I heard the word “strive” six times at church on Sunday. The idea of striving — of trying, of struggling — is a bulwark tradition of our faith. We are an industrious bunch, like bees in a beehive (except for those worthless drones.) Some of you will recognize one of the temple recommend questions in the words Do you strive . . .? I always cringe at the question. Because I know the “right” answer is Yes. But I can’t say Yes. I say, “No. I don’t really “strive”. It’s counterproductive for me. I simply nurture my divine desires and then I surrender to God the best I can.”
I grew up Protestant and was taught a somewhat different view of Jesus than the one most Mormons hold. Though I eventually decided Protestant doctrine was too full of holes to feed my spirit adequately, on this point about Jesus, I think they have it right. We talk a lot in the LDS church about “coming to Christ” and fully recognize His role as our Savior, but it has always puzzled me that many Mormons seem wary of phrases like “born again” or “baptized by fire” or “having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” even though our scriptures are full of such phrases and it is clear Mormon doctrine that we must be born again to truly belong to Christ. Continue reading CHOOSING JESUS
My sophomore year of college, I decided to take piano as a class. Breaks from school spent at my parents’ house and around their piano reminded me how much I missed it, so I registered with a teacher and took my piano books from high school back with me, on the plane.
My first lesson was spent playing for the teacher songs that I knew, and we made our way through the books flipping pages and playing until the page turns began to reveal songs I hadn’t learned yet, and it was as simple as that flick of a wrist that introduced me to Golliwog’s Cake Walk. From the Debussy Children’s Corner book. Alfred Edition. Page 28.
The pianos were located off the gym in a bank of small side-by-side rooms that from the outside looked like a long hallway of doors in a row. As I settled in to practice one early morning, I was innocent of the frustration before me, hurrying to fit a run and breakfast and a few minutes at the piano with time enough left over to intercept a kiss from my beau while he crossed the campus to his first class. I had thrown frayed jeans on over my shorts, a thermal with a big hole in the shoulder (college poverty and not a fashion statement) over my tank, my flustered-hair was sticking 45 ways out of an elastic, and as the flaccid banana peel I had dropped in the tray next to my music started to brown and turn, I attempted to play.
It was apparent immediately that I might not make it out of there in time for that kiss. The counting was too much, the song too odd. It was apparent a few minutes after that, that I realized the good chance of not mastering this song EVER on the ivories. I paused, hopeless, just long enough to think a mishmash of “please” and “now what,” when suddenly, in the practice room next door, someone played the entire piece of Golliwog’s Cake Walk, beginning to end, in perfection.
I listened, agape. I listened in a dawn of relief and realization. I listened to the foreign melody of it and committed that to memory.
As the piece was finished in a perfect flourish of thirty second notes and staccato and flats, I came back to the reality of what had just happened and felt a wave of embarrassment that someone else—someone TALENTED—had heard my flailing and failing and knew I needed an intervention. I waited a good 10 minutes in silence just to not “accidentally” bump into the maestro in the hall.
But as I waited I started to think beyond the reality of it. I thought of the fantastic—the disembodied actualization of a need I hadn’t even uttered, the need of a frame of reference, an example, something to go on. I needed to hear, and I heard. And the gift of the right song from places unseen, at that moment, was nothing short of a miracle.
My God is a god of small things. He’s in the details. He knows who I am and he knows exactly what I need, when I need it. And He showed me that, by revealing himself outside a holy place, in a asylum-like room that smelled sweetly of bananas, to a sweaty, distracted girl, who wasn’t necessarily ready to meet him that morning, but met him nonetheless.
A blogger I follow recently wrote for the first time about the abuse she experienced growing up. For 30 years she’s managed to shove it beneath the surface of her life without ever talking about it or addressing it. And she has done an amazing job of it. Despite those damaging experiences, she is a happily married mother, a successful medical doctor, and a witty and gifted writer. But the past finally caught up with her and through a series of unexpected events involving helping an exchange student, she recently found herself no longer able to avoid venturing into the murky, uncharted waters of her past.
