About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
Search This Blog
Books that shifted paradigms
Walking Barefoot on Facebook
Login
« Breath. Practice. Repeat. | Main | There's a squatter in my sanctuary »
Tuesday
Oct232012

One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good

The spiritual journey is not a career or a success story.

It is a series of humiliations of the false self that become more and more profound.
These make room inside us for the Holy Spirit to come in and heal. 

What prevents us from being available to God is gradually evacuated.
We keep getting closer and closer to our center. 

The spiritual journey is like an archaeological dig through the various stages of our lives, from where we are now back through the midlife crisis, adult life, adolescence, puberty, childhood, infancy.
What happens if we allow the archaeological dig to continue?
We feel that we are getting worse.

But we are not really getting worse,
we are just finding out how bad off we always were.

That is an enormous grace.

-Thomas Keating, The Human Condition

A good friend wrote me a question a while back that has kept me company through almost every waking moment:

"How on earth do you manage to be so vulnerable? How can you live with your heart so wide open?  You write things about yourself to the blogging world that I would be terrified to even whisper."

She went on to say that she’s attempted to be brutally honest before, to live wide open and exposed; she's sought good counsel to help her do this, but when asked to offer more than the bare facts, “ a false kind of vulnerability” she calls it, when asked the heart questions, she falls back on her coping mechanisms: hiding and running.  “And I don't know how to stop doing that, even with a counselor. So I guess my question is, again, how do you do it? How do you stop hiding? I feel like a porcupine- when you poke it, it curls up into a ball and hides its face until you go away.”

 

As today is the one year anniversary of the fire, her question (and what I've come up with so far as an answer), seems to be a hingepoint for everything I believe, and build my life upon.

I feel like I've been wrestling to make sense of my story for years now- really ever since Michael's affair. I've felt compelled to define what I believe, and why I believe what I believe...how else can I hope to live a deliberate life?

This need to clarify what my life is about has felt like trekking through thick underbrush with a butter knife.  I hack away, woefully ill-equipped, trying to discover the path, but it's dark and each venture forward feels like a step into empty space.

Until last week.  

 

As I see it, my friend's question became a catalyst that led me to the work of Thomas Keating, and his book, The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation.  This book turned on a floodlight for me; I realized there has always been a path through the underbrush; for whatever reason, my journey had not led me there, but now I have a light, and maybe even a small machete, and I walk forward with more confidence, and companionship.

So thank you my friend, for your honest question- it literally caused a defining moment in my life journey, and I finally feel like I've found the words (through reading Thomas Keating's work) to give you a decent answer, and to better explain myself to myself.

 

Dear friend,

I think the answer to your question starts with shame.

And shame starts at the very beginning of human existence.


I believe the story of Adam and Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, is every man's story of growing up: we begin life intimately and blissfully unself-conscious, but as soon as we become self-aware, we become self-conscious, and as our sense of consciousness grows, so does our sense of failure or falling short...which leads to shame.  

Like Adam and Eve, when we feel shame, our instinct is to cover up. We hide, and then we blame: ourselves, each other, God.  

 

Shame cuts us off from our true selves, from true intimate friendships, and from oneness with God.

Shame is like a cloak that hides our light, and keeps us walking blind and in darkness.


Because shame is such an ugly emotion, we cover our intimate, true self with layers of protection.  But what those layers really do is disguise, and eventually bury, the real self; until we don't know who we are anymore. Even without our conscious intention, we end up acting out of our false selves, out of habits for self-preservation, and out of misplaced searches for happiness and intimacy.

 

Occasionally, like a pulling at the edge of our consciousness, we get a feeling for who we really are underneath all the layers-of the raw, desperate need in our core to be safe, to feel loved, to have control; but we feel shame for this incredibly vulnerable infant self, and we (like my friend) cope by hiding and running on.

 

I’ve repeated this cycle of shame, hiding, blaming and avoiding intimacy, and running onwards into more distractions so as not to have to face my hunch that all is not well within me all my life, but I didn’t have words to describe this cycle until I started going to therapy last August.

 

My therapist is the one who brought up SHAME.  I’d never used the word before.
I’d used guilty, I’d used sin. But SHAME?

