Agony of Light

The hardest part is not the darkness. No. You can still imagine things to look much better than you feel them to be in the shadows; imagine things to be what you wish them to be, need them to be, want them to be.

It is the light that is devastatingly hard and why most avoid all but selective exposure. One cannot pretend in the light for their own comfort or false notions of safety or perfection.

I brought (have been bringing) my entire self into the light for a while now. I was not in any way prepared for the very last things to come out, which in actuality were THE thing it’s all been leading up to. I guess it would be more accurate to say I was finally ready to see BECAUSE of all I’ve been through – to have to acknowlege just how dependent I’ve been on “love” in the shadows – the idea of something I wanted it to be verses the reality of what it actually is.

My physical circumstances have more or less been the same for quite a while and will not be radically changing. I’ve been sleeping (when I’m lucky) and crying alone in bed and have been carrying the bulk of child raising for years.

But what is the thing that terrifies and crushes me? It’s the exposure of an idea that I’ve clung to my whole life as false that causes the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. What a strange thing to admit…to be violently detoxing from the loss of an idea like it was heroin. But that’s exactly what it feels like. I’ve needed someone to be something they could never be and I numbed and sabotaged and stole from myself, denied my instincts and my true knowing and handed over my power in order to get and keep the fix I thought I couldn’t live without – to believe he was what he was not and could not be – to place an impossible burden on him. It’s what we’re all conditioned to do to each other. He and I are, and have always been, extreme cases. We don’t do subtle…ever.

In the light, there is only love most real for whole persons (myself first) separate from any selfishly projected ideas or expectations of them. It is a brutal, brutal detox to let go of my desires and let it all be whatever it will while resisting the urge to counter spin in my favor as every fiber of my being screams for resolution and relief!! But the light is no fix. It is the abrupt and harsh exposure of what truly IS.

I have to let whatever IS – BE…hands off…free to be and do and be seen for what it is by whoever can and will.

The darkness will kill ya, but damn do I miss how good it felt even at its worst compared to this. The light feels every bit like torture and death right now.

I have moments of unprecedented clarity and calmness that punctuate the baseline aching void of despair that at times swells so intensely that I feel like I could literally drown in the feeling of loss and fear and “I DON’T WANT THIS!”

God, please have mercy and get me through this withdrawal to a place of peace, wholeness and love in myself. 45 years worth is a lot to work out of my system to get clean.

The only way out is through and there is no going back or unseeing. Woe to those who have seen and known the light and then reject and deny it, because that is the blackest self-imposed darkness rooted in a self-loathing lie that will kill all ability to genuinely love or accept love fast and permanent.

I exposed the love of my life who is a part of me to the light he once used to guide me to, and then I let go as a final (and first, really) act of unselfish love for him. To do so meant the death of my addiction and codependency and sent me reeling into this tortuous detox. There is nothing but pain for me in it. He has kicked and screamed and spat and spun violently all the way, directed just at me, because he knows I will not and cannot hide anything anymore. It all comes into the light, but I cannot keep him with me there.

Whether in light or darkness, he is who he is and I AM who I AM.

Into the fire we all must go, one way or the other, and we all must go alone. All I can do is be my own light and to do so I must burn.

Mama, Help Me

Dreams of Rejection

My dearest silly little Love, why are you crying now that you are solidly on the path with Me with both feet? I was totally up front with you that this is the straight and narrow road so many ignore in favor of the wide and glitzy one. Why do you grieve and mourn that you were rejected and maligned and abandoned for pointing to and following Me? This has always been exactly the gig I call anyone who can and will to accept…and you did! I’m overjoyed and ridiculously proud of you.

Rejoice, you darling girl! Dance, sing, celebrate on this road together with Me! You are swimming in more gorgeous fruit and abundant life than you’ll ever know what to do with.

Dreams of Rejection

Any Which Way But Jesus – Live From Israel

So first things first – TECHNOLOGY!! I don’t know ’bout the rest of ya’ll, but I’m old enough to remember life without the internet. As a kid I remember thinking how cool it would be if we could talk to people remotely with video screens like they did on the Jetsons (and pretty much anything set in the future). I’m ready for teleportation now, please…that and I want to go back and experience college with internet, cellphones, apps and laptops.
As my oldest two children have been off rockin’ their first years of college out in Nashville, I’ve talked to them more regularly (and intimately) and have literally seen more of what goes on in their lives than when we were all under the same roof thanks to texting, Snapchat, Instagram and video chat. We even have our own private family Facebook group on which they occasionally post to humor their old mom and dad.So you can imagine my delight yesterday morning being able to video chat with my daughter who is half way around the world studying abroad in Israel, Turkey and Greece.I knew she was headed for a monumental broadening of her perception, and I was even pretty sure at what point it would happen. What I didn’t expect was the gift of being right there with her in it as it happened. Thank you, technology, for allowing me to be with my girl as she processed an intense spiritual/life epiphany…and thank you, God, for a daughter who wanted/needed her mother to be with her in that moment.

