likely, molested every place inside me. Maybe once I just tell this story, all the shadows and images that have been hidden behind the veil for a very long time, will pull together tightly and begin to take on form and fashion, and finally become something real. Something that I can look at or touch and say, “Oh, that’s what that means.”
I’ll have to be courageous when I tell it-for there will probably be many who sat with me in that time and saw and experienced what I did-but from the other side of the room. I’m sure their recollection will offer different perspectives of the very same events-but how it looked from where they sat. At first, I wanted to be angry and flip and scathing and witty and derisive as I told this story because surely, it’s my time to tell the world what they did to me. (deep breath) But if I did that, it would take away from the “glory to the story” and even if I managed to salvage some sort of message or a meaningful allegory…it would be lost in the fury and flurry of my own angst. And I suspect that this story is too important for me to be so selfish.
I can’t remember how old I was…many of my childhood memories are kinda blurry and fuzzy. I usually am more apt to remember in colors or smells or tastes and textures. But when I was very young, my parents decided that it was time for our family to start attending church. And through a co-worker of my mother’s, we heard about a relatively young fellowship being led by a dynamic minister; a place where lives were being changed because people were truly meeting God.
“The Church” quickly became an all-consuming factor in our lives. They became my family. Now, I can remember being little and in the back seat and listening to my parents talk about this thing that was happening in our lives. They were convinced and committed and excited about their new-found salvation…I remember the fear in their eyes after we were invited to watch the end-of-times movie, The Thief in the Night.
Now as an adult, I wonder if my parents were aware when certain birthrights started to slowly be taken from them? Rights such as family or free will or the ability to be thinking reasoning beings or time for self or privacy or respect or the ability to parent the children they sired…I wonder.
I have spent countless hours and days and years trying to construct in my head how that happened. Did we meet the criteria for being a cult? And to that question, I give a loud and resounding, “Yes!” You see, there isn’t much mystery or magic here once one dissects the ingredients that are used to create this dysfunctional and demoralizing world. If one adds one charismatic leader, a group of young, relatively un-churched people, emotional fervor, fear, isolation…well, I guess one would get the circumstance I was raised in.
I am sure that I could enthrall and hold captive anyone reading this with the details of the life I led. I could talk for days about the money given and lost, the 40 day fasts, the exclusivity, the decomposition of marriage and family, the fear, the learning to dissociate from reality, the intimidation, the humiliation, the sin of individuality, the loss of my beloved sister and friend, how my baby was taken from me… . (I am shocked at the tears that still threaten to fall so many years away from that time) But those hurtful, hateful details are simply what happens in environments like that. I think it is more important for me to focus on how affected I have been by this period of my life and most importantly, how I fell in love with the Savior-inspite of.
Until very recently, I have been unable to sit in a physical church. It seems as though everywhere I go, I see the “church” being contaminated with leaders that are self-serving, drunk from power’s seduction, and congregants willing to give up their ability to work out their own salvation and almost demanding that no one-not God, the Holy Spirit-no one shatter their illusions about what it means to truly walk in an intimate relationship with the Savior. So many times I have found myself in church service’s looking around me and wondering, “Does anybody else see this s***?!?” You see, for me, I can no longer be content in “playing church.”
Two and a half years ago, when I started my journey of Recovery (I prefer to call it my Reconciliation or my Reconnect to to my Divine Birthright) I never could have known all that I was going to actually start recovering from. I now understand that I have survived some very major spiritual, physical, and emotional landmines in my life. I entered adulthood as a refugee or maybe a prisoner of war that was discovered in the woods, still thinking the war was raging. I entered into a marriage that I thought was an escape that would provide me with the pass I needed for God not to kill me for no longer being a part of the “Saints.” And then I brought children into this world and instilled fear and guilt and shame into them just as it had been instilled into me. Every night I would tuck my little boy into bed, I told him to “be my strong boy” and not even realizing it was because somewhere deep inside me, I knew how weak and broken I was. I never knew that for me to become addicted to drugs was hardly surprising. And I never knew that I didn’t know how to enter into any kind of relationship with anybody, because I was disconnected from me.
I was never prepared to become so angry. I mean, I totally understood being sad or depressed or scared was-I had presented with these afflictions for years. But once all the mind and soul numbing chemicals were gone, I had to learn to sit, to literally quiver with rage so keen and so indignant and just…..experience it.
Now, I think it would be pretty arrogant of me to say that one day I just got really really smart and decided to invite Jesus into my heart and then I was cleansed in His blood and then I was a new creature and He and I skipped happily off to the “high places.” No. Well, maybe in the condensed version that’s what it will look like but the bits and the pieces of the actual Process-it has often been a little sloppy and painful and I’m sure it probably deserves an “R” rating. I am so grateful to have been gifted with the support and safety I needed to do the work necessary to divest myself of the “dead (wo)man” I had carried for years.
What then, do I believe now? Hmmm….Mi Manifesto! Well, firstly, I don’t believe that I completely understand Divine Perspective and I certainly still question if it was “all for the good” because most of it was pretty bad. But I do believe that God heard me when I prayed the innocent prayer of a ten year old and asked Him to come into my heart. And I believe that at that moment I became His and “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, was able to separate (me) from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (my) Lord.” And because I believe that he cannot lie, He was faithful to Himself that day He whispered my name in the dark and gently took my hand and lovingly walked me back to what He had given me so long ago–my life. I believe that even though things in my life were allowed in His permissive Will, He was there in the addiction. He was there in the depression. He was there in the abuse. He was there when I tried to die. I believe He heard every single prayer I prayed from the “wilderness….” and He was there when I realized my utter and complete need for Restoration-regardless of what one bad man behind one pulpit did to me!! God Is. Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus, Deus Aderit! * Bidden or not bidden, God is Present!*
I know now that even though I now have some beliefs that I carry deep, deep, way down deep in my soul, my only job is to simply uphold His blood-stained banner. I do this only because I know that my story is only a testament to His Glory. And I know I that I want to disturb the peace in my community and the church. I want people to get very uncomfortable and rage against becoming like the church of Laodicea! I want our leaders in the church to know that I am shining the bright light of Truth on them and exposing them when they allow their focus to soften and shift away from the Word!
I want my brothers and sisters to know that in seeking the realness of God we must forsake ritual and repetition and do whatever is necessary to revive the people who are sitting in pews for years and dying. Please, don’t settle for just being “good church folks.” I firmly believe the road to Hell is paved with their flaccid, slack-jawed, glassy-eyed stares… .
Very lastly, my only intention for writing this was to give form or fashion to the story that has been brewing inside me for so long now…by why can’t this also be a rallying cry? Why can’t we, who say we love Christ, become Radical Christians and get excited and willing to do whatever it takes to impart the beautiful, life giving message of freedom and salvation? Let us herald in a Renaissance for the “church” in our community! Let’s take off those fine suits and throw away those big “church lady” hats and roll up our sleeves and get dirty while we build the Kingdom!!