Monday, July 30, 2007

My Superpower: Invisibility

Somehow, I have become invisible.

In a couple of weeks, I will turn 41 (which means I will no longer just be 40, but will officially be “in my forties”- BLECH!!!) I have noticed recently when out in public, shopping, etc., that apparently, I am invisible. It seems people are able to look right through me, and not even notice that I am there. I have heard people who are disabled or morbidly obese describe this phenomenon. It’s really too bad that I haven’t learned to use this new superpower of invisibility to my benefit, say to listen in on certain conversations or pretend I am just not there when someone needs something for the umpteenth time.

It is bad enough when I am invisible to strangers, but it is really amazing that lately I am invisible to my teenage daughter. Last night we were out at a rehearsal for a community theater production that we are both in. She managed to avoid me most of the night, she was hanging out with her friends. Fine, I get that, she doesn’t want to hang out with her mom. But suddenly as we got in the car, all of that endless energy that she had for her friends evaporated and she was too tired to talk to me. Which, again, I can handle. But then she and her friend in the back seat start texting each other so they can have a private conversation in the car and make little comments and exclude me. I told them both how incredible rude it was. I have been relegated to the role of taxi driver who should be there to drive but should not really be there. Quite like how the refrigerator gets restocked and dishes get washed and dentist appointments get scheduled and clean laundry magically appears in the closets and drawers- all seemingly by some mysterious and invisible force. I came home and cried and cried, I was cut to the bone by a seemingly tiny incident, but to me it was just a precursor to what is to come- to get older, to become more invisible (unneeded?) in my children’s lives, to become less valuable in the eyes of our society which glorifies youth and beauty.

Even this morning when I awoke I was licking my wounds, thinking about how her actions and attitude had hurt me. And suddenly, sorrow and realization swept over me- God, is this how I treat You? Running to You when I need something or have a problem, but not really seeing You? Do I avoid spending time with You when my other “friends” (hobbies, work, chores, television) are around? Do I break Your heart the way mine feels broken right now? I am sorry, so sorry, God. I understand better now. You don’t want to be invisible in my life. You want me to see You for everything You are, not just for what You can do for me, not just for a fall back plan when I can’t seem to make things go my way on my own. You want me to need You and want to be with You, to not be too busy for You.

There is a great little book by Nicole Johnson called “The Invisible Woman.”
I love this quote:

Maybe disappearing can become a matter of choice. Maybe I can use invisibility as a disguise for covert love operations. Maybe I can use anonymity as a means of not drawing attention to myself, and fade into the background whenever I need or want. Perhaps invisibility is a gift, given to me for a greater purpose than I had previously seen…I can stop searching for my reflection in others and allow God the opportunity to answer the question in my soul…Invisibility is not inflicted upon me, it is a gift to help me truly serve.

Maybe being invisible isn't so bad.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Smallest Stuff is Big Enough

One of the things that I struggle most with is my need to measure up to the world’s standards. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to live a “big” life, do “big” successful things. I even want to have a “big” ministry for God. It is so easy for me to mix up our culture’s views of success with God’s idea of success. I tend to measure my self worth by what I have done lately, even though the Bible gives me a very different standard to live by and strive for. I tend to think that if only I can do big things or have a big ministry, God will be very pleased with me. More accurately, I will be pleased with myself. (Any questions, just see my profile at right. Oh, and my blogger name…)

I was visiting a church last Sunday and there was a man in the row in front of me, white and in his fifties, with a black boy, about 14, who was in a wheel chair with what appeared to be cerebral palsy. I don’t know anything about their story, or how the boy came to be in the man’s care. During the service, the man held the boy’s hand, gently touched his face, wiped his mouth. They were strangers to me, but I know that this man loved this boy. I cried.

I was seeing God.

I saw His glory displayed more magnificently than the most beautiful sunset and grander than the Grand Canyon. I beheld Him there, just a few feet away from me, close enough to touch. He was doing what He is best at- not preaching, not publishing best sellers, not on television or on a magazine cover. He was loving and serving.

And I was reminded (once again)- I can do that. I will probably never be famous or raise millions of dollars for charity or have my name on a building- but I can joyfully serve, I can love. I can cheerfully make my kids breakfast, attentively listen to my husband, tie my nephew’s shoe, be kind to the waitress who is having a bad day. I can go out of my way to volunteer at the urban afterschool program (something I said I was going to do, but somehow just didn’t get around to…). I can choose to be inconvenienced for the sake of love.

And that would be really big.

PS. Here is the really hilarious irony – I am sitting here, wondering if this is too corny, too cliché, too simple to post- In other words, is it good enough, “big” enough??!!?? Just gotta get over it…………

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I know my posts have been infrequent. It is hard for me to just sit down and write, because I tend to analyze and rethink and rewrite everything, wanting it to be perfect, wanting to make sure I get down all of my thoughts on a particular subject (which is impossible, because one thought just leads to another....). As a result, publishing a post for me is a fairly time consuming committment. And it is a little overwhelming to know that some of my deepest thoughts and feelings are floating around out there for the whole world to read. But I have been encouraged by reading other people's posts and comments. Sometimes I feel like even having a blog is kind of ego-centric- like, do complete strangers really even care about anything that I have to say, anyway?????

