Thursday, July 18, 2013

Forgiveness, Final. . . Finally!

The conclusion to the saga:
So did gossip ruin my life? Well, I’m not dead yet. It did certainly contribute to the fact that I won’t ever have biological children of my own and may never marry. Is it totally the fault of the gossipers? No. I could have handled it better. But I didn’t know how. I’d been taught to just keeping “doing right” and God would handle it.
I should be able to see that He did handle it. He used these events and others to rescue me out of IFB extremism. That was His plan and it was what was best. So why do I feel such anger when reading this blog, reading about her husband and her beautiful children. That was God’s plan for her. If I’ve really forgiven, why did this truly evil and sinful part of me say, “Hah, someone she was really close to died. So did someone close to my sister’s accuser. They got theirs”? I don’t even believe that God works like that. He isn’t going to kill someone to punish them or their loved ones because He punished all sin and poured out all His anger for all time when He placed our sins on Jesus at the cross. People die because this world is cursed and because the old adage, “Shit happens” is true.
So I’m struggling with all this anger and so much hurt when another blog that I’ve mentioned here before discussed the topic of forgiveness. http://www.marcandangel.com/2013/07/07/5-unique-ways-to-forgive-and-let-go/
There is great value in every act of forgiveness.  You can forgive yourself, you can forgive others, and you can forgive even when you don’t know exactly who to forgive, because forgiveness is not about who is to blame or who is at fault.  It is about letting go, completely and permanently within yourself.
Forgiveness is recognizing the reality that what has happened has already happened, and that there’s no point in allowing it to dominate the rest of your life.”
“There is an obvious shift in your heart and mind that happens when you go from feeling hurt and upset to peaceful and loving, but it’s not necessarily forgiveness that’s taking place, it’s just the realization that there was nothing to forgive in the first place. . .
To help you wrap your head around this concept, try to look at your situation from 40,000 feet.  Imagine a more seasoned, wiser and more compassionate version of yourself sitting at the mountaintop of life, looking down and watching as the younger minded, current version of you hacks your way through life.
You see yourself holding onto to false beliefs and making epic errors of judgment as you maneuver through life’s many obstacles.  You watch the children of the world growing up in challenging times that test their sense of self-confidence, yet they push forward bravely.  You see the coming generation radiating with passion and love as they fail forward, learning through their mistakes.
And you have to wonder:  Would this wiser version of yourself conclude that everyone in their own unique way was doing their very best.  And if everyone is trying to do their best, what needs to be forgiven?  Not being perfect?
Perfection doesn’t exist.  Forgiveness is oftentimes the simple realization that there is nothing that actually needs to be forgiven.
So—someone has been reading my mind. I have had one person tell me one-on-one and another mention it in passing to a group that all this hurt can lead to cynicism. Well (if you hadn’t already figured this out!), I’m there. And while I thrill to see blog such as the one that started this many part post (A True Shepherd’s Heart if you have forgotten), what I need now is God to inspire someone to write a blog talking about how to get past the cynicism.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 5 of 6

No, it wasn’t that easy. As much as IFBx people claim that they are all independent, there is still a connection among the churches. Although the church we joined wasn’t as extremist as either of the prior two churches, they were still plugged in to the same sordid outlet. Which meant that the new pastor was buddies with the old pastor. Which meant that the sermon illustration of my family as “what happens when you don’t obey the pastor”, could easily be passed on to the new pastor. I did start working in the nursery, but refused to work by myself. I let them think that it was that I couldn’t handle a small number of children on my own, but the truth was, I knew I had to have someone there so I could never be accused of sexually abusing those children. I refused to teach Sunday School, though I did agree to be a helper only in the case that no one else was available.
I began to realize that whether I wanted to marry or not, I would never even get to make that choice because I would never be considered marriage material for any man in an IFBx church. Even if I married a layman, what if he were called to preach or the mission field? Who would support a man who was married to someone who had been labeled a homosexual- or at least allowed the gossip to flourish- by one of the biggest names in IFBx-dom? And slowly things got worse. Speakers, missionaries, college recruiters from this church started to show up at my new church. Although I hid in the cry room (a room for sick/crying babies so the parents could still hear the service), I couldn’t be sure that I would not be spotted entering or leaving the building. The teens were starting to head off to this church for summer camp and college. Anyone of them could bring back my story and the gossip would begin again. I liked to sing, so I participated in choir and special music but with YouTube postings being made of special music, I worried that I would be spotted there.
I left. Although it was only one of several big reasons, I knew I had to leave IFBx if I ever wanted any kind of a life. But, I had waited so long. I lost all my fertile years as well as any looks and personality I ever had in trying to hide myself.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 4 of 6

