Grief and Loss

As I continue to read through the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book, I am amazed at God’s timing. I have been experiencing profound sadness over this last week and wouldn’t you know the chapter I read this morning was “Enlarge Your Soul Through Grief and Loss.”

Bingo.

Being one who runs from pain, this quote was especially meaningful for me:

Turning toward our pain is counterintuitive. But in fact, the heat of Christianity is that the way to life is through death, the pathway to resurrection is through crucifixion. Of course, it preaches easier than it lives.

Gerald Sittser, in his book A Grace Disguised, reflects on the loss of his mother, wife, and young daughter from a horrific car accident. He chose not to run from his loss but to walk directly into the darkness letting the experience of that overwhelming tragedy transform his life. He learned that the quickest way to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west chasing after it, but to head east into the darkness until you finally reach the sunrise.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Pages 140-141

I consider this authors’ loss and feel blessed that my loss was so small in comparison. After all….

A business can be rebuilt.

Faith can be restored.

A mind can be deprogrammed.

Relationships can be reconciled.

Hmmmmm…..Feeling very grateful right now, and not the least bit sad.  🙂

No More Ignoring Emotions

After spending time this week in deep sadness I remembered a section in the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book that related to the way I’ve been feeling. I’ve blogged recently about spiritualizing away conflict which was one of “The Top Ten Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality”. The one I want to visit today is Ignoring the Emotions of Anger, Sadness, and Fear.

Many of us Christians believe wholeheartedly that anger, sadness, and fear are sins to be avoided, indicating something is wrong with our spiritual life. Anger is dangerous and unloving toward others. Sadness indicates a lack of faith in the promises of God; depression surely reveals a life outside the will of God! And fear? The Bible is filled with commands to “not be anxious about anything” and “do not fear” (see Philippians 4:6 and Isaiah 41:10).

So what do we do? We try to inflate ourselves with a false confidence to make those feelings go away. We quote Scripture, pray Scripture, and memorize Scripture—anything to keep ourselves from being overwhelmed by those feelings!

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Page 26

Wow…that is so true. David certainly didn’t avoid those feelings…all throughout the Psalms he poured out his emotions to the Lord, and was honest about how he felt!

I’ve stated in the past that my pattern has been to run from pain. Whether it is work, a cause, a relationship…I will find anything that I can dive into in order to minimize the pain that I carry in my heart. The busier I can make myself, the more noise I can have in my life, the better… that way I can ignore the pain and whatever it is the Lord is trying to teach me from the “dark night of the soul” He is trying to work.

Like most Christians, I was taught that almost all feelings are unreliable and not to be trusted. They go up and down and are the last thing we should be attending to in our spiritual lives. It is true that some Christians live in the extreme of following their feelings in an unhealthy, unbiblical way. It is more common, however, to encounter Christians who do not believe they have permission to admit their feelings or express them openly. This applies especially to the more “difficult” feelings of fear, sadness, shame, anger, hurt, and pain.

Yet how can I listen to what God is saying to me and evaluate what is going on inside me when I am so imprisoned?

To feel is to be human. To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God. To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves well. Yet, as we saw in the previous chapter, our feelings are also a component of what it means to be made in the image of God. To cut them out of our spirituality is to slice off a part of our humanity.

Ibid – Page 26

I guess I’ve lived long enough in an emotionally unhealthy spirituality that I am ready to embrace my humanity and feel the emotions that come. It may not always be pretty or happy, it may actually get downright messy, but one thing I know…it will be authentic.

Yep. Authentic. That’s what I’m going for as I start to rebuild my life.

Thanks for traveling with me on this journey.

PS I’ve temporarily deactivated my FaceBook account due to some privacy concerns. If you need to reach me, feel free to call or text me at 425.241.0265.

Spiritualizing Away Conflict

In looking at my life and my tendency to avoid rocking the boat at all costs, it is so helpful to begin to understand how unhealthy my spirituality has been.

In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Peter Scazzero lists the “Top Ten Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality”. Number 7 is spiritualizing away conflict.

Very, very few of us come from families where conflicts are resolved in a mature, healthy way. Most simply bury our tensions and move on. In my own family, when I became a Christian I was the great “peacemaker” I would do anything to keep unity and love flowing in the church as well as my marriage and family. I saw conflict as something that had to be fixed as quickly as possible. Like radioactive waste from a nuclear power plant, if not contained, I feared it might unleash terrible damage.

