What It Means When A Narcissist Says, “I Love You.”

 

WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A NARCISSIST SAYS “I LOVE YOU”

Dear Codependent Partner,

What I’m about to say is not something I’d ever say or admit (to you), because to do so would end the winner-takes-all-game that is my main source of pleasure in life — one that effectively keeps you carrying my load in our relationship.

And that’s the whole point.

When I say “I love you” I mean that I love how hard you work to make me feel like your everything, that I am the focus of your life, that you want me to be happy, and that I’ll never be expected to do the same.

I love the power I have to take advantage of your kindness and intentions to be nice, and the pleasure I derive when I make myself feel huge in comparison to you, taking every opportunity to make you feel small and insignificant.

I love the feeling it gives me thinking of you as weak, vulnerable, emotionally fluffy, and I love looking down on you for your childlike innocence and gullibility, as weakness.

I love the way I feel knowing that, through the use of gaslighting, what you want to discuss or address will never happen, and I love this “power” to train you to feel “crazy” for even asking or bringing up issues that don’t interest me, effectively, ever lowering your expectations of me and what I’m capable of giving you, while I up mine of you.

I love how easy it is to keep your sole focus on alleviating my pain (never yours!), and that, regardless what you do, you’ll never make me feel good enough, loved enough, respected enough, appreciated enough, and so on. (Misery loves company.)

(It’s not about the closeness, empathy, emotional connection you want, or what I did that hurt or embarrassed you, or how little time I spend engaged with you or the children, and so on. It’s about my status and doing my job to keep you in your place, in pain, focused on feeling my pain, blocking you from feeling valued in relation to me. I’m superior and entitled to all the pleasure, admiration, and comforting between us, remember?)

“I love you” means I love the way I feel when you are with me, more specifically, regarding you as a piece of property I own, my possession. Like driving a hot car, I love the extent to which you enhance my status in the eyes of others, letting them know that I’m top dog, and so on. I love thinking others are jealous of my possessions.

I love the power I have to keep you working hard to prove your love and devotion, wondering what else you need to do to “prove” your loyalty.

“I love you” means I love the way I feel when I’m with you. Due to how often I hate and look down on others in general, the mirror neurons in my brain keep me constantly experiencing feelings of self-loathing; thus, I love that I can love myself through you, and also love hating you for my “neediness” of having to rely on you or anyone for anything.

I love that you are there to blame whenever I feel this “neediness”; feeling scorn for you seems to protect me from something I hate to admit, that I feel totally dependent on you to “feed” my sense of superiority and entitlement, and to keep my illusion of power alive in my mind.

(Nothing makes me feel more fragile and vulnerable than not having control over something that would tarnish my image and superior status, such as when you question “how” I treat you, as if you still don’t understand that getting you to accept yourself as an object for my pleasure, happy regardless of how I treat you, or the children  — is key proof of my superiority, to the world. You’re my possession, remember? It’s my job to teach you to hate and act calloused toward those “crazy” things that only “weak” people need, such as “closeness” and “emotional stuff;” and by the way, I know this “works” because my childhood taught me to do this to myself inside.)

It makes me light up with pleasure (more proof of my superiority) that I can easily get you flustered, make you act “crazy” over not getting what you want from me, make you repeat yourself, and say and do things that you’ll later hate yourself for (because of your “niceness”!). Everything you say, any hurts or complaints you share, you can be sure, I’ll taunt you with later, to keep you ever-spinning your wheels, ever trying to explain yourself, ever doubting yourself and confused, trying to figure out why I don’t “get” it.

(There’s nothing to get! To break the code, you’d have to look through my lens, not yours! It’s my job to show complete disinterest in your emotional needs, hurts, wants, and to train, dismiss and punish accordingly, until you learn your “lesson,” that is: To take your place as a voiceless object, a possession has no desire except to serve my pleasure and comfort, and never an opinion on how its treated!)

(That you can’t figure this out, after all the ways I’ve mistreated you, to me, is proof of my genetic superiority. In my playbook, those with superior genes are never kind, except to lure and snare their victims!)

I love that I can make you feel insecure at the drop of a hat, especially by giving attention to other women (perhaps also others in general, friends, family members, children, etc. … the list is endless). What power this gives me to put a display of what you don’t get from me, to taunt and make you beg for what I easily give to others, wondering why it’s so easy to give what you want to others, to express feelings or affection, to give compliments, that is, when it serves my pleasure (in this case, to watch you squirm).

I love the power I have to get you back whenever you threaten to leave, by throwing a few crumbs your way, and watching how quickly I can talk you into trusting me when I turn on the charm, deceiving you into thinking, this time, I’ll change.

“I love you” means I need you because, due to the self-loathing I carry inside, I need someone who won’t abandon me that I can use as a punching bag, to make myself feel good by making them feel bad about themselves. (This is how I pleasure myself, and the way I numb, deny the scary feelings I carry inside that I hope to never admit, ever. I hate any signs of weakness in me, which is why I hate you, and all those I consider inferior, stupid, feeble, and so on.)

“I love you” means that I love fixing and shaping your thoughts and beliefs, being in control of your mind, so that you think of me as your miracle and savior, a source of life and sustenance you depend on, and bouncing back to, like gravity, no matter how high you try to fly away or jump.

I love that this makes me feel like a god, to keep you so focused (obsessed…) with making me feel worshiped and adored, sacrificing everything for me to prove yourself so that I don’t condemn you, seeking to please none other, and inherently, with sole rights to administer rewards and punishments as I please.

I love how I can use my power to keep you down, doubting and second-guessing yourself, questioning your sanity, obsessed with explaining yourself to me (and others), professing your loyalty, wondering what’s wrong with you (instead of realizing that … you cannot make someone “happy” who derives their sense of power and pleasure from feeling scorn for others … and you!).

“I love you” means I love the way I feel when I see myself through your admiring eyes, that you’re my feel-good drug, my dedicated audience, my biggest fan and admirer, and so on. You, and in particular, your looking up to me, unquestionably, as your never-erring, omniscient, omnipotent source of knowledge is my drug of choice. (You may have noticed how touchy I am at any signs of being question; yes, I hate how fragile I feel at any sign of thinking that you, or the world, could judge me as having failed to keep my possessions in line.)

