Choking

You choke on the words.
You hurt me.

Three simple words,
a confrontation that won’t come.
The fear-scab
comes off the child-grown-up-into-woman wound.
The mutilation, scarred over long enough  
that you had actually forgotten.
Again.
Impossible.

You needed to forget.
Until
mother-sister-blood
family rips it off again.
Their indifference,
your insignificance,
that’s what you need to forget
their command
over you.

They are the only ones
Wielding the control, able to make
you choke on the words.
You hurt me.

They don’t read.
They don’t come.
They don’t care.

You choke on the words
You hurt me.

Strongest in the Broken Places: A Tale of Domestic Abuse

Watching this video I was a child again.

It validated experiences I had growing up.  It made me sad.  I grieve watching it for beyond my own experiences, as I know three women who are living right now in this sort of marriage.

  • One is married to an elder in my church.  (Actually, he was an elder at the time that she talked to me.  We were in a Bible study together.)  He had anger and control issues, perpetrated in the name of “biblical submission.”
  • Another friend stays in an habitually abusive marriage out of love and commitment to her husband saying “Would you leave your husband if he had cancer?  Then how could you leave if he has a mental illness?”  I’m not saying that she should leave her marriage, but I grieve that she is so alone!   And I am ill equipped to help, though I listen.
  • Another friend asks for prayer for friends whose marriage that is in trouble saying he “may be abusive” but likely she “may be making it all up.”

You never know when someone is a perpetrator of rage and control.  I can tell you with assurance that is the most unlikely person.

I grew up in a home where my father was in ministry and was a generous, gracious loving God-fearing man.  To this day when I write openly about my experiences growing up (here and here and here  and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and I only stop because the list is endless.  He’s one of the reasons I started my blog.)

Here is the best example of what it felt like growing up.

To this day I have people who say to me “I knew your father…” implying that somehow perhaps I didn’t, though I lived in his home for nearly two decades and worked for him for many years.   They imply by their statement that my experience and my mother’s and my sister’s didn’t happen.  The man in this video could have been my father — except Dad had a lot more personality!

The video below is one of the best that I have ever seen that talked about raging in a home as a domestic violence.  It made me feel “less alone” when it comes to domestic violence which is not always physical!  It was not physical in my home, except one time when my parents were first married my father put my mother’s head through a wall.  This was before I was born, but he put it in his book and that is how I heard about it.  Even though he wrote about his anger he was unable to change.  And it became the Achilles heal for him over and over again, hurting people around him.  It was a significant factor in my spiritual life and my perceptions of God.

It is real and destructive and is painful for me to this day.  I so wish that my father could have found this kind of help and felt it was safe to “come out” the way the brave heroes in this video have.  I so wish the church was better equipped to help women who do suffer in this way and could create a context where it is safe to speak out.  And I wish the church helped men who know they have a problem but don’t know how to get help.

“Statistics show that victims of domestic violence most often go to churches for help. Unfortunately, churches are often ill-equipped and not helpful. This clip tells the story of one couple’s search for help and also offers some advice for creating an environment conducive for recovery.”

Please watch.  If the video doesn’t work you will have to follow the link prior.

This is a hard post for me to write.  By even talking about this others could be at risk and yet that is the great irony.

Always Striving, Never Satisfied

Dad at the Great Wall
Image by M e l o d y via Flickr

I read about 50 blogs.  Not all the time and definitely not every day.  Correction.  I was curious and the fact is that I track more than 220 blogs on http://www.igoogle.com.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed by the glut of information out there for one to consume.

To be honest, my heart, mind and soul can only handle reading about five every day and sometimes not that many.

(I’d love to list them on my blog somehow if someone knows an easy way.  I have no clue.)

Today I read Introspections & Ideas of a Black Wasp.

It struck me, how sad it is when one spends their whole life striving, working, driven by the next “important” thing.  Having worked in a not-for-profit ministry for thirteen years and having grown up in Dan Harrison – the missionary leader’s home I know about striving!!!    I used to work like that.  I used to get such a rush from doing — it defined me.  It drove me.   I would wake in the morning frantic that I was somehow already behind and go to bed at night anxious over what I had forgotten or worse NOT gotten done.  I constantly thought people were judging me.  I thought my father was judging and on that account I’m still undecided.

