I SAW YOUR SON YESTERDAY

I saw your son yesterday.  Standing on the corner for a brief moment before he jaywalked in front of my car  – blue jeans, t-shirt, flip flops stride wide cross the downtown Seattle thorofare, tall frame and wide shoulders, black hair, the curls all wild. 

Beauty – I caught a glimpse of beauty beneath the emaciated form – the body torn down by a substance that owns him.  Leads him  – ring in nose – under the bridge to where he feels OK.  To an army of ‘ease the pain’ worshipers who sacrifice themselves for a fix. 

I saw your son yesterday, and yelled at God.  “What does it take for you to touch a body and make it whole again?  What if he’s too far gone to reach for You?  Can’t you just take the voices in his head and hush them still so that the fix is not his only relief?”

I saw your son yesterday, as light turned green, I passed him by.  Behind me, he and hundreds of other mother’s sons there to just make it through…

Another crave. 

Another fix. 

Another sleep it off. 

Only to wake up needing more. 

I saw your son yesterday, and asked God to be ‘The More’ for him, and all the mother’s sons with him. 

The Quiet Voice low. 

“…saw her son?  

He’s my Son, too.”

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. 

Real Prayer

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This prayer to God was written by a beautiful survivor of the most hideous of abuse.  It’s a real prayer to God.  I’m posting this with her permission as I think we all need to challenge preconceived ideas about what a proper prayer looks like, and assumptions about people unable to imagine a loving God.  The God I worship wept.  He welcomes honesty. Even of the rawest form.  Thank you Trinity for allowing me to share your letter.

 

I so long for a Father figure,

someone to gently love me without abuse,

without conditions, without fear of judgment.

You, God are suppose to be my ultimate Father,

on one side, I still so desperately long for your affections, your love,

and at times I see glimpses of that in the children you’ve place in my life,

through other people,

through the promises in your Word.

But lately there is this other side,

this darkness within me that rages at you

and doesn’t understand how you have a plan for my life,

or that you care about the broken hearted.

A part of me that see you no differently than I view my abuser,

as a monster,

because only a monster would allow children to be abused,

would allow my own parents to crave drugs so bad that selling me,

their youngest child,

was like selling a used shirt at a yard sale,

something you don’t think twice about.

And then you create me to need love and attention,

the very things that got me hurt in the first place!

Why would I come running to you?!!

You didn’t protect me,

you sure as hell didn’t stop the bastards that used me like trash for years.

If you want me to truly trust you God,

you’ve got to break the wall down,

because it’s high and thick and not coming down without some serious work on your part.

I’m tired of praying to what seems like thin air,

only to battle the demons within me so much more.

You say you’re a healer and you heal the broken hearted.

Where’s the healing???

When does it come?

When do I get release from the monsters of mental illness?

The hell and torture of PTSD?

The little Trinity needs her Abba Father,

but the adult me wants to never let you close to her.

I need some answers, God

if we are going to work together to heal little Trinity.

Written by Trinity

Billboard Hiding

Sitting on a bench alongside my friend in a sundown park, people, they are everywhere and we watch.  Watch the milling about, the comings and goings.  A group of boys silently step out of the overgrowth, walking slower than boys going any place at all, more silent than any collection of guys together on any August evening. And without a billboard announcing drug sales and drug use, 7 boys let the entire park in on what they’d been up to.  Hiding. 

I know this hiding.  Our kids start young.  Round eyes watch through soft blond lashes, little arms tight behind back.  I peek round the little hider.  Melted blobs of green, yellow, orange, red.  Warmed M&M’s concealed behind brown smudged lips and chubby fists.  It’s hard not to laugh just a little.  It’s cute at 3.  Not so cute thereafter. 

What if boys and girls of all ages came right out and stated:

“I use drugs and sell it to my friends.”