And I love that, no matter how hard you beg and plead for my love and admiration, to feel valued in return, it won’t happen, as long as I’m in control. Why would I let it, when I’m hooked on deriving pleasure from depriving you of anything that would be wind beneath your wings, risking you’d fly away from me? It gives me great pleasure to not give you what you yearn for, the tenderness you need and want, and to burst your every dream and bubble, then telling myself, “I’m no fool.”

I love that I can control your attempts to get “through” to me, by controlling your mind, in particular, by shifting the focus of any “discussion” onto what is wrong with you, your failure to appreciate and make me feel loved, good enough — and of course, reminding you of all I’ve done for you, and how ungrateful you are.

I love how I skillfully manipulate others’ opinions of you as well, getting them to side with me as the “good” guy, and side against you as the “bad” guy, portraying you as needy, never satisfied, always complaining, selfish and controlling, and the like.

I love how easy it is for me to say “No!” to what may provide you a sense of value and significance in relation to me, with endless excuses, and that I instead keep your focus on my needs and wants, my discomforts or pain.

I love feeling that I own your thoughts, your ambitions, and ensuring your wants and needs are solely focused on not upsetting me, keeping me happy.

I love being a drug of choice you “have to” have, regardless of how I mistreat you, despite all the signs that your addiction to me is draining the energy from your life, that you are at risk of losing more and more of what you most value, and hold dear, to include the people you love, and those who love and support you.

I love that I can isolate you from others who may nourish you, and break the spell, and I love making you mistrust them, so that you conclude no one else really wants to put up with you, but me.

I love that I can make you feel I’m doing you a favor by being with you and throwing crumbs your way. Like a vacuum, the emptiness inside me is in constant need of sucking the life and breath and vitality you bring to my life, which I crave like a drug that can never satisfy, that I fight to hoard, and hate the thought of sharing.

While I hate you and my addiction to your caring attention, my neediness keeps me craving to see myself through your caring eyes, ever ready to admire, adore, forgive, make excuses for me, and fall for my lies and traps.

I love that you keep telling me how much I hurt you, not knowing that, to me, this is like a free marketing report, which lets me know how effective my tactics have been to keep you in pain, focused on alleviating my pain — so that I am ever the winner in this competition — ensuring that you never weaken (control) me with your love- and emotional-closeness stuff.

In short, when I say “I love you,” I love the power I have to remain a mystery that you’ll never solve because of what you do not know (and refuse to believe), that: the only one who can win this zero-sum-winner-takes-all game is the one who knows “the rules.” My sense of power rests on ensuring you never succeed at persuading me to join you in creating a mutually-kind relationship because, in my worldview, being vulnerable, emotionally expressive, kind, caring, empathetic, innocent are signs of weakness, proof of inferiority.

Thanks, but no thanks, I’m resolved to stay on my winner-takes-all ground, ever in competition for the prize, gloating in my narcissistic ability to be heartless, callous, cold, calculating … and proud, to ensure my neediness for a sense of superiority isn’t hampered.

Forever love-limiting,

Your narcissist

By   for TheMindsJournal

Living Above the Curse (Part 3 – The Curse of Man)

We all know the Venus and Mars stereotypes. Women are complex multitasking nurturers, men are singularly-focused aggressive hunter/providers.

Woman with the flu, a cramping, hemorrhaging uterus and a baby attached to her boob pushes through her daily myriad of responsibilities to take care of the family vs. male devastated by Man Cold.

Generalizations? Sure. It’s that spectrum thing again. There’s a wide range of expression of gender roles and no real “supposed to be’s.” There just IS for each of us what IS based on our unique makeup. What IS, generally speaking for the cisgender male, is a testosterone-driven drive to accomplish and conquer in order to find satisfaction and self-worth.

This is neither good nor bad, to be neither admired nor mocked (though I’ve totally indulged in misandry along with every other woman by doing just that). It’s biology and psychology. It just IS. The writers of Genesis recognized it in Adam’s curse.

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

The Woman’s complexity of curses are tied to the flesh from which she came. The Man’s curse is associated with the dirt from which he was God breathed. The curse of Man is the futility of his work. He has to toil very, very hard his entire life, be frustrated every step of the way, and then die and return to dirt as if he never existed.

Damn. So much for satisfaction. Honestly, I don’t envy a man his curse at all. It may be singular but it’s very, VERY heavy. From my observation it also makes him more vulnerable (not weak). Vulnerable to what? Despair. A Woman’s complexity and connections are her strength. When one pillar falls, there are others to compensate. When a man’s focus of satisfaction and self-worth disintegrates it more often than not turns him to denial, distraction, and destruction and a desperate grasp for control – anything but facing this reality that his desires and drives are going to be continually frustrated and in the end…utterly insignificant.

A theory I’m working on, but this might be why a lot of men keep such a tight lid on open expression of sadness and fear and are often dismissive of a women’s frequency and freer expression of the “difficult” emotions. For a man, it’s a sign of the despair and failure he’s trying so hard to outrun, so he does what he can to shut that shit DOWN. Just a theory.

Males also have a typically strong and aggressive sex drive that demands regular satisfaction. Biology. It just IS. So it is no mystery nor shock nor anything new under the sun when every single male on the planet frequently satisfies themselves in the most efficient ways without “toil” or risk of frustration or rejection in coordinating with an equally-willing Woman by taking it into their own hands, so to speak, with the help of readily available visual aids. But there is also taking it by force and through deception/coercion. Survey a group of 20 women and 19 of us can tell you the first time we were groped, harassed, or sexually violated. All of us can tell you the constant pressure we feel to be enough to satisfy a man along with everything else we’ve got going on with our bodies and brains.

