Friday, February 1, 2013

Focus on Your Pain, Your Past, & Your Parents

So, this world is pretty messed up. 

Everyone I know has some kind of hurt in their life which still opens fire every once in a while. Or every day. There are those deep waves beneath which we toss and turn, those wires that feel mismatched sometimes. I think we all feel it—this underlying brokenness that was never supposed to be. 

We all fight to attain the image in which we were originally fashioned, though often times we cannot articulate it just so. And sometimes, the battle in the waiting isn't so pretty. 

How do you fight when you don't know just what you're fighting for? And how do you know that you're not the only one when we all keep quiet in our searching and tell ourselves it's just us longing and no one will relate?

My growing up years were plagued in pain and hurts that still send me flailing about into adulthood. My past is ugly and shameful and dark. I screwed up and lot. My parents both love me but it has taken years to believe it because they didn't show it. I blame a lot of the pain on them and some of that is fair. 

I have friends that had amazing parents. Some who grew up rooted in purpose and established in love. Others who had an unnatural peace with their purpose in this world and they lived it intentionally. Not everyone has flopped around so much, but each of us has more pain. Even the most loving parents screw up. And I have never met one person to claim life-long perfection. So here we are, all of us focusing our attention on something. 

I remember the midnight searches that defined my youth, in the basement sitting behind that lit up screen, desperately scrolling through page after page trying to find any indication that I wan't the only one. Anything to tell me who I was because I heard who I wasn't all day long. That someone else was messed up too. I remember spending Friday nights at Border's, hours consumed in the self-help shelves, just searching. 

Was there was another girl anywhere in the world that didn't feel loved and hated herself for it? Desperate to know someone else tried to fill the void with food. Someone that thought to cut themselves to numb the pain before I did?Anyone who doesn't have it all figured out? Anyone? Knowing someone else was hurting too gave me hope, this odd confirmation that it wasn't over for me, this sense of belonging. We all want to. 

Soon enough, I belonged. An unknowing victim led astray via the self-help of the world. 

Our solution:  pile the shelves floor to ceiling with self-help books, just give her a pill (we can figure out what's wrong later), and maybe you should go to a counselor—for the next twenty years-ish. 

I still have a shelf or two of those books, I've been on pills for the pills over the years, and I sometimes I think I was raised talking to strangers on those couches that always seem to smell like grandma's. 

And truthfully, I dream of writing books that help girls and studied several years away in pursuit my very own smelly couch. I have a best friend that is about to go for her Master's in counseling and I encourage it because it's not all bad. 

And so we hunger for answers, fixes, and wholeness. In our desperation, we blame because it makes more sense that someone caused it then it does that it's just this abstract feeling that we can't get a grasp of, that something is broken but what? We are an instant gratification society and we want answers. We want quick fixes. And we want to be on top of the next best. We want to save the world and ourselves too. Today or tomorrow. If this is gunna make me feel even less, I'll take it. If reliving those years of his abuse will make it hurt less, I'll do it. If telling her I forgive will erase the memory, I forgive!

In counseling all those years it was most often breath spent focusing on these three. It's a funny triad, a three tiered web of intertwined madness. Especially when I focus on it, I go crazy. 

It's been four years this month—four years since I walked through the doors of Mercy, the place that really challenged me to think about what I think about. Does that make sense? 

I had spent nearly two decades focused on my pain, my past and my parents. Generally (with a few exceptions of course) every website, every book, every counselor and doctor—their approaches differed yet their solutions coincided—look deeper within yourself because that's the only way you'll overcome the pain, relive your past until it explains why you do the things you do now, oh and most of it is your parents fault, but you should forgive them just never forget. 

In other treatment programs and hospital stays, I had always been encouraged to share the depths of my darkness from the past and present. I can remember being reprimanded in one inpatient stay for saying that I didn't think my bulimia was all my mom's fault. We bonded over our issues in treatment, and competed. I never would have known how to abuse laxatives if it weren't for another girl in treatment teaching me. I called them friends but we all just used each other to prove who could be better at dying. I don't think I ever would have come that close if they hadn't paved the way, encouraged me deeper into myself, my very messed up self.

But now this place was telling me I couldn't bond with the others over my past sin. In fact, we were encouraged not to tell one another why we were there until graduation, a day of celebrating God's redemption of the pain. Living in a home for young women with life controlling issues would make it so easy to find hope in others' brokenness, the way I had much of my life, to go down together, so to speak. I think this is one huge reason for Mercy's 93% success rate. They simply change the focus. There is a time and a place for wrestling through the pain, the past, and parents. But that time comes once a week in the wisdom of a counselor with a different focus. 

This idea that we must look deeper into ourselves to find strength needed to overcome is actually quite contradictory if you think about it. If I am born with a sinful nature (no one ever has to teach me how to lie), then would it really make sense that the strength to overcome could come from somewhere deeper down? Personally, I don't think so. I don't know about you, but the deeper down I get into myself, the more I realize just how messed up I am! Strength to overcome myself has to come from something greater, someone bigger then me. Someone not so messed up like me. Reliving the pain over and over again just makes me hurt more. And focusing on the past only keeps me from experiencing God's grace which is sufficient only for today. And truthfully, dwelling back there makes me forget to live now—it makes me forget who I am now and the way that God is redeeming. The past can blind us.

I came home from St. Louis last week really obsessed with food again. I tried a few days down that road too—well, it still didn't work. This was all after my mom paraded my slimmer body around and told me how jealous she was. After she told my step-dad to look at me and marvel. All I heard was how ugly I must have been before I lost some weight. It was a man admiring my beauty that made me want to eat it away. It set something off in me, something engrained in my deepest pain, my past, and both of my parents. 

These days, freedom for me is coming in "forgetting" my pain, my past, and my parents and "focusing" on the only one bigger then myself, the only perfect one—the one who formed my inners in the darkness and has been light ever since. 

It's not that I never think about this triad or will forget it all together. I talk about it when I need to, but not like I used to. Thinking too much is always destructive, I'm learning. Sometimes we just have to stop thinking and proclaim what is true. The Truth is active now, no matter what used to be so we have to fix our eyes on something more because the past isn't changing—it might never hurt less and your parents might always have something to do with it and yet there is a way out. 

When the Israelites were headed to the promise land, they got mad and cursed God. Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the desert where there is no food? They cried out. So God sent venomous snakes among them and many died. Moses prayed for the people and God told him to make a snake and put it on a pole. Then anyone who got bitten can look at it and live.

When this journey out of the past seems hopeless and when your parents spew venom that stings, fix your eyes upon the man nailed to the pole. When you look at Him, you will live. 

No comments:

Post a Comment