 

She said I labor under a heavy weight of shame- shame for thinking things I shouldn’t be thinking, shame for feeling things I shouldn’t feel (notice Brennan Manning's "shoulds"?), shame for not fulfilling people's expectations of me, shame for my "rebellion" in college, for having sex before I was married, for still wanting to be an actress even though I am fully immersed in motherhood, for not being as fully immersed in motherhood as I "should" be...shame for every unexplainable, less than perfect, contradictory, falling short of some high and holy standard, thing in my life.

Emotions themselves are not good or bad; they are what they are- responses to a thought process. And our thoughts are choices based upon so many variables: who we are, our family, our life experiences, our education, our religious background...

Somehow, and I don't blame this on the church, but I think it often goes hand in hand with growing up in a religious environment, I judged my emotions as good or bad.


For example, I am fifteen years old and I want to do more than just kiss my boyfriend.  This desire is BAD. This is SINFUL and God is NOT pleased.

BAD=repress this feeling. Don't admit it to anyone. It is SHAMEFUL to feel this way. 

 

And what happens? That repressed feeling eventually surfaces anyhow because it never WENT AWAY; it was always there, just under the surface, waiting to come out one way or another.  

My shame over wanting to go too far with my boyfriend, led me to actually going too far, which led to more shame, which led to years of dysfunctional relationships where I said yes when I meant no.

My cycle of shame, hiding, and avoiding intimacy followed me into my marriage. I tried to be perfect instead of being me. I DID things instead of just BEING with my husband and my family. I feared truly being myself, and being rejected, so I hid behind activity; I offered part, but not all, of my heart.  And I do believe these long-nurtured behaviors helped set the stage for my husband's affair. I certainly don't take responsibility for it, but my choices did play a part in leaving my marriage unprotected.

 

If, way back when I first wanted to get all sorts of physical with my high school boyfriend, I had talked about it with someone- brought it out into the light with God, and my parents, or some sort of mentor- some safe place where I wouldn’t be condemned for what I felt, where I wouldn’t be shamed-  I believe I could have seen my emotion for what it was: a product of the thought: I long to be desired- which is TOTALLY NORMAL. And healthy.

And if I could understand that, I could deal with that thought and the subsequent emotion in a normal and healthy way. Instead, I felt guilty because good Christian girls aren't supposed to have a sex drive, or want to get it on, or even know what "get it on" means. There was no safe place to be my authentic self. So I added a layer of falsehood- hiding from myself, hiding from other people, hiding from God. And I added to my habit of repression and hiding. And pretending.

 

I believe God is about the process of liberating us from shame, of bringing us back into the light, of stripping us down to our original, whole selves.

As I see it, sin is brokenness, and being "saved" is simply being made whole ( a lifelong process, not an event). 

This life is a journey from darkness to light, from brokenness to wholeness. 


I was not deliberately on this journey from brokenness to wholeness until 2009, when Michael had his affair.

 

So my gut answer to your question: "how do you live with your heart wide open?" is that I lost everything I loved and thought I could trust and realized the total pointlessness of keeping up the facade and the false self, because it got me nowhere but rejected and betrayed and self-deceived.  

I don’t fear public opinion like I used to. And I'm no longer surprised by my own capacity for self-deception, or by my brokenness.

 

The affair was such a profound humiliation of the false self; it was an instantaneous stripping. And it broke my cycle of shame and self-preservation long enough for me to see my life for what it really was.

Because in the aftermath, I realized that besides my marriage and my family, what else do I have to lose that actually matters? I lost everything I had based my life upon, including my up to that point definition of faith.  And then I lost my physical stuff to the fire, and once we moved to Colorado, I lost my emotional stability and sense of identity (and all the faith I'd put in my own capability) to depression.

 

I don’t think the lesson of vulnerability has to be learned through suffering, but I think it is often how we end up learning it. I think suffering is like a gracious arranging of variables to force our hand.

God knows, like St. Augustine says, 1) we don’t know where happiness is to be found (ignorance) 2) we look for it in the wrong places (concupiscence); and 3) if we ever find out where it might be found, the will is too weak to pursue it anyway.

 

When the affair happened, I had to pursue whatever God wanted me to learn. Well, I didn't have to, but the cost of continuing to hide and not deal with myself was my marriage and my family- too high a cost to keep putting it off.

