New: When God Seems Silent

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 1.

 I have not lost hope though I have lost the ability to hear God. Whether God is silent, which I doubt, or whether the pain throbs too loudly in my heart’s chamber to hear, I don’t know.

What my family is experiencing is not suffering. Life is hard and this distinction is important to me. There is true suffering going on in the world.  This is not that.

 2.

There are people who I like to call Shiny Happy Christians. I don’t understand them in any way, except to say they must not have not experienced real pain. Not yet. I’m uncomfortable around them, but I don’t blame them. Pain and suffering in this life is random I believe.

The randomness of pain is poignant when you are the one experiencing its sting.

3.

Life is misery, life is joy.

For much of my life I thought: “If I was better child. If I were pure of heart” then my father would be less angry and controlling. And my mother would come alive again. And perhaps I would feel less of the constant melancholy that clouded my days. But my actions, my heart, my prayers, my understanding of the Bible seemed to change nothing in my mother or father and the melancholy hovered, always.

My faith became ritual. I began to doubt God. I never thought, in my teen years, WHY was our family so sad, and angry, and afraid, and dangerous? Rather, I supposed that I must deserve this pain somehow.

Oddly, this ache drew me to God, the “Man of Sorrows,” hoping surely God would take my hand and lead me through the darkest valleys of my melancholy heart.

In college my depression worsened to the point of hardly holding on to learning. My father’s disappointment in me increased. The panic and dread I experienced when I was with him made me constantly sick to my stomach.

He took control of my life, as he had each step of it, including attending college. It was not that I didn’t want to learn but the cloud that had hung over me for most of my life was bleak and heavy.  It made college nearly impossible.

My father had always controlled my outcomes. I wasn’t in control and by the looks of it neither was God. All those year, my Dad didn’t change from the raging and controlling man he was at home. No matter how often I prayed.

 4.

From Tim Keller, I see with total clarity that the Bible, which I have always loved and studied, has suffering as a main theme. I hadn’t seen this though in certain books I have found solace. The Psalms has offered prayers when I had no words.  Ecclesiastes is empathetic.  Job holds truth.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms. 34:18

 The great truth which I am clinging to today is that even in Job, his sufferings were not punitive.  As Keller wrote the purpose of Job’s suffering is an “enlarged life with God.”

Though God is silent these days, I find it is more important than ever to read the people of God who lead us into greater understanding in our faith, Keller being one.  Beyond that, I sit in silence no matter how uncomfortable.

I have found fifteen minutes breathing in and out, and in and out, again.  This supports a quieting of my mind.  Perhaps you like me have thoughts  that clutter up your head and worries push their way in. Allowing yourself just fifteen minutes of quiet is a stunning exercise.

In the in breath ask God to SPEAK.  In the out breath, release your doubts and fears. Let yourself be there.

To me this is prayer.   This is clinging.  This is dependence.  This is hope.

Even when God seems silent.

P.S.

My Psychiatrist and I have cut my antidepressant dose in half. It has taken about a two weeks and I already feel emotions. Although they are not all positive emotions, at least they are feelings. And I can focus enough to read!  I am reading Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. I’ll be writing my way through the personal insights I gain from this book in the next few weeks.

[BE FEARLESS]

4559My word for 2012 was ABUNDANCE.

Even as I chose that word — abundance, I wasn’t totally sure; seriously, what was I thinking resounded the echoing voices?

I have never lived a so-called abundant life.  Was it even possible?

Most of my childhood, and early adulthood, I spent afraid, crouching. And I’ve been unable to choose joy, as I’ve cringed and cried my way through recent years, even while overcoming, learning, and growing, I’ve been afraid. Even as I have healed  Even as I’m being birthed into someone I don’t recognize and it is sweet and good, more and more fear.

I came from a Daddy who was sometimes hard, sometimes mean, mostly lacking the sweetness a daddy ought to bring to a child’s life; just hanging out and loving on his kids.  Simple enjoying one another, like what I see between my kids and their dad. It’s not perfect, but it is affectionate and safe.  My father meant well, I’m sure that he did.

