Regret…Part One

erasing-regretThe details of her death were relayed to me after she was gone.  I wasn’t there—wasn’t welcome.

“Dad just kept saying, over and over to her, “Forgive me! Forgive me!  It was awful,” my sister said.

It wasn’t the first time he had asked our mother for forgiveness, but it would be his last and his words fell to the ground, unheard.  All those years of regret must have flooded over him and through him with no remedy.  I suppose his ever-increasing dementia will be his only mercy.  In some ways, I envy him.

Regret.  We all have it, some of us more than others, and regret does not die with the one we harmed or were harmed by.  It lingers, and leaves us broken in a way that feels excruciating.  There will be no making things right, or talking things out.  There will be no chance of asking for or receiving of forgiveness–no reconciliation.  What was done, or not done remains that way, for good.

When my mother died, I had only spoken to her once in about 8 years.  The reasons for that remain a bit of a mystery to me really.   I do have some ideas, but I’m unsure of the true reasons because she would not talk with me about it, only to say, in a facebook message, that I had “moved away” from what I had always believed, to “just go live your new life” and “Can’t we just agree to disagree?” That was about it.  When I pushed back and said that if we couldn’t talk then she would be out of my life, because the pain of being rejected and ignored was too much for me, said she had “wounds that had healed and she didn’t want to open them up again.” I begged her to have a conversation with me, so that we could possibly have relationship again, but she would not.

There were things I wanted to know. Had I caused those wounds? What were we agreeing to disagree about?  There were things I wanted her to know too, like why I no longer believed, what the price for that was and how scared I was, but she refused to discuss those things with me and the cost was our relationship. So, for about eight years, there would be the occasional private message from her on facebook, telling me she loved me or happy birthday.  When I needed my mother more than anything in the world, she was not there.  My brother said she had been praying for me—there’s absolutely no comfort in that.

Herein lies the devastation for me:  I will never have the opportunity to have that conversation with her now.  She has no regrets, she’s dead, but I’m here and the regret I feel is overwhelming at times.  I regret I didn’t just go to Arizona and make her talk with me or swallow my wounded pride and pick up the phone.  I regret the words I wrote back to her in anger, anger born of hurt, but anger none-the-less.  I regret that when I did talk to her, after almost 8 years, right before she got sick, that I didn’t say more.  I regret that we talked about nothing, but surface stuff, as if we were strangers.  I regret I didn’t tell her that I had missed her every day.

What does one do with regret like that?  Well, we need to find a way to move on from it at some point–if we want to remain mentally healthy anyway, but as with most emotional pain, there are lesson to be learned. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I feel, very strongly, that I need to make sure that I don’t leave words unsaid—forgiveness unasked for and forgiveness not given.  I need to know that when I close my eyes for the last time, my regrets will be few, and the people around me that I love will feel the same. I need to do this while there is still time.

I have my work cut out for me.

 

 

Footprints

footprints 2Wow, I haven’t been here for a while.  Not even a 30-Day-Challenge could keep me honest.  You wait though, because I am going to blog 30 in a row.  I really am!   Anyway, I just got back from a few days in Laguna Beach.  It was an incredible time I have to say.  I didn’t realize, until I was there, just how badly I needed a beach fix.  I did gain some insights while I was there and I will share them with you in the next couple of blogs.

The first one hit me as I was walking alone on the beach.  As I looked back and saw the long trail of footprints I left behind, it called to mind that poem.  You know the one, “Footprints.”  It’s where “The Lord” tells the poet that when there was only one set of footprints in the sand,  He (god) was carrying them through their most challenging times.  As I considered my own lone footprints, I thought, “That is such bullshit.”  I also thought about how I would revise that “poem” if I could.  I decided that the only thing that needed revising was the last few lines.  Here is the poem with its revisions:

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
 Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. 
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints; 
other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed
 that during the low periods of my life,
 when I was suffering from
  anguish, sorrow or defeat, 
I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord, 
”You promised me Lord,
 that if I followed you,
 you would walk with me always.
 But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
 there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
 Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, 
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, 
that is when you realized I was never there; I was a figment of your imagination and it was you and only you who stood strong and persevered on your own.  It was your resilience and strength that carried you through. You thought you needed someone bigger and more powerful outside of yourself, but you didn’t.  There was only you.”

