Early Betrayal and Marriage Prayer

Stepping into crust of snow, I walk into the stinging white beside a man keeping pace, together faces pink with low temperatures.  He is alone this day.  His Marriage, like the crunch under our feet, is on especially rough surfaces.  We walk and talk.  A long time I listen.  And then respond.  I tell him about the early stages of betrayal.  The small shifts in attitude before a heart of stone has taken shape.  The betrayal of another – the pull away.  The secret thoughts that say to self “I can do better”, “I shouldn’t have to put up with this crap”.  “She says that to me all the time” he says to me.   “And so do you,” I reply.  The past 35 minutes have been descriptions of all the ways she is no good, and impossible.   He hears me.  The story is the same for all the couples I work with, and for my own life.  Unique scenarios, with the same denigration of love.  The toxic seed of heart that abandons the other while still sitting beside her.  While still holding his hand.  Which is why she says she can’t trust him, says he feels unsafe around her, the loneliness, being invisible, being hated.  The heart feels abandoned, even when words and actions of the other follows the rules.  The heart that betrays the loved one in exchange for love of ‘my rights’.  We talk about how much easier it is to see another’s rot than our own.  That even in marriages looking quite put together, we indulge in betrayal thoughts dozens of times a day. 

I ask “Do you pray together?” This couple attends a Bible study and support group, attends church.  They are believers.  The type who walk the walk.  Christians who want God’s will, who weep at the kindness of the Lord.  And I ask if they pray together.  “No, we don’t,” he says.  “How would we do that?”  And I pause.  No one has ever asked me what marriage prayer looks like.  And as we move ahead a step and then another, I hope my words match the stirring at the core of me.

Then I laugh.  I catch the puzzled look out the corner of my eye.  “I know a lot about what not to do.”  Prayers can’t be used to blast the other person.  “Dear Lord, I pray that you help my husband to not be such an absolute selfish narcissistic jerk”.  The sad eyes wrinkle into a smile.  “A prayer like that will ruin prayer for the two of you.”  I know, from experience.  Doing the opposite works better.  “Lord, I am selfish.  I’m blind to the garbage in me.  I can only mostly see (my spouse’s name) faults clearly, and not my own very well.  I pray that you show me how to love _______ ( put your spouses name here).  Help me see how I hurt (him/her).  Give me clues for making (his/her) life a joyful one.  Life here is short.  Let me be a blessing for the days (he/she) has left.  Let me be a warm place for (him/her) to come to.  Please forgive me for harming this person I love so much.   I’m not good at love, we are so different.  I pray this all in Jesus name, amen.” 

We walk in silence.  He understands.  I encourage him to not use this prayer script, but to pray from his heart with her near him, and plead for God to give him what it takes to love his wife.  Its hard to do when the other person feels like an enemy, but it works. 

The only reason my adored husband and I are still together is because we pray.  We would have strangled each other if we hadn’t continued to pray.  We are just naturally too dysfunctional, selfish and warped to follow simple directions for making changes.  God has had to change us one prayer at a time.  We don’t pray just right all the time, either.  Sometimes we break all the rules for praying, and harm each other in our petitions to God.. .especially me.  But we move back towards each other and God.  It’s our only consistent healing habit that has saved us from ourselves. 

It’s easy to betray.  The heart finds ways to reject the one who knows too much about me. The reason the subject of betrayal belongs with marriage prayer is because betrayal, even at its earliest stage, is the invisible aggressor that destroys love, and prayer is what stitches love back together.  God is the one who kindly reminds us of all the ways we harm the other, and shows us again how to love, even when the other person is unlovable.  Especially when the other person is unlovable.  White underfoot, we move beyond despair toward God love.  To the only thing that stops betrayal and brings us together again.   

