God of All Comfort

sunbreaksthroughOne caveat before I begin:  I am fully aware that the antidote to depression and anxiety is not always cut and dried or easily attainable.  Sometimes people need medication to treat it successfully and should not forgo that when it is warranted.  With that said…

Becoming an unbeliever brought many changes in my life, most of which I expected and was ready for. One positive and unexpected change was overcoming my struggle with depression and anxiety and I can’t really explain why.  As a believer, and early on in my deconversion, there were times when I would be in such a dark place, I was afraid I would never come out. Being a Christian and suffering from anxiety and depression is a double burden, because not only are you hurting, but the inability to overcome is evidence that you aren’t trusting in God and thus disappointing him, perhaps even sinning against him. Once I lost my faith, those horrible dark times have never returned. Do I get blue sometimes or worry?  Yes, but it is nothing like it was.  Not even close.  Now I have a hard time even remembering what it was like to be in a dark place or be consumed with fear and anxiety.

I didn’t spend much time thinking about this happy change, until I received an article from a friend the other day entitled “Great Bible Verses for Depression.”  When I read the title, I got that sick, sinking feeling inside.  I remember reading articles like that—the ones that brought no comfort to me and I blamed myself for it.   It contained all the usual suspects, especially the verse from Philippians.  The one I had memorized and recited to myself over and over again, to no avail: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything…And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds…” blah, blah, blah.  Anyway, the other verses from the article were from the Book of Psalms and one from Deuteronomy—Deuteronomy?  Really?  This got me thinking.  Maybe that is why those verses, and others, never helped me, never brought me peace. Maybe it was because I knew the Bible too well and knew of the other verses that surrounded them.  Maybe I couldn’t blindly pick and choose the “feel good” parts without, at least subconsciously, remembering the others.

Take Deuteronomy, for instance.  The article included Deuteronomy 31:8:  “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be.”  That’s pretty comforting, right?  What Christians fail to think about–and think is the operative word here–is all the verses surrounding that little tidbit.  Verses that lay down impossible rules and regulations and then, there’s the hatred and violence.  In Deuteronomy 20, for instance, it reads, “However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them….” Ah, yes, I feel better already, don’t you?  Then there is the Book of Psalms, or as I like to call them, “The rantings of a spoiled king.” The article sited several passages, none better than Psalm 34:  “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” That’s a good one.  I can almost feel God lifting me up out of the darkness…wait, what about Psalm 137?  “Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.  Happy is the one who seizes your infants
 and dashes them against the rocks.”  Wow, Fundamentalist Muslims have nothing on those Old Testament believers…

I realize that some Christians actually do get comfort from selected verses in the Bible. I think the only way they can, though, is to ignore the majority of the Bible and just grab a happy verse here and there as they continue to tell themselves that God is a god of unconditional love (as long as you obey, believe and follow accordingly, of course) and all you need is the Son.  Yes, that does work for some, but I think the true healing and comfort comes when you do what I did—begin thinking, face reality and watch the true sun break through.

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Blow Job Evangelism

misogyny_hard_to_spellSo, as I mentioned yesterday, there is a lot of interesting stuff about this Mark Driscoll character.  Some of it I can’t even delve into yet, because it has brought up a lot of unattended wounds that I suffered at one particular church, involving one particular narcissistic pastor.  I haven’t written much about it here before, but I think it’s just about time and will in the near future.   The parallels are amazing.

Let’s leave that for now and talk about an aspect of Driscoll that I find quite disturbing:  His demeaning view of women–his misogyny, if you will.   There are so many quotes I could use from his sermons and books, but I really think this one is a doozie and a perfect illustration of what I am talking about.  This particular quote comes from a sermon Driscoll gave in Scotland.  He is telling a story of how a woman in his congregation brought her husband to Christ, after receiving  “counsel” from Driscoll.  So, without any further ado, here is his quote:

She [the wife] says, “I’ve never performed oral sex on my husband. I’ve refused to.” I said, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband. And when he asks why, say, ‘Because I’m a repentant woman. God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.’” She says, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. First Peter 3 says if your husband is an unbeliever to serve him with deeds of kindness.” [Laughter from audience] How many men would agree, that is a deed of kindness. He doesn’t want tracts. Those won’t do anything. What we’re talking about here could really help.

