I work well in metaphor so we are going to start there. Unfortunately the comparison is one I am not too great with, so hang in there while I struggle. I might be worth it, maybe.
Let’s talk plants. I am not the best little gardener in the world, all the plants I have ever met don’t respond to simple personality and so we wind up have nothing in common and they die. Sad, I know. When my Granny died year and a half ago I wanted a plant from her funeral because it reminded me of her, and she was stellar at loving plants just not that great at loving people. It is sitting on my porch doing quite well considering how I kill off plants. The other day I mentioned to my wife how wonderful it was that the plant was just living and making it without any help and her face was priceless. “Babe, you realize I water that plant all the time, right?” Um, no I had not. I probably should have, but as I said I am not much good at getting along with plants. (I do know they need food, but it’s plant food and they make their own. I know different plants need different soil and I know that sun is a good/bad thing!)
When I met my wife we were both in a pretty damaged place. It was right after Katrina and my life was a wreck on the surface, but deep down it was worse even though I didn’t know it. She had just moved back to the area a few months before and was struggling with her own life issues, which are not mine to blog about. I imagine that if we were plants being sold I was a discounted baby tree that had fallen, broke right at it’s roots and was expected to die and she was a bulb that had fallen out of it’s packaging, badly bruised with no way of knowing how to plant or what would grow. We spent the next few years trying to find the right environment for each other, learning about the right soil and amount of sunlight. Making a safe and comfortable and optimum place for each other, not knowing what was going to come of it. Only knowing that if these two little plants were going to make it they needed the right things and a lot of TLC. The other thing I knew, was that even if my bulb never sprouted I loved it anyway, that was probably key for her. For me, a broken little baby tree, I needed safety because any form of wind, or rain, or weather would knock me back down.
So there comes this time where you have to take your newly nursed plant and re-pot it so that it can grow. You are super excited that your plant is doing so well, but there is a risk to moving to the next pot. Risk is always scary. I think that we had just reached that point when we found our church. Is this the right soil? If your plant needs a thick rich soil that will hold lots of water and you plant it in gravel it will die, the water just runs through the tiny stones and the plant never gets enough to drink. Is this right amount of sunlight? Too much will kill a plant almost faster than not enough. Is there the right amount of CLEAN water? Key to life, my friends. The answer was yes, yes, yes! Suddenly these little plants we had had to be so careful about had a whole new, perfect place to grow and root and thrive!
Now, we are going to talk about what thriving means to me. Over the last year I have found freedom, happiness, excitement, love and joy. JOY! Honest, true and real JOY in everything. I thank God for it constantly and the more I thank God the more joy is revealed to me. I say revealed because it is always there, some reason to have joy. Once you start looking and walking with your eyes on it, you see more and more. I wake up thankful for my life, full of joy over the coming day. I go to sleep and instead of focusing on how I will get through tomorrow or how the bills will get paid or how we will put braces on our kids or how the dog’s leg is going to be in week – I am honestly just thanking God for that day full of blessings. I go to sleep in eager anticipation of the next day. There is no dread.
Funny thing about JOY is that is causes a reaction. People either want to get in on it, or they want to destroy it. Shocking, I know. What is worse, is that often the people with the means to destroy are the people you are close to, like family. Yesterday I had an exchange with a family member, and because this post is not about them or that I am going to give little information. I will say the following about it: I don’t need anyone to agree with me, but I do require respect. I don’t want to argue and I am capable of understanding your point at the same time as disagreeing with it. I do not need anyone to validate God, He stands on His own. In this exchange I was once again a child, helpless and frozen. Parts of my life and of my heart were judged and condemned in a hateful and aggressive way. It’s not new, but the amount of venom and anger and the need to hurt me was, shocking. My heart was broken, but not in the way that this individual was hoping for, not in a way that left me weaker and sadder. My heart was not broken because they had, once again, managed to crack my foundation or destroy my confidence. This time my heart was more broken than ever because I could not excuse away the behavior, I could not let my understanding of where it came from allow them to continue. I can’t and will not let it happen again, and that means they are kind of lost to me. My heart was broken from mourning.
