faith

What my Dad said…

Regarding religion:

“I used to think a lot about it- wondering if I was doing the right things. When you get older, you settle into what you believe.”

When he was a boy-

“Most community people called my dad, your grandfather “uncle John.” Mr. Hadley was an old farmer in overalls, and he always addressed me and your uncle Jim as “Rusty ol’ son-of-abitch”, or “bastards.” He called us rusty, because we always went around without a shirt playing and were dirty. I always wondered… why would my dad would let him say that?

Neck Above Water

Many over the years have speculated about depression, well, specifically MY depression- if only I would do a specific thing, eat certain foods, or say specific prayers ( yes, I have even bound the “spirit” of depression through prayer),  then I would be cured, healed…I would be “normal.”   A well-meaning lady told me if I would eat whole, non-processed food it was cure my depression. That is probably true for certain types of depression. Sadly and ironically she died of cancer.  She taught and believed if she ate all the right things, she would live her life out in optimum health.  It was a wise thing, Its just there are no guarantees.

People mean well.  They want to help.  They want to believe for me and for themselves.

After several years of praying and following a carrot on a stick, I realized that in spite of all my efforts, all of my faith, after all the prayers and verses recited, God for whatever reason chose not to heal me, and it was time to deal with reality.

That moment came in graduate school.  It didn’t really phase me that I was crying almost every day.  In fact, crying spells were for years the norm.  But this time was different:  While I was used to my mind racing, it took off with fantastic speed.

I was walking on campus when I looked over to my right and saw a man looking at me through a window, with a bewildered expression, as if I was crazy or something.  I realized I was crying and arguing with myself.

What am I doing?   I knew what I wasn’t doing-  I wasn’t able to focus on my classes, or my studies.  I decided to visit my doctor who after a lengthy spell of listening to me asked if I had diabetes, or any other form of illness- would I take care of it?  He wasn’t one to throw people towards medication, either,  He believed in medication as a last resort, after exploring all other options.  Giving my history, I was officially a “depressed” person.  He explained brain chemicals, how these affect mood and behaviors, and how there is no shame in taking care of one’s self, in spite of stigma.

I left with a bandaged arm where the nurse had taken blood, and decided a little window shopping might help me sort things out.  I probably looked quite ragged with all of my makeup long lost after an hour of crying.  I was in line at a store register when I noticed a woman’s bracelet and told her how attractive I thought it was.  She told me where she bought it, that it was sterling sliver, then continued through the check out line.  She went to the door, turned back to me, and clamped the bracelet on my wrist.

“Whatever you are going through, remember God knows and cares for you.”

Ah yes, God.  The one who is still here in my moment of truth.  The all-powerful one who could have removed this defect from me but chose not to.  How many times had I been reminded if only I had the faith of the small mustard seed, I could move mountains?  How many times was I told “If I would just have faith?”  How many times did I “Bind” depression so I could live a victorious life?  

I didn’t realize it that day, but accepting the truth of my depression was the most liberating moment of my life.

Get Over It

“Just get over it…”

 

That’s usually the goal, isn’t it?

 

It’s happened to all of us: You un-wrap a fastfood burger- the one you’ve been looking forward to all day long- the one you custom ordered; but lusty indulgence soon turns into disappointment as you realize there’s mayo, the mayo you specifically requested they leave off.  That’s not really something to get uptight over, unless you have some sort of food allergy.  But it’s a dissapointment nonetheless.  Do you let it spoil your day, or do you “get over it?”  Hopefully the latter.

For those who have a history of abuse, or experienced any sort of tragic event- hearing someone say “just get over it” usually has a rather opposite effect. 

Most people are well-meaning when they say it.  Sometimes when we are wallowing in trivial matters, we need that trusted friend to give us a swift kick in the hind end.  Sometimes we need encouragement to move past the heavier issues in our lives.  There are those who try to get us over the hump, who want us to “get over it” because they love us, and want  to see a victorious person resurrect out of the clay-heap of victimization:

 No more stagnant lives wasted on the past, no more reference to what’s fallen behind; Keep your view straight ahead with your eye on the prize!