Part 1, here
Part 2, here
Part 3, here

And the saga continues. . .

The pastor’s anger at my dad escalated. Soon rumors that my sister was sleeping with a neighbor boy began to run rampant. My mom was “mental”. My brother was fair game to beat up on. The adults that were there to teach were told to turn their backs and to not stop the beatings. All the while we were crying out to God, “We are doing everything right! We are following the formulas, confronting our accusers! Where is our vengeance? Why have You done nothing to help us!” My sister ended up with spasmic colon, was literally skin and bones (although the gossip was that she was pregnant). My brother was growing angry. And somewhere in this it started to sink in for me why I was so hated.
Eventually, my parents realized this wasn’t going to stop. We weren’t going to be avenged. Our house was put on the market. We were going home to our family.
Can you believe that house sold NINE times? We were so excited the first time it sold. We would be home for Christmas. I quit my dream job that I loved working with animals . And then the buyers backed out. We went home for Christmas, but we had to come back. And then the house sold again!. . . and the buyers backed out. . . again. When we finally got to the week before ninth closing and the buyers hadn’t backed out yet, we had to scurry to pack, all the while wondering if this was really it.
It was. We were free. . . right?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 3 of 6

My dad eventually found a job. As much as I wanted to live near my best friend, it meant that I had to leave a new love that meant so much to me (small livestock farming). I cried and cried, but we could never afford any land in that part of the country. Still, I was going to be near my best friend again, and I hadn’t made any friends since as the same church that forbade teen crushes also forbade having best friends. And even though I was screamed at from the pulpit, I never took off my half of the BFF necklace we had bought together. In that one thing, her friendship meant more to me than the approval of the pastor and youth pastor.
We arrived. I was still so broken hearted—and then I found that I was a pariah. My best friend wouldn’t talk to me. If I sat down, the person either moved, or if they couldn’t do that, they sat as far away as they could. When I was paired up with someone on activities, they were given sympathetic pats on the back. I think one girl was even crying. It was that awful to be associated with one such as me. I didn’t understand why. At first I thought it was just because I was new, and maybe my friend and I had lost some of the closeness having been apart so long. But she made no attempts to try to renew that closeness. My dad went to the pastor and demanded he put a stop to the gossip. The preacher said that while he did not believe it was true, since my dad refused to write an article criticizing the pastor at the church we were coming from, he would not do anything to stop it. Furthermore, I wasn’t allowed to participate in any areas of service that put me in contact with church children. I found out later that I actually was approved to work with bus kids. I guess they figured either they didn’t matter or that I couldn’t corrupt them anymore than they already were.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 2 of 6