Not Wanted

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“I’m not wanted.”  I can say the words and blood, it rushes fast toward face, fills with heat burn.  Hot tension, pounding the words into the shame place of flesh.  “Not Wanted.”  Salt tears sting eyes at the rawness of the thing.  Chest tightens.  Heart blasting beats to the rhythm of rejection.  “Not wanted.”  A cut deeper than not liked, not needed, not appreciated.  Words that gnarl more than ugly and stupid. 

To be wanted is to be wished for.  A wish come true by just being, as is.  It’s the best thing in the world to be wanted.  Hoped for.  Dreamed of.  Which is why being not wanted gouges into flesh and leaves us immobile and self loathing.  It’s as if we decide to take up the rejection, right along with the one who doesn’t want me.  I don’t want me either.  The place where self hate, cutting, shooting up, hiding, and suicide resides.  Not all self loathing and suicide of course, but some.   

“Not wanted.”  We’re ok to say it to each other in rather benign ways.  “I need my space.”  “No offense, it’s just that you’re not my type.”  “Let’s ditch um, we could use a break.”  Sometimes we call it self-care, sometimes boundaries, when really what is being acted out is rejection and walls.  We invite people to our celebrations that make us larger than life, and if we are honest, we will admit to ourselves that the people on the fringes of our lives are not wanted.  I don’t want them, and neither do you.  And when I’m on the fridge, holding on best I can, but my dignity has gone in exchange for just getting through another day, I don’t want me either. 

The idea of being wanted is most strongly associated with a discussion about family planning. Wanting.  Wanting a baby.  Choosing.  And how much choosing do we really do, in our wanting.  At the mercy, we are, of what arrives.  And then if what has come is not what we want, distance is served.  Pain is felt down to the marrow, and lasts a lifetime.  Felt by the one who wanted and and was left wanting, and by the one who arrives but has not adequately filled the order.  Wants a boy and gets a girl.  Wants a violin player and gets a cement man.  Wants a cowgirl and gets a princess.  Wants a live baby to hold and instead has to hand off, already gone away to Heaven. 

Belonging and being desired is such at the core of our being, that when we aren’t we crack.  Then why do we do it to each other?  Give a cold shoulder.   Sneer.  Shame.  Do all we can to let others know they aren’t wanted.  Kids do it naturally.  “Kids are mean”, we say, and it’s true.  So quite naturally we become rejectors.  And God shows us another way. He shows us what it’s like to feel planned for, sought out, wanted, desired.  Created special for a purpose.  To be seen and treasured.   

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 You have searched me, Lord,

    and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

    you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue

    you, Lord, know it completely.

5 You hem me in behind and before,

    and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

    too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

    when I was made in the secret place,

    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!

    How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,

    they would outnumber the grains of sand—

    when I awake, I am still with you.

If I don’t want you just right, God does.  I want to want you, beautiful you.  Want to want your company.  Want to desire your friendship.  Want to love your presence.  Even when I can’t always feel these ways towards you because I’m a broken human, I ask God to use my friendship with you to give you the gift of wanted.  I matter to God, no matter how you treat me, and so do you.  And want you to feel it.  Wanted.  Forever.  Just what is wished for.  Just right.  Settled.  Love-breath upon wished-for heart.  Just right. And I settle into a love for rejecting you, as I know what it is to be limited in my abilities to want. 

Broken Safe Heart

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Beautifully Broken.  A testimony shared in word and book form.  The story of Elisa Morgan, former president of MOPS International.  The telling of a teenage daughter pregnant, the shame of the thing, of the realization that we are all a mess, and this is a truth.  A friend and I ventured from home to attend the “I Am Loved, One Strand” Event featuring Elisa.  An evening of challenge to a church crammed packed with ladies.  Will I hide my brokenness, or will I take the risk and be a mess, for Jesus Sake.  As the evening hours came to a close, half dozen pastors and elders waited up front to offer a prayer for anyone who could use it.  Just as I Am keeping time, verse after verse and out of the hundreds of women attending, no one came forward.  Verses repeated.  Still no one.  Then a couple of the pastors facilitating the event came forward to be prayed for. As if to say “This is how it’s done”. 

