Torn

lampshades

Me and my sister

I was liked more when I was all pride.  And sometimes, like now, I even find myself missing those carefree, sans sacrifice days.  There was always someone there to be drunk on life with, living for the moment and our senses only, shooting the shit, disregarding the state of the rest of the world for a few belligerent laughs and the sense that we were loved, and not alone.

It’s especially difficult to be around my family now, the family I grew up with: parents and three younger siblings.  Not that this is unique to the Christian or to anyone really, for as far as Christ is concerned, he said that he will be a divider among families; and just read any good novel to learn the intricacies and complexities within the nuclear family, regardless spiritual affiliation.  Still, I want to try and summon hope that maybe our relations don’t have to be forever strained due to lifestyle choices.  Let me just say that I was raised with a lot of self-confidence.  I was good at sports, music, pretty much all of my school subjects, and had an active social life, throughout high school especially.  I always worked part-time jobs while in school (high school and college) and felt I could get along with everyone from unsatisfied patrons to the Mexican cooks in the kitchen; from my softball teammates to the opponents we were playing; from my large circle of friends to their much more interesting parents.  Because of these accomplishments, I felt that I was a good role model for my siblings; and because I felt I had a lot going for me, I never doubted that life would continue this way, culminating in a, vague-yes, but satisfying career that would help “create a better world.”

I won’t get into the details now, but this all crumbled (faulty foundations) when Christ made himself known to me when I was twenty-four.  I immediately saw the shallowness of those shards of ego upon which I had relied my whole life.  And suddenly I was left bereft of my whole personality that was instantly burnt like a tissue paper aflame when God touched it.  When I opened my mouth to try and convey something, I literally stuttered or fell silent.  My memories were drowned and I could no longer remember what my friends and I had talked about or laughed about all of those countless drunken days.  This was the tempest that I so badly wanted to avoid and so badly needed at the same time.

Some of my poetry describes this anguished dark night of the soul, where I was dead to my old self but still not committed to giving Jesus a kiss on the cheek.  (During those years– yes, four long years– Jesus would come to me every once in awhile in my dreams and ask for a kiss on the cheek, but I would turn away, having scorned Christianity in my elevated self-esteem and hedonism of those younger days.)  But what I really want to say now is how, now four years after accepting the Holy Spirit into my heart in my spiritual baptism, my relationships (besides with my husband and daughter) still seem hollow and forlorn.

First of all, I know I’m not a success as seen through the cataracts of the world’s eyes.  To relinquish all control, accumulated intelligence, jocular interactions, and adventures for adventure’s sake, and say, “Here I am, Lord,” is not something the world sees as ‘fit behavior’, speaking in its preferred evolutionary dialect.  And I don’t expect anyone, besides those with similar experiences, to understand or even want to understand.  I was just like those children of the world once, thinking, “How can anyone believe in God, when there’s so much evidence and reasoning against it?”  So as a failure, I continue my journey of the cross, quietly staying at home with the babies, doing God’s work for me.  I know with deep conviction that what I’m doing is fulfilling that old vision of “creating a better world,” but I’m not going to try and convince the world of that.  That would be like trying to convince them of the existence of God, a fruitless conversation.

So yes, the microcosm of the world exists in my family.  I don’t think any of them: mother, step-father, father, step-mother, sister, brother, but possibly the exception of my youngest brother, can say they’re proud of my choices.  My sister is a driven, business-oriented woman who rock-climbs or mountain-bikes on weekends and still regularly gets together with her group of friends.  My middle brother is always off on some “epic” world excursion and has the kind of magnetic personality that makes him popular anywhere he goes.  My mother was a stay-at-home mom who regrets it.  My father was educated at Harvard and he and his wife are prominent fund-raisers in Denver’s philanthropy community.  My youngest brother is the only one I feel may see me for who I really am, but he currently lives in New Zealand with his wife and I barely ever get to spend time with him.  Family time makes me very nervous as I just feel so small, having so little to offer, and this goes for most of my husband’s family too.  To tell you the truth, I am very nervous about making friends because I feel too precarious based on the fluctuations of my past.  Friendships can be so volatile and can burn up in a second if they are not based on God’s unconditional love.