Continuation from the last post which can be accessed here.
My dad had taken an early out from the military. Having been taught “you can never go back”, we didn’t head back to the church that we had attended before our last move and where my best friend still attended. We began to search for a new church home and found one that seemed to fit all the requirements that we had been taught were necessary for us to be “good” Christians. We packed up and moved several states away to be part of this IFBx church. It was even stricter than any church that we had been a part of so far, but we did not resent that in any way. We were happy to become “more Godly” than ever before. However, we did end up going back to visit the old church and I was delighted to spend some time with my best friend. She immediately wanted the low down on every single teen boy in this large church and was shocked that I wasn’t attracted to any of them. What I never even thought to explain was that this even more strict church taught that it was a sin for teens to act on any attraction to the opposite sex. No one was allowed to date until they had graduated from high school, so to openly “like” each other was taboo. Oh, there were a few “likings” going on secretly, fully approved by the parents, but officially there was no pairing up in the youth department. So while I was obediently stifling any possible feelings of attraction, this appeared quite odd to my friend who had parentally approved likings going on since her early teens. She, of course, reported this to her mother. I can’t blame her for this. It was right that she should have a good and open relationship with her mother. As I was foolishly loose-lipped as a pre and young teen, they knew that (at that time) I had no desire to marry, which is taboo in all IFBx churches. After all, that’s why God created women, right?
Completely unaware of the events going on in our old church, my parents were convinced that the move had been a bad idea (and in truth, that church had some scary stuff going on) and that despite our earlier reservations, we should indeed move back to the old church. But two moves, a low paying job, combined with the needs of a large family and a church that always had some sort of program that we had to fund in order to be right with God had depleted every bit of my dad’s early out pay off. He left us to live with family while he moved to the old church to look for a job. It was during this time that he actually heard my best friend’s mom telling people that I was a homosexual. Yes, a very na├»ve, impressionable, and sheltered sixteen-year-old who hadn’t been allowed to have a crush and had seen nothing that would inspire her to desire marriage must be a homosexual. (I’m going to insert a note here: I mean absolutely no offense to anyone that is not heterosexual, but please understand, even child molestation is more acceptable in fundamentalism than an alternate sexual orientation. There is absolutely nothing worse that she could label me with that her audience would even have a clue what it was! Murder, rape, etc. are things that you do that are sin. Alternate sexuality is a sin that you are.) My dad confronted her. I wouldn’t have wanted to be her! But even my dad’s anger wasn’t enough to shut down the gossip. She was warning everyone that the biggest sin the world has ever known was about to re-enter their lives, so keep their sons and daughters away from me. I will try to believe that she truly just wanted to protect them from my grossly evil influence.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Forgiveness, Part 1 of 6

The theme of this many-part post is found at http://www.recoveringgrace.org/2013/07/a-true-shepherds-heart .
"God had become, in my mind, a god who demanded excellent Christian performance. When I excelled at the performance, I had no doubt that I was loved and accepted by Him. But soon the time came when circumstances fell apart all around me and shattered dreams threatened to tear me to shreds. I began to wonder if God had abandoned me. Later I realized it was the formulas and promises . . . that had failed me in my darkest hour. The legalism that had been engrained throughout my teen years came around to crush me in my time of need, and the formulas I had learned did not rescue me when I needed them the most. . . . Faithful church attendance and Bible study did not prevent wounds from a spiritually abusive situation. Doing everything I knew to please God did not remove a deep, dark depression that lingered for a very long time. It was then that the many principles . . . mocked and condemned me, saying if I had just done this or not done that then I wouldn’t be hurting this way. It was then and only then that I clung for dear life to the one thing I still believed to be true: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
Ah, so true. This last week I have been dealing with anger and unforgivenesss trying to raise its ugly head. I ran across a former friend’s blog—which ironically she started within a month of when I started blogging. I guess after all these years, we still think alike! My fault. I didn’t exactly stumble upon it by accident, but as I read it, I just started to feel so angry. This person had “ruined my life” and yet has gone on with their life while mine is still so much unchanged because I hadn’t put as much effort as I could have into moving past it, mostly because I was still so bound by those formulas and promises. It bothered me that I could think that I have forgiven and still find so much anger.
You’re probably laughing and saying that every teenager thinks that their life is ruined so what was the big deal, that I should still be hurting over it sixteen years later? Well, I want to laugh too, but I still can’t.
To be continued. . .