Many find comfort in the old version of that poem.  I do not.  It is much more comforting and also empowering to know that we are all we need. We are enough.

Above The Fray

searching__but_not_seeing__by_lyndzieWhen I have talked about the problems within the Church and religion as a whole, I tend to get the same reaction from Christians—they deflect.   I don’t think there has ever been a situation where a Christian has actually owned the bad behavior that is rampant within the Church.  They always act like the bad things that happen are merely isolated occurrences.  When I’ve shared specific incidences that I and others have experienced in the Christian Church, the typical response from them goes something like, “Oh, I’m so sorry that that happened to you; that’s not representative of true Christianity though.”  It isn’t?  That’s weird because, that has pretty much been my experience.  To that, a finger is usually pointed right back to me.  You know, “Maybe it’s you—perhaps something you have done wrong, because I have just never encountered anything like that.” Words like that, responses like that; they wound and they wound deep.  It doesn’t bring the broken back into the fold, it sends them limping as far in the other direction as they can go.

My point is and has been, for a while now, if there really was a holy spirit that dwelt within Christians, my dear Christian friends, there would be a difference that could be clearly seen within the Church.  The divorce rate, teen pregnancy rate, the victimizing leaders, the shallowness, dishonesty, disloyalty, and bigotry found in the church is staggering, and yet just about every Christian I have brought this up to says, “Well, those things are not representative of true Christians,” and of course, they, personallyare not guilty of such things.  They consider themselves above the fray and, sadly, they take comfort in that.

In some ways I understand this reaction.  If Christians would allow themselves to open their eyes and take a good hard look at their religion, their leaders, and their churches, it would be a bit like seeing behind the scenes at Disneyland.  What they told themselves was reality is really only a fantasy and they have guided their entire lives under the delusion that the Christian Church is the happiest place on earth.  Of course, it isn’t.  Reality, being right in the middle of the fray, showing empathy to those that question their faith, or can no longer believe, rather than sympathizing from afar, that’s being human; that’s what life’s all about.

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.

I Thought I Was Okay

woman-is-whore-500x500I thought I had moved on, that the things that go on inside the Christian church had just become laughable to me, but I was wrong.  It wasn’t until I started researching Mark Driscoll, that I realized just how dangerous the Church is and how it is the perfect “sanctuary,” for destructive and evil men.  At first I though Mark Driscoll was just a ridiculous boob and really didn’t carry much weight in the Christian community.  Again, I was wrong.

As I researched this man and his deeds, it became too much for me.  I had had a pastor like him and all the hurt and character assassination that pastor Arturo Azurdia was and is responsible for came back to me in a torrent.  The similarities between the two men are stunning.  As I read stories written by some of the people left in Driscoll’s wake, I could not believe how they paralleled the stories of those left in the wake of Art Azurdia and Christ Community Church.  I was one of them.  No matter what these men and others like them do, they continue to stand.  Why?  Because they use fear of sin and fear of causing “division” and of “gossiping,” to control their flock.  They make you feel special to be brought into their inner circle and if you are there you had better shut the f**k up and go with the flow, or as Driscoll is quoted as saying, “You either get on the bus, or you’ll get run over by the bus.”  If you cannot be a yes man, you will be cast out in a way you never thought was possible and your so-called friends, in an effort to remain in that inner circle, will be the first ones to toss you overboard.

So, I’m scraping Pastor Driscoll off and moving on to better things.  Of course, if you want to know more, check out his newest book on marriage.  Go to amazon and read the reviews and the comments on the reviews–extremely enlightening. I just can’t write about him anymore, although there is plenty to say. Reading about him and his church and the poor, pathetic people who still blindly follow him, makes me feel sad, and angry, and helpless to stop people like him.  But, set you down this, as Shakespeare would say, someday that man is going to fall.  Something big is going to happen to Driscoll and unfortunately, it will probably be his loyal followers that will be the casualties, not him.  That’s the way it goes for “spirit filled” men of god. That’s the way it goes in the church of god.