Long story short – humans are ALL sexually frustrated and incredibly insecure. Being a truly satisfied human – mind, body, and soul – isn’t easy and only we as individuals are responsible for it, but most of us give up trying and settle for an endless string of cheap fixes outside ourselves to get us by, especially when life gets overwhelming. Add the handicap of having the body/brain hijacked as a child (which is the tragic case for SO many) and…well, it’s a jungle out there and there’s a lot of carnage that perpetuates with each generation. We are, as humans, truly cursed.

If my mind wasn’t hardwired for satisfaction through intimacy and connection with an actual person (one in particular after all these years) and I could be stimulated that easily with externally accessible equipment less than an arm’s length away at all times, I’d be every guy too. I honestly wish it were that simple for me. It would make my current (and possibly permanent) situation a lot easier to come to terms with.

Y’all know where I’m going with this and the only reason I am is to take away the stigma and power once and for all. There is nothing that has happened that is truly any earth shattering thing. As a matter of psychology (not morality) my husband took it farther than some and I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s where most men wish they could and plenty already are and they are your neighbor, your boss, your pastor, your brother, your son and your husband.

Everybody has done the math by now, and math was one of the reasons why I felt I had no other option than to go public. Care and provision for the family were being compromised. Because of the psychology involved (as explained in the previous post), there has been no private rational discussion possible. I’ve been desperately trying for over a year now. All he can do with me is deflect and dismiss and spin. He could barely ever talk about very minor things he’d done that hurt me, so expand that out to our current situation and…there is just no way. It is too much. He is not going to pull out of this any other way. But I have faith he can, at least to some extent, if he has nowhere left to run and no reason to. He has always been able to turn on a dime and switch out an addiction when it stops serving him. I’ve done what amounts to an intervention to make that the case. He doesn’t want to be that man, and now that it’s out of the shadows, he won’t.

This isn’t about sex. This isn’t about betrayal or a moral failure. It is about a Man, like any other, crushed under the weight of despair…except he’s not just any other man, he’s the love of my life and the father of my children and by far the most influential person in terms of shaping my spiritual life. There is no me without him. He surfaced enough the last time I saw him to be able to say the same – that there is no him without me. We are one flesh and one life. Nothing he has done or will ever do can nullify that.

I have no idea what we’re capable of being next, but I do know I’ve got to crush the Snake’s head NOW to stop the hissing lies of fear so that the Man can at least have a shot at living and we can eventually come back together as…something good, whatever that looks like, anywhere on the spectrum of possibility.

As I said before, he was there for me when I had my mental/emotional breakdown at the beginning of our journey with Four Creeks. Now I’ve got to be there for him as he broke at the end, and this, believe it or not, is what it has to look like. It’s because I’ve done the work to understand us (with professional help) that I’ve been able to figure out his language, learn not to be afraid when the most horrific things come out of him, and recognize they are a spotlight on what he feels the worst about himself that he cannot handle and therefore HAS to project on me. It is all he can do when he is consumed by fear and failure. The Curse of Man crushed him hard. As I said previously, no one could survive what we’ve been through without breaking. No one could be as isolated and vulnerable as he is right now without being utterly terrified and at rock bottom. We may process and express our humanity in vastly different ways, but I know that desperate place all too well and I cannot and will not abandon him there.

The only way to end this is to simply say out loud what is real and then let him see that the worst that is going to happen is that there are a whole lot of people who love us and nothing otherwise has changed. He has lost nothing, he will lose nothing, and he is free from here to do whatever he can and will with all pressure off from me.

There is nothing more for anyone to fear. Nothing more for anyone to hide and no reason to. There is no shame. There is no condemnation. There is only love. This is why I must finish the story and be done so we can all be free to love.

Reality IS Redemption

What Jimmy and I are experiencing is universally common to humanity AND ALSO personally devastating. And you know what? I GET TO TALK ABOUT MY OWN LIFE as the whole person I AM now using my own discretion alone to decide what is wise, what is good, what is beneficial, and what is love. I am a Woman who thinks, feels and now speaks without any fear. The truth has set me free and now I’m using that freedom to set other captives free. I picked up my own cross, shared in the sufferings of Jesus with countless agonized tears, kicked over a few tables in the temple because YES, I WAS ANGRY, I went all the way to that humiliating and torturous death alone, and I rise now to new life having conquered sin and death – AKA what it means to be a fucking Christian.

I lived it out in front of you, gave everything to all, went all the way into death and now I’m ascending outa here. Stop standing around looking forlorn up at the sky waiting for us to come back and do some more feel-good miracles for ya. You’ve got everything you need. Get off your ass and walk the path yourself, set yourself free…or don’t. As for me and my house – we are on to life abundant.

 

 

Living Above the Curse (Original Sin)

If you are reading this you are obviously human, and as such, dear human, I have some wonderful horrible news for you – You are cursed.

The wonderful part is that none are alone in our cursedness, and through this universal suffering we are connected to all humanity in all space and time. Our curses are inherent in biology, psychology and personal experience. There is nothing new under the sun.

There are many flavors and degrees, but the truth of being human remains – we all come into this world stocked with a unique set of genetic and family-of-origin dysfunctions that constantly entice us away from loving ourselves and therefore each other.

As I said before, I’ve read and understood the bible for myself since early childhood. I’m going to unpack symbolism from the Genesis account of the creation and The Fall of Man that I’ve seen for a very long time as well as things I’m just now understanding that have great personal significance.