We had been dismissed, the church mostly emptied, a few pray-ers still at post when I asked my friend if she wanted to go together for prayer.  Pray for our marriages.  For our kids. For our own personal struggles.  My friend is no ordinary friend.  She is one of those heroes who lives her faith despite depth of pain.  Sunday mornings, despite hostility at doing so, dresses herself and her children and slips off to church alone, shaking inside but holding it together, always holding it together.  The only Christian in her family.  A mentally unstable husband who swings from kind to damaging.  Having to scoop up children and leave her home for days, fly away, until the storm passes.  She is a mother who is doing everything she can to give her kids what they need, her husband what he needs, works full time, is a loving adult daughter of aging parents, a loving friend to me and many others.  All this amidst a blast that comes and goes, sometimes nearly crashed upon the rocks, when once again God comes through, and she holds steady again. 

We have so much in common, her and I, and you too, I’m guessing.  Our lives are full and beautiful and messy and painful.  We have the unexpected that tares at us.  Every time the calm comes, on it’s heels is destruction.  Willing again and again to be a mess for Jesus sake, as it would be so much easier to pretend all is well, easier to dust ourselves of the messes that disrupt our hoped for lives, but we’ve decided to refuse to give up.  And there we were, she and I doing the very thing the evening had lauded.  Praying not for the superficial, but for what needed praying for. 

Pastor woman, kind eyes, nice prayers she offers up.  The flowing kind of prayers, until tears flow from depths of those she prayed for.  Immediately friend and I feel the change.  Pastor Woman holds steady cold eyes on the one with tears and steps back.  Starts lecturing.  Shrouded in Christian-ese, she with smile and sneer eyes, she offers up a lecture of indignant setting straight.  Arrogance and irritation.  Distance.  Rejection.  Parental eyes.  As real as if she had said the words, “We don’t do messy here.”  

Shame, it hit hard.  Feeling sick.  Needing to find a hiding place, a bathroom, tears they showered pant-leg beneath the eyes.  And as shame flooded in, I remembered words I had heard hours before in a training I had attended.  Fight, flight and freeze occurs when comfort has not been extended.  Fight, flight, freeze.  The body’s reaction to not trusting.  An unsafe place to be a mess. 

The church is realizing how important authenticity is, and vulnerability.  Elisa Morgan has written “Beautifully Broken”.  Ann Voskamp’s latest book reiterates the same idea in “The Broken Way”.  Brene Brown has written extensively about vulnerability and authenticity, and about becoming a wholehearted person.  And many are speaking out on these issues, including God.  The Holy Bible is packed with raw stories of real people.  And still the church isn’t prepared for what it’s asking for. 

We better not ask for real if we have not done the due diligence of placing front and center only those who have done their own raw and messy work.  If my healthy vulnerability frightens you, as culturally Christian as I am, you won’t at all be comfortable with folks with a criminal record, an abortion never spoken of, same sex attraction shame, cut scars that run deep behind long sleeves, a porn addiction, shoplifting, the pain of life as a stripper, hidden heroine, purging, on the run.  Christian servants are not prepared unless we have intentionally peered into the toxic morass of our own less than lovely lives.  The grace of Jesus administered to shame makes worthy and safe my ears to hear your wound, and your secrets.  Professional pretenders have no place at the front line of the body of Christ.  This interaction was uncomfortable for me, but I’m not harmed.  I’m surrounded by healthy people who give me all the love and support I need.  Someone else might not have what I have.  One considering Christianity.  One who has risk it all to try once again to reach for Jesus.   