I think this is what suffering does - it makes it less optional to keep putting wholeness off.  And I think that if we do continue to put it off, the variables will continue to rearrange and rearrange in different scenarios our entire lives because God wants that much for us to be whole, to be fully alive, to be fully ourselves.

 

Brennan Manning says,

“The pattern is always the same. We reach life only through death; we come to light only through darkness; the grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die. Jonah must be buried in the whale’s belly.” (95)


I don’t think all the stripping has to be done through suffering, but suffering strips the illusion of competence away.  It reveals how bad off we really are, and, like Keating says, this is an enormous grace.


This is what I keep taking stabs at in my blog: this idea of surrendering to the process of stripping, of willingly exposing my weaknesses so that I may find my self, find abundant life, find God, and find intimacy with others on the same journey.  


To me, this is it. The whole kit and kaboodle of walking this life’s path. This journey is about rediscovering who we are created to be, and in doing so, finding God and each other

If I choose to keep putting off the stripping, if I choose to keep living through the layers of my false selves, I risk losing my marriage, my family, my self.

And just as importantly, if I DO surrender to the stripping but I don't share the process with anyone, then I contribute to the lack of safe places where we can admit our messes and be our true selves without shame.

 

The stakes are so incredibly high- if I am a false self, then my time here on this earth is spent in preservation of that false self rather than in pouring out healing whole energy into the broken hurting world. 

I want to contribute to the light more than I want to preserve the illusion of having it all together. And the only way to contribute to the light is to let it shine out through the cracks of my very broken self.

I value this more than I value what people think of me, or my pride, or my illusion of capability and sufficiency.

 

When I hold up the two against each other, and I count the cost, I find it’s more worth it to be exposed than to hide.

But I wouldn’t have chosen this voluntarily.

I do believe suffering put me on this path, and that is why I can say I wouldn’t change the affair or the fire or having 4 kids close together (because there is a suffering loss of self in motherhood, or really any service, as well) or the depression, or any of it. 

All of these experiences have been God’s grace to bring me to my knees, to bow my head, to submit to his gentle hand that reveals in order to heal.

I am on a journey to wholeness.

Writing about my brokenness keeps me humble; it breaks me in order to rebuild.

Publicly admitting who I really am helps create a safe place where other people can be a mess too, and if I can do this, maybe marriages could be saved, maybe people could ask the hard questions and admit the "shameful" things. Maybe we could all help each other become who we really are.

 

It’s worth it.

References (52)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: lancel sac a main
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: solde sac lancel
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: DUxECsAc
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: www.ugg
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: longchamp outlet
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: link schwartz
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: Read Home
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: Aneu Skin Review
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: domy seniora
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: chwilówka
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: lazy
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: Brooklyn
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: Lumagenex Review
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: David Drwencke
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: Elite Green Coffee
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: splendyr
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: No2 Factor Review
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: sell auto notes
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: Check This Out
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: Additional Info
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: GoPro Selfie Stick
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: GoPro Selfie Stick
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: web building
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: GoPro Attachments
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: gopro hero 4
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: GoPro Accessories
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: GoPro Selfie Stick
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: sex
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: understanding
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    当前位置 / 数控止水钢板机 止水钢板机 全自动天沟压型机 全自动天沟压型机 数控钢板止水钢板机 ,阐述直角扣板机的产品特点规格; ...
  • Response
    压瓦机|琉璃瓦机|彩钢瓦设备|三层压瓦机|C型钢机|复合板机_泊头华茂数控彩钢设备制造厂http://www.cby 琉璃瓦机 wjc.com 当前位置 / 彩钢拱形压瓦机系 三层压瓦机 列 850型圆弧板拱形彩钢压瓦机 压型钢板型号 850 用途 有效覆盖宽度(mm) 850 展开宽度(m) 1 屋面板、墙面板 板厚(mm) 0.3-0.8 850型圆弧板拱形彩钢压瓦机可根据生产需要生产各种不同外观的屋面板,且成品率高。彩板拱顶 复合板机 产品信息
  • Response
    Response: air max trainer
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: {nails
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: Fake Nails
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn
  • Response
    Response: costume Jewelry
    One year after the fire: if I had to sum it all up...fire is good - Home - Trinity Wilbourn

Reader Comments (1)

Amen, amen and again I say amen.

II Corinthians 1:3-5 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too." ESV

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>