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I have driven some roads so often that they become like grooves or ruts in my subconscious, and if my mind is working on a tricky problem, I may end up on my home street with an empty tank instead of at the gas station where I was headed.  At the other end of the spectrum are those places I have been once or twice a long time back.  The first turn off the main road seems right… I think I remember that red mailbox… was the street named Malcolm or Mercury or… Whitmore?… wait, this is not right, I’ll try the other street.  If I am in the countryside, low on gas, and out of cellphone range, anxiety starts pricking my stomach… and rural routes are often unmarked, on signs as well as maps.

That contrast reflects my history.  I lived most of my life following the clear, unambiguous way, The Plan, until it ran me smack into the wall.  But once I realized the way ahead was not obvious, certain, simple, or predictable, I couldn’t figure out what to do.  I have a general sense of direction and a rough idea of how to proceed, but am thoroughly befuddled about how to make daily choices.  I don’t do well with ambiguity.  It makes me feel insecure, confused, and tired.  In the past, my certainty protected me, but I can no longer trust that crutch.  Some folks might advise to “just let it go,” allow myself to muddle through and make mistakes, but I don’t have enough emotional capital to freely make mistakes.  Every time I make a wrong turn, I run out of gas and clunk to a halt or avoid running out of gas by dropping to a crawl.

One of the serious handicaps I work with is a history of denying, ignoring, shaming, and attacking my own needs and desires.  By the time I reached adulthood, I no longer knew what was or was not good for my soul, or rather I strongly believed that the poison I constantly fed myself was the best of vitamins.  After 40 years of feeding myself a smorgasbord of shame, I am tone deaf to my own needs, and every choice seems to be lined with pitfalls.  If I push myself to do some unwanted task, will I be stoking the lie that the task is more important than I am… or conversely, if I resist doing the task will I be setting myself up for self-judgment about irresponsibility.  Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. 

The healthy third way is for me to dig down into the reason I feel reluctant to do the deed, feel compassion for my personal wants, needs, fears, confusion (i.e. receive the grace of God for who I am and what I am in right now), and out of that settled security, choose one way or the other.  Unfortunately my grasp of God’s grace is never “settled,” but is tangled up with a lifetime of skewed perspectives, twisted dynamics, and profoundly ingrained feelings.  The best faith I can muster is usually a mixed affair, and in such a situation, neither decision is going to work out well.  That is to say, down either path I will find myself fighting against a new pressure to feel shame.  Even if I come out on top of that fight, I will be exhausted, and have little strength for the next round.  In the main, I am growing in grace, but so slowly and with such toll that I usually feel I am barely holding on.

I do have eddies of peace or splashes of joy along the way, but that is not the flow of my life, and no amount of positive thinking will make it so.  My hope is that grace will one day make a deep and strong enough current in my heart to buoy me through the rapids.

It helps to talk about it.  Thanks for listening.


Posted February 16, 2011 by janathangrace in Uncategorized

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