Jesus says:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Of course we don’t want pastors and leaders functioning as out-of-control messes.  This pastor offering prayer has either never come face to face with her own lacking, or had experienced the discomfort of letting a judgmental person in on her own disgrace, which is why she reacted the way she did to ours.  How can a pastor be honest with themselves and others when we marginalize them for owning their weaknesses?  Pastors are human beings.  They have a past, a present.  Arrogant Saul was only safe to serve when struck down by Jesus, made blind and dependent, and a mess.  Peter was only safe when he faced the ugliness and rejection of his distancing behavior.  We are only safe when we see who we are, and let God’s Grace pick us up again.  A pastor able to admit and speak about his or her own messiness becomes safe to love another.  And not before. 

I’ve written on this topic more than once, and will continue to write on it.  The front lines call for the real deal.  No pretenders.  Our Christian Culture must stop rewarding leaders and pastors for pretending, and punishing for honesty.  The route from death to life is across a cravat that separates Hateland of Pretend from The Loveland of Known.  From the Hiding, fight, flight and freeze (Adam, where are you?) place to a place of being seen, loved and forgiven.  Christians can’t stand on both grounds. Authenticity is attractive to the hurting who don’t know Jesus, because isn’t this what we all want most of all?  To be known AND loved.  We can’t pretend to be authentic as a way of extending a hand.  The call for authenticity has already been sent out.  Front line Christian’s, time is now to step across.  

The Id of Prime: How to Prevent Destroying the Best Years of Your Life

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It’s a familiar pattern.  Man at the top of his game at work, making the most he will ever make, married to the most beautiful adoring wife, envy of us all decides it’s time to engage in a seedy fling, starts shooting up, embezzles money at work.  Beautiful woman happily married, finding success at work, finally a publishing a book, living in a community of friends who adore her and she decides to have an affair with a teenage druggie down the street, decides to quit work, starts to drink, it’s all over. 

The reasons given are many:

He’s afraid of responsibility 

She wants to sabotage her life because of guilt that it’s going so well

He wasn’t respected enough by his wife 

She could never get over harm done to her as a child 

His testosterone made him do it 

Her hormones were out of whack 

And what I say to that is “Why now?”  Why didn’t his wife’s disrespect cause him to act this way two years ago?  Why didn’t her painful past kick in long ago? His fear of responsibility cause him to steal at work, to use drugs, to cheat before now? 

The safest people in the world seem to be unsure of themselves.  Awkward teenagers, trying to understand where they sit at the table of life.  Young adults struggling to get through college.    People at any age who have not made it in life.  Aging folks who have lost..  Had their heart broken.  Buried a parent.  Been abandoned by a spouse.  Lost a child to drugs.  Lost a job.  Been through bankruptcy.  12 step boot camp en route to sobriety.  These people unsure of life itself seem to be the ones much less apt to do harsh things to others in their journey up the proverbial ladder.  It is my view that the id is most commonly enlarged at prime.  At the place in life where things are going the best.  I am amazing, I will protect this amazing persona of myself, and others better see me this way.  If they don’t I will throw it all away. 

Brene Brown’s research shows that wholehearted people, those people who do the best in life, are the ones who embrace their own vulnerability, and with an authentic style of living, share their real selves with others around them.  Which really is the best antidote to the Id of Prime.  Much different from the need to convince others that I’m OK in my quest to belong, I set out to develop a habitual view on myself starting young that embraces me as flawed and valuable even-though.  When I embrace my flaws, and let you know mine, I am inviting you to own and state yours, and together we can care for each other as imperfect, challenging each other along the way, to garnish strength from the other when I need it, which is all the time. 

When I am in a state of awkward insecurity, why would I be more authentic and vulnerable?  Simply put, in my reaching for answers, I am in the position of teachability.   To be teachable is to be vulnerable.  I am saying there is something you know that I don’t know.  And this makes me much safer than the position of ‘I have all the answers and you should be lucky to be in my presence’. 

