Friday, November 20, 2015

We All Need Somebody to Lean On (Even Me?!)

I'm still blown away by the truth revealed to me during my recent Facebook break (details here) - that I need other people; and that that's ok. I'm more blown away still by the fact that I never knew that before, or more accurately, I knew it but saw it as a weakness, a mark of immaturity, something to be overcome. I honestly thought the goal was to eventually become totally and solely dependent on God for ALL of my needs.

And indeed, that is the goal - but the two truths aren't mutually exclusive; not in the least! God communicates His love, wisdom, grace, forgiveness and much more through other people. That might seem like the most obvious fact in the world to you, but it's a brand new thought to me that it's part of God's plan, not a baby-food-type-thing that young-in-the-faith believers need until they can get it all straight from the Source.

I guess it makes sense that I'd be inclined to believe thus. From before I can even remember, I've been fiercely, ridiculously, over-the-top independent. I'm not sure where I got the idea that independence was such a good thing (I foresee that this will require a bit more soul excavation), but from a very early age, I was determined to take care of myself. (I see a bit of this in my youngest, and all I can say is, "Sorry, Mom...". Yeesh.)

I'm wondering now if this isn't somehow tied into the shame that covered me for most of my life (details here). I wonder which came first? I wonder if the independence came from feeling like I didn't deserve any support from anyone, so I shut off the possibility of it, insisting to myself that I didn't want it, didn't need it. Hmmm...

All through my school years, I was the one to whom people poured out their hearts; I was the recipient of confidences on all sides - I even counselled some of my teachers! But I never shared much of myself with anyone. Oh, I had lots of friends - spent hours on the phone, attended birthday parties and sleepovers, did the Sunday School and youth group thing. But through it all, I kept my true self carefully hidden. I think people felt close to me because I was a sympathetic listener, not because they really knew me.

{This is turning out to be really hard to write about - I'm still not sure what to do with it. (I dearly hope it's not as hard to read as it is to write - thanks for sticking with me!) I feel really...stupid is the best word I can come up with here. And sorrowful - how much I've missed. So much opportunity for authentic connection and relationship and community that I can never get back.}

During the past few years, I've been getting closer and closer, hovering on the edges of this remarkable revelation. Thanks in part to this blog, and thanks to my Facebook community, I've gradually allowed myself to know and be known. But even as I took off my mask and got honest and vulnerable, there was always a sense that it was the means to an end. That the notion of needing other people was weak, immature, temporary.

Even as recently as this summer, though, I was still blind to the truth. When the vast majority of my support system was pulled out from under me for one reason or another, I thought it was a good thing, a necessary step in the process of growing up in Christ, of coming to depend on Him alone. A dear pastor-friend even pointed out the obvious at the time - suggested to me that maybe God might intentionally use His people to meet each other's needs. I have to shake my head now at how readily I dismissed his wise words.

Well, I get it now. The negative connotations have been lifted, somehow. How it will change things for me, in me - I don't know. But it can't help but make a difference in my relationships. Whether positive or negative (or some combination of the two) remains to be seen. 

Of course, my current fear is that I'll swing too far the other way. Needy, clingy, attention-seeking - these are things I really don't ever want to be. Man, this growth stuff... 

I was all set to end on a positive, spiritual note, but that just doesn't feel right. I know God is in this, but I don't know what He's doing or what will come of it. I'm a little fearful. And a little annoyed - a very busy, inconvenient time to deal with such an earth-shaking revelation, too. I thought I was finished with stuff like this! Alas and alack (and hallelujah), God's not finished with me yet. (Wait, is that a positive, spiritual note? Well, I tried... :) )

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Facebook Break (mid-way check point)

It's been two and a half weeks since I last visited Facebook. I felt led to take a six week leave of absence, and now I'm almost half way through this self-imposed exile. I've done this a couple of times since I joined the renowned and revered community - once during Lent, and once for some (good?) reason I don't quite recall. It's been several years since my last Facebook fast. 

When I first thought of taking a break this time around, it was with the intention of creating space in my life - for more reflection, to read more good books, to write something worth reading, to compose some good songs... Have I ever mentioned that I tend to be a bit of an idealist? 

Here's what reality has looked like these last eighteen days: first, a nasty and violent bout of stomach flu made the rounds in our household, which resulted in much coddling of little boys, much cleaning up of that which humans were not meant to deal with, and many days of personal illness and weakness and slow recovery. Right in the midst of all this, I was offered, completely out of the blue, a temporary job that bore all the marks of an answer to many prayers and tears prayed and shed over the past few months. A roller coaster ride, indeed! 

I've recovered from the flu; I've accepted the job. Now I'm scrambling to restore my home back to some semblance of order (it looks like a hurricane struck at this point), get my balanced-eating-and-exercise plan back on track and prepare for my brief but hopefully helpful stint as an interim music director over Christmas. Life is quickly filling up the spaces I had hoped to create. So mission accomplished, I guess - but it sure looks a lot different than I had envisioned! (I know - what else is new...)

But I'm really missing my Facebook community. I started jotting down the times when I felt an urge to post to FB, and a most interesting trend quickly emerged. It wasn't a particular emotion or type of event that I wanted to share - they were as varied as the joy of a soul-stirring Steve Bell concert, the delight of an unexpected employment opportunity, the lingering beauty of late Fall, the wonder of the first snowfall, the agonizing hardship of disciplining a defiant eleven year old, the happy birthday celebrations of a certain now-seven year old, and the horrible reality of dealing with copious amounts of vomit... I realized that what I was missing most was the satisfying camaraderie that comes from shared feelings and experiences; the comfort of knowing I'm not alone.

But a couple of really good things have come out of this as well, so far. This may sound cheesy, but it's actually deepened my relationship with God. After a few days of feeling mildly depressed and intensely lonely, I started training myself to go to God with all the status updates I was constantly composing in my head (does anyone else out there do that, too?). The status updates began to turn into praises and petitions, with the unexpected but lovely result of tremendously enriching my prayer life. 

It's also shown me how much I need other people. As friendly and outgoing as I (hope I) appear, I'm an introvert at heart. I renew my strength and find my peace in extended time alone. But we're all wired for community - we need each other. I used to see this as a weakness, a mark of immaturity, something to overcome. I know better now. 

So I'm grateful. Looking forward with hopeful anticipation to what other blessings may come as a result of this experiment. Also looking forward with warm fuzzies to taking my place in my beloved community again, to sharing the highs and mids and lows of life with many beautiful souls.