Us Dickensons are weird like that. We dig the profound and personal and often turn to each other when the rest of life seems determined to stay solidly entrenched in the cheap and artificial. That’s how we’ve always functioned and survived as a family of faith in ministry.

WALKING IN JESUS’ FOOTSTEPS…MAYBE

When my daugher’s lovely face magically appeared on the device I held in my hand (seriously people, where is my flying car?), it was instantly obvious to me as her mother; she was diving deep into something that was going to take some work to be able to articulate.

“So…*sigh*” our conversation began, “we’re on what…day 5 of this trip? It feels like it’s been 5 weeks.”

Kathryn went on to say how much she loved her new friends and traveling companions, the leaders and the tour guides and what a great time she was having…but…she was realizing an accelerated shift in her understanding was happening and she would never again be the same from this point going forward.

“Aaaaaand…I have to somehow write my experience down in this.” she said as she held up the daily journal the students are required to write in for the course. I smiled and nodded and gave her the space to try and verbalize it.

The first few days had been spent hitting all the main touristy “holy” sites. Though it’s absolutely impossible to say with any certainty, here’s where Jesus may have actually walked. Here’s the spot where St. Peter may have lived. Here’s the spot where Jesus may have performed such and such a miracle. Here is the traditional spot where it’s said the angel Gabriel visited the virgin Mary. What is certain is that there are ornate churches and gift shops built on each and every one of those traditional sites that are a source of major tourism revenue for the country. You can eat what Jesus probably ate, buy souvenirs made from the wood from the types of trees Jesus talked about and vials of Jordan river water and anointing oils to bring back home and pour over the heads of the devout as a special blessing (i.e. God will surely answer our prayers because we’re using authentic Holy Land bling). Jesus, the tourist attraction, is very, very popular and lucrative.

It was while visiting the Jordan River that Kathryn really wrestled. There’s a traditional baptismal site complete with steps and guardrails where annually thousands of Christian pilgrims go to be immersed in the same waters in which Jesus was baptized. Though many of her companions took the plunge, Kathryn ultimately opted not to.  She did post this pic though which clued me in to what she was thinking and feeling even before she called to talk to me.

Look Mom, I’m standing in the Jordan River

“Everywhere we’ve gone has been historically fascinating, but not particularly spiritually significant for me. At all these traditional holy sites, the group seems to be having these emotionally-charged, spiritually cathartic moments…or maybe everybody’s pretending…I don’t know…I just know I’m not.”

*fist pump*      THAT’S OUR GIRL!
Where she did find spiritual and even a physical connection to Jesus via her 5 senses was away from the crowds and the tradition in a quiet and pristine spot on the banks of the Sea of Galilee in Capernaum.

In all likelihood, Kathryn was indeed seeing what Jesus saw as she participated in his regular practice of retreating in silence and solitude in an area where he was known to have spent a lot of time building significant relationships.

WWJS?

I think the most significant question we could possibly ask ourselves in terms of what it means to be like Christ is –

What would Jesus see?…or more accurately, but doing away with the WWJ (and can we agree that just needs to die anyway?) – HOW would Jesus see the world, my world, my experiences, my life right now?

What would his take be on the relationships in my family? What would his attitude be towards the myriad of interconnected and clashing cultures and their politics today? What would his attitude be toward my neighbor? What would his attitude be toward my enemy? Who would he see as “the least of these” today? What would Jesus think about the booming tourism business bearing his name? What would Jesus think about the church and modern religious traditions also bearing his name? How would Jesus see the present Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

BURSTING THE BUBBLE

Kathryn was fully aware she’d been born and raised within an American Christianity bubble, and she knew it was going to burst in cataclysmic fashion on this trip. I not only knew it would happen, but upon looking at the trip itinerary, I knew exactly when – day 5, when they would cross the security border into the Palestinian-controlled West Bank. Oh sure, there was yet another “traditional” site to visit in Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity, that was absolutely not maybe the exact location of Jesus’ birth. Ornate church – check. Gift shop with an assortment of Virgin Mary and sweet baby Jesus tchotchkes –check. 

But that certainly wasn’t the part of day 5 that rocked my girl’s world into another dimension. No. All it took was to simply cross the checkpoint. Once you cross over to the other side of the wall, all the preconceived notions and indoctrination from your American Evangelical Christian culture about “those people” and what they believe and represent evaporates as does whatever narrative you’ve been led to believe from the American media.