Alrighty then.  Now, I’m not even going to go into why this woman was even discussing oral sex with Driscoll… I’m assuming he had questioned her about it, and that in and of its self is creepy all on its own, but I just want to focus on his misogyny, which becomes apparent when he tells her that by denying her husband blowjobs, she is committing a “terrible sin your life.”  Wow, just wow.  Not that I have a problem with blowjobs, I think they’re great, but  not wanting to perform one is a “terrible sin?” Really?  Next, he says, “You need to drop his trousers and serve him.”  Oh, serve him?  What does that make her, a sex slave, perhaps? That’s just demeaning.  Finally he says she needs to tell her husband,” God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.”  Well, ladies, we all know what that means, yes, full submission—our bodies are not our own.  They belong to our men; of course they do.

Putting aside the asinine idea of blow jobs bringing a man to Christ, Driscoll’s less than stellar view of women is simply appalling. It’s just incredible to me that this man has a female following at all.  Mars Hill is huge and has a huge budget.  It’s weird enough that people, especially women, attend his church and sign a “membership covenant,” (more on that later…shudder) but they give tons and tons of money to this man and his church.  Crazy.  I can fully understand why men would want to attend, especially with the whole “blowjob evangelism” thing that is promoted, but women?  Women sit and listen to this misogynistic ass?  Geez…us preserve us.

I Can’t Remember…

smelling a flower“I miss the smell of Christmas,” He said nonchalantly.

My breath caught and my chest tightened.  “What do you mean?”  I asked, already knowing and trying desperately to sound normal.

“I don’t know…I remember that Christmas had a special smell, you know, and when the air smelled that way at other times, I would remember Christmas. It felt good.  I don’t have that anymore.”

I could feel that familiar lump in my throat, the one I always get when I think about that day, and although I was fighting it, tears began to well up in my eyes.  Thankfully, he was unaware of the impact his words were having on me and I was determined not to let him know.  He talks about it so little, I don’t ever want to react in a way that would make him feel hesitant to do so.

“I really think memories are linked to smell,” he continued, “like Thanksgiving and other times.  It’s as if not being able to smell anymore, is causing those memories to fade and I miss them. I miss the smell.”

All I could say was that I was sorry and then I reminded him of all the other things related to memory and the good times we have had and again, I reminded him that perhaps one day that part of his brain will heal and those smells will return and he will appreciate them in a way he never could have otherwise.  I reminded him of how lucky he is that in spite of his brain injury, he can laugh and walk and talk and play basketball, and be treated normally.  He nodded.

After that, all I could do was hold my breath and hope for control, at least until I dropped him off at school.  Then I could give in.  It’s like a panic attack I think—the tightening and the sinking feeling.  It’s almost like reliving that day.  Just like when I drive by that hospital—the one where I first took him, certain there was something horribly wrong.

Kids are resilient though—we all are.  He’s come a long way.  He has gone from saying, “If I have to stay this way, I will kill myself,” (He didn’t know that it was probably permanent at the time) to smiling at me and telling me dinner is good and taking the Spirit Championship for his senior class by drinking a horrible concoction in the fastest amount of time.   All in all, it’s okay now.

Some people say if they could go back and change a horrible incident in their lives, they wouldn’t, because of what they have learned.  I guess they are better people than me, because if I could go back to that day, I would have insisted on giving him a ride to soccer practice instead of letting one of his teammates do it.  Life doesn’t work that way though and I can’t go back.  We just find the good where we can.  We’re closer, I’m more understanding of those who have to see their children suffer, and Noah has a greater appreciation for things he didn’t before.