So I did what most Christians do: I lied a lot, both to myself and others.

What do you do when faced with the tension and mess of disagreements? Some of us may be guilty of one or more of the following:

  • Say one thing to people’s faces and then another behind their backs
  • Make promises we have no intention of keeping
  • Blame
  • Attack
  • Give people the silent treatment
  • Become sarcastic
  • Give in because we are afraid of not being liked
  • “Leak” our anger by sending an e-mail containing a not-so-subtle criticism
  • Tell only half the truth because we can’t bear to hurt a friend’s feelings
  • Say yes when we mean no
  • Avoid and withdraw and cut off
  • Find an outside person with whom we can share in order to ease our anxiety

Jesus shows us that healthy Christians do not avoid conflict. His life was filled with it! He was in regular conflict with the religious leaders, the crowds, the disciples—even his own family. Out of a desire to bring true peace, Jesus disrupted the false peace all around him. He refused to “spiritualize away” conflict.

I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am ready to get emotionally healthy and quit lying to myself. Instead of giving in, telling half-truths, and saying yes when I mean no, I choose to embrace the conflict and allow the Lord to walk through it with me, teaching me to respond in a Christ-like way instead.

So encouraged to be on this journey of healing!

Hitting the Wall

The sermon today, and this week’s topic in our bible study on “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” was entitled “Journey Through the Wall.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “hit the wall” in my time as a Christian, and instead of going through it, I run away from it, deny it, try to go over or under or around it. Anything but allow God to let me get to the end of myself and do a deep work in my heart.

I hit the wall in 1988 when I realized that I had made earning a six figure income a complete idol in my life. I knew I was to walk away from my Senior Vice President position with A.L.Williams and help my then husband, Chuck, in Point Man Ministries. I didn’t slow down for long to let the conviction sink in about the idolatry that ruled my life, nor did I even begin to ask the question, why was I such a workaholic?

I hit the wall when God convicted me in 1993 about my involvement in multi-level marketing, showing me (again!) how much of an idol it was, and how many people I’d led astray. I was depressed for months, and had no idea who I was anymore. Instead of allowing God to take me through that dark night of the soul and purify me of many of the hurts that cause me to run from pain and use work and success to self-medicate, I got distracted by helping Chuck develop WinePress into a booming business.

I hit the wall again in 1998 when I felt emotionally numb, and could not figure out what was wrong with me. I made a futile attempt to get counseling and figure out what going on inside me but didn’t follow through. Instead, I got distracted again by preparing for Y2K and moving to Enumclaw from Mukilteo, which ultimately led to my joining the cult named Sound Doctrine in 1999.

The “Wall” is a portal or gateway that leads us to a deeper spirituality.  It’s what St. John of the Cross defined as “the dark night of the soul.”

Pastor Ross defined it as “God’s way of pruning us of things we are unable or unwilling to discard from our soul.”

“For most of us the Wall appears through a crisis that turns our world upside down. It comes, perhaps, through a divorce, a job loss, the death of a close friend or family member, a cancer diagnosis, a disillusioning church experience, a betrayal, a shattered dream, a wayward child, a car accident, an inability to get pregnant, a deep desire to marry that remains unfulfilled, a dryness or loss of joy in our relationship with God. We question ourselves, God, the church. We discover for the first time that our faith does not appear to “work.” We have more questions than answers as the very foundation of our faith feels like it is on the line. We don’t know where God is, what he is doing, where he is going, how he is getting us there, or when this will be over.”  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality pp 120-121

I was definitely hitting the wall for the last 12 years of being in such an unhealthy and abusive “church.” I went for so long feeling bewildered, hurt, and angry, and every time one of them would emerge, I would beat myself up for having those emotions!

How rejuvenating it is to find out that these emotions need to be expressed, acknowledged, and processed in order to come to a healthy Christian life…not denied or spiritualized away!

I am learning that God can be trusted. Even when humans betray us, God is still faithful to walk with us THROUGH the wall and bring us out on the other side with a new level of intimacy with Him.

Feeling very thankful right now for how He has delivered me and planted me in a healthy church.