Here’s the base of where I’m coming from:

  1. I don’t take the Genesis account literally. To do so would be the height of ridiculous willful ignorance and to dismiss the inherent sacred metaphor that holds all value in the text. If you really want to argue the reality of a talking snake and that all of us originate from 2 humans poofed into existence a few thousand years ago, much less believe in a “loving” God who would condemn all humanity to suffering and death because the original duo added some enticing forbidden fiber to their diet…*SIGH*…I just can’t even anymore.
  2. The Ancients knew what was up and wrote what is almost certainly a version of an even more ancient oral tradition creation myth containing a stunningly rich take on what it is to be and relate as Women and Men.
  3. The survival instinct is inherent in our biology and psychology as human animals. We’re wired to exploit others to get what we want (food, sex, protection, power). I personally believe that to rise above our animal nature (curses) in order to love ourselves and each other is what it means to be uniquely made in the image of and to commune with and incarnate Whatever God There Is.
  4. Gender, sexuality, and personality are fluid and on a vast spectrum, and you and I and all of humanity that has ever existed fall in unique places all along it. It’s an objective fact of nature. For the purposes of this particular blog post, I’m speaking from my own perspective as a heterosexual cisgender woman relating to heterosexual cisgender man (look it up if you are unfamiliar with any of those terms). But we each have both male and female energy/hormones flowing through us, and despite the strict binary we’ve been taught exists (but absolutely doesn’t), the biological and psychological manifestations of gender are WILDLY varied. I encourage anyone solidly identifying as Man to get in touch with their inner Woman (She’s there, and to deny Her is to everyone’s detriment). Same goes for Women. It is only to our benefit and that of our families to identify and relate to the masculine nature that inhabits us all. We are One.

Here’s the bible study I was never going to get in my former tribe that I’ve had a hankering to do for a very long time –

It Is Not Good For Man to Be Alone – Creation of Woman

But for Adam no suitable *MATE WITH STRENGTH TO SAVE HIM* was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Take away points:
  1. * The Hebrew word “Ezer” that Western self-proclaimed Bros of God translated and adapted to fit their own purposes as “helpmate” is the word used throughout the Old Testament for God coming to the rescue and saving His people. This Woman – Ezer – is uniquely endowed with a divine strength and drive to endure incredible extremes to protect and nurture (save) her Family. God declared it was not good for Man to be alone, and Ezer was the suitable mate, the final crowning act of creation, after which God declared it all to be very Good.
  2. Man was God-breathed from dirt. Woman came from FLESH. How much of Man’s psyche and drive is about satisfying his own flesh by seeking FLESH outside himself? How connected to the care and maintenance of FLESH (her own, her children’s and her mate) is a Woman? All FLESH is perpetually created and comes forth from Woman. Marinate on those gender differences in relation to FLESH for a while.
  3. In the original unadulterated (un-cursed) union of Man and Woman THERE IS NO SHAME and they are ONE flesh united.

Jesus would later be attributed to saying, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.” I take great issue with how my evangelical tribe has twisted this to mean divorce is a sin over which God is most pissed. Jesus simply stated the reality of natural consequences – violating and splitting the sacred Oneness results in SELF-imposed isolation from each other and God, and it is devastating. That is what shame IS. We humans do it to ourselves, and because we’re wired to intimately bond, everyone suffers from the betrayal and rejection of love and connection. Jesus made it clear – we have a choice. We always have a choice to maintain the connections of love over our own self-imposed and inflicted isolated shame. There is no shame or condemnation in Whatever God There Is that Jesus was talking about. Shame and disconnection is all man-made. WE have to sever the bonds of the reality of love and walk away into selfish delusion. WE have to refuse and deny reconciliation and the redemption of love. There is an ever-present Great Deceiver and Accuser within ourselves, determined to undermine reality and convince us to trade the truth for a lie – to abandon love and connection and embrace shame and isolation and entitlement to self gratification at the expense of others.

In order to sabotage the Oneness of God/Man/Woman, why did the Snake target and appeal to the mind of Eve rather than Adam (who was right there with her)? Patriarchal religious tradition has maintained it is because of Woman’s inherent weakness and depravity, to which I call epic bullshit. She was targeted because of her strength and power, and the Deceiver knew exactly who it had to undermine and get through first. There are few things as formidable and fierce as an awake and aware Woman embracing her identity as Ezer; therefore, to deceive and numb Her instincts first (and to keep her that way) is imperative. The Deceiver/Accuser/Snake knew exactly what it was doing.

Bada bing, bada boom, the humans partook of the one thing they don’t have the capacity to handle yet are irresistibly drawn to in an attempt to achieve equality with God – the knowledge and power to judge good and evil themselves. Gender-specific curses ensued and the Sacred Oneness fractured for the now shame-filled Woman and Man.

A Woman’s Curse

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity

    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

Goddammit, a woman can’t even go to the bathroom herself much less be left alone to her own curse. She doesn’t even have the luxury of dealing with just one either. Hers are MULTIPLE and connected to everyone else’s – the snake, her children, and her husband – through her flesh.

Of course Woman herself ain’t above lying and manipulating, but have you noticed how severe a reaction you typically get from a woman who’s been betrayed and lied to? “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” an English Bro Dude poet once observed. It’s because you don’t just lie to and betray HER. You threaten EVERYTHING SHE’S CONNECTED TO.

This is a 3-part series, the second dedicated specifically to the female curse of Desire that entices Woman to hand over and deny her power and strength to be ruled over and used by Man. The final installment focuses on the brutally heavy Curse of Man that crushes the ego and the resultant toxic fallout. Both are in the context of my own marriage and are intensely personal.

I share out of my experience as a human. I share out of my experience as a Woman. I share to work out and untangle and make sense of life. I share knowing full well it is way too much and never enough and there is no shortage of people ready to tell me just how far off their mark I am at all times, and this is exceedingly valuable. I share because vulnerability does not allow me the delusion of an achievable “rightness” of thought or action one can own or impose, which is the essence of that Original Sin; making criticism, no matter how well or poorly intentioned and executed, crucial in the untangling process as I muster up the discipline to tamper down my pride to embrace the discomfort. I share because within that mess of working it out I find deeply fulfilling points of connection with others and restoration to the Great Truth of love. I share in order to identify and purge the lies and shame within myself that sabotage love and connection. I share in order to forgive myself and others. I share for anyone to take or leave whatever they can or will using whatever labels work.

Whichever labels you feel most comfortable using and wherever you fall on the sacred spectrum of humanity, thank you for sharing your time and care to read this and connect with me.

I AM

Happy, Happy new year and a warm and massive cyber hug to all as we enter 2017. I’ll take and freely give all the hugs and love and kindness possible wherever they are found.

