Monday, March 30, 2015

Helping Those Who Cannot Help Themselves

Unlike most of my posts, there is no header image to start this post. I simply could not find one that spoke appropriately to what this post is about. And so instead, there is nothing. But perhaps this in itself is significant... because this post is about those who believe they are nothing.

This post is difficult, at best, to write. And I doubt very many will actually follow through with each step. It's so much easier to ignore this topic - I know... I try so hard to ignore it every day. I am part of the problem. But, regardless of that, I am going to ask each of you to do 3 things....

1) Watch and listen to the video.
2) Come back and finish reading this post.
3) Reflect and pray

1: Video







2: My babbling


 There are many other songs/videos I could have selected... Concrete Angel, or The Little Girl, or Blown Away, or so many others... but there is something about this video that hits me...

It isn't just the simple fact that this little girl Alyssa was being abused. It isn't even just the fact that she was killed. It's the girl in the classroom... the one who, while watching this video, walks out of the room crying.

I was abused as a child. It wasn't just spankings, or the occasional slap across the face. It wasn't only when I "deserved" it, or when I was bad. I was beaten whenever my parents felt the need to use someone as a punching bag. I was thrown against walls, drug down stairs by my hair, shoved to the floor, kicked while I lay on that floor. I was hit with pans, dishes, furniture, the paddle, spoons, books, fists, feet, bottles.

This isn't the only abuse I faced - but it's all I will touch on in this post. And when I see videos like the one above, I am reminded of all the abuses I faced. Unlike Alyssa in this song, I am still alive to tell my tale. But, like Alyssa, I still find myself lying (or wanting to lie) about the bruises and trying to hide them from the world. I still find it difficult to open up - to friends, loved ones, strangers, and God - even though I know He knows it all.

Hearing songs and stories like this, I am reminded of feeling alone, and unloved. There was no loving God for me in those times - and even now, as an adult, I still sometimes sink into that belief that there is no loving God. Perhaps there is a God... but He does not love me. I am not worthy. Some days, I place so much blame on myself for the things that happened to me. Some days, I feel I deserved it all.

And I am not alone in this feeling. Almost everyone who has been abused has felt like this from time to time. Some of us still feel this way, even years after the abuse is over. The scars left from abuse run so much deeper than we want to admit. And these scars - no one else can see them. They don't understand why we don't simply believe in God, or have faith in Him. They don't understand why we hide from people and relationships and love. They don't understand that most of the time, our smiles and good nature are hiding wounds no person should have to face.

3: Reflect and pray


My favorite part of this video... and the part that makes me cry the hardest... is after the girl leaves the room and the teacher follows her to check on her. This is something so rare... and perhaps quite insignificant to most of you. But to those who have been abused... those who have been that girl in the classroom, recognizing and understanding the pain... this small act means so much.

To have someone come after you when you break down crying over something that may seem petty... even if they barely know you...

To have someone see the tears you try to hide when something hits a trigger...

To have someone grab your hand and tell you, in no uncertain terms, that you are a beloved child of God...

To have someone, for just a moment, recognize that the pain you have runs deeper than any ocean, and be willing to invite you into their life anyway...

To have someone just say "You are loved"...

To have someone wrap their arms around you as a sign of God's comforting embrace...

To have someone care...

I cannot express how much this means to those who are still wounded by the invisible scars of abuse. There is no better way to bring someone to Christ, and to help them realize they belong there, than to do these small, simple, seemingly insignificant acts.

I beg everyone - please make this effort. If you know someone who has been abused... be God's comforting arms. If you know someone whom you think has been in that place (or, still is)... be the light of Christ to that person. Take just a moment to reflect on the song and the scars abuse leaves, and pray God lead you to these people so that you can lead them to Him. There are so many children and adults who live in a pain most people can never understand fully - but by the grace of God, and the love He places in your heart and mind, you can help alleviate this pain and show them that they truly are beloved in the eyes of our Lord.

Thank you, and God bless.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Blessed

Today I had the privilege to witness the baptism of six children (and became godmother to four of them). It was such a moving experience to watch this - and a reminder to myself that I, too, am one of God's children.

Shortly before the service, we'd been having a discussion with the pastor, and one of the women told him she'd like to be baptized again. He explained that we don't need a second baptism (nor do we do additional baptisms), but I could understand her desire.

A few years ago, while in a deep depression and feeling very alone, I turned to a pastor. Finally, he drug me into the sanctuary, up to the baptismal font. He had me dip my hands in the water, and dipped his own into it and made a cross on my forehead with the water. For the first time possibly ever, I truly felt that I was a blessed child of God. I felt peace. I felt loved.

It wasn't a second baptism, but it was a reminder of who I am. It was a reminder of what I am. And I think this is something we all need from time to time. There are times when I'm depressed that I will dip my hand into water and draw a cross on my forehead myself, just as a physical reminder. There are times I will just stand under the shower and let myself feel the Holy Spirit within the water.

And there are times, like today, when I get the opportunity to be reminded as I watch others be baptized, and can feel God. There is no greater feeling than that of God's grace and love, and the knowledge that I am His beloved child - that I am blessed.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Secret to a Deeper Relationship with God

Yesterday, I was having a discussion regarding my spiritual journey - how it started and why, and where it is now. I made a comment that up until a few years ago, I wasn't spiritual.

