Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between how you feel and where God wants you to go.
I’ve taught myself time and time again never to trust my feelings, but to trust in what my mind tells me is right instead.
This way of thinking has led me to get through enough bad times and to accomplish a lot in life. I’ve come to trust it.
But I’m beginning to wonder if it’s kept me from good times.
Not to say I haven’t had good times. I’ve experienced amazing seasons of beautiful, moving times of happiness and contentment.
But, I’m talking about goodness from a place, deep in my heart, where I struggle with self-doubt.
Where I dare to dream of a different inner life — and I’m living free to pursue those dreams.
It’s where I struggle with feelings of unworthiness, even as I am grateful for all that I am and have — and I am thankful God chose to love me and call me His own.
Where I feel like I’m not quite good enough.
I decided to tell Dr. P that I wasn’t going to look for my father.
There simply was no reason to do so.
I’ve already been without a father since I was seven years old.
What’s the point?
He never came back to see me.
Not even once.
Not one letter.
Not even a birthday card.
I’ve often secretly wondered if maybe, just maybe my father had fallen ill.
What if he had cancer — or something death threatening?
Maybe that’s why he hadn’t come see me all these years.
Around junior high or high school age, a social worker helped my family and I by insisting that we get some sort of child support from my father.
He started paying $100 a month.
$100 a month?
I did the bills and balanced the check book often.
What in the world can $100 do for me? Is that all I’m worth to him?
Why wouldn’t he try to send me a little more, on my birthday?
I knew he wasn’t dead, because the checks kept coming.
I wanted to know more. But, I couldn’t ask.
The Last Time You Felt
“When’s the last time you felt this way?” Dr. P asked.
I told Dr. P I didn’t want to see my father. I can do it later — after I’ve recovered my ability to write my book.
Hello, do you remember? I thought to myself. I still have that contract hanging over my head. That I don’t want to default on. Like, I don’t want to miss this golden opportunity of a lifetime.
Let’s just put this on the back burner. I said nicely. (Let’s compromise) I just do not want to open this can of worms now, just as I’m beginning to finally, finally get some sleep.
“Well, let’s talk about why you don’t want to see him.” That was Dr. P’s response.
Arrrggh… I thought. Sometimes, I wish Dr. P wasn’t so good. The guy is relentless.
The interesting thing is, I’ve got this anxiety, panic attack physiological “shock” collar around me, so I know if I am unwilling to follow through on the therapy, I’ll have physiological symptoms to deal with. So, in that sense, I am very logical. I want to get well. So, I go along with this line of reasoning, if only to get him off my case.
I just don’t want to. Don’t have any desire. Don’t feel any need to.
“When’s the last time you felt this same way? Think back to the last time you said these words about your father.” Dr. P prompts.
I Didn’t Want To
I close my eyes. And think.
The morning after my father left, my mother asked me to come over to her.
She sat in the living, with our family photo albums pulled out, stacked on top of each other.
She told me, “Come here.”
She started opening up the photo albums, flipping through the plastic pages and pulling pictures out of pockets. The sound of film sticking to plastic tore through my pounding heart as memory upon memory were being ripped out of places.
“What are you doing?” I asked, sitting on my knees across from her.
“Start taking out pictures of him…” she commanded. She shot me a look that told me I better not ask why. “I don’t want any pictures of (his legal name) in this house. Not one. I don’t want to see his face any more.”
I don’t know why exactly, but, I didn’t want to do it.
It made my stomach feel heavy and empty all at the same time, seeing the missing gaps in photo albums I’d flipped through so many times in the living room, lying on my tummy, swinging my legs barefoot in back of me.
I didn’t want to take the pictures out.
But, she was already cutting up them up.
Into tiny shreds.
She made sure the shears cut straight into the faces, until there was no recollection of the images that were once there.
I held one last photo of my father, by the time we got to the end.
I paused thinking, Is there any way I could hide this one?
My mother looked up at me.
“What are you doing?”
“Do we have to cut all of them up? Can we keep just one?… I’m not in this one. You’re not in it either. It’s just one of him.”
“Why do you want want to keep one?” She asked me. A flicker of hope. I thought of a good reason, the only reason that surfaced in my confused heart.
“So I’ll know what he looked like.” I said it, just like that.
“Why do you want to remember what he looked like?” her eyes narrowed into me. Her voice sharp as those scissors in her hands.”Do you wanna go live with him?…”
She got up and started marching to the mustard yellow phone, hanging on the kitchen wall. “That’s what it is! You like him so much, why don’t you go with him then. Don’t live with me. Go pack your bags and I’ll just call him now. And he can come get you!”