Despite all of this relatively new humility that graces my life on a daily basis, I do hope that as I mature in Christ and in my faith, the nervousness will dwindle and people (quality, not quantity) will like me for who I am, as a child of God, and will maybe even grow an inkling of curiosity as to why I chose to make certain sacrifices for the promise of eternal life.

Does anyone else also have these insecurities around the people who supposedly love you through thick and thin?  How do you start a friendship based on authenticity?

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21 comments

  1. Saturated In Seattle · April 22, 2016

    Ok, this might be my favorite post! My up bringing was alllllllll Christian and legalistic, and like a moth to a flame, I was to the world. I was the black sheep of my family—and even still, after my return to the Lord, they don’t expect much of me. I know my identity doesn’t come from them or even from the things I do—but from Who Christ says I am, it still hurts. I am still learning to live peacefully in this identity!
    Authentic friendships are hard—in the Christian community—seemingly harder because so many people wear masks. There’s a fear in being seen, really seen. I have few close friends and they took forever to make. Without a doubt, you and I would be such good friends, if we lived closer to one another. You’re a kindred heart for sure! But, I’ll settle for this wonderful connection through technology!
    Praying your rock-climbing and camping trip with your sister went well and that you were able to have meaningful conversations, drawing closer in friendship.

    • gospelisosceles · April 26, 2016

      It’s surprising to hear that, after all you’ve been through and have clearly made choices that show you are bearing the cross with Christ and not just talking about it, you say members of your family still don’t expect much from you. I know my biggest hope for my own children is for them to discover their eternal identities in God through their salvation. If I were your family, especially having brought you up Christian, I would be extremely happy that you have chosen to live out your convictions and inspire your own family and many others daily. I would rejoice!

      Yes, I remember you wrote about friendships, and you are truly blessed to have a friend who laid out the no-BS, let’s-not-be-polite perfunctories on which many friendships are formed. My mother has one friend whom she’s known since the third-grade. They talk on the phone just about every day and see each other at least once a year, despite the great distance that separates them. I think this is the most awesome thing, and I pray to be part of a close friendship like that.

      Thanks, soul sister!

  2. Way Past Due · April 23, 2016

    Wow. Just, wow!

    I experience this but from the exact other side of this pancake! I was once a Christian, surrounded by like-minded persons who affirmed every Christian lifestyle choice I made. Then I left the faith and now wonder when I gather with family or old friends, if I will be accepted in my most honest state.

    My brother-in-law insists on making his Christian point known at every opportunity. He’s aware that I’m no longer a Christian, but has never shown an “inkling of curiosity as to why I chose” to leave. He’ll wax on about his unwavering faith and belief in God’s Word with expectation that his words will somehow win me back. At least, it appears to be his motive.

    Indeed, how does one show graciousness in circumstances like that? In my interactions with those I love, I want to make sure my love and respect outshines the belief system they may hold that I don’t respect. All with honesty and integrity. It is a tricky tightrope we walk!

    Thanks for the post! Always enjoy your poetic style.

    • gospelisosceles · April 26, 2016

      That’s just it: how do we make sure love and respect outshines all the rest? I am very aware that if this doesn’t happen, my conversion and identity in God doesn’t mean anything, for loving our neighbors is true religion. Do you still believe in this word of Christ?

      I hope you will soon have a meaningful connection with your brother, one based on unconditional love.

      • Way Past Due · April 27, 2016

        I believe very much in loving people, and in extending kindness. But the word “religion” is defined as “the belief in a god or in a group of gods” and “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods”. So, no. Loving our neighbors is not true religion by definition. It’s a heckuva great thing to do as a human, tho!!! :o)

        • gospelisosceles · April 27, 2016

          I was just referring to what Jesus said of ‘religion’: being family to the sick, downtrodden and those who are alone.

      • Way Past Due · April 27, 2016

        Are you referring to James 1:27?

      • Way Past Due · April 27, 2016

        Jesus didn’t actually say the words found in James. But I certainly believe in being kind and helpful to orphans, widows and the downtrodden. I don’t think it takes religion to do that, though.

        • gospelisosceles · April 27, 2016

          I think we can infer from his life that he did speak these words, if not with his mouth than with his ways. This is the problem with those who only adhere to what we see written in the Bible, and you probably would agree: there is SO much more to find ‘written’ in the spaces.