“I sneak your credit card number and use it intermittently so you won’t notice”

“I prefer porn to people”

“I cheat on my taxes”

“I live in more of a house than I can afford so you will think I’m important”

Honest, and still not helpful enough.  I’m thinking it’s not the lie that feels so worth hiding.  It’s the action.  And why, with all the variety of ways to think about life, with a wide range of taste in popsicle flavors do people choose to hide and lie about certain behaviors rather than just say “I’m grape, you’re strawberry”?  Maybe lying is used for avoiding trouble.  The law doesn’t support kids snorting coke in bushes.  Doesn’t support streakers.  The baby doesn’t want M&M’s taken away. 

And still, at times we hide because we don’t like and don’t approve of the way WE act, and don’t want anyone who isn’t doing what we are doing to see us act the way we act. 

Shame is a thing of the eyes.

It’s eyes catching the action of another person’s shame.  Eyes seeing bottle downed.  Eyes watching as item is lifted.  Eyes that make pretese hiding so ridicules.  We think no one can see our pretense, and then we parade it out for all.  Never knowing.

What do I hate about my own actions?  What do I think I hide from you – that indecent piece of me I’d rather die than let you see?  The hiding I do is a waste.  I’m not hidden.  I’m announced.  The knowledge of good and evil.  The garden gift we all share.  To see the shame of another, no matter how much we try to conceal. 

Let my eyes be used for loving, no matter another’s shame I see.  Let my own eyes notice my own shame – with purpose in mind.  Let me allow kind eyes to peer into who I am, those healing eyes of knowing and loving anyway.

  

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.  Genesis 3:7

Jesus looked at him and loved him.  Mark 10:21.

The Courage of Action

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Doing takes courage.  Doing anything but what’s expected.  Expected doings are, you know.

bed making

dish washing

floor sweeping

laundry

cutting grass

                etc…. 

Expected doings have to be done, and should be done. 

And then there are all the things not on the expected list that require a great deal of courage to do.  Let’s say that somebody needs to share Christ with an unbeliever.  And lets suppose that the best person to tell another about Jesus would be a faithful Jesus follower.  Immediately we have a problem, because although there are many Jesus followers, being of the human sort, there are very few if any truly faithful Jesus followers.  Humans tend to be unfaithful by nature, one way or another. 

Which brings us to the question.  Should an unfaithful Jesus follower tell others to be faithful to Jesus?  Should a landscape artist who has weeds in his yard create golf course beauty for his customer?  What about teacher who can’t get along with his own children?  Should he or she teach another’s child?  Should a scientist discover how important good fat is for the body while taking poor care of his own? 

Humans are a problem.  They are quick to point the finger and call another human a hypocrite because they can see the discrepancy between what is stated as idea and what is lived.  And most of the time, their call is right on.  Which is why we hold back from the tasks at hand.  Stop ourselves from doing what needs done because of fear of being seen as the hypocrite that we are. 

Pastors with poor relational skills. 

Health teachers carrying extra weight. 

Counselors who can’t keep their marriages together.

Shoe makers whose children have no shoes.

I have started providing marriage counseling.  Of the friends who have known my husband and I for the 26 years we’ve been married, they can attest it’s been a mix of happy love and no cake walk.  And still, the need is there for couples to work with a therapist who has been in the trenches in her marriage too, who at times is still in the trenches, but knows what works and what doesn’t, even if one step forward, two steps back.  Husband voice shouts from other end of the house, “IT IS PERFECT.  Because I said so!”

My niece joined the Marines.  She’s 18.  Anyone taking that risk is providing the perfect opportunity for the pointers to rub in where the Marine has been weak in the past.  And yet she’s the one who has decided to put herself out there.  To challenge herself.  To stretch what she’s capable of.  To serve God and Country, regardless of the risks of what others might throw back at her.

I have a friend who provides parenting plans in the courtroom for challenging divorce situations.  She has kids of her own.  Her parenting is not perfect.  Her kids struggle.  And still she has taken the risk to give back not withstanding her own doubt and frustration. 