The self made culture celebrates the exact opposite of teachability and neediness.  Regardless of how brazen we are to proclaim ‘I’ve got it’, this is not reality.  Like it or not, we are needy.  Consider getting through college.  Say we earn our way through college by getting good grades, 100% scholarship.  Someone in a dark room surrounded by stacks of papers, using red pen, sweat and coffee is also getting you through college.  Someone wearing hairnet and gloves is making food in a cafeteria.  Someone is cleaning the toilet, furnishing toilet paper to the stalls, applying bleach as needed, lysol, elbow-grease.  We are our brothers keepers.  We are not islands. 

Working in an Emergency Room for 19 years, one dynamic showed itself over and over.  Didn’t matter if I was dealing with a brilliant Microsoft manager, a rich elderly banker, a well known pastor or a street drug user.  He or she open and vulnerable over time with some close loved ones was the winner.  Sometimes the ‘professionals’ were the ones in real trouble.  They had face to save, a reputation to maintain.  Would rather crack then look like a mess.  Every human being goes through crisis.  We may think we will skirt crisis by keeping distance,  not ‘bothering’ anyone with our problems.  Eventually we come to the end of ourselves, and those of us who have been real with others are the ones to get better.  On the other hand, isolated we can find ourselves pulled under by relatively small setbacks, because we are lacking skills of teachability, flexibility (able to flex even thought it puts me in a poor light), vulnerability and authenticity.

The id of prime. 

An avoidable destruction of me as I practice:

a heart position of reaching toward learning from someone who knows more then me

practice honestly with myself about my weaknesses and deficits

choose to not fake who I am with you

reject the prideful prison of self protection

These practices set us up for deep abiding relationship, whether it be in marriage, with our kids, in the workplace, with our bodies.  Id of prime that walks away from it all is walking away from pretend.  It’s not walking away from intimacy real and raw and deep. Let the best years of our lives honor The God who knew what I was about and gave the prime of his life for my eternity anyway.

Goodbye Elie Wiesel 1928-2016

 

 

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A Holocaust survivor and author.  A man who endured unimaginable horrors and lived to tell about it made sure that he did. Wiesel once said “I must do something with my life. It is too serious to play games with anymore, because in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person. On the other hand, I know I cannot.”

“Maybe there are no words for what happened. Maybe somehow  … the cruel killers, have succeeded at least in one way, at least that it deprived us, the victims, of finding the proper language of saying what they had done to us, because there are no words for it.”

We honor an unusual man who worked to use words the best he could to never forget.  We honor his brave telling about the ugliest of things, a bulwark of raw words for the prevention of future acceptance of evil. We honor that his honest speak has worked a path of healing for those frozen and silenced by haters.  A way for the harmed ones to move forward. 

And as we bless Elie Wiesel for saying what needed said, we daily shun and hush those around  us when words are spoken that tell stories of having been harmed.  Words of being blamed for the harm.  Sideways words reminding another ‘you are nothing, you matter only in terms of how you benefit me’.  The drip, drip, drip of ‘you don’t count, your story doesn’t count, oh, come on, it wasn’t that bad’. 

The murmuring of these same messages run through our speech all day long: 

Get over it.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Poor you.

Talk about happy things.

What a drag.

She’s such a victim.

As a trauma therapist, I spend more time than any other issue on trying to move my clients to a place where they realize they are not ‘living in the past’, ‘grabbing for attention’, being ‘negative’ or trying to shift the blame when they explore their whole story.  Truth telling and integrating that truth does create healing, however it is very difficult for the one having been harmed to admit harm has been done.  In reality, people who have been traumatized want desperately to find a way for what has happened to not have happened. They want to minimize what has happened, pointing to others who had it far worse.  If there is no way around denying it, placing blame on themselves is next best. The reluctance to notice and admit what has happened comes not only from others around us and their words, but from our own.  The tapes we play in our head may have been formed initially by another, but we keep them going.

You’re such an idiot, poor you.

You could have stopped it and you know it.

You wanted it.

You got what you had coming to you.