I’m going to use my first post of the new year to introduce myself as the new me that has actually always been. There are some things about me you should know to put everything I write going forward into some context. There was a time in my old life when I would have written separate blog posts for each of these things, explaining them in detail in the hopes of persuading people to at least respect what I see instead of shitting on me for it.

Life has radically changed for me, and ain’t nobody got time for that in the new life that is. So much shit has rained down on me that I now dance in it and make art rather than try to outrun it or hide, or worse, deny its existence or try to pretty it up to be something it’s not (LIE).

The old life was 25 years of marriage, 22 of those spent in evangelical christian ministry together, the last 5 of which we (Love of My Life and I) embarked on an exodus out of Church World to plant a funky little honest church ourselves that was doomed to “fail” from the start because it was one where any human of any persuasion, any belief or lack thereof, was welcome to participate, love and be loved as is. We gave up everything and ultimately ended up losing more than we’d ever imagined possible – our very lives together – though isn’t that exactly what Jesus said was the price to be considered? Anyhooo, that truly is for a separate blog post.

So, in the new life (whatever that’s now totally free to be), here’s a quick summation of my current (and fluid) theology/psychology/ideology/methodology around which everything I say and do emerges, and I care not one whit what anyone thinks of it. If you follow my writing for whatever reason, even if only as a vulture to feast on the carcass of my family to poop out as gossipy judgment (why would you stop now after the last 5 years of pecking away at our flesh before we were even fully dead?), knowing the following will at least put things in perspective:

  • All God talk is human talk. All we have are human ideas about God. The only experience we have of Whatever God There Is happens in the gray matter between our ears, individually. The second anyone tries to enforce any idea of God as absolute certainty is the second I smile politely and disengage. The second anyone does harm to others with their god-in-their-own-twisted-image certainty is the second I go into verbal smack down mode. I have no pride, shame or fear left in me to cause me to either shrink back or have any further need to self preserve, defend or explain myself. I’ve never been more confident and peacefully assured in my faith and absolute uncertainty than I AM now.
  • I have always had an awareness of and communed with Something Other both wholly outside myself and wholly inside myself that I learned to call God since my earliest memories, around age 3 or 4. It was always plural – a They – and there was a definite female component. I never thought to question it as it fit perfectly into my Tribe’s doctrines of the Trinity, with the exception of the female part. I’ve always gone against the grain of my tradition and personified the Holy Spirit as female, though also knew very early on to keep that shit to myself if I wanted the belonging and acceptance (which was THE most important thing to me) of my Tribe.
  • I AM is the identifier God gave Moses. Jesus invoked I AM for himself, and that’s good enough for me. I simply AM. What is, IS. God is existence. God is reality. To be who I AM with full integrity and to let everyone and everything BE what it IS without inserting my own desires and agenda for any of it is, to me, to engage, participate in, and BE the divinity that is inherent in being human.
  • I’ve always read and understood the bible for myself for what it is since childhood – and loved it. I never really found value in taking any of it literally, though I forced myself to suppress my true instincts and knowing in order, again, to be accepted by my Tribe. To question the “inerrant” literal truth of the bible meant brutal and immediate rejection. To do it as a girl at any age? Forget it. More shit I absolutely knew to keep to myself – even from myself until recent years.
  • Whatever meaning or “truth” to be found in life is in metaphor, patterns, echos, cycles, seasons…and the bible is my endlessly rich base source for the poetic language I use to tell my own story and I will continue to dive into and mine scripture in order to do so, now more than ever. But I am not bound or restricted by it. Sacred metaphor is absolutely everywhere and I call it when I see it, however, wherever it presents itself. “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself” is echoed throughout all cultures, eras, ancients and contemporaries, poets, artists, children, old women, heathens and holy men alike – and I pay attention to them all. If I had life to do over, I’d be a professor of anthropology and religious studies. As a profession it’s not practical at this point, but the studying and going wherever my fascination takes me is just getting started. It is an exciting time to awaken and go after my own life.
  • I AM a Christian, an identifier I’ve decided to keep for myself alone and to myself alone without any further need to justify or explain my right or reason for doing so ever again. I identify my entire story, my entire life with Jesus and the birth/life/death/resurrection metaphor of his and the sharing in his sufferings of rejection and humiliation that I’ve gone all the way and lived out and will continue to cycle through until my last breath. Salvation and redemption are to be lived out HERE – NOW.

The above picture is me at age 7 (AKA the real Princess Leia), the last time I was the most me as I AM that I can remember before learning, as we all do, to shove the truth of my divine self down deep, believing that was the only way to be worthy of human love. I’ve missed that sweet nerd so much. Almost 40 years later, she’s back. She’s awake. She has surfaced, and she’s gunna rock the world.

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

The Last Pillar Has Fallen

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a ridiculously fearful avoidant personality in love with an absurdly dismissive avoidant personality. Together we are a textbook perfect psychological shit storm.

For me to finally understand exactly how fucked up we are and in what ways is, quite frankly, a massive relief. Every single pillar of certainty that I’d been led to believe was unassailable has toppled in recent years. Throughout this process, I’ve been clinging to what I considered to be the central pillar, convinced it was the one that would never, could never, should never fail. Then it too began to crack and pitch and I could no longer depend on it for safety and comfort.

And that’s the sickest/saddest part about the whole thing- it had never provided me the stability and protection I’ve always craved. No, this “central” pillar never stood still. It was perpetually restless and roaming, resistant to anything and everything that sought its support. Yet I’d been conditioned to believe that it must be that for me and had convinced myself that the reason it wasn’t was entirely my responsibility. If I threw every bit of myself into “supporting” this pillar, i.e. clutching ever tighter as it jumped and swayed precariously, feverishly patching cracks to keep up appearances (we’re good…we’re solid…we’re fine), it would eventually be still and strong and a source of stability and safety around which the rest of my life could nobly function.

It’s actually quite the comical visual. Everything else in my world had long ago disintegrated into rubble and ashes, yet here I was still insisting it was right and good to chain myself to the remaining wobbly and wild pillar that wasn’t even holding anything up and was aggressively trying to shake me off for my own good as it approached terminal collapse.

