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The ‘C’ Word

My latest post in Provoketive Magazine, just published today, wasn’t actually a post I wanted to write. It may be a bit too lengthy, it raises questions to which I don’t have answers, and it gets personal. A little too personal, if you ask me. 

While I have tended to write about my experience with that ministry frequently on his blog, I don’t think I’ve ever really confronted the “is it or isn’t it” question that I raise in this article. For one thing, it’s embarrassing… how did I manage to get caught up in that for 8 years? Secondly, I don’t want to be defined by my experience there. But, the thing is, I did spend 8 years there. That’s almost a quarter of my life. Naturally, a lot of my stories are going to be from there.

A teaser:

There’s a  four-letter word getting thrown around a lot lately. It’s a word I’ve heard used flippantly, jokingly, and disparagingly. Admittedly, sometimes it seems like the most accurate, albeit inflammatory, word to use. Often this word is spoken, perhaps rightly so, by broken and hurting people out of pain and frustration. It’s a word that was used by a commenter on my previous post in Provoketive Magazine, Slap On a Little Lipstick, You’ll Be Fine. If I am being completely honest, it’s a word I’ve used, sometimes quickly out of anger, and a lot more cautiously after great deliberation.

That’s right, I am talking about the ‘C’ word: Cult.

Here’s a link to the whole dang thing:

I would like to say, while many of my humorous stories from my time at the ministry are negative, I do have positive memories. I will try to share some of those… maybe even later tonight. 



Aphorism THIS.

Given that I tend to be a woman of few words, and those (usually) very carefully chosen, one might think I was fond of aphorisms and pithy statements. I mean, all that meaning and emotion smashed into a tiny, compact little saying? A veritable treasure trove of wisdom!

Or not.

Actually, I can’t stand them. At first glance, they seem like wisdom:

  • A man is known by the company he keeps. (If this is true, how is Jesus known?)
  • Any port in a storm. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve encountered some ports that would have caused much more damage than simply weathering the storm).
  • Crime does not pay. (It can, if you don’t get caught).
  • Live every day as if it were your last. (If I did that, it probably would be my last day).
  • Opportunity never knocks twice. (Recent experience with my husband turning down one job opportunity only to have it offered again— and then accepting it—- proves this one may not always be accurate).

I’ll admit, I have occasionally been guilty of employing these seeming truths. In fact, most of them do contain some truth… but often with an equal measure of untruth. Life is just too complex and paradoxical to fit neatly into such simplistic phrases.

One particular “truism” that’s been grating on me lately is the following:

The greater the sorrow, the greater the joy”.

It’s such a bittersweet, yet comforting thought, really: If I go through extreme pain and sorrow in life, it means I will have greater joy and happiness in life. It puts life in a neat little “yin-yang” or karma box, where the bad will be equaled or counter-balanced by the good. 

Oh, if only life were that….balanced. In reality, some people encounter sorrow after sorrow, with very little joy- if any. Other people go through life experiencing very great joy without ever really experiencing an equal measure of sorrow. And yet other people go through life imagining every sorrow that could ever happen to them, living in deep fear and never experiencing the joy around them.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just splitting hairs. Regardless, there is some truth, and here is where I think it lies: If you numb yourself so that you will not feel sorrow, or anger, or pain, you will also be unable to feel happiness or joy. Numbness is, after all, devoid of feeling or sensation. So, to feel true joy, you have to be willing to feel sorrow as well.

During the last few years at The Ministry, I was pretty much a shell of myself. In order to survive, if you can even call it that, I buried every feeling of distrust, anger, depression, etc. deep in side of me. Being The Vault, I was not only gifted at keeping other people’s secrets, but I was also quite gifted at keeping my own thoughts and feelings a secret from everyone…including myself. Now, it really is difficult to completely numb oneself, as the feelings we deny end up fermenting like rotten fish (lutefisk, anyone?) inside of us. Eventually that lid is going to pop off, and whew! Watch out for the stench.