 

Suffer the Children

67938_305412512908484_1193109497_n-1Today’s post will be short, because most of the work was done for me.  Thank you Crazy, Sappy Christians, on facebook.  Anyway, so this picture and the following poem were on the wall of a friend and it pissed me off so much, I had to comment.  I didn’t want her to be all hurt and mad, so I found the original poster’s wall and commented there. You would not believe some of the comments people wrote–embarrassing.  There’s not enough room to share them, but I wanted to share my comment because it is exactly how I feel.  I’m going to post the poem first, to give context and then I’m going to share my comment, with commentary.

Here’s the poem:

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38

when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.

Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.

They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.

They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.

They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.

“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.

“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “we’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”

When what to their wondering eyes did appear,

but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.

He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.

Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.

And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring

Those children all flew into the arms of their King

and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,

one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.

And as if He could read all the questions she had,

He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”

Then He looked down on earth, the world far below

He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe…

then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,

“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”

“may this country be delivered from the hands of fools”

“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”

then He and the children stood up without a sound.

“Come now my children, let me show you around.”

excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.

All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.

and i heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,

“in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

— with Andrea Marie.

Here is my original facebook comment:

“There are so many problems with this:  First, so Jesus has the power to protect and alter things and yet he let the children be slaughtered. Second, he promises that he will take care of the one little girl’s parents after he stood by while their lives were decimated?  What kind of monster would do that? Third, he’s going to retake “His Nation” now? When is he going to retake the nations where women are treated like animals and children starve to death in the arms of their mothers by the hundreds? And finally, I don’t get accompanying picture.  Do the little children have to go to school in heaven or was Jesus in school with them and stood by as a young man mowed them down? Perhaps he’s decided to start hanging out there again. I’m not sure why this would comfort anyone and why anyone would consider this beautiful…I guess it’s just me.”

It’s obvious that the idea that the massacre was due to god’s judgment is the underlying theme in the poem, because it says that Jesus is now going to deliver the country from “the hands of fools” and he’s now decided to let his “power and presence, reenter this land.”  So, evidently we were bad and so he wasn’t here.  Also, where are the adults that were killed?  What about Ms. Soto, the teacher that hid her children and lied to protect them and lost her life?  From some of the comments I’ve read about her, made by Christians, she showed way to much cleavage and supported gay rights…Well, I guess we all know where she went.

I’m sorry.  I’m not feeling very empathetic today.  Christianity is gross

No Jesus?

fear-of-flyingWhen I was a Christian I had so many fears.  I was afraid of everything, and that included flying.  I thought of this yesterday as I was flying home from New Orleans.  A storm was moving in as we were leaving and it was pretty turbulent throughout the flight. When I was a Christian anytime there was turbulence during a flight, I would immediately start praying and I still remember what I would pray.  It went something like this:  “Dear Lord, (I always started that way—very formal don’t ya’ know) if I have done anything to cause you pain, or if I am in sin in anyway, please forgive me.  If this plane crashes I want to know that I will be with you…blah, blah, blah, confession of sins, blah, blah, blah.” Oh, and I always ended with “in Jesus name, amen.”  You had to end that way, or Jesus wouldn’t hear you (thanks for that mom).

I remember the first time I flew after de-converting.  The plane dipped really fast and kind of shuddered.  I stopped and almost started to pray and then I sat back and thought, “Oh, that’s right, there’s no god to hear, no god who cares, no heaven and no hell, no god to make things right with.  I love my family.  I love my kids.  They love me, and I’m doing my best—I’m good.”  I smiled to myself and for the first time ever, drifted off to sleep and didn’t awake until we were ready to land in Boston.

I’ve heard so may Christians say that atheists must be so hopeless and they wonder how we even want to live, since we have no heaven to hope for.  They couldn’t be more off base.  You see, there may not be a heaven to hope for, but we also have no hell to fear.  We simply live our lives and for the most part we do it hopefully and happily in the here and now.

Christians have it all wrong.  It’s not “Know Jesus, no fear.  It’s “No Jesus?  No fear.

…And yes, I am fully aware I missed a day…I make no excuses and will now be continuing my challenge into January.  This is more difficult than I thought.  I guess that’s proof that I chose something that is truly a challenge.  I now have more respect for those who bang out daily blog posts and do it well.

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