Come to find out, it mostly was me judging me.  My dear husband is constantly having to tell me that it was indeed NOT him saying the things I heard him say.  Oh, he may have said the words, but what heard — not true.  It’s crazy.  I need a mental filter to constantly redirect to what was actually said.  I’ve come a long way on this, but I’m still open to healing.

My father was like that.

I suppose I learned it from him, though I don’t think this is one I can blame on him; unless you go a bit deeper and acknowledge where that drive originates — the ugly and ominous insecurity — fear of failure — lack of self-love.  Those are the things I received in abundance.

Black Wasp (I can’t find a name on his blog to credit him) wrote about Stanley Hauwerwas and Jean Vanier’s Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness the third book in a Resources for Reconciliation series put out by InterVarsity Press.

He said:

As I read Vanier’s story of leaving what he thought he knew, changing his life’s trajectory and engaging in community with the mentally “handicapped” I immediately engaged with my own selfishness.  Reading From Brokenness to Community pushed me into a deep examination of myself, of my brokenness and of the redemption that God provides within community – both in communion with Him and communion with others.

My father was a deeply broken person.  He was also a leader, a vision setter with many friends and followers, charismatic in personality, never meeting a stranger, purposeful, always going, going, going.  Going to the former USSR when it was still the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with the idea of bring students over on lingua-cultural exchanges.  Entering Cuba  to discuss the same, when Americans weren’t allowed.  I believe he loved God.  I believe he lived to serve God and others.  I believe he served more than 40 years and did many good things.

And yet, he never had that.  He died very alone.  He died with family around him but essentially alone.  He never figured out that fundamental, essential, powerful thing: a deep examination of yourself.  He talked about his personal brokenness.  He even wrote a book ironically titled Strongest in the Broken Places and spoke about it at Urbana 96.  But he never truly experienced “the redemption that God provides within community – both in communion with Him and communion with others.”   He never did.   This makes me profoundly sad and …

I resolve to write about Dad
Image by M e l o d y via Flickr

Vanier tells rich stories about what love can do to individuals hurt by the pain of abuse; abuse, spiritual, social, and mental. L’Arche’s result is to address brokenness through the love that is found in true community. L’Arche’s uniqueness is that it highlights brokenness, not so that people wallow but so they can find redemption. It is the acknowledgement and gentle approach of community that pain and brokenness that allows society to find healing.

When we are willing to recess into our own brokenness, we are able to view the holy aspects of others. (emphasis mine)

We have come down off our spiritual or moral pedestals to dwell and broken people in need of healing and redemption via community and ultimately the Father.

Hauwerwas argues that peace is achieved by redemption and transformation.

Healing takes takes time.  My father never had time because he was constantly striving, going, getting on the next plane to do the next thing for God.  When he was diagnosed with brain tumors, the prognosis was bad.  At this point I don’t recall exactly the type or character but I know when I researched it at the time I immediately knew it was a death sentence.  It was just a matter of time.

He never received that.  He deeply believed “that he hadn’t finished all he could do!”  How could God possibly be calling him home when there was so much left to accomplish?  His heart was so deeply convicted by the lost and that was his life – his legacy.  His motives were good.  His passion were good.  He was so compelled.

But sadly, when at last our loving Father wanted to call him home he basically fought.  He fought hard.  Some would say that’s what you’re supposed to do when you get a diagnosis of cancer. I say, it depends.  It totally depending on type and nature and site of that cancer. And graciously accepting your own death, though not easy (just easy for me to say) would have allowed him to experience perhaps something of that beautiful community in the end.

We were not even allow to talk about his death.  We were not allowed to say he might die.  We were not allowed to say goodbye. Or face his anger.

“If the time has already been redeemed by Jesus, we learn to wait on the salvation of the Lord by taking time to listen to our weakest members”  Progress pushes us towards deafening speeds that force us to continue to move closer to an ideal, which seems to get further and further away.

Black Madonna of Częstochowa
Image via Wikipedia

As I read, I was overcome by grief, missing my father.  Joy, that I have moved to a place if not of health at least a place of  not having to constantly be rushing toward accomplishment.  I still hear those bad voices even when someone who loves me talks to me.  But when he tells me NOT SO!  I believe him.  And that my friends is freedom.

Now if I could just find community.

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