Recognizing lying tapes and correcting them much like we would a sassy child is important, and does eventually assist in allowing for the truth to emerge.

The behavior of speaking truth was an action in direct opposition to the way things were done in Germany before millions were herded off into packing plants and burned whole.  It’s not like Hitler stood up one day and said “OK guys, here’s my idea, let’s round up all the Jews and kill them.”  No.  The opposite of honesty and openness are lies.  When the goal of a world leader is sadistic, the monster knows it will never sell to the masses at face value, which is where manipulation and sideways speak comes in. The climate of disrespect, jealousy, and spite had been brewing and had been acted upon in many little ways.  Hate was hidden, explained away by seemed to most as unrelated intellectual ideas that sounded very rational if one happened to be feeling less than.  Less than leading to class envy, at at it’s heels prejudice.  All of which was hiding what really fueled the ideas.  Murder.  A culture of open truth-telling might have uncovered that for years people were being treated wrong. Safety would have allowed those harmed to say out loud what had been going on, and those who heard would have been safe to be outraged and speak out against the behaviors and attitudes that were absolutely not OK!

When we smother any speech that belongs to one who has suffered for the pretense of ‘Oh, you don’t have it that bad” or in worse cases forbidden speech, we fortify the hater, turn aside the one harmed, and become an unsafe world. 

The Bible is God’s inspired word.  There is no pretense in the Bible.  Stephen was stoned.  The Bible doesn’t cover up what really happened to Stephen and who was responsible for it.  If this happened today, I could hear most Christians say there is no good reason for smearing Saul’s name by telling the story.  “Telling it doesn’t bring Stephen back” they’d say.  Might lessen the good name of Paul who did straighten up and become an apostle.  No, that’s not how God in the Bible deals with evil.  One story after another tells the whole truth, the bad right along with the good, and put into print because evil must be voiced for good to prevail.  Evil doesn’t go away when we ignore it.  It doesn’t go away when we ‘just get over it’.  Evil goes away when those harmed by it become strong, find words for things that have no words and say what has happened.

When will we become a people that supports truth telling? 

When will the entire story our my lives be owned? 

When will we choose to not remain in foggy world of pretend

but instead agree with what has happened

despite

what should have been? 

When?

When I speak my truth out loud, I am giving you permission to speak yours.  And united we say “ENOUGH!”.   Thank you Elie Wiesel, for speaking up, challenging me to speak my truth.  Your life tugs, it calls to speak of my own pain as a way of giving voice to the pain of one whose words have been taken away. 

The Inheritance of Emotional Isolation

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What does it mean to crouch behind
A name that isn’t yours
Done changed the first one just enough for hiding
A date of birth, mostly the same, except for 10 years short
The lies –
like pebbles
in our shoes
we’re finding.

A Grandpa we thought ours alone
Still married to another
Abandoned darling wife and son,
And then there were the others
A daughter 8, and 6 and 4
This wife he’d never harm
Dark night they slept
Is when he left,
For some new set of arms.

As years they passed,
Wife looked for him –
Her girls – they had to eat
He’d hurry just a step ahead
Now working down the street
Then ‘cross the town
And round the bend
The changes helped him hide
He’d not be found, nor made to pay
“Won’t push ME to provide.”

Looking out for number one
His wife and girls – still waiting
Alias married well again
A beauty, Educated.

They had four children, he stayed on
It looked like he’d stopped running.
Yet could not sit and chat awhile
Required too much cunning.

The friendly sort, although he be
He kept his heart a distance
And one by one,
so did the generations.
Not knowing they were acting out
behaviors fit a cheat
Had mimicked walls that harm all good relations

What does it mean to crouch behind
A name that isn’t yours
Done changed the first one just enough for hiding
A date of birth, mostly the same, except for 10 years short
The lies –
like pebbles
in our shoes
we’re finding.

Amelia

P.S. “And the truth will set you free…”