08 February 2010

Who is in Control?

I have been reading a book called "Boundaries" over the last 9 months or so. You can tell I've just been plowing through it. A co-worker loaned it to me and it's been sitting on my nightstand. Once in a while when I need a little encouragement, I pick it up. Last night was one of those nights.
When this book first came out it was pretty popular in Christian community, and therefore gave me an aversion to ever wanting to read it. This is part wisdom, and yes I confess at least in part, pride.
I do have very messy boundaries. I tend to throw myself into a relationship - whether it be friendship, parenting, or my relationship with my spouse in a sort of all or nothing kind of way. I have loved extravagantly, lavishly, overwhelmingly emptying myself of every reserve to find that I didn't save enough of my energy or care for my own survival.
What I am about to share is not going to be pretty, but it is about one of the most truthful things I have ever said about myself. Once I hit empty, I often lash out at the people that I've given so much to - given what they didn't ask for or what they may have asked but should have gotten a "no" answer. It's my own fault. I create the dynamic for a lot of the chaos and problems in my relationships.
The thing I learned last night is how much of what I do and say that is "reactionary". I sometimes don't fully digest what another person is saying before I react. I know where this comes from - I grew up feeling as if every thought and feeling I had were not valid. I didn't feel like anyone ever listened to me. When someone did take the time to listen, they always reacted with explosive anger because they couldn't control my emotions or me. The Boundaries book stated clearly that the person that reacts gives away control - but the person that responds maintains control, not over the other person or the situation, but with options and choices for yourself. This was profound.
I have put a lot of blame outside of myself in my relationships. I'm not saying that these other people are perfect, we all obviously do a lot of things that trigger the worst in one another. But the only thing I can really work on is me. I'm starting today to pay attention, to slow down my responses and try to respond instead of react.
Now, I owe someone an apology for last night, which is a start.

07 February 2010

Can I Be Authentic?

I have always prided myself on being authentic. I share what I am feeling, and do so openly with others. One thing I found when I became a believer is that a lot of people seemed to candy-coat their troubles with smiles, a lot of "God is in control" jargon (not that He isn't in control but that it seemed a crutch versus a true belief as if they were convincing themselves in the saying so), or a sick and twisted martyrdom that seemed to relish the pain.
I had a friend admonish me for some of the dramatic things I was posting as my status updates on Facebook. I appreciated the feedback. It made me take a step back and look at how this was being conveyed. I was wearing my hurt on my sleeve for all of the world to see. This was very helpful. It made the me think about my audience, and what I want to share. This post is not meant in any way to be a rebuttal of what I learned from that person's words, but some things God has clarified in my heart.
In tossing this around, I started to think of people in the Bible and how they handled pain. I remembered these words of Job in his distress:
"Obliterate the day I was born. Blank out the night I was conceived! Let it be a black hole in space. May God above forget it ever happened. Erase it from the books! May the day of my birth be buried in deep darkness, shrouded by fog, swallowed by the night. And the night of my conception - the devil take it! Rip the date off the calendar, delete it from the alamanac. Oh, turn that night into pure nothingness - no sounds of pleasure from that night, ever! May those who are good at cursing curse that day."
How's that for drama? I know that my losses may not stack up to those that were suffered by Job, but they are losses nonetheless. I think that there is a time and a place for lamenting. It may not have been as public as Facebook is for Job or King David, but I don't believe it was done with their head buried in their pillow behind closed doors all the time either. This given the fact that we have their words of lament to read centuries later. This shared human hurt is a place where we all connect.
I have been lonely. I have been sick. I have been burned by love. I have given and been denied what I gave in return. I have lost my house, my kids, my job. I have been kicked when I was down. I have been put down, torn up, and shut out. We can all relate to these statements and somewhere along the way, this kind of sharing helps us to feel that we truly aren't alone. Another person can say, "I was where you are, and I survived to hold your hand while you go through it."
Too often I think we want a quick fix for everybody. I think that the suffering of other people often makes us uncomfortable. We want a drive-thru spiritual fix for these deep rooted issues, these lifelong hurts and there is no such thing. Sometimes we have to see people at their worst - I know that the people who have met me in the last year have seen me at the worst possible time of my life. It is what it is. As some healing starts to take place, things are shifting. I've been leaning on things that remind me so much of the snow I fell in yesterday - when I try to brace myself in the wrong places, I find I just sink deeper.
I really don't understand a culture that will spend so much money on watching the fictionalized drama of people on TV or in the movies, who are so unwilling to deal with the real life pain and problems of people right next to them. I don't know what God is doing with this wreck that I am. But I do know this, I have His permission to lament, to question His love for me, to doubt and fear. He isn't afraid of any of that. He can handle it. It has been through those moments that His love and care for me have become most real and absolutely tangible. Maybe I'll share it on Facebook - maybe I won't, but if I do - both sides of the story will appear over time - both the hurt and the doubt, followed at some point by the healing and the comfort. If others are uncomfortable then they can feel free to look away, with my blessings.