Friday, July 27, 2007

Faith Story Part II -- Fear and Grace

To continue my faith story, rereading what I previously wrote I'm struck with how I glossed over the woundedness that I was yearning for religion to heal. Of course, it didn't. Not all at once, certainly. Religion did take me through the rest of high school and much of college. I'm grateful for that, and it gave me a foundation in religious studies, in a certain thin sense at that time. But the wounds of my childhood were deep.

The deepest wound was shame, feeling unloveable near my core--not at my core, an important distinction, I've learned. All my years of therapy and spiritual formation never uncovered anything dramatic in my childhood; it was all the subtle sort of emotional stuff that comes from my very strong "NF" personality (Myers Briggs) living in an otherwise strong "ST," and alcoholic, household.

Another wound was loneliness. So I learned to disregard my own needs and desires in order to please others and be the person I perceived others wanted me to be.

Fear was another wound.

  • Fear men. At times, my mother used me and my sister as emotional weapons against my father. That was when I was part of a three-against-one, which, for the child I was, felt pretty good.
  • Fear unacceptance. The unacceptance that came with not being as "pretty" as my mother and sister. That was when it was two-against-one, with me on the outside, which felt pretty awful.
  • Fear failure and fear being seen. Culture taught me that not-pretty girls could never be successful in life. So I learned to hide out. I was the "smart child" in my family, so I made good grades and tried to be as invisible as possible.

And there were other wounds. When I was in seminary I once wrote that I felt rather dead until I was in my thirties, but looking back now, I wouldn't put it that way. I think I was probably quite depressed as a teen, but there was always life and spirit there.

When I left home, rented my own apartment, and started working fulltime at 18, God's Freedom had more space within me to begin its healing ministry. Fear still reigned, but not enough to keep me from starting college at night and beginning to learn, ever so slightly, the fuller meaning of Life. The first flourishing of true Life began to stir within me.

I remember my mother saying to me once during this time, "Katy, where is this courage in you coming from? How did you figure all this out?" She was referring to the complicated system of registering for college classes in 1974. It was an honest and spontaneous question from her--very much who she was. She always thought I was so smart and competent. She was God's instrument of grace and healing in that respect, and I am grateful.

7 comments:

Jan said...

Katherine, thank you for your honest, heartfelt sharing. I ache for you. I see myself in your story and know we are sisters, as well as friends in Christ.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

mmmm... sometimes it is only in looking back we can see and be thankful for how much we have grown... and see God's grace in that too.

and then there are days to rip the rearview mirror off and drive on into the future with wild abandon...

oh I dream. :)

Diane said...

thank you for this... you are so wise, looking at your own life. glad your mother could hold a mirror up to you... help you see something good in yourself

RevDrKate said...

Isn't it incredible...the power that those things hold, the shame, the fear....and yet the strength and resilience that you found in yourself, in your ever-growing faith. Lovely post, thank you for sharing this.

Serena said...

"When I left home, rented my own apartment, and started working fulltime at 18, God's Freedom had more space within me to begin its healing ministry."

I so resonate with this statement, for me "God's Freedom had more space within me to begin its healing ministry" following my divorce.

As HC says, it's a blessing to look back and see God's grace and the growth

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