A few months ago, I had an embarrassing incident with some wire hangers in my closet. I had set out to organize! cleanse! make all things new!
But the wire hangers, they were acting all privileged. Hogging too much room. Patriarchal, really. Wire hangers, as we all know, are EFFING MISOGYNISTS, AM I RIGHT????
Ahem. Forgive me, this will all make sense momentarily.
The Wire Hanger Meltdown was followed by The Pool Chair Incident. Because, obviously, Pool Chair is just another way of saying Cult Leader–especially when it refuses to properly recline and instead crashes down, landing your ass on the cement pool deck.
“Mommy, why are you crying?”
“BECAUSE THE EFFING CULT LEADER THREW ME ON THE GROUND!”
“You mean the pool chair?”
“No. I mean THE CULT LEADER.”
And that is what we call “My Rock Bottom Moment.” Clearly, I needed help. Probably this came as no surprise to anyone but myself.
I’d been getting emails. Messages. Tweets.
I don’t like your tone, Elizabeth. You sound different. You sound angry. Not all churches are cults, Elizabeth. Not all men are cult leaders. You’re being unfair, unkind, preposterous. Sometimes you have good things to say, Elizabeth, but your tone is so harsh. Why are you so bitter? Why can’t you just move on? Stop being such a victim, Elizabeth. Maybe you should write a disclaimer before you share your experiences because your abuse is not the norm. –Signed, A Caring Reader.
I mean, enough people tell you the same thing and you finally gotta check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Which I did. I checked myself right into an Online Timeout. I’ve been quiet lately.
Back to the story. I was angry. Very angry. Mostly, at God. And pastors. And churches. And apparently, pool chairs. Little League. Citibank. Wire hangers. Cult leaders. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start with the anger.
Anger is exhausting. I think I read that in the book of Revelation. Which is to say, when you’re angry, you view all of life through an angry filter. It was like I put on my angry glasses each morning and went hunting for Bad Pastors, Bad Churches and Bad Theology.
This is an exhausting way to live.
I don’t know whether my rock bottom was burnout, anxiety or generalized hysteria but I’m pretty sure it was a combination of all three. The Interwebz can you make you batshit cray, this we know.
Point is, I put my ass in timeout—oh, wait. I’ve already said this. This, you see, is what happens when you’re angry: you forget you’ve already said things and then you start repeating yourself over and over until people are like: yeah, yeah, we GET IT. YOU WERE ABUUUUSED.
I’ve been working a 12 step program. This is uncomfortable. Mainly, because at some point you have to stop talking about All The Ways You’ve Been Hurt and start taking responsibility for the ways you hurt others.
This is annoying. Also, profoundly difficult. I would really rather skip this part.
But I won’t. I’m gonna work it.
I’ve been wrestling with questions:
At what point does the victim become the abuser?
At what point does my anger no longer serve me?
I read this article about survivors of the Holocaust. The researcher was trying to find out why certain survivors went on to live meaningful, productive lives after all they’d endured? I can’t remember the details, but basically, it was that the survivors who lived long, meaningful lives maintained a deep faith and an optimistic spirit. They didn’t just define themselves by their awful experience, they proactively sought ways to make the world a better place for others–even if it was just their families.
A whole person cannot be solely defined by what she stands against. A whole person must stand for something, too.
I have lashed out, criticized, deconstructed, questioned and chided the religious powers that be. This was an important part of my journey and I honor it. But I made mistakes along the way and despite my good intentions, I have hurt people. I hurt myself.
I set out to organize! set right! cleanse! make all things new!
But I got entangled somehow. The weapons that were used against me I used against others.
The problem was not so-and-so-pastor or so-and-so-church. My mistake was playing whack-a-mole with every suspicious church or pastor that came across my radar. Sure, I can react, react, react all day. But then what?
In other words, what am I doing to build up the Church? What am I doing to edify and create new, healthy culture within the Church?
Criticism is necessary but it’s not enough.
I can’t build a culture of love and peace using weapons of hate and warfare.
I don’t have all the answers, here. But I want you to know I’m taking time to examine myself, to check my motives and sincerely seek to understand how I can use my words to effect positive change. Thank you for being patient with me…..