Yes, yes, I know. We were done with this topic, but apparently God is not.
Yesterday I was on a vintage SLG call — four people, four nations. Among other things, we were exploring the structures related to abandonment and how each redemptive gift’s structure has a little different shape.
At the end of the call, I was utterly exhausted. I factored in jet lag and the cadence of the day, but it was clear that going into the call I was in pretty decent shape and something non-physical happened during the call which impacted me very negatively, even though the call was supposedly not about me!
So, I started with the hypothesis that I had an unresolved abandonment issue and it got triggered during the call. Didn’t know where to look, at first, so I just scrolled through sundry things, waiting for a hit.
It came unexpectedly when I looked at my childhood religion: Calvinism of the 1950s. Back then, no Christian had any psychological problems of any sort. Everything was spiritual or physical. If it was physical, you saw a doctor. If it was spiritual, you repented, confessed and everything was immediately OK.
I realized that in Calvinism, there was no journey for the soul. There was only a decision, a choice and an immediate result. And when you repented and confessed and things did not immediately change in your inner man – for example, my DID that no one knew I had – then it was clear evidence that I had not REALLY repented, and needed to do it deeper, in a more real way, and then I would be immediately, completely cleansed by God and restored and everything would be OK!
No journeys below zero.
That stream of the faith does believe in a journey of faith above zero. We grow in maturity, develop character, become more Christlike and many other truisms. But there were no journeys below zero. If you had soul issues (which didn’t exist back then) and it took you a period of time to process your emotions, or to heal from a wound, then you were abandoned by the religious stream because you really should resolve it spiritually – quickly!
Just crucify the flesh already and get on with life!!!!
This reminded me a lot of our model for abandonment in the womb. Mother and child are partners in the grand adventure of life, but if the labor becomes so intense that the mother withdraws from the emotional connection with the child for a bit, in order to deal with her own pain, the child can feel abandoned at the time of the greatest need.
Likewise, in that stream of the faith, at the point of highest need, when I had no clue how to process the maelstrom of emotions in me, I felt the spiritual leadership vigorously withdraw from me, because healing was a choice, not a journey in their worldview.
Two things came into focus very clearly last night.
I now understand why I don’t process my pain in community. It seems so wrong for me, even though I see so many other people joyously leaning into community and finding immense solace and wisdom in their times of deep pain. But for me, to even HAVE a journey was illegitimate! It makes sooooo much sense, now.
AND I had the immense pleasure of seeing that in spite of all that mess, I failed forward. I could have grown up and become one of them, militantly against journeys. In reality, because of the crazy making nature of my childhood (DID and being expected to resolve every emotional crisis with confession!!!!) I have become a champion of people’s right to have a journey.
I don’t always approve of the way they walk their journey. I can’t always walk with them on their journey. And I certainly have a LOT of people where I can’t help them AT ALL on their journey. But at the end of the day, I champion each person’s right to wrestle with their relationship with God, themselves and their fellow man, and not fit into a sausage factory.
Those two Ah Ha moments captivated me for a while.
Then I had a deep sinking feeling as I looked at the bigger picture. Today journeys are more or less legitimate. People are allowed to have souls nowadays, and our emotions are considered valid once more, and the idea of a journey is widely – though not universally – accepted. HOWEVER, a lot of spiritual leaders have defined the journey in their own way.
So you go to them for help and the answer is their own particular algebraic formula for healing in three easy steps. You go to the specific classes or ministry sessions or seminars and at the end of the time, you are not “fixed.” So often the leader then rejects or abandons you and it becomes clear that you SHOULD have been fixed by that process because a lot of other people were, therefore it is obvious that you did not really lean into the process the way you should have.
And this definition of someone else’s journey and abandonment when you don’t find full and complete healing through their process has become rampant in the Body of Christ.
Deep sigh – or groan.
I have no idea where to go with this next.
I am more at peace with my processing in private, not in public. I understand where it came from, and even though I don’t agree with the ideology behind the cause, I think after 60 years of processing the way I process, it is not necessary for me to become the most prolific public processor.
And I am stoked that God leveraged my pain into my becoming someone who champions people’s right to have a journey that is unique.
Obviously there are still issues related to abandonment which I will chew on IN PRIVATE and theoretically get back to you all with some tools that may, or may not, be applicable to your own UNIQUE journey.
Oh, and please note that our October practicum on abandonment is going to ROCK.
Copyright September 2016 by Arthur Burk
Written at 3:00 a.m. local time since my body is still holding on grimly to California time.