Well, I suppose it doesn’t for everybody…but for those with eyes to see…and my girl has always had gorgeous eyes, sharply focused on lovely and mysterious things.  She saw very clearly for the first time in her 20 years what life looked like outside the tarnished bubble, and it was –

Gut wrenchingly beautiful, heartbreaking, joyful, impossible, inspiring, frustrating beyond all description, hopeful beyond all description.

What was being birthed in her that day was unadulterated and unencumbered compassion…she was seeing exactly as Jesus does. This was a baptism of Spirit that a dunk in the Jordan couldn’t have begun to touch.

“Mom, I knew I was going to be changed on this trip. I knew being exposed to other cultures and seeing things for myself outside of books and what others have told me was going to expand my perceptions…but…but…”  She trailed off not being able to find adequate words.

And what exactly was responsible for such radical transformation and epiphany? Seeing and hearing people and their reality and touching it for herself. That’s entirely it. Their stories, their experiences, their families, their hopes, their dreams, their despair, their fears, their anger, their joy, their culture and individual expression.

Holy crap! (surely that too must be for sale, if you find it, Kafafrin, you know I want need). Contrary to everything she’d been led to believe, Kathryn found Jesus hanging out on the Palestinian side of the graffiti-plastered barrier.  Who woulda thunk it? (well, besides me…I totally called it).

“I mean, I know that discrimination, distrust and dehumanizing exists everywhere, but it’s so concentrated in this place.”

Oh it most certainly is…every bit as much as when Jesus walked in all those places where you are now.  You, my girl, are truly seeing. Now to start walking into those undesirable places where you see love leads…into messy lives, holding nothing of yourself back, with no personal agenda or expectation…only open invitation.  Love leads you to simply BE Jesus in the moment in connection with other broken humans, shedding the indoctrination and tradition in order to see them (and very much yourself) as Jesus sees.

I thought I couldn’t be any more proud of this woman or marvel any deeper that I had anything to do with her being in this world. Now I know better. I will never cease to be amazed, inspired, and encouraged by her. The only thing I will ever want for any of my children is for them to have eyes to see and ears to hear and the courage to follow where love leads. Falling on my face tonight in tears and awe that I got to “see” her baptism live from Israel.

Mixed Messages

I’m sure everyone can relate to parts of this regardless of gender. It’s not about any specific people or situations, just a composite of mixed messages I’ve received over my lifetime as a female. It’s been quite the task to undo a lifetime of conditioning and learn to listen to the only voice that gets to tell me who I AM. God declares that I am inherently very good.  But in the eyes of most humans (many times myself included), I have to attain and maintain these things in order to be acceptable:

BE PRETTY. No, be prettier. Whatever you have to do at all times to be prettier…unless we feel intimidated and want to justify indulging our own insecurities or we’re just not in the mood to exercise self-control or basic kindness. Then it’s on you for showing off too much pretty. Be just attractive enough to where you are effortlessly pleasing to look at and a fine prop to make US look and feel good.

BE SMART, but don’t you dare think. Always work to be smarter, but DO NOT show us just how smart you are, cuz ya know…that intimidation thing again. You want to be liked, don’t you?  Use your smarts to figure out how to show just enough smarts without being too smart and you’ll be fine. Don’t ever expect us to work to understand you. Dumb it down for us without making it look like you’re dumbing it down for us. Here, we’ll help you by putting you down. Then, as you’re scraping yourself off the floor, everyone can see you having to come up to our level. There’s a smart girl now.

BE STRONG. Come on honey, don’t play the victim. Show us whatcha got…except when it challenges us in any way, then you’re a mean bitch.

BE HONEST. We applaud this wonderful virtue, but not when you expose parts of yourself that aren’t pretty or are (again) too smart or too vulnerable. Some of that spotlight might accidentally get on the rest of us, threatening to expose our dark and messy places. We can’t have that now, darlin’. Yes, be honest, but learn to recognize when that shit becomes an inconvenience and threat to our agenda, and then be a good girl and shut the fuck up.

WORK HARD. We’re perfectly happy to take every last drop of your soul. Just start pouring and don’t ever stop. We’ll dictate to you exactly what and exactly how, and when we dump a shovelful of shit on your head we expect you to smile and accept our criticism like a shower of rose petals. We’ll think you’re wonderful (if we think of you at all) as long as you remain that steady, quiet, compliant worker bee and keep producing for us. But the minute you trip or fall or die and can’t anymore? Well, that’s on you, stupid girl. Shame on you for not being enough to meet our expectations or having what it takes to stand up under the weight of all we projected on you.

Make us uncomfortable in any way and we can instantly paint you into the insane, ugly, stupid, arrogant, ungrateful bitch we need you to be. One word. One second. That’s all we need. Remember that.

Now, go be the pretty, smart, courageous, industrious woman of integrity God intended you to be!

Or else.