“No, momma! No!” I screamed. I bolted from where I was at, instantly flying into sobs, pleading for my life. She had thrown me out on the porch before and threatened to throw me away to the orphanage that was down the street when I was younger. I knew without a shadow of a doubt she’d do it.
It was there, as I slumped over crying in hysterics, ears hot and stinging from choking tears, my mother said, “Don’t you ever talk about your father again. From this day forward, you don’t have a father. With a loser like him, you don’t need a father. Plenty of people grow up not having fathers. It’s just like some people born with handicaps, without limbs. People grow up and do just fine without them. ”
She paused to make sure it all sunk in, before she laid in her final words of warning.
“And don’t you ever complain about not having a daddy. If you have any problems in life, it ain’t gonna be because of me and it ain’t gonna be because you have no father. It’s gonna be because of you.”
Right then and there, I straightened up. I stopped crying. It came clear as a bell.
I don’t need a father. I don’t have a father. I’m going to be just fine.
I realized as I sat there, calm and strong, with tears all of a sudden stopped and no more, where my words originated from.
I realized I was still back there, reassured that nothing was wrong. And I was just fine.
I didn’t need any comfort. Nor any tenderness.
I just wanted to go on with the business of life and get back to a productive place — separated from my heart.
This is how I’ve lived my life. Fine and functioning — but frozen.
And now Jesus softly whispers into my winter landscape,”Come out, Bonnie.”
Like Lazarus, wrapped up in shrouds of linen, Jesus is asking me to emerge from where I’ve forgotten myself.
Out of touch with my heart, I feel awkward.
Who wants to look all bandaged up, disheveled and unmade?
Unsure of myself – every thought and feeling feels unfamiliar.
Why can’t I be sure before I follow my heart? I want to wait until I’ve figured it all out and I’m all healed up right and put back together again.
But, it seems there’s no other way of finding my heart, other than to experience and discover the truth of it’s leading me, with Jesus right beside me.
What is the right way to go?
What if this is all wrong?
What if I’m just imagining all this?
A Part of Ourselves
Jesus is whispering —
This is how spring feels like to winter.
I haven’t forgotten you.
I haven’t forgotten you.
The original English word for Lent is “spring”.
As I walk into the last two weeks of Lent, into Easter, I’m sensing the Lord turning my heart towards spring.
Jesus is prompting me to step out in a new way with Him.
It’s so much easier to take care of everyone, tend to problems, of business and everything else that’s needed.
It’s easier to be strong and to not need.
To not feel.
We’ve been taught that our feelings are not reliable, so just throw them to the wayside.
Trouble is, there is a part of ourselves that we throw to the side too.
Let’s not take the easier path.
Let’s take the harder path — paved by the new ways of faith.
Let us take those feelings and bring them to Jesus.
Let us speak to Him as friend to friend.
And let us see, how Jesus can speak to us in a new way —
in the voice of intimate, loving confidante,
where He can take our tears, and show us where they lead,
where He can gently show us tenderness, so we can whisper all we’ve dared never to share,
so we can learn that putting our hearts first is a new way of letting Jesus love us.
The Way of The Heart
Lent is about denying myself the comfort of old ways — of living out of my control and my safety — to discover the truth of where I would go, if I allowed myself to only have one safety: Jesus holding me.
This what I’m thinking when Dr. P prompts me to answer the next question.
“Now, I want you go back to the last time you were with your father…”
As I close my eyes, I’m wondering maybe… perhaps… the way of the heart is where Jesus is waiting for me.
To clasp my hand into His.
And begin walking back into the past.
So I can journey further than I’ve ever gone before.
So that I can be fully present.
With all of my heart.
On my journey of faith.
…To be continued…
…For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.’
How is Jesus whispering “spring” in you?
How is Jesus prompting your heart today, to take the harder path in new ways — with Him?
Pull up a chair. New is not easy, especially when it comes to our hearts. But, you’ve definitely made this journey a kinder and gentler one, with your presence here.
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*Next Thursday’s 3/21/13* Writing Prompt: It’s the last two weeks of Lent. Lent comes from old English word meaning “spring”. Imagine Jesus whispering the word “spring” into your heart. Reflect and share the thoughts and feelings that flow from hearing Jesus whisper “spring”.
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