I also don't want to constantly revisit the toxic church thing. There's a huge part of me that just wants to move on with my life and forget about it all. But I know that there are still things I need to deal with and learn from, and I know that there are lots of people out there going through the same things. I know that when my family was in the middle of it all, reading other people's stories that seemed almost identical to ours was really helpful. Maybe I can pass that along.

So, thanks to all of you for joining me on this journey.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ignoring the Lifeboat

As I look back over the last few months, I feel freer and more confident and comfortable in our decision to leave our church and its toxic leadership. It’s as if the fog is slowly evaporating, and things are becoming clearer and clearer. I am grateful that my family is free- free from the false teachings, the psychological manipulation, and the spiritual abuse, and free from the persistent pain and turmoil that filled our lives. Free to be ourselves, and to not worry about the repercussions of pissing off the pastor’s wife. I am glad that we made the difficult decision to go, a decision which now seems to be the only decision we could have made. We chose to protect ourselves and our family, and to not let fear of the unknown and possible backlash control us. At the time, it was agony. But in looking back, I almost laugh because as I begged God to give us a definitive answer as to whether we should stay or go, it was as if He was saying, “Hello! What do you call all of the information and insight I have given you over the past few months? What do you call that sick feeling that you have in your gut?” It reminds me of that joke where the guy is on the roof during the flood, confident God will save him. As the waters rise, a boat, a helicopter and a plane come along, but the man refuses help from them all, saying he’s waiting for God to save him. When he finally succumbs to the flood and goes to heaven, he asks God why He didn’t save him, to which God replies, “What do you mean? I sent you a boat, and helicopter and a plane!!” It was as if God was sending us all of these signs, yet we were waiting for the “burning bush,” or the audible voice of God. We were afraid to trust our own discernment. Even with Scripture to back us up (Acts 20:29-31, Matthew 23:27-28, 1 Tim. 3:11, 2 Tim 3:2-7), we still thought that maybe our leadership knew better than we did.

The Holy Spirit was leading us away from there, but we were afraid to do the wrong thing. Joyce Meyer says that if you miss God, He will find you. So true. We really didn’t have to worry so much about making a wrong decision regarding whether or not to leave our church, because no matter what we did, He would have taken care of us. If there was a lesson He wanted us to learn, He would give us that opportunity where ever we were. A lot of that fear came from the way we were taught to always be obedient, always submit. We were terrified that if we weren’t obedient to what God was calling us to do, there would be serious consequences. But I now see that if God absolutely wanted us there for a reason, He would have made it extremely clear to us. As long as we are seeking Him and His truth with all of our hearts, He will honor that.

I myself tend to get caught up in wanting a “burning bush” answer to all of my questions. I tend to play little games with God, wanting God to give me a sure sign that I am doing the right or wrong thing. It’s easy to do when you hear so many testimonies from people who talk about how God "told" them to do this or that and they did it and then they had a huge spiritual breakthrough, or became wildly successful in their ministry, business, etc. In thinking like this, I tend to get paralyzed by fear, terrified that if I don’t do everything “according to God’s will,” I will not be blessed and I will miss out on something. But my husband and I have learned that for the most part, God expects us to use the intelligence and discernment that He gave us. He expects us to investigate, question, research, and study, in addition to our prayer. He will send people to speak into our lives and provide wise counsel, but not to control us or run our lives for us (idolatry). He doesn’t send people to tell us what to do, but rather people will often confirm what He has already put in our hearts.

And when He sends the lifeboat, helicopter and plane, we should get out of our own way and jump in.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Willing Participant

I wonder why we choose to continue to accept and endure abuses in our churches? It has been going on in our former church for many years, and as I read other blogs by people who have had shockingly similar experiences, it quite frankly makes me really, really angry. In my naivete´, I somehow thought that church would, or should, be a refuge from the BS that exists in the world. As Christians, shouldn’t we know better? Shouldn’t we be kinder, gentler? Shouldn’t we have greater integrity, more humility, less selfishness? I recognize that churches are full of imperfect people who are the products in an imperfect fallen world, but some of the stuff that we have experienced goes way beyond saying the wrong thing, or at times being inconsiderate or selfish, or having personality conflicts or differences of opinion. I am talking about manipulation, malice and deceit, things which are so opposite the ways and will of God, and yet somehow become disguised by our “spiritual leaders” as things that those of us less spiritual folks “just don’t understand.”

And we believe it, blindly following along, even though something inside of us says, something is wrong here. At first, we may not be quite sure what it is, but we begin to catch the faint whiffs of something rotten. Even so, we choose to believe the lies that the enemy places in the hearts and minds and mouths of those whom we trust to follow, instead of believing the voice of the Holy Spirit. We choose to believe that maybe those in leadership are much more discerning than we are, and we ignore those doubts and questions that we have. Why is it that in so many of our churches, we are expected to check our own intellect and discernment at the door? Looking back in hindsight, I see that the Holy Spirit tried to grab my attention many times, but instead of listening to and believing what He had to say, I chose to remain in bondage to the lies which were taught to me. I was afraid to believe that those that I loved and trusted were actually Pharisees who could possibly lead me down a path filled with falsehood and vain religiosity. It was in letting go of my idolatry of these people that I was able to begin to see and accept the truth, and to begin to break free of the web of lies that had become a safety net for me. And time has shown me that the breaking free is not an event but a process, one which I am still undergoing.