One of the most difficult things is helping people understand the gravity of his loss.  He lost one of his senses, one that adds vibrancy to life, but also one that protects him from harm (Toxins, smoke, etc.)  It’s a huge loss, yet people tend to make light of it.  That is until I tell them the,“I Miss the Smell Of Christmas” story and suddenly, in their eyes, I see it—the light of understanding.  That means everything.

Some Nights

drivingintosunsetI really had no idea what to write about tonight, but as I was driving home from Napa, I got to thinking about a time, not too long ago, that I was driving on a similar road.  It was dark and winding—a little rainy.  So much had been going on then.  At that time, I had come to know two things:  Christianity was a lie and I couldn’t deny it anymore, and my marriage was over.  Everything about the life I had known for so very long had fallen out from under me and I don’t think I could have felt more scared or alone and pain engulfed me like fog on the Bay.

That night as I drove, I remember a thought came to me.  “I can just close my eyes, doze off, and just let it all end.”  I was tired already, and couldn’t have been more war-torn, and although I really didn’t want to kill myself, I just didn’t want to live anymore.  At one point, I actually closed my eyes and released my grip on the wheel—like I was practicing.  It would be so easy and everyone would be so much better off.  Thankfully rationality won the day, and I saw the flaw in my plan. There would be other people driving the car that would hit me. They probably had everything live for—a spouse, who loved them and maybe kids, or someone’s son or daughter.   I decided that I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone else.   So, I came to my senses and gathered my resolve and carried on.  I’m so glad I did.

I mention that night, because for the life of me, I can’t conjure up those feelings now.  I know I was in immense pain, but I can’t feel it now.  Even though I can’t, I know I must have been desperate and in a lot of pain to consider checking out on life and hurting those who loved me—mostly my kids.  That night would not be the last time I entertained checking out, and it truly was my kids that kept me from doing something extremely stupid.

That horrible night is just another reminder of how we can’t judge life by a snapshot moment, or even a chapter that is several pages long, because the story of our lives continues, with many twists and turns and we just never know how it will all turn out.

Even though that time in my life was full of heartache, fear and uncertainty, I don’t think I would go back and change it if I could.  I learned that no matter how desperate and hopeless things may seem at the end of Act 1, Act 2 is coming and it is so much better.  The other thing I learned was an understanding of what it feels like to not want to live—that pain.  If I had not dipped into that darkness, I would never been able to love and understand people who struggle against that dark, dark place.

Tonight, as I drove home and thought about how differently things could have turned out that fateful night, I took a deep breath cranked up “Some Nights,” by Fun, and drank in life–wonderful, ever-changing life.

The Year Of Lasts

photoI knew this would happen…the day would get away from me and I wonld not have written anything.  It was a busy day. I’m getting ready to go out of town and my youngest son, Noah, had a Varsity Basketball game, (that’s him in the picture, nailing a three point outside shot) that was supposed to start at 8:00, but actually ended up starting at 8:30 and before I did that I had to go to the gym and before that make dinner, so he would be able to eat before the game.  Why, oh why can’t I be one of those mom’s that says, “Here kid, here’s five bucks go to Subway.”   I just can’t seem to do that, especially this year.  It’s just kind of a special year for us.  It’s my baby boys’s (he’d kill me if he heard me say that) senior year.  It’s a year of excitement and challenge, a little stressful and filled with lots of lasts:  The last soccer game, the last year to be team mom, last basketball game, and driving a car load of smelly, hilarious boys, last Winter Ball, last Prom, and the last of four high school graduations.