When I went home, I found myself curious as to my answer. Granted, I hadn't been one for organized religion until a few years ago (and even now I don't see it as a prerequisite for spirituality), but I had always considered myself spiritual back then, even if I didn't go to Church. I had a relationship with God. Didn't I?

And I came to realize that no... I didn't. I didn't have a relationship with God because I did not have a relationship with other people. I hid from people. Yes, sure, I prayed sometimes when I needed something. And I even opened my Bible from time to time (although, that was usually just to compare and contrast different religions).

But I didn't take the time to give of myself, or to allow others to give back.  I didn't truly understand the importance of interconnectedness with others and with God. I didn't think others were needed for me to have a close and deep personal relationship with God. I didn't realize just how little of a relationship with Him I actually had. And I didn't realize just how much I was missing out.

Now, don't get me wrong - I still do not believe it is necessary to be in a physical Church. But I do believe it is necessary to have a group of like-faith people you can lean on. And I do believe it is necessary to reach out to those in need, whether they are Christian or not. I do believe that the relationships we develop with others, and the love we share with others, are what bring us closer to Christ and to heaven on earth.

I'm sure you've all heard/read the poem "Footprints in the Sand", where there are two sets of footprints - God's and the author's. I am so blessed to know that there have been many sets of footprints alongside mine. Thank you to all those who've been there with me on my journey - it is a privilege and gift to have you walking with me, sometimes carrying me, sometimes letting me carry you. That's what spirituality and Christianity are about.

God bless!



Monday, March 23, 2015

The Death of Faith

A couple weeks ago I shared my Pastor's midweek Lenten service sermon, and made the comment that I wasn't quite certain what to think of his words. I had issues with what he said. And I left it at that. But now I feel the need to revisit the topic.

He'd asked what do we do when we can't feel God in the midst of suffering. And went on to explain the destructive ways we attempt to deal with suffering. And, I agree. I am one to find more comfort in a bottle, or in watching something senseless on TV. But then he spun into a circular line of thinking which I know many others agree with, but in which I cannot.

When we go through suffering, we need faith. If we don't have faith, we need to pray. We need to pray for God's will to be done, and we need to believe that it will happen. But to believe this, we need faith... (and round and round we go).

I have heard many people tell me that suffering has a purpose. God can turn it into something positive. It's all part of God's plan. Just have faith, and everything will be fine.

How does the abuse of a small child have a purpose? What good can come from the rape of a young girl? Or the death of a young man by his own hands? The death of a child from illness? The senseless shooting deaths of dozens?

As a young child, I had prayed constantly. And, in the early years, I had faith. I believed God would deliver me from my suffering. I believed that something good could follow. And He didn't. And it didn't. And faith died, replaced with the belief that I must not be worthy of God's love.

So the question that remains with me... what do we do when we don't feel God in the midst of suffering? How can we rely on a faith that has dissipated, or on prayer which doesn't work?

Broken

My heart lies open and bleeding, my soul cold and withering. Some days it takes all I can muster to roll myself out of bed. Other days, laying alone in the dark with the voices is the last thing I want.

And it's all for no reason. Or perhaps for too many reasons. "Just pray" they tell me. And I do. And I feel emptier. Or perhaps I am just mourning the loss of that emptiness.

I had a good weekend - spent much of it with friends, old and new. And, spent much in an honest peaceful state, which would often be followed by an emotional breakdown, as if I was not allowed to feel that peace.

Trust. Oh what a truly annoying 5 letter word. I do not trust. I do not allow others in. And yet I found myself doing just that. I found my walls crumbling. I found myself showing that vulnerable child I thought I'd killed off, or at least had hidden well enough she could never find her way out.

I have found myself pushing away things which are not healthy, but which have kept me surviving for years. And then have found myself wanting to cling to those yet again.

I have found myself staring in the mirror and not recognizing the face staring back at me. Or, rather, recognizing it from a time long past - a face which once believed and hoped and loved. A face which openly cried and indiscriminately trusted. A face which didn't understand being worthless and broken.

I couldn't look at her, yet I couldn't pull my eyes from her. I wanted to cling to her while at the same time, I wanted to break the mirror so she'd be gone forever.

I longed to hide within the walls of the Church and cry out to God. And I wanted to avoid that place and the lies it holds. Christ is love, and His Church is for the broken, and yet it doesn't feel like it exists as such - not because of any person within the walls, other than me. Or perhaps I simply wish to not see it. Perhaps it is fear of that truth with keeps me at a distance while longing for the comfort it just may provide.

I've written before about feeling in a dark hole, of being depressed. And this is so much different. It's more, and less, and everything in between. It's like dangling on a rope halfway down the dark pit, a hand reaching out to me from above, and the comforting dark and cold calling to me from below. And I just hang there, my arms growing weary.

I shared a couple paintings of mine when I was out with friends the other night. One, dark and one light... and he told me that the two work good next to each other - the depression, and the hand reaching to help. And now, as I look at these paintings, I see myself in the blank space between them. It's empty here, and yet heavy with uncertainty.






Heavy with uncertainty in everything, except for the certainty that I'm broken.