“He didn’t mean to” I used to tell myself.  And he could be sweet, sometimes. Affirmed beyond your wildest dreams, speaking out loud what felt like a prophetic word.  “You’re going be something.  You’re doing to do things.  You are going to do great things.  And, if by chance you don’t, well I’ll still love you.”  Yes, he said those words whispering dreams into my soul, of “big things” as he crushed my spirit with his rages and cruelty.

I suffered and staggered my way into adulthood afraid of living.

I could explain it all away — it was his insecurities, his megalomania, and his extreme self-centeredness   But never mind.

My spirit was crushed along the way and it wasn’t until he died that I began to really breathe in and exhale enough air, to live, to grow, to let go of the grip I had on trying to control everything.

And Mother, she was cool, soft and sometimes tender, but withdrawn and far, far away from us most of the time. She was expressively absent, though present physically.  He was absent physically but Always There looming, controlling, hurting.

It has taken me a long, wandering road of building trust with God, believing – truly that Jesus loves me.  Daddy has had to be dead a long time.  Trust of any kind, is hard-earned. And hard-won.

FEAR: an emotion experienced in anticipation of some specific pain or danger usually accompanied by a desire to flee.

That was my life.

I choose these annual words now like an elixir, a Magical idea, that will heal my broken soul.

I want abundance, brazenly.

I want to be fearless.

I want laughter. I want to have more fun.  Dare I say it, I want JOY,

audacious, defiant and powerful solace!

I want to create beauty, unafraid.

I want to believe in life’s possibilities, impudently.

I want to write unique and beautiful things, boldly.

So this year, 2013, is about being fearlessness.

I don’t know how, even now. I am sick with it.  Stomach and heart burning inside, where there are still big voices saying it is impossible for me. And brick walls surround my heart.

I am terrified to give up my fear.    But that’s the journey, that’s the tiny bit of trust in the Holy.  That’s what I hear — be fearless.  That’s what I need.

To be

FEARLESS, yes, that is what I want for 2013.

(Perhaps not surprisingly, but it did shock me, I have written 175 items on FEAR.  I’ll be collecting them to see what themes arise, but this is one:  Let your Fear Fly Free

Lessons from the Monastery: Part Two (Sixty Year Old Memories of Sensible Shoes)

Part Two in a series: Lessons from the Monastery.

I don’t find it hard to confess that dissatisfaction comes easily to me, along with the admission that my life has disappointed me. Disillusionment too, as my life is not what I thought it would be. I can admit this is true.

Well, that’s not exactly right – I had no plan.  No grand scheme.  I didn’t have any idea what I would do with my life as a youngster.

One thing I knew.

From that moment when I was swiftly rescued, “healed” in an only God could have done it miraculous sort of way.  As I grew up, I was told the stories over and over.

I was “the peanut baby.”  The miracle was something of God, everyone said so. And for whatever reason I began to believe that God had something special planned for me – for my life.  Eighteen months old I was choking on a peanut. I should have died. I will have to get my mother to retell the story because even as I ponder it now, there is much I cannot remember.  I don’t want to lose the details.

I have no memory of it.  In fact I have very few memories of childhood at all.

They are all gone, stuffed somewhere safe.  I haven’t in all these years of healing been able to find the key to unlock that precious girl’s life.

My life. My memories.

I’ve been going to the monastery with my mother.  Being with my mother is startling and even as I learn to trust her, I am afraid.  She’s a blurter.  And she has for memory everything, and more, that I don’t.  Her brain is iron clad; she is a beast of remembering.  And her stories come out at the oddest, least opportune moments; like the shock of ice-cold water.

So much so, that sometimes I cannot bear to be with her, sometimes.  I am learning to not be so afraid.

But today her memories were of her childhood.  A controlling father “much like your father” she said.  “Only mine was around less often, which was perhaps less damaging …” her thoughts trailing off.  In my mind, I too found I was wandering back to my dad’s controlling ways.  She’s remembering that her dad made her wear ugly shoes, because she was “hard on shoes.” Even though her sisters got any kind they wanted.

Those are sixty year old memories about sensible shoes.  Her father long dead and yet still, she remembers it today. 

