“In any given moment we have two options. To step forward into growth or to step back into safety” – Abraham Maslow
Sunday is usually a busy morning of getting ready, dropping my son off at work and then going to church. But, this Sunday I just didn’t feel like going to church. I felt a twinge of guilt, but thankfully it didn’t last long. Instead, I went to one of my bookmarked blogs here on WordPress, Spiritual Sounding Board. Julie Anne has a weekly virtual gathering on Sundays where she invites readers to share church struggles and concerns. I “attended” the gathering, shared my feelings and, amazingly, people reached out to me. I haven’t had that experience in a long time. I know virtual fellowship is nothing compared to real fellowship. But, if only for a little while on a Sunday morning, it felt good to be comforted. I just sat on my bed, reading, typing and being encouraged.
Lately it seems that I feel defeated. My husband is dragging out our divorce, my finances are more than stretched, my work has been unbelievably stressful and I’m trying to hold it all together. A part of me still wants acceptance. To hear someone say that they understand why I left my husband. I want to hear someone tell me that God doesn’t want me to live a life full of pain and hurt. Something inside of me is still yearning to hear someone sympathize with my situation and tell me that everything is going to be alright. Silly, I know. After all, I’m a grown woman. I have grown kids, a job, responsibilities. It seems childish to yearn for acceptance and reassurance. Sillier still, the people I long to hear from the most are those who, over the last fifteen years, told me that I could not leave my husband. I want them to realize the destruction they left in their path of righteousness. Sadly, that is unlikely to happen.
I’ve been wondering lately how it is that I could have been so blind to the truth. How I for so many years just accepted what I was told by others. I took their words to heart as the truth of God. The fact is, they did not have my best interest at heart. I was just an unfortunate consequence of their agenda. What amazes me is that I can see things so clearly now. I tore away decades of blinders and can see in amazing clarity. I can imagine what it would be like to be blind and suddenly gain vision. Everything would be so surreal that one would question reality. What scares me is the thought of it happening again. How can I any longer trust what I believe? I was fully entrenched in the beliefs of the my church circles. Hook, line and sinker. My arrogance would have been the envy of any self respecting conservative. Although, they would be careful not to characterize it as arrogance. It was “standing up for what is right”, “having convictions”, “not being swayed by the world”. I feel like I need to be deprogrammed, like someone who had been brainwashed. How do I even know what I should question?
As I muddle this season of my life, there are a few lessons that I already have learned. Firstly, thinking in black and white is folly. A high school friend once told me, “Never say never”. Back in those days, I was full of “nevers”. That unbending attitude lasted well into adulthood. It wasn’t until the breakup of my first marriage and subsequent second marriage that, year by year, I realized that my “convictions” didn’t always stand up to the test of reality. Secondly, I am grateful that through my difficult marriage God has taught me that compassion is more important than convictions. I hope that that message has filtered down to my kids. Now, I always remind them, “Everyone has a story”. We know all too well that behind the facade of a seemingly happy family can lurk fear, confusion and anguish. Thirdly, I have learned the hard way that I cannot accept as truth what other well meaning people tell me. There are many people out there who are convinced that they know what’s best for me. Who somehow think that they have a direct line to God and are all too willing to set me straight. Time and again I have to stop myself, really think about my beliefs and challenge myself to think outside of the box I have lived in for decades.
I’m stepping forward, slowly but surely. It’s a lonely path, but one I am compelled to take. As awkward and uncomfortable as it may be, there’s no going back. Once I made that first step, I was committed. I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. Frantically gathering my belongings when my husband was at work. Putting my things storage and hoping I didn’t forget anything important. Sleeping on someone’s livingroom floor for two weeks until their husband insisted that I move out. Renting my apartment and realizing that I was now independent. I was unbelievably scared, but determined. Some days I can’t remember what that determination feels like. Yes, there are times when I feel overwhelmed. But, even through my fear I am resolved. I will not be defeated, I will keep moving forward. I just have to keep telling myself that…