One sister teaches life coaches and others how to manage chronic pain without pain meds.  Of course she risks not always managing her own chronic pain perfectly, but still she takes on the challenge and many are helped.

Another sister serves papers, teaches school, takes mission trips.  All risk taking activities.

I have a friend who keeps a blog alive for Adult Survivors of Religious Narcissistic Abuse.  So much misunderstanding speaking out on such a topic, and so many rotten tomatoes thrown her way, and still she continues to bless the broken hurting ones who are feeling known and seen because of the stories she shares, and the paintings she creates. 

My private practice work is for those who suffer with trauma, cancer, depression, grief, obesity, etc…  I’ve experienced it all at different times in my life, still have left-overs from each one, thought I was finished with obesity, along came thyroid cancer, adding weight that can not seem to be salad’ed, walked, biked, stretched away.  The vulnerability at meeting a new client first time on walking track with one breast and 35 lbs. extra nearly takes my breath away.  And still I know the risk of shame is worth knowing that I’m in the center of God’s will, doing what I’m suppose to do. 

What are you holding that another needs?  What are you hiding?  What do you fear?  Has God tugged you toward a work that would require courage?  Vulnerability?  Pride is a wall that separates us from life. Be courageous.  Do.

Jesus says it best:

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” ESV   Matthew 16:25

A Cloudy Bootcamp

This was written last May for my professional blog.  I’ve decided to share it here today as my niece Annalee is joining the Marines same day she graduates from h.s., which is two short days from now, and has 12 weeks of bootcamp awaiting her.  I know God uses bootcamp of all shapes and sizes, and I know he has a plan for her as well.  Blessings to my niece.

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Profound thoughts, for me, seem to show up in the middle my mundane.  It happened yesterday as I was tackling a task called ‘cutting lawn’.   When I say I was out cutting the lawn, please don’t picture a postage stamp turn-about.  Picture a rolling random football field that never ends.  Now picture a rather tottery set of legs, pasty lady, gloved fists all trying hard to shove forward another shaved swath.  As the lush green blades shot sideways, so did my glee at all I was getting done.  I found myself irritated at the moisture, so soppy-damp, that even with the shocking arrival of sunshine, warm on my shoulders, I was still unable to use the bagger for more than a couple feet without it clogging into a spongy ball of clippings.

The last few months have been, shall we say, un-fun.  Just recently I have taken on the challenge to act on the belief that God inhabits praise, and to praise God, even when my circumstances aren’t praiseworthy.  And so atop the roar of the mower, there in wet grass I started praising the Lord for His goodness to me, for His goodness to the land around me. For being the God of provision.  That He provides cloud and drizzle in “*$#@*%!! FREAKING EXCESS….. GOD OF SUCH GRAND GIFTS, GOD, YOU MAKE SURE THIS SPOILED ROTTEN SUPER SIZED PIG OF A YARD HAS ALL IT EVER WANTED – !!!!”.  Ya, sometimes even my praise sessions turn earthy.  God being the father of many, He’s use to fit-throwing.  From me, anyway.  Well, as I kept up my praise service out there in the back 400, my heart started experiencing an actual shift.  Praise for God became real.  God hovered nearby.  And all around me.   The grey cloud that had dampened my spirits, and over-dampened the grass, was now warming me, it was noticing me.  On slippery hill downward, with mower in race to the bottom, it steadied and strengthened me, giving balance and protection.  ‘I’m cracking’, I think to myself.  Grey clouds do not warm peoples spirits.

And then I remember the story.  The Israelites had, by the thousands, been led on foot away from a country in which they had been enslaved.  A land where they were unable to function fully as humans.  They had been rescued from a meaningless life of being used.  From a death unnoticed.

And for the journey, God used a pillar of cloud to guide them for their daytime travels.  A cloud to guide and protect?  Why not a bucket full of sunshine?  Couldn’t God have used cut crystals hanging on ribbons from heaven?  If He’d have asked me, I would have suggested rainbow shivers for really freaking out the bad guys.  But He didn’t.