 

I can think of so many more clichés I’ve heard over the years- not that they are all bad, or even false. 

It’s just that in order to “get over it,” You must first acknowledge  and have some understanding of what you are “getting over.”  Then there’s the process of grief, of anger, of fear…

 In my opinion, defining this experience, and the time needed  for healing varies with each individual, depending on (here’s that word again)- Worldview. 

 

When a person has been abused, they need acknowledgement, a safe place for honesty and expression of thoughts and feelings – raw emotion without judgment.  Guidance would probably fit better.  We need to set it out there and let it be what it is.  Don’t be surprised if this makes others uncomfortable.  Some may believe there’s just no sense it that, just pack that ugly stuff away and get on with the day.  But this just shortchanges one from true healing.  It works for the outsider, not for the one holding the bag.

First Impressions

As an adult, I have experienced faith, skepticism, questions and doubts,  agnosticism and a return to faith, though my faith looks different than before.  It lead me into some interesting places which can be read about in my public profile:         http://en.gravatar.com/joyaisthorpedesign       

I was not raised with a particular belief in God nor was I raised in Church, though I did occasionally  glimpse into the world of religion.  Here are some first impressions:

Since Childhood, Faith was summed up in a portrait illustration of Jesus hanging in my parent’s bedroom. His kind eyes seemed to follow me around, and it was nice to think he might be watching over things and thinking well of me.  He also hid in the pages of the Family Bible. After exhausting all forms of entertainment, my siblings and I knew a dull moment could be temporarily forgotten by hauling the monstrous book from the shelf and scanning over illustrations:

-Moses carted away in a makeshift boat;
-men in dresses, making their way with crooked sticks;
-Angry Lions, Disarmed Soldiers, Walls of water…

and there he’d be in his underwear, arms stretched out on two slabs of wood with his head bowled over.  looked pretty sad to me.
When I was around 6 or so, mom took us to a local Baptist church for a brief period of time where I received a charm bracelet. Each scripture verse memorized was worth one metal charm:  a  cameo in honor of the disciples, each whose metal cheek bore an engraved scripture reference.

When the memorization program ended, we had a party in the church basement with a special guest: “Dr. Shock,” the 1970’s late- night host of scary movies.  Protestant Churches are always using whatever attraction to draw the people in, and while we probably weren’t allowed to watch him at home, there he was in the flesh, and what kid could resist a man in black wearing bad eye-liner??  His swaggering voice invited us to join him in the front of the room where he would sign his autograph on the inside  of our Bibles.

“Mom, can we go…

no…

please?

NO…

I WANT TO…

I said NO!”

We took our place behind the other sheep,   holy book in hand with the words of Jesus written in red-  the grand prize for memorizing a bit of the content.
We broke at least one of the commandments that day.

Incidentally, I still have it – Signature intact.

A few years later, I attended a vacation Bible school hosted by my grandmother’s church.
I remember the classroom, the self-assured teacher, a classmate with a plaid dress, red Kool-Aid and being incredibly disoriented. I don’t remember any of the class content, because I was too busy trying to comprehend instructions. Which language is this teacher using, anyway? What did she say? It sounds like English, but something sifts and jumbles every word.

My Grandmother  lived in a Senior Citizen’s apartment complex, and one of her upstairs neighbors who wore a muumuu and beehive hairstyle was a hard-core evangelist.

She caught my eyes when I looked up at her from my Grandmother’s porch steps, and asked excitedly:

“Are you saved, girl? You know Jesus?”

Moments like this produced a mix of unexplained shame and curiosity.

My grandmother interrupted, shooing away the neighbor. She then looked at me through her screen door and said:
“Don’t pay any attention to her. She’s a nut.”