Monday, March 04, 2013

Our Journeys are Different But God is Still the Same

I don't always understand what direction God wants me to go and why he fills my heart with things that don't make sense to others (like getting married).

An example of this are good friends of mine in Canada who are devoted to ministry.  Tim was the assistant pastor at his church for years when he was given the message to move on.  He didn't have another job in ministry lined up but he had faith it would all work out by divine order.  He took a job as a broccoli farmer to support his family. I mean, broccoli farming? Seriously God?

It's been a really tough year. My heart is still broken. I have moments when I think it will never get fixed and will never be the same. Tracy Pepper is a different person.  But perhaps it needed to happen so that Tracy Pepper could emerge to become wiser, more cautious and capable of even bigger love than ever before.

I've been quietly venturing out after being hidden away for a year. I've connected with "old friends" who I thought were friends but who I haven't heard from for a year. God told me it was time.

He also told me it was time to go back to church - the same church I got married in. The church who hasn't reached out to me to see if I am okay. The church I'd been attending every Sunday for almost 6 years.  I'm not saying EVERYONE in the church hasn't reached out.  People don't seem to know what to say, so they say nothing and leave me to get on with things.  I'm a very strong person and so on the outside it looks like I'm doing alright.  But reach out and hug me and you'll probably feel that broken heart right through my chest.

I popped in on some friends unexpectedly. They made excuses for not being in touch. I understand, life gets busy. But this time when I saw them, my heart was raw. I was vulnerable and reaching out with understanding and forgiveness, but I just wasn't feeling the love. They were clearly really uncomfortable, making excuses and telling me about how busy their lives have been. They didn't ask how I was feeling because they weren't ready to hear the truth. They didn't even hug me good-bye.  And I was okay with that. It's the whole reason, season, lifetime scenario.  I don't feel any animosity.  I still think they are good people, very good people.  Their discomfort has everything yet nothing to do with me.

There have been a lot of changes at my church in the past year. We have a new vicar - a youthful vicar with a dashing smile and a family of 6 boys! He was an ex-policeman and school teacher. Seems like a pretty cool guy. But I don't really feel a connection with him.

I met with him to tell him that I was considering coming back and that I was really nervous about it because of the judgment I feel with a few of the older congregation. I told him that I felt humiliated after what happened. I also told him that I felt let down and was most hurt by the fact that our old vicar who married me and whom I felt a very close connection to hasn't called me. I would have thought that she might want to hear what happened and pray for me. But no.

The vicar got a little defensive. He first defended himself by saying that he had just come on the scene and didn't know me. Then he told me that he'd heard from others that they'd tried to get me to come back but I wasn't interested. Then he told me that since that's all happened, the church now has stricter policies about who they allow to get married in their facility and that everyone getting married there has to undergo a couples marriage workshop. Talk about making me feel worse. It confirmed how I was feeling - they feel I made a mockery of them.

I went to church on Sunday  I didn't really want to go but I said I would and I was going to keep to my word.  The place has changed. I have changed. God wouldn't even allow me to sing. I stood there feeling like I was in a foreign land and that the sermon (though it spoke to me) was in a foreign language. I welled up with tears as God said to my heart, "This is no longer your home." As I was leaving someone came over and asked me how married life was (just what I was dreading would happen).  I shook my head, the tears welling up in my eyes.  She smiled knowingly and said, "Too set in your ways are you?"  She didn't mean it maliciously.  But this is exactly what I'm talking about.  People assume and they judge.  They don't know the situation.  Why would she assume it was my decision to end it?

Jesus moved on, he didn't stay in one place. He spread the word of His Father and shared Himself, His Energy, His Stories, His Miracles with many, not just with one group. God told me very clearly that it was time to move on.

When in spiritual limbo, go surfing.

So I went surfing with CanTeen straight after the Sunday service and had the best day ever. Something opened up inside of me in that church. A chain broke. I felt free.

It's all very familiar.  This is what happened to my mom when I was diagnosed with cancer back in 1985.  My mom was always an outcast because she was a single mother with 5 children - and her youngest (me) born out of wedlock to a man almost a decade younger who wasn't her husband.  They didn't know the whole story - that her husband had beaten her to a pulp for 5 years and left her for another woman.  My mom paid no attention to the small minded judgement.  She kept to herself, she sang in the choir and she took us all to church every Sunday.

But when I was diagnosed with cancer our attendance at church dropped off.  I was too sick to attend public events because my immunity was so low.  No one from the church called to see if she needed help.  No one offered to make meals for my brothers and sisters when she was in Toronto with me for treatment.  No one offered to mow our lawns.  They sat back watching our family struggle.  Or perhaps they just turned their head without notice.  Why?  Because they didn't know what to say?

They said a lot of things about us, rumours spread and my friends would tell me what they heard their parents saying about my mom.  They said I got cancer because of my mother's sins.  I was embarrassed and felt such guilt and shame.  The church asked her to repent but she refused.  She disagreed with their dogma and their ridiculous judgments.  She couldn't believe that they would believe that God would punish me for something they knew absolutely nothing about.

My mother was raised by the Catholic church.  She attended Loretto Private School for girls and was taught by nuns.  She attended Sunday mass for 38 years.  And one day she stopped.  She never ever went back.  Today when I talk to her about God or church, you can hear the bitterness and disappointment in her voice.  She changed and she has never ever been the same.  Instead of turning to God, she turned to alcohol. I began to resent her, listening to the rumors the adults were spreading.  She needed my love but I turned my back on her and lost respect for her too.  Our family crumbled to bits. It's a tragedy and it makes me feel sad.  She became a badly broken woman.  A victim of abandonment due to misconceptions and judgment.  She suffered in silence for years.  Too proud and afraid to ask for help.

I became her enabler.  I covered up her drinking for years.  Too embarrassed and ashamed to tell anyone.  Her drinking overshadowed my cancer in my mind.  I had to care for her.  I had to care for myself.  In some weird way, she gave me a reason to live. Someone had to be responsible.  I grew up pretty fast and learned to rely only on myself.  I never ever felt like a victim.  I was a survivor.  This is how I became fiercely independent.

It just occurred to me that I am the very same age that my mother was at that time - 38 years old.  History seems to be repeating.  Now I understand just how abandoned, lost and alone my mother felt.  This gives me a greater understanding of what she went through.  It helps me to forgive her of her imperfections and to not make the same mistakes.  I won't blame God.  Religion is man made.  I go to church for the people and the feeling of "family".  I don't go to belong to a club or to feel important.  I go for basic spiritual needs.  If those needs aren't met, I'll keep searching until I find them.
Unconditional Love with my niece Emily

Here's the lesson I learned:

Unconditional love is rare and hard to find. Love itself is an illusion and often feels strongest when you are feeling good about yourself. Unconditional love happens when the love for yourself feels lost and unconditional love rises to help lift you up no matter how long it takes. Unconditional loves sees the beauty in you when you can't see it in yourself. The ones who turned their backs are the ones who only loved you when you were giving them something.

These lessons are important to learn. It's like spring cleaning your heart. Time to make room for more of the good stuff.

I have NO idea where life is taking me right now but I feel like I'm moving. Something big is going to happen. God told me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

U amaze me Trac, absolutely astounding. You write from the heart for all to see and share. You open yourself up in a way that few can do and do it so elloquently. One day I hope you compile all that you have written so far, all that you will write until that time when I can sit down in front of a roaring fire with a good wine and a warm throw on a chilly winters night and read the book I hope you write someday. I' ll b the first to buy it! Love from Canada and thank you for sharing another milestone in your life. Mel