All this clutter has done my head in to such an extent that I feel crazy sometimes. When I see the mess, my head starts hurting. I live with a minimalist too, who needs absolute order to be able to function. So my chaos, his need for order, three children and two international moves as a family has left a trail of grief, loss, clashing aims and lots of yucky stuff. Words are said, made worse by the fact that in my head I am often back dealing with words that were said years, decades ago. Those words have sometimes even be said by other people. In times of stress, I catastrophise. So an argument with husband means I start planning what to do with myself post-divorce.It is difficult to make new friends because I am always jumping five steps ahead to our first disagreement! Also – I was hurt by psychiatrists and psychologists so I have been loath to turn to them for help. I talk to God but for me on this earth it can be very hard to hear His voice, particularly in the midst of a panic attack at 3am. It comes, His voice, but in His timing. This past fortnight I have heard His voice through some wise people around me. As I cleaned my cupboards, four scraps of paper with related wisdom about how to cope with the NOWness of life – fell together.
The physical action of cleaning the cupboards – never mind how slowly – has also been therapeutic, once I get past the kinaesthetic bad memories associated with mess and disorder. I am slowly learning to replace them with a feeling of competence and skill.
So the first piece of paper was a single page of the transcript of the last sermon given by our former Pastor, Rev Stephen Nuske. I don’t know what the Bible verses were, but they were obviously on forgiveness and our identity as children of God.
As I’ve begun writing this I’ve cried already a few times, and succumbed to the overwhelming desire to getup and avoid this. When I write pain begins in various bits of my body. When I write about myself and my clutter and deconstructing it all, the pain is emotional. My supervisor, Rev Cheryl Selvage, is an expert in non-verbal communication and she says that the body will often talk to us and others in a language we barely understand.
So this pain has been at me but I sat with it, and I followed the wisdom of a lovely blogger I have read when she was talking about her healing from PTSD. It is a process called Pendulation, which basically means finding resources to take to the starving/ thirsty/ suffering parts of you. With this strategy I have not bitten my nails for a week, although before that I have actually pushed them down to the bleeding quick. This is despite some pretty heavy duty emotional upheaval. (The link to Heidi Hanson’s helpful article on pendulation is at the bottom of this article)
So during the pain I have looked for areas of calm in my body. My buttocks have a cool curved fleshiness. My feet are currently smooth despite their hard work, and I like feeling their sinews, allthough I have to be careful not to start picking my toenails! After looking at calming resources, then in the pain I have looked at my little hands, bitten nails, bad memories included, and recognised them as the most marvellous piece of engineering. Mankind has never been able to replicate these humble hands. Yes, we can fiddle with them at the edges by surgically adjusting nerves or bones. But create something that can type what is in my head onto this computer at dozens of words per minute? Not likely. Not for years. Probably not ever.
So yes, back to God’s child that I am. As God’s child He cares for everything about me. He forgives everything about me. But what about me? Do I forgive Him as my Father? Every time I look at my hands I think of a moment that has sickened me for life. Can I forgive God – reality – for that moment? Of course God does not need my forgiveness. It is heretical to even think it. Yet I feel angry at what happens here. And I believe this is God’s creation. I believe He can create miracles. I can’t look in any direction for longer than a minute with out pain of some kind – a lot of it decidedly of the first world order, but nevertheless its pain and I just can’t understand how come it has to be this way. When I start thinking of the murder and mayhem that many people endure from other people, my head starts to explode.
I think all of us feel this is some way, but within the dominant strain of our Christian culture of non-stop-praise culture of modern evangelism, few Christians will ever admit it. They hide it in all sorts of ways. But the question has been eating me. I feel anger at so many things. My abandonment as a child; the lack of nurture I received; sexual abuse.
I haven’t been able to let them go. And that is where this quote from Pastor Stephen comes in: “Forgiveness is really what makes the church the new community in Jesus Christ. It is the heart of the Gospel. Forgiveness is, if I can push the boundaries a bit, simply the religious word for letting go. To forgive reality is to let go of the negative story line.”
So if I replace the word “reality” with God, can I let go of my negative story line? My negative self talk?
Pastor Stephen continues: “To forgive reality is to let go of the negative story line, the painful story line that we’ve created for it. If that story line has become for any of us our identity, if we are choosing to live in a victim state, an abused conciousness, it gives us a false kind of power and makes us feel morally superior to others. But let me tell you, it will also destroy you.”
Yes, I want to let it go. Up until recently I thought I had. But that was not the full story. One day, when I was trying to grow, the growth process set off a massive attack of the past. It is not about wanting to hold onto this storyline – the storyline has hold of me and it keeps directing me when I am weak and vulnerable.
What they taught me in the CPE course was the importance of lament. I need to acknowledge that bad things have happened to me, and reach deep down below the layers of scar tissue and get to that pain underneath. That is where the pain lives and until I acknowledge it, I am living in dissonance – out of touch with myself.
But how can I lament? As Pastor David Larsen, our supervisor in CPE, said in his didactic on lament – churches gather each week in the name of the One who lamented on the Cross – My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. Yet that question itself and the cry that evokes it are routinely censored in those same churches.
“In many churches that have moved in the direction of praise, there is no room for lament. Lament does not market well,” Pastor David says.
“The trouble is that this praise worship (which says you must praise even in the face of pain!) banishes the anguished sufferer, or at least the public worship, in the presence of the Lord Our God. It erects a barrier which admits neither light nor sound to pass between the sufferer and our God.”
When Pastor David said that sentence some scales fell off my eyes. As a pastoral carer I was learning to hear and accept the cries of others. Yet I would not, could not hear my own cries, and bring them to my Lord.
The fact that I could not acknowledge it is part of the reason I hang on to it in the form of my clutter. My scraps of paper with their memories are a major part of my story line. Who would I be if I let them go?
That last sentence looks very humble but the amazing thing is that those hands that I talked about before, those humble little hands, actually wrote that before I was even concious I was thinking it. So I type using my kinaesthetic memory – the same kinaesthetic memory that makes me tremble as I contemplate bad memories from the past.