Up until 3 days ago, choking on spite in spite of what seemed like the never-going-to-end 9.0 temblor that had disintegrated everything I thought should be but never really was, this remained my unshakable belief –

If this one falls, I will die. If this one goes, I’m an ultimate failure. If this one crumbles, I’m the biggest shameful idiot there ever was.

I would not allow myself to let go until the shaking stopped. My God, my God…please MAKE IT STOP! I’m so exhausted and spent and empty…make it stop…make it stop…make it stop…

Then let go, you dear delusional girl. LET GO of the thing that is shaking so violently and let it crumble. You won’t die if you let go…but you surely will if you keep trying to hold it together. Let go, Love. Let go. Let everything die so that you can finally live. 

And I did…right there standing in front of the kitchen sink doing the dishes. I saw it. I understood fully and gave myself permission to do what up until that very second had been unthinkable – give up on my marriage, my idea of what this thing is supposed to be and let it collapse all the way.

The crushing, debilitating panic instantly vaporized. There was no crash, no boom, no implosion, only instant relief and supreme stillness. In that divine stillness such fullness, warmth, nurturing and belonging.

Oh heeeeeey, there They are, Whatever God There Is, or rather – there I AM. Then it began bubbling out of me. A wide, wild grin took over my face followed by unconstrained giggling before finally erupting into deep, somewhat maniacal laughter. I’d imagine it’s the same euphoria one would feel upon realizing they and their loved ones were alive and safe after a disaster, even if they’d lost everything else to it.

And that’s where I am. It’s all gone. All done. Everything, and I do mean everything, that was but actually wasn’t, is rubble. It’s sunrise and I’m getting my first look at the scene after the quake storm (as my oldest Big used to call it when she was little) and I’m happy. Giddy, in fact. I’m in no hurry to clean up or rebuild. I can’t even think about that right now or what it might look like. All I know is that I don’t need to know anything and the future doesn’t have to be any certain way. There is no should be or should have been. There are no supposed to be’s. 

Will a couple of middle-aged, highly avoidant personalities find a new way of being together now that everything has fallen apart? Yes…they will…in some capacity, but I no longer have any expectation for what that must look like nor sense of obligation that I should. Whether what is to be exceeds my wildest dreams of fulfillment or is something wholly undesirable that I never imagined for myself or my family (reality is certain to be somewhere on the spectrum in between)…I AM going to be OK.

There only IS what is, and right now is sacred and pure and I’m not about to rush through this gift of serenity and stillness in the aftermath of the Great Reduction. I’m going to rest here, just me and Whatever God There Is, who have always manifested Themself to me in reality, and find the comfort and security I crave with Them as I laugh/cry in unhinged relief as the encroaching light incrementally reveals all that is now after the shaking. I’m alive, goddammit. I’m alive…and for the first time in my life not lonely and afraid.

Oh, there I am. You lovely, demented girl. Take a beat and then let’s get to work building up YOU – the central pillar – strong and true. Who knows what beauty these hands are capable of creating with what IS now that they’ve finally released their death grip on what never was.

Mama, Help Me

Mama, help me! Please be real

Mama, help me! Hold my hand

This absolute brilliance

To see things as they truly are is more than I can bear alone

Mama, help me…help me…help me

I listened and followed you out

My senses instantly assaulted with stench and horror – a legion of putrid corpses exposed

Mama, help me! Hold my hand and walk with me through

Mama, help me! Please be real

Don’t leave me here to die in the light

Alone

San Diego All Over

Endless-loop thought: – How did I get here-AGAIN?

I did everything I knew to do, everything I’m supposed to do, and once again, it just doesn’t fucking matter. It does not matter what I do, think, say, not do, not think, not say…the only one who matters, the only one I want has left me isolated in the horrible void – the upside down – to desperately try and fill his own with ???…whatever it is today.

Here I am back in San Diego. Again.

Alone. Paralyzed. Cried out on the floor of the apartment. It’s over.

If we’re destined to repeat this cycle, I sure as hell hope it includes the miracle desert restoration.

It’s a hope I didn’t have the last time I was here.

Fuck you, San Diego.

Holding out for Blythe, our oasis in the desert – home, creation of new life, family.

That’s the last time I remember being truly happy and whole – there.

Praying (screaming into pillows) to Whatever God There Is that we can get to there from here…again.

The Day I Officially Came Out as a “Done”

 

October

I’ve only attended church twice as a nonprofessional in the last few years, and both times were in Nashville. Just about this time last year, I made a trip out to see my oldest kids and used the opportunity to meet my blogging brother, John Pavlovitz, as he was speaking at an LGBTQ-affirming church in Franklin. John and I already had a legit friendship/kinship established and had a blast finally meeting in person.

john

The next day, my daughter Kathryn and I made our way to church to hear John speak. It was in that service during the worship time (church-speak translation: music concert/congregational karaoke) that I had quite the jarring epiphany.

I knew it was time to pull the plug on Four Creeks.

That in and of itself wasn’t the thing. We’d been coming to the end of everything for a while; people, money, sanity…will to live. Jimmy and I had set out to have Four Creeks be a church community where absolutely anyone of any persuasion, background, identity, ethnicity was valued and welcome to participate in absolutely every facet of church life. We did exactly that. It just turns out there wasn’t a market for it where we were, at least not one we were capable of tapping into by ourselves without resources and support. We had zero of either after the church that originally sent us out yanked everything out from under us very early on. We knew from the start we were dead walking. It was just a matter of time.

As I looked around the sanctuary at the beautiful diversity of humans worshiping together and the genuine love and enthusiastic community all the congregants shared, I welled up with thankfulness and awe that it did exist somewhere and that I was there to witness it. That Sunday last October, seeing the dream in vivacious reality in Nashville in stark contrast to our terminally ill child at home, I knew the time had come.

There was only a relieved resignation in that thought. It was the next one that I had never prepared myself to consider. If Four Creeks ceased to be, if our 20 years as professional Christians truly was coming to an end, what now? What kind of church would we want to join and in what capacity? Then came the epiphany.