God save me from bitter memories I say, not to her but inside to myself and to the ghosts.  Perhaps that’s why I keep them all locked up safe, because I don’t want to be bitter.

Today the speaker at the monastery spoke of stability and the descent into darkness as a way of becoming comfortable with uncertainty; a willingness to explore our pain.  Moving down into it and facing it.

No way!  I thought immediately.  This is simply nuts.

Then I remembered…

all the ways I learned to numb my pain, to forget.  And in that moment saw my progress – over time, over years.  A decade flashed.

I used to work hard at my job, to do really well and I received tons of praise and it was never enough.  I was never happy about it.  I was always afraid – of being unmasked, shown for the farce that I was.

The speaker spoke of learning to live deeply in the monotony of life, as do the Benedictines, monks, others – shall l I just say it?  The stay-at-home mom’s life was the epitome of mundane to me.

I see now that is was because I was running.

I couldn’t run fast enough from my internal demons.  Michael Casey, the Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Australia, says that distraction seeks to avoid and that we need to accept life as it is given to us. 

Ten years.  More than a decade of running.  Looking back I can see progress.  My heart was full of self-deception.  I couldn’t feel my feelings for many years and I numbed my feelings with alcohol, work, shopping, obsessive busyness, Christian service, action and movement of every kind.

And now I attempt to live in this moment — to see what’s in front of my nose. 

The speaker asked: Where do you find sources of stability in direct opposition to the running?  What does life look like when you need some stability? How do you know when you’re running? What prompts our perpetual running? What stops it, for you?

I was able to see, today that I have come a long way.   There are still moments of grievous disappointment in myself, but I lay that aside knowing that life is a long, long path for which I am only partway there.  It felt good, even divine, to gaze backward seeing the timeline of the years to appreciate that I am altered – different  – shifting and less flustered and more resolved.

I am able now to go unhurried into the future.  And I can now appreciate the dailies of life. I look forward to remembering, when it comes.

The deep monotony is good, in order to simply be.

MHH

Inspired by Stability and Balance in Relationships and Prayer led by Carole Kretschman at the Holy Wisdom Monastery, March 7, 2012

The Act of Sleeping (a poem)

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Image by -= Bruce Berrien =- via Flickr

the days of late have been quite enough for my heart, mind and soul to keep up … and so…

I was

drifting off to sleep,

taking an illicit nap in the middle of the day,

when it hit me.

I have always loved the act

of sleeping.  It is a thread

that holds my life together, connecting me

                     to health,

                     to sanity,

                     to strength.

It is safety, a place I have run to all my life.

For life is full of danger and pain.

Life is sometimes more than I can bear.

I do not know if there is anything

I enjoy more than sleep.

My Mother’s Love

My Mother’s love is like no other.
It affirms; its power is profound.
In my mother’s arms
the child in me feels safe.

My Mother’s love is like no other.
It wounds; its hold like a vice;
The power my Mother holds,
wounds the girl in me,
and strangles
the woman I will become.

My Mother’s love
holds the child in me
in a place I want to escape.
I am safe and yet
caught,
strangled by ancient, overgrown vines.

Who am I?
My
Mother’s
Love.

by Melody Hanson, 2004

Phantom Love

You can’t just say you love me. Love isn’t words.
Love is time — spent over the span of a life.
Words are a phantom love.

I can’t mend your hurting heart.
I don’t even know why I should try.
Empty, adrift. You are searching for something.
Crying out, and I hear you.
But I cannot help.

You can’t just say I’m sorry.

Love is known through a lifetime of being, searching, knowing.
Love is acceptance. Endurance. Forgiveness.
Each of these is evident — if you love.

What is it that I am to you?
Do you feel you cannot provide for me the things I crave?
I am fully aware and accepting, that I am the woman you both shaped over time.
Strong. Capable. Faithful.
Afraid. Careful. Wounded.

You don’t have to heal me, that task is all mine.
All you have to do is BE,
with me,
in my life.

You can’t just say you love me – show me, you don’t regret, that I am.

Show me.
Just be.
With me.

 

 

(May 21, 2008)