          • Way Past Due · April 27, 2016

            Will you clarify: “….there is SO much more to find ‘written’ in the spaces.” (I’m running slow today). :o/

  3. Anonymous · April 23, 2016

    Precious Amya. This is Anna. I too struggle and how much older am I than you? Your grandmother/great-grandmother’s age? You hit a cord in my soul.
    The exact word inserted in a smooth flowing thought/sentence, pounds on my heart and opens my mind. I didn’t make a nore of examples, but I can say this is a good post because of the word pictures you paint with a sensative heaert: transparent.

  4. Cheryl Ruffing · April 24, 2016

    I understand what you’re saying. Most of my life has been spent making sure I say and do the right things at the right time; after all, I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve had to withdraw more and more. It seems as though it’s always OK for someone else to tell me exactly what they think (usually of me), but they won’t stick around to listen when I start talking. So, I don’t talk much anymore. I’ve created and deleted many, many blogs, because I could never create one that was authentic. I was always too worried about my audience. Well, I may have finally found my voice and my home on the internet. You liked one of my poems on Fragrance that the Violet Sheds, which is my poetry blog (that has been a blessing in its own way), but just a few days ago, I created a place that feels like home. If you’d like to visit, you can do so at http://www.theruffdraft.com/ If you feel comfortable there, feel free to drop by whenever it’s good for you.

    • gospelisosceles · April 26, 2016

      I appreciate your thoughts on this and am glad you are finding an authentic voice. I found your comment on a Peter Notehelfer poem intriguing and so wanted to read your words. Thank you for the link to your new page, but for some reason I couldn’t find the ‘follow’ button that usually pops up in the lower right.

  5. inigo rey · April 26, 2016

    Just a few stray, fallible thoughts…I still try to cope with the same uncertainties and I am as old as Methusela….

    Authenticity is a product of trust, and trust takes time. Learning what a potential friend needs takes time too. I can’t tell you what path you will follow, and how much more ‘night’ you will experience. Maybe it will come in small instalments. I think that is to be preferred to the alternative.

    In Hindu lands they have a greeting:” Namaste” – Hail to the Divine/God in you. Hard to get into the habit of seeing both the person at the place where they are and the Christ, who is also there, but is one with the person they may/should become. You can identify with your friends aspirations: ambitions and hopes and hope with and for them, but also in that hoping, identify most with that aspect of them that Jesus does. The old saying is that grace builds on nature. There are not two, separate, futures but one where perhaps someone wants to be a good…nurse, musician, poet etc, and you can hope with them, but go further, hope and pray that they will be a nurse, musician, poet or whatever with and for Jesus. Which doesn’t mean that they should play only gospel music, nurse lepers, or write hymns. Just a very good empathic nurse, an accomplished musician, an expressive poet will do. The other will come through it all quite naturally, without forcing, I believe. And that is what authenticity means.

    Thank you.

  6. PursuePeaceBlog · April 27, 2016

    Love love love love. Absolutely amazing post!!!!!

  7. turhonmcdowell · April 27, 2016

    Hey mind sending me an email so you and i can work on some poetry? My email is turhon23@gmail.com i hope to hear from you

  8. canach · July 20, 2016

    Finally found your blog (again). I can identify with a lot of this. Family relations have at times been difficult because of decisions I’ve made regarding but I am beginning to care a lot more about my family than I did before. Becoming Catholic has been very lonely experience at times, but recently I have been more able to accept the way things are, rather than trying to fit them into a mould of what I think should happen, and that’s opened up new connections. When my children were small, I found informal toddler groups a really good way to meet other parents who weren’t working full time.

    • Gospel Isosceles · October 18

      Thank you Canach. It seems from your posts that you struggle a lot with this same walk in the faith. I am glad you found this post and I hope God will bless you with the feeling of his love (his love which is always there.)