None.

This was the exact moment I allowed myself to BE what I’d already been inside for a decade in Church World – DONE.

As glad as I was that this church existed and that so many people were being loved, valued and finding value in it, all I could think as I was immersed in the familiarity of a typical worship service that just about anyone else from my evangelical tribe would find familiar and appealing (except for worshiping along side a married gay couple or 20) was, “I don’t need this. I don’t want this for myself.”

Having been on the production end of church my entire adult life and living behind the veil working with pastors and church boards as employers (dear, wise friends when we were lucky; dangerously insecure and immature mega jerks when we weren’t), I’m basically ruined for the entire church machine. I can’t just sit back and enjoy the show. I haven’t had the luxury of finding value in church from that side of things since I was a child.

I get other people finding value in the routine, their preferred music (whether it be modern praise band, hymns or liturgy) or looking to their favorite pastor to inspire them. I just don’t. Having been raised in that world with a view behind the curtain, my oldest children don’t either. My youngest have zero concept of it as all they know of church is Four Creeks, which by both design and fate had no programming or any traditions to speak of other than simply meeting, breaking bread together and studying scripture and its practical applications with integrity. Kathryn and Ryan have since expressed just how relieved they are that their younger siblings won’t be raised in the church culture they were (before Four Creeks). I am too.

I’ve heard a lot of people admit that even if they themselves don’t really want to go to church, they feel they should for the sake of their children. I’m just weird, I guess. I told my therapist that it is for the sake of my children that I don’t want to go to church ever again.

That was last Thursday. Three days later I went to church with my children…because I wanted to…and it was profoundly healing and wonderful.

 

I Am Vain

Gospel of Snark blog post from this time last year. The tally of complete emotional/spiritual unravelings in the process of planting, nurturing and then letting go of Four Creeks Church stands at 3. I felt during each one that I was going to die. I was right. Over the last year my laziness and vanity were finally starved into oblivion. Jimmy and I are so very, very relieved to be on the other side among the dead-living and immune to the bites of the living-dead.


 

In preparation for facilitating a new round of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, I’m going through the little twice-daily devotional book Day by Day (formerly The Daily Office) for the third time. This morning I came across one of my favorite quotes that I strongly related to the first time I read it 3 years ago.

“I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands of my time are proof to myself –– and to all who will notice — that I am important…I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed.

I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. It was a favorite theme of C.S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us.” – Eugene Peterson

Scazzero, Peter (2013-03-26). Daily Office (Kindle Locations 346-347).  Kindle Edition.

I AM LAZY

My entire adult life in church in ministry has been miserable and drowning in busyness and physical and spiritual exhaustion because I am a lazy ass. We’re talking pathological here. I’m extremely passive as a result of equally heavy doses of nature and nurture. I was raised in a culture with a double whammy of indoctrination from both family and church that the “right” (and only) way to live was to abdicate “the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals” and to let authority (parents/church) do it for me.  For the most part, having a naturally passive personality, I was happy to let others dictate life for me because it was easier, because…I am lazy.

My laziness is rooted in fear – fear of facing the discomfort of conflict. It’s much easier for me to conform and play by the rules in a system I have no responsibility in making than to take responsibility for my own, because…what if I get it wrong? What if someone doesn’t like it?

Rejection and criticism wreak havoc in the life of a comfort junky. It is deeply, desperately ingrained in me never to be/act/think wrong. It’s the worst. I feel the worst. I am the worst when others think I’m wrong. It’s not that I have a need to convince anyone that I’m right…no, no, no. I just want to avoid at all cost the risk of anyone thinking or believing I am wrong…because in the system I come from, the wrong person is not respected; the wrong person is not worthy of love; the wrong person must be stopped, condemned, corrected and made right immediately or forever rejected because – THOU SHALT NOT BE WRONG.

I am lazy mostly out of fear of being wrong.

Comfort and safety are my #1 inherited family idols that I was taught to hold up as supreme and noble motivation. Over time, they insidiously morphed into a lazy, dishonest, hot mess of an inner life while I feverishly expended energy maintaining a squeaky clean, socially acceptable, respectable outward life. I became grossly church busy for 18 years as the wife of a minister at the expense of my family, my health and my sanity because…I am lazy.

I repressed and denied my true thoughts and feelings and allowed people to direct me down soul-sucking paths I didn’t want to go because I have tremendous safety lust and…I am lazy.

It’s taken me every bit of the 3 years I’ve been working in EHS “going back in order to go forward” in order to identify and unpack this baggage. To no longer be conformed to the pattern of my world and be transformed by the renewal of my mind is an intense and prolonged process – a gnarly, epic wrestling match.

My entire Church World experience had sold me on an alter call, some tears, and a one-and-done prayer and doubling down on the rules as the answer to all Christian struggles. God loved me enough to utterly break me before I was ready to get over myself and my laziness in order to stop buying (and selling) the shit substitutes. But wow did that love feel like death…because it is; death of SELF in order to live as Christ.

THE SCARLET “W”

The planting of Four Creeks Church saw my worst fears realized and magnified on a personally horrifying scale. We stepped out of the established church system in which we’d worked and served faithfully our entire adult lives and set aside it’s comfortable human traditions and secure structure to embark on a grand experiment to see if a church that preached and taught and modeled Jesus alone and the exclusive inclusiveness of his Gospel of Grace could fly.

Starting out, we honestly thought we had the full support and partnership of our home church. If anyone had told me we’d end up completely rejected and unsupported just 9 months in, I never in a million years would have been on board to sacrifice so much or take such a personal risk for myself and my family – absolutely not my M.O. as a comfort junky and safety slut.

And why were we rejected and dropped like we were hot from the fires of hell? Because we were wrong in the eyes of a few influential and very vocal church people. Our teachings on prayer, worship, love, how to be the church and do life were all wrong. It didn’t matter if they were all taken straight from Jesus’ own words and example – it challenged the long established system, which, in Church World, is the ultimate in WRONG.

