Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

That it may please thee to preserve, and provide for, all
women in childbirth, young children and orphans, the
widowed, and all whose homes are broken or torn by strife,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

This one covers a lot of territory.

First of all, we don’t think about women dying in childbirth much anymore. It just doesn’t happen nearly as much as it did in the days when people mostly delivered at home. But it happens. In fact, we just had a case early this week where it almost happened. It was a woman who was 18 weeks pregnant, whose amniotic sac was leaking. Conventional medical practice is to first “wait it out a little”--see if the sac more or less “repairs itself”--it is not unusual for this to more or less “fix itself” if the leak is small. But patients are always cautioned that if they do decide to wait it out for a short period of time, it does increase the risk of premature labor or infection. In this particular case, the woman became septic and almost died.

We still have orphans and we have tons of widows. Finally, that “broken or torn by strife” is rampant. That is the part I am most connected with, and the part that most resonates with me in others.

Talk about the ultimate game of Jeopardy: “Alex, I’ll take ‘broken and torn by strife’ for $100.” In my case, it was more like “which kind of broken and torn by strife” DIDN’T I have. We had a pretty good mix. Alcohol. Physical and verbal abuse. Drugs. Narcissism. Selfishness. Immaturity. Manipulation. Emotional abandonment.

I get angry at myself because I often catch myself behaving like an ACOA (Adult child of an alcoholic) all the time. It shows up in my hyper-responsibility issues, my anger, my placating and occasionally enabling behavior.

I engage in reclusive behavior at times b/c there is a point where I literally “can’t stand to be ‘touched’ by humans anymore for a while.” I look incredibly self-revealing and expressive on my blog, but in real life I am very uncomfortable with being self-revealing except to only a very close few. This is complicated by my outward gregarious-ness, which causes people to sometimes mistakenly believe they are closer to me than what they are, in my mind. I think in some ways, I will always be irreparably broken in my ability to have healthy close relationships. I have not learned how to be “whole” in my human interactions. I am pretty convinced that although I get better at it, I’ll never be within the norm. I developed a slightly curmudgeonly personality to basically set up a boundary fence between “the me I show,” and “The me I’m coming to know.” I need a lot of room to pace the floor and walk around the barn.

When I have a bad day at work, every bit of an old bugaboo of “I can never do enough for anyone,” often bubbles up. I spent a lot of my growing up years “avoiding”. I walked on eggs a lot so as not to anger the drunken, or give the manipulative reason to manipulate. I learned some aspects of a very sick sense of loyalty. I learned a lot of abnormal patterns that I grew up thinking were “normal” and it was only when I was at other people’s houses that I learned, “Gee, other people do not live like that.” I remember learning to escape when fights broke out, and only confront when absolutely cornered, then fight with all I had. I distinctly remember one day watching a big argument break out in the house that turned into a fight that destroyed the living room, and thinking, “I am never getting married because I cannot risk living in a marriage like this.” I was like 7 or 8 years old. I learned the only thing that I could trust reliably was me, and even then, some days...not so much.

Oh, my good days are pretty good. But my bad days are painful. That pretty much mirrors my growing up years. There were good lessons in my family, too—I know this—but for some reason they never make me feel as good as the bad ones make me feel broken. The good news is I don’t have many of those days, and I don’t dwell in the pit of it for very long. The bad news is I cycle there more than most people know.

This is why my struggle to trust God has been so damned rocky. For many years I wanted nothing to do with the God of the Bible, especially Old Testament God. How could I possibly worship a being who behaved like an abusive parent? I had a really hard time for many years connecting with Jesus, because if you hear some people’s versions of it all—this business of the crucifixion being “substitution”. I’m sorry, but what kind of idiot God demands the death of his own son as an atonement offering?

Yet there was something that never turned me away from a concept that maybe...just maybe...God was not all that. Maybe it was the people who wrote the Bible, and their culture, I thought. Maybe they missed the message in some ways and got it in some others. Of course, Biblical literalists would run from me, expecting me to have the lightning bolt hit me any second, for thinking such a thing. But it has brought me to some good realizations:

1. I can choose not to live like that.
2. I can choose to make healthy choices sometimes.
3. I can learn to weather the storms in my own head, and I often weather them best when I separate myself from the world for a spell to some degree.
4. I can choose to quiet myself, and when I can’t choose to quiet myself, sometimes I can consent to letting God help me with that.

This is where a lot of the disciplines of my faith come into play. I discovered a framework of regular activities centered around reflecting and musing about God quiet me.

“Quiet” is a hard term for me. Growing up, the only quiet I knew was when I escaped the house and went off on my own, whether it was goofing off in the woods, lying in a hammock in the yard, or even hiding in fear in a tool shed until I fell asleep. But the biggest problem to me finding “Quiet” is this little voice in me goes, “HA! If you get really quiet, and learn to enjoy it, the world will yank you out of it against your will, when you are most vulnerable.” So sometimes, finding my quiet is hard to do, because the apprehension that it will be “taken from me” outweighs it.

This, perhaps, is the biggest casualty that I suffered growing up “in a home full of strife”--the fear that anything I have will, when I am most vulnerable and least expect it, be taken from me. It is perhaps my biggest facet of the “slavery mentality” from which I desire freedom. I am slowly learning (really slowly some days) that “going off to be alone and quiet” doesn’t have to mean “I am hiding from something so everything I have will not be taken from me.” Maybe this is the biggest lesson I have learned from “my sacred space in the yard.”




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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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