Toward a better place, the Israelites were routed through misery.  With intention, God arranged a journey with healing opportunities in mind.  Each hopeless situation, a desert march with no water, no food, power struggles, snakes, belly aches, each cloudy trial offered one opportunity after another to build trust in God, learn to love, learn to trust less in what is seen and more in who God is.  The journey was to provide deep healing for these rescued slaves, and for generations after them.

I ponder these ideas, row by row, grass looking better by the hour.  I think of all the ways the grey of life has protected me, and brought God near.   The deep depression and anxiety as a little kid.  Would I have known God as early as I did, had I not hung on for dear life during those early suicidal times?  What was I protected from while hiding in the black hole of pain, hiding next to God?

The eating disorder.  Would I ever have know the freedom of an addiction if I had never experienced one?  Would I have misjudged others who struggle with addiction if I had never had to fight for years with something bigger than my own smarts?

The struggling to read.  What kind of evil could I have perpetrated onto others if there had been no struggle to recall what I read, requiring me to read the same materiel over and over again, even throughout college?  Would I have been condescending to others who struggle to understand if everything about learning came easy to me?

Early Miscarriage.  Would I have had opinions about others pain which I knew nothing of if I’d never had one, let alone six?  I can never say that the loss of a child would bring a blessing.  It is a pain I have never experienced, and pray I never do.  And still, each of us, in our own painful travels, notices the Lord near by, even in the cloud.

Marriage Pain.  Would I have even found the time – busy with life, four kids, work and all, to pray, if my heart had not been raw so much of the time?  Would I have ever discovered on a knowing level what PTSD looks like, and how healing occurs if I’d never been in an intimate relationship that rattled the cage of monsters past?

Would I have anything of substance to offer my clients if my understanding was exclusively derived from a book?  Trust me Lord, I prefer not knowing beyond course work all of what a human is capable of suffering from and experiencing.  I thought I’d throw that out… just incase you decide to read this:)

Allergies.  Would I have learned to let go of the toxic nature of being a “pleaser” if I had not been forced to impose, irritate and annoy others using the boundary of “no thank you”, otherwise embarrassing myself by way of anaphylactic drama?

Cancer.  Would the reality of the brevity of this life have been as real as it is now, if I’d not had my breast cut off my body, my thyroid cut out, my body scanned and scanned some more for a look at where the cancer has traveled?

Stroke.  Would I have laughed at the way God took the pain of the bone on skin where breast used to be, and with one quick stroke, remedied by TPA all deficits but left-side numbing, removing this irritation, just because He wanted to?

Brain Fog.  Well, this is the other stroke deficit still remaining.  It has turned up the brain fog dial that already existed.  Remembering paper-work kinds of details, remembering names, reading manuals, working computers.  Would I know God was always hanging about, following me throughout the day if He didn’t have to constantly help me in my pathetic state, over and over and over.  I’m talking about getting lost driving to some location I’ve driven to a dozen times.  Loosing the car keys today, my shoe the next.  Forgetting we make kids lunches every day, remembering to go to bed, remembering to pay the bills, remembering to wear my prosthesis, remember to stop singing when I’m in the Costco public restroom.  Would I find myself too special to love others who struggle with the details?

Step, and another forward, the mower moving on ahead, I recall my own clouds, and the clouds of others.  It’s obvious that God works to rescue each one of us from the meaningless life. Ask someone to tell you their story.  If you have a heart to hold what they tell you with care, you will hear the pattern.  That of God intentionally routing one, then another and another along a personalized bootcamp journey. All challenges personally designed to remove each one of us far from anything that would prevent us from being fully human, and fully alive.   The gloves are still gripping, but lighter.  Stride steady.  I praise God for being the God of the Cloud. Hovering near, He and I, we cut another line of hearty green grass.

“The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.  He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”                                                                Exodus 13: 21 and 22

Lisa Boyl-Davis, LICSW