Rather than be associated with anyone or anything that had a reputation for being wrong, even the nicest and more sane personalities in leadership distanced themselves from us and let us go, out of sight and out of mind, to fend for ourselves so they could try to get back to safe and established business as usual without being sullied or inconvenienced by our scarlet “W” of wrongness.

WAKING UP ANGRY

I’ve heard it said anger is a secondary emotion and that it’s really an expression of underlying fear or hurt. In my case it was a massive sucker punch of both. I’ve also heard it said, “Jennifer seems angry in a lot of what she writes and shares on Facebook.”

Um…yeah…and DUH.

You don’t open up the flood gates of a lifetime of repression and resentment and get a gentle trickle. When my eyes were pried open and I saw things clearly for the first time, I woke up angry, terrified and in a tremendous amount of pain, and very, very much on my own with God alone to figure out how to deal with it. What intimacy and reality in relationship with my Father I have found there.

Pardon my French (or don’t…I truly, honestly no longer care), but since one of the first things that earned us the scarlet “W” was me using the wrong words, I’ve freed myself up to use all the words that best express my frustrations and to try to get across just how much of a cluster mind fuck this experience has been to have everything I thought I knew, every system I’d ever trusted, every rule, every certainty utterly and completely destroyed in order to build new and completely different…in faith.

I AM VAIN

The laziness, the repression, the grief, the bitterness are all quite familiar traveling companions to me at this point. I’ve worked very hard to honestly identify, embrace and submit them over the last 3-4 years. But, as EHS has a way of doing, a brand spankin’ new layer of dysfunction was brought to the surface and made visible to me this morning.

I have had such a hard time with bitterness because I am vain. I am most vain when you mess with or challenge…

My family
“I can’t believe those gossip-mongering, power-playing church biddies said such things about my husband and actively campaigned to put us into financial crisis. Could they really not see how amazingly good my own children are and what obviously fabulous parents we are to think we could possibly be a bad influence on anyone? How could anyone in their right mind with any compassion in them whatsoever justify doing that to any family, much less one so *perfect* as mine?!”

Oooh girl, that’s some hardcore bitterness coming from someone so *perfect*

My work ethic
“None of you understand how I’ve worked my ass off apart from church as a corporate peon, full time for 13 years; working holidays, even weekends and then exhausting myself 3 services on Sundays plus rehearsals, all with my family in tow. I never got away on weekends for family fun time. Why did I do that for so many years only to be rejected the second we stopped entertaining you? Not only did you not appreciate my sacrifice, you went above and beyond to treat us like shit. Ungrateful assholes.”

Oh so much bitter…even if I alone am responsible for making myself the lamest martyr on the planet fueled by my own dysfunction. It’s a lot easier and even feels kind of good to resent church people rather than myself. Ick, it’s a lazy and vain combo. That’s unattractive and thoroughly anti-Christ. Way to be Jen.

My intellectual integrity – 
“Oh no they didn’t! They did not just haul out the most tired and ratty scripture sound bite out of context to try and shut me down and shut me up.”

I suffer from the delusion that if I just explain myself clearly enough, citing sound evidence and reason about how I got to a certain view of scripture, that people will accept it (and me). I’m so very cool if you hold a different view…just don’t ever, EVER, denounce me as wrong for holding mine unless you want a deluge of scripture references explaining their context and blog links to help make my point and justify myself. I’m learning, albeit slowly, that hardly anybody appreciates that the way I do, and that hurts and then starts the whole sick bitterness merry-go-round spinning again. I’m getting better about not buying a ticket for that ride, no matter how tempting it is to justify myself, but vanity is a true beast in this scene. It just can’t handle people accusing me of being wrong in the name of God on the internet.

THE PERFECT VULNERABLE STORM

All of my weakness and vulnerability is tied up and on display at Four Creeks, not the least of which my laziness and vanity. I had what amounted to round two of an emotional breakdown last month. Thankfully, it wasn’t anywhere as debilitating as round one had been right after we launched Easter 2012, but alarming enough for Jimmy to panic a little and text the older children, “Mom is losing it again guys…help?” Poor guy is just not okay when I’m not okay. I love him so.

Here we are almost three years in and in more dire straights financially than ever. We had some people leave. It was a long time in coming and it needed to happen, but it was still very, very scary. For the first time in all this I entertained the possibility that we just might be forced to fold this thing and quit at a time when the few faithful people we do have are beginning to really catch on and run with us. Oh how the bitterness welled up fresh out of me as I wrestled with that thought. I love these people and what we are doing together so, SO much. The thought of having to quit now after enduring so much was too much. Then the thought…what on earth would my life be like not being in ministry, not even going to church for that matter. I just couldn’t see myself going back into a traditional evangelical church setting ever again as a free person. That was mind blowing to consider.

I spent a few sleepless nights and a lot of tears trying to wrap my head around those possibilities. A lot of crying out to God these words, “What more do you want from me here? I’ve done everything I know to do, said everything I know to say and now slammed up against yet another wall. Seriously God, WHAT DO YOU WANT?” Silence.

Then the bitterness welled up in me more fierce than ever. “It shouldn’t have to be this hard. None of them see. None of them care.”  Jimmy was off driving for Uber in those awful wee hours. I was truly feeling tormented and utterly alone and unseen. In those toughest moments of panic came a whisper…

“I see you. Until that alone is enough for you, you’ll stay stuck.” 

The fog of fear lifted a few weeks ago, but it all made sense this morning when I realized it is my vanity that keeps God alone from being enough; His provision from being enough; His acceptance and love for me being enough. Vanity feeds off people providing those things, and my vanity, having been brutally kicked in the crotch, spawned quite the formidable bitterness monster. The only way to kill that nasty beast of SELF?

Faith.

Laziness and vanity have a hard time putting down roots in a life of faith. Faith perseveres and strains and sacrifices without need or desire for human recognition or approval. Faith is aiming for a much farther and grander target than instant gratification. And as my two biggest and oldest vices starve and wither the deeper in faith I dare to go, the more familiar I’m getting with the bravery and humility that are my new traveling companions.