Even when I did start to admit that I had been and was angry and depressed at what had happened, I still denied myself the freedom to actually feel it. It was more of an intellectual exercise. I think I was afraid of what would happen if I did let myself feel it— especially the anger. Maybe I speak only for myself, but I think that it is common for Christians to think being angry is a sin. Let me assure you, it isn’t. It can however lead us to sin, if we don’t confront it head on.

I may have waited a little too long to uncork the anger lid, as I did say and do things I regret. Let’s not mince words: I was angry AND I sinned. Fortunately, where there is true repentance, there is forgiveness, and I have been able to let go and move on. And now I feel joy again. The kind of joy where you find yourself smiling for no reason. The kind of joy where you feel like dancing to your iPod down the middle of a crowded street. I haven’t actually done that, mind you, but I have been tempted.

Do I feel more joy now, because I have felt great anger and sorrow? No…but I do feel. And that, at this point, is better than fighting to remain numb.



The Adventure Begins

A lot of people seems to dread the big 3-0, preferring to remain 29 forever. That was not the case with me. My twenties, while better than my teens, were not exactly filled with rainbow colored gum drops raining down from unicorns in heaven. Don’t get me wrong, there were wonderful accomplishments and milestones along the way: I graduated from college with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Music Performance drop-out. Very shortly after graduating from college, I married Austin, the love of my life (and probably the only one who could happily put up with the shenanigans that will be chronicled herein). A few years later we had two beautiful children that keep me young and laughing— and also frequently frustrated and irritated (sometimes at them and sometimes at my own epic parenting fails).

During the same time period, I also experienced a lot of lows: like many, my first job fresh out of college was not the pinnacle of success and fulfillment that I had hoped. I was a pencil-pusher, processing background investigations for the government. Surprisingly, I know, this was not exactly my dream job. I did read some interesting background investigations (it is surprising how many people think they can hide a felony from a government background check), but the actual work was mind-numbingly boring and eventually non-existent. Two years later, I quit while on maternity leave, as I would have been laid off a month later anyway. They didn’t mind the short notice, and I didn’t mind not getting paid unemployment. Win-win.

Like many women, I also had some lows immediately following the births of my two children. While I never sought any help or really even talked to anyone about it, I’m pretty sure this went beyond the normal “baby blues”. I was pretty depressed for at least 6 months after each one was born. The second time around was compounded by a severe dislike of my job.

Ah, that job. The one that at first seemed more hopeful in the fulfillment department. A few months after the birth of my first child, the Christian ministry that Austin and I were apart of asked me to work in the office, and to boot, I could bring my then 3-month-old son with me to work! I was ecstatic! Granted, the work was still pretty boring— data entry and answering phones to begin with— but I could still be with my son AND I would be working for a Christian ministry I believed in and to which I felt called. Eventually I would be promoted to the Assistant to the Head of the Ministry, during which time I had my second child. If I have any regrets, it is that I did not quit that job after she was born. That entire pregnancy and the 6 months she spent with me in the office was like my own personal hell. I honestly try not to think about that period of time, because I really don’t know that I have any happy memories at all. It just makes me angry and sad. I tried to stick it out, and even worked through all or at least most of what happened with my boss. Eventually, however, the information I was privy to in that position led to my questioning a lot of other things done in the name of God by that ministry and subsequently whether I still was or ever really was called there.

I quit my job at that ministry a couple months shy of my 30th birthday. I was still torn by whether I was truly called there or not, so I was still struggling to at least stay on the team. However, a few days after I left my job, Austin received a call and voila! We were kicked off the team. While perhaps not the sole cause, that may at least be the catalyst for this experiment which I now embark upon. We were with that ministry for just over 7 years, so leaving so painfully and abruptly has left many questions. Like, did I just totally waste 7 years of my life? What the hey!!

So, I’ve decided to embark on my own little existential adventure…..hopefully we’ll find some answers along the way. Or at least have some fun trying. Let the adventure begin!