So I realized that yesterday I dumped a whole lot of stuff on the blog without offering the big picture. I see myself as in the middle of a process I've been through many times before, but I forgot to explain that.
First, my view of healing is that it often happens in layers. When I was in my twenties, I was stymied in virtually every significant area of my life. I've gone through lengthy and intense periods of healing, but each one seemed confined to a specific area. For several years the task was learning not to fall in love with cold, rejecting men. Then there was a multi-year process of learning I didn't have to be the workhorse and rescuer at the office. And there were others too. My belief is that God is very, very gentle with us, and he knew perfectly well that to try to reconstruct my whole personality all at once would be more than I could tolerate. So we've just been moving from project to project as we journey through the decades. It looks like my 50s will be the decade we tackle my artistic identity.
Second, when I analyze current issues in terms of the things that happened in my family, the main purpose is to figure out the coping mechanisms that I developed to survive my childhood but which are holding me back now. What my mother did 30 years ago is utterly beside the point . . . except where I'm still clinging to the old defense mechanisms. In the examples I wrote about yesterday, the harmful defensive mechanism that I have yet to unlearn is the decision to be a "responsible person" in the majority of my life and to squeeze my artistic identity into the margins that are leftover. That coping mechanism is still holding me back. (The most recent example was working extra jobs and neglecting to do any writing at all from November through February.)
When I find an old coping mechanism that is still in operation, then I start to unpack my past to figure out why I still do it.In this case, by writing my morning pages for six weeks, I made the discovery that I still sometimes view God through the same lens that I used to view her.
It is that linkage--seeing God as my rejecting mother--that I'm trying to break.
Whenever I go through something like this, I need to do a lot of detective work in the past to understand what's happening and why. Then once I've finished the analysis, I wait to see what God will do to assist me with the healing. The cognitive work never brings about the full healing but I don't seem able to recognize God's redemptive message until I've done the groundwork first.
I'll give you an example. It took me a long, long time and a very destructive relationship before I understood my pattern of choosing unloving men. Once I'd sorted it all out and was ready to change, I listened to see what God had to say, and he told me, "I will build you a house where you are happy and know that you are loved, . . . and I will do the work." When I received that message, I understood that he was saying I wouldn't have to work to win my husband's love. That part would be a gift. And when Michael came into my life, it was true, and . . . we've been happily married for 19 years now.
What I posted yesterday was a summary of the "detective work" I've done so far on the artistic identity issue. There may be more excavation to be done, or I may have finished the bulk of it. It's still too close for me to know.
However, I can report that God has already started his liberating responses. Three things happened yesterday that I'm sure will help me to move forward.
Early yesterday morning, I went to church to do an hour in the Maundy Thursday vigil. (For those of you not from a sacramental church, what that means is that we sit in the chapel with the leftover bread and wine from the communion that took place on Thursday night. It is a symbolic way of praying with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane.) I always love that time and often profound things happen there. This year, I received the vision that all the rejection, all the hurt from my childhood was like a sack of rocks I was still carrying around with me. It was as though I had been stoned and after the punishment, I went around collecting and saving the very rocks that had broken me. And I sensed that it was time to lay that sack of rocks at the foot of the cross.
At the noon service on Good Friday, we do something called Veneration of the Cross. It's a way to remember Christ's sacrifice by kneeling in front of a cross, meditating on the passion for a moment, and then kissing the foot of the cross. The whole practice is optional, but I usually do it, and this year as I did, I visualized hauling up that weighty sack of rocks and leaving it there. (I joked with Michael later that I felt sort of sorry for Altar Guild having to clear them away, but he assured me that they won't find those invisible rocks nearly as heavy as I did.)
Also, during the sermon, the speaker closed with an absolutely beautiful blessing that had me blubbering:
A Blessing of Solitude
May you recognise in your life the presence, power and light of your soul. May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe. May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realise that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here.
That behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful, good and eternal happening.
May you learn to see your self with the same delight, pride and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.
While all of this was going on, a very odd thing happened. We do a lot of standing and kneeling in the Good Friday service, and during the Sacred Collects--a long prayer that comes before the Veneration of the Cross--my right knee suddenly got shooting pains in it as I knelt to pray. It continued to hurt during the next kneeling part, and so I started sitting whenever everyone else knelt. My husband whispered that he didn't think I should do the veneration this year, and I whispered back, "No, I'm going." I was not going to give up my symbolic act of dumping those damn rocks.
At the end of the whole service, I was sitting in the pew singing the final hymn, and I felt another message from God. I heard very clearly: "Remember this sore knee that kept you from kneeling. I want you to view it as a sign that you don't ever have to grovel."
Doesn't God have a wonderful sense of humor?
(P.S. I don't think God twisted my knee; I think he just used it as an object lesson.)