It all happened Sunday morning before church, literally in the parking lot. I lost myself, for a moment. My wife had to work and my children were out of town until the afternoon, I had no one to ground me and no one to hold it together for and I lost it. I didn’t want to go into church, but I felt like that was almost like letting the attacker win. I hate to be near people when I am not together, I don’t like needing people. At that moment I wanted someone who loved me to hold onto me, because I was not holding on very well. Church is full of people who love me, quick to hug and hold my hand, but I am not good at asking for that. I am not even good at admitting I need it. To go into a place where I was alone due to the scars and damage that this person caused decades ago, freshly broken from new words with old purpose – it all felt too big. I almost left. Two things kept me there: I made myself a goal to go to church every Sunday and I love it. I was JUST saying how proud I was of my family and of our church attendance, I just couldn’t let that be taken away. The other thing was, it was uncomfortable to stay, and to me that seemed to suggest that it was the path that would help me grow more, the uncomfortable path usually does.
During church I was a mess, several times completely lost. Embarrassed, but what can you do? The message was good, and perfectly spot on. It was as if my pastor and my family member were having a conversation. It was like God was answering each of those hateful stones cast with a direct and not so subtle smack down. It was like God stepped between me and the assailant and said, “Not this time, you don’t get her back this time.” I got hugged, and I my hand was held. I am not good at receiving that, but it was welcomed. Inside I was convinced that once I had my family back it would be alright. I gathered my children yesterday and still felt sad. My wife came home and I still felt sad. I woke up today and there is still this sadness. Tears are in my eyes, and I am feeling everything through this disconnected place. The love, happiness and joy I feel seems muffled. I see it and feel it, but if feels like I am not me, like I got knocked outside of myself. Last night I worked in my prayer journal, it’s a book of art and scripture or text that helps me focus and find my center. I will be working on it a lot for the next few days. As I was working on it I was reminded of a older sermon when my pastor said, “A person with an experience is not at the mercy of a person with an argument.” It spoke to my heart directly.
MK, one of my favorite people, prayed with me yesterday and I felt better. She also said to take three days, which seemed odd because I don’t take three days. I heal, or I patch up, quickly and I move on. However, because I do respect her I made the resolution to take three days and process. In only the first 24 hours I am already connection dots. It wasn’t just this one thing, it was that this one thing is a part of a pattern that has been ongoing from youth. Tearing down my progress to alleviate their internal pain has been their comfort for a very long time. It has cost me too much and I am not willing to let it continue. In the past I would struggle with what boundaries look like, what they feel like, and guilt over setting them.
I have realized that while I was so willing to excuse their behavior due to the things they were experiencing I never gave myself any credit for the psychological trauma that I was experiencing due to them. Today, this morning, things felt so raw and wrong and confused, like the world was a different color and I remember that there have been a few times I felt that way, and they were scary, bad, dangerous times. I looked up emotional shock, to see if it was real. I think I may be having an acute stress reaction to both what happened Sunday and to the many occurrences it brought back to life. In realizing that I decided to give myself a break. I am not expecting myself to just get on, I am letting it heal from the inside out – the way you do for a deep wound. I am taking a hard look at how I go about interacting to be sure that NONE of that seeps into my relationships as abuse often finds a way to repeat itself. I am admitting that I am not okay, and that in itself is okay. I am pressing in harder, I am listening closer and I am comforted by my Father who gave me my beautiful family and then gave us our true and safe and perfectly sized pot to grow in – my church.
Undoubtedly the biggest thing is that from the devil’s darkest moment came the most beautiful and undeniable confirmation that I am right where I am supposed to be and that I am in God’s timing, in His place for me and I am strong enough, with Him and my family and my church, to withstand. I was taken down, and I still went inside. That’s big, even if I am the only one who realizes how big it is. There is more to me than I realized, and oddly being strong looks like falling apart.
Side note: to lift a pretty heavy post I decided to reward anyone who read this far with the alternate title of this blog post: I ugly cried in church yesterday. 😉