  9. Anonymous · October 15

    Howdy Stranger, this is quite an outlet for both you and your audience to gather together around a thorny topic and make it therapeutic. As the youngest brother, I wanted to let you know that I am happy you’ve taken this path but my rationale can’t possibly be as lucid as you’re maybe hoping to hear. Simply stated: I think life is a big, big thing to go through everyday. It is challenging, disheartening (on occasion), sinusoidal, and, crucially, time-sensitive so you have certainly don’t want to miss out on the joy to be found and the answers to be sought (life after death?). Well, I have always viewed you at the top of that totem pole of getting a lot out of your life. Your writing is continual evidence that your mind is full, and that’s not even touching on the content of your heart yet! But I am speaking from an objective stance on how I gauge your decisions.. who you are to me when we talk or meet. Coincidentally (or not so much), I feel much the same anxiety about how our family affects me, even from afar. This is something I have only just begun to understand in my own way as I grow (again, only the materially–not even touching on spiritually). Broadly, I carry the notion that our family is seriously busted, ya know? Not like FUBAR or nuthin, but just sort of.. out of service.. something’s definitely busted about us as a family. And the most painful part about it is that we have ALL denied it and defended it and tried to maintain it most of our lives. We’ve been stubborn to admit just how awful we function as a family, due in part to how different we all are (through now fault of our own), but also due to our slack approach to love, listening, understanding. Credit where credit’s due, but we did not get here–anxious to meet, cold to eachother’s plea for companionship, etc–by trying very hard to avoid these inevitabilities. I love M. He has that spirit, I love B. She has layers of sophistication and mystery miles deep. T. He speaks warmly like noodle soup (though I cannot help question his sincerity). And C. What I know is that she worked hard.. Like hard hard and I wish I could go back and show her how much I respect her effort given all that led up to it. Lastly you: I am proud to read your cutting lines because they carry the weight of all humanity as far as I’m concerned.. Like you said, family is a microcosm, right? And I am a very limited being with humility on my list of maybe two true attributes. What I mean is that perhaps I believe you and I share the gift of recognizing grains of wisdom that blow our direction from all corners of our culture, geography, and literature..Well. you at least seem to recognize the importance of literature whereas I have taken a different approach and I tend to favor..hmm, nature, I guess. (Ahh the glorious SW.) I was happy to read that you held out for me in this piece, albeit potentially relinquishing a shred of power that came from the message by doing so. Just know that, for now at least, I see our family much in the same way you do, however, in this case what is broken can probably be fixed over time. I am trying to show compassion right now for all sides of the spectrum because what I think I see is pain and it takes a bit of courage to overcome this kind of pain. You have begun publishing these writings, without which…well, I’d know a lot less about how you felt. So thank you for showing me that we are capable of that kind of courage. God bless you and J, and Q, and S.

    • Gospel Isosceles · January 28

      B. It has been my dream, one of the only tangible goals in sinusoidal life (in most everything I lack vision and just declare, “God, work through me.”) to heal our family, or at least be a conduit for healing. And then the community, nation, world. But it is imperative that I start with the family because you know I believe in the cosmos and that every choice matters. Every minute thing we do can be magnified by God. Choosing to reflect on harsh criticism from C, for instance, rather than immediately assuming the position of just-as-harsh defense –or offense– can directly affect a General, say, deciding against bombing an entire village with Agent Orange. Our words, actions, meditations, they matter. And I haven’t been successful in even trying to make that dream a reality.
      When I am tuned out for my deep faith, told I am being judgmental, disregarded for making irrational decisions; I become discouraged and the wound of the heart reopens. How can we establish a place of understanding and empathy if we can’t accept one another’s perspectives as (God-given, in my case) truths? Do you see this ugly fissure on C’s side of the family, due to differing political and religious allegiances? Things are so broken, and without any effort going toward difficult remediation and peace, they will not piece themselves back together with time. That takes conscious effort. Will you pray for this to happen? For the softening of hearts and for our family to want to understand the roads each have traveled? I respect your journey even if I haven’t always been there for you, and I would greatly welcome any ideas you have for this healing to occur. Yes, you are humble. I would add honest and most of all, you are kind, B. Your kindness draws people to you and brings out the long suppressed kindness in them. Therefore you are needed more than ever in a world that is crumbling by the minute. I don’t know if you feel the tension in NZ, but half the country is terrorized by the one who is supposed to lead.
      I also don’t know if you will see this long overdue response, but I will share with you a personal trauma that has messed with my mind and also has unexpectedly taught me about love. The only thing needed to heal. I love you, B.
      https://gospelisosceles.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/let-there-be-a-penitent-rapist/

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