I was always the one to scoff “empty nest syndrome.”  I made sure that I always had a life separate from my kids.  I have never been a mom to live vicariously through any of kids.  I always thought, “What’s the big deal? This is what they are supposed to do–grow up and move out, geez!”  I always said that I looked forward to them being “up and out.”  I, for one,  could hardly wait.  Then something weird happened.  It started at Soccer orientation this year.  I had to fill out all the usual forms and as I wrote, grade 12, I felt a little start inside me.  I suddenly realized that my youngest son would be graduating from high school and that would be that.  How could I not have seen this coming?  He was just this little freckled face boy with disheveled hair, riding his tricycle naked down the street , waving at the neighbors as they drove by.  He was the little fatty that snuffled at my breast and slept in my arms…What the fuck?  What the heck was going on?  I was going to have my freedom soon.  No more laundry, no more dirty jerseys and stinky shoes.  No more making sure there was dinner on the table.  I had prepared myself for this…I had!  I needed to get a grip, and yet, there I was, getting weepy at soccer orientation…great.

For a while, I was fine, I hadn’t really thought much about it until the last soccer game of the year.  They stood in their usual huddle, at the end of the game, they put their hands up together and chanted, “Knights on three!  One..two…three..KNIGHTS!”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I teared up, I got the biggest lump in my throat…”This is the last time they will do this together,” I thought– the last time.  I see now that it’s going to be this way for the rest of the year.  It’s going to hit me over and over again, the everyday things that this kid has done all his life, are going to end at the end of this year.  I’ve decided that for the rest of this year I am going to embrace every memory as if it were a precious jewel.  As I now watch him play his last basketball season, I drink in every moment, every win, every loss, every three pointer he makes, every smile he flashes when he does, every high five and slap on the shoulder these boys share, I am tucking them all away in my heart, because when the buzzer sounds on that last game of his last season and they chant, “Knights on Three,”  the realization that this part of our lives in coming closer and closer to an end, is going to  wash over me like a tidal wave and when that happens I want to feel certain, that I took in every precious moment of it all.

I no longer scoff at the idea of empty nest syndrome.  I get it now.  Sometimes the idea of coming home to an empty house that lacks stinky shoes and dirty jerseys and a young man’s  voice saying, “why don’t we ever have any food in this house and what’s for dinner?” makes my chest tighten a little.  It’s so enlightening when you realize why people do things that you never understood until you are there yourself, then you have this aha! moment.  It’s great.  I still don’t get why older people wait until their groceries are all rung up and bagged before they start digging in their purse for their checkbook, but hey! Maybe some day I will!    I do look forward to a different season in my life.  This what every mother works for, right?  Raising a child that is healthy and independent, able to get out there and make it on their on…but I am going to miss this, the turkey sandwiches and scrambled eggs before school.  Man, I’m going to miss that boy!

Let the Challenge begin!

30-daysFor the past several months, I have been doing 30-Day Challenges, one every month, e.g., no alcohol, eating a clean food diet, no credit cards, no sugar, and no eating after 7:00.  The last one was a fail, by the way, and due to the rules I have set down for these challenges, I have to do it for an additional 30 days, and during the holidays; great!

I started this whole 30-day-challenge thing after talking with a friend who observes Lent.  He doesn’t do it for religious reasons, he does it to practice self-discipline; I liked that idea.  I also watched a lecture on TED about doing something different/challenging every 30 days, which intrigued me as well, and so it began.

Why am I telling you this?  I’m telling you because I have decided to make this month’s 30-day-challenge to post on my blog every day, for 30 days…yep, and now that I have written it, I have to do it; there is no going back (another one of my self-imposed rules).

I think this will be a good exercise because one of the hindrances I have to posting consistently is my desire to post perfection, which is ridiculous, since, as you all can see, none of my posts are perfect—not even close, but it’s the striving for it, that keeps me from finishing and posting.

I used to always say, to anyone who would comment on something being perfect, “Only God is perfect.”  I did, I truly did.  Well, we all know how that turned out, so I guess nothing is perfect…well, math is perfect…always perfect, and I suck at math, so there you go.  All that to say, I am going to have to let go of my perfectionism for 30 days, and that has to be good, right?

Time to get writing…I’m scared already!