Venturing in is terrifying. It’s painful. And it’s scary to let oneself be vulnerable, but it is absolutely requisite for healing. I know, because I’ve been there myself.
I rarely comment on blog posts, but I felt like I should respond to her courageous post with some of my thoughts. Little did I know how much they’d resonate with her. That she’d print them out and highlight parts and carry them around with her. That when she wakes up in the night in a panic, she’d reread those words to calm herself down. She shared how much she appreciated the support and insights as she embarks on this path.
She is not LDS, in fact I believe she’s an atheist, so my comments don’t get into the role the atonement plays in overcoming hard things, but I know there are countless people who’ve had similar struggles, who may be in need of a boost right now. So it is with that premise that I share the comment I wrote to her that day. And I apologize for its length, but I felt impressed that this is a discussion that may benefit some readers of this blog, too.
You’ve been in my RSS feed for years and years, and I almost never comment. But these two posts merit it. I just didn’t have sufficient time when I read your first one.
I’m probably just a little bit ahead of you, on the same road. I felt paranoid for years that if people knew about my past, that it would mean all the horribleness I had inside me would be actually true. That I was really just an impostor in my own life, faking being awesome (and doing a poor job of it mostly).
I’d spent considerable energy growing up trying to be accepted, to figure out how to be popular, become someone else–anyone else–just as long as it wasn’t “that girl”, the one that had experienced those things. I was in huge denial about my reality. Experiencing these things resulted in me being one of those easy-targets at school and elsewhere, including my church. I didn’t know why my peers were so mean. They just were. One therapist explained that kids are like sharks…they smell blood in the water and sense an easy target; going in for the kill is almost instinctual. Maybe that’s it, but either way, between home, school and church I was neglected, abused, bullied, beat up, ridiculed and shunned as a kid. Early on I came to believe I was as ugly and worthless as “they” claimed.
But I survived, and once I left home I met a really wonderful guy and while he seemed to be aware of a lot of my loose ends, he truly loved me anyway (we’ve been together for 25 years now). For the first time I had a relationship that was “safe”, and thus I was able to stop expending energy trying to maintain my facade, and use it to start healing.
Over time, I have learned that not all therapists are created equal. It took seeing about ten of them over the past 25 years to realize that. I didn’t know how helpful a therapist could be til I found one that actually was, and that has made ALL the difference. I’m growing and healing so much faster now. There is an end in sight to all of this. In the past I talked for the 50 minutes, paid my $100 and left. There wasn’t a whole lot of insight or progress and I assumed I’d probably need help forever. Find a therapist who does more than listen and ask how does that make you feel? A good girlfriend will do that for you for free
Writing, especially in your case where you’ve been doing so anonymously all these years, should be really helpful not only to you, but to a number of your myriad readers. And that feels REALLY great, to know that some good will come out of this by way of helping other people get through their own pain. You’ve already experienced a taste of that with the exchange student. You are brave and strong and good and amazing and funny and talented and have an excellent support network, so I’m confident you will be able to go through this journey and emerge stronger and even more amazing, with wisdom and perspective to help others you encounter. It won’t make the bad stuff good, but it creates beauty from ashes.
Life isn’t fair. Sometimes it’s sad. Not just for people who’ve been abused, but for every one of us. Learning to take the sad moment and grieve the pain, but not let it become a cesspool you hang out in, is one of the keys. What we dwell on, we dwell in. So give yourself the moment, cry the tears, allow the pain to vent, and carry on. It’s part of the grieving process…which is really what this is all about; acknowledging what happened, how it has made you feel and impacted your life, putting things in perspective, letting go and moving forward.
Sounds easy on paper. It’s actually a cyclical journey that takes time, with progress and setbacks all along the way. But meanwhile you are making the world a better place just by being in it and not perpetuating those things upon the next generation.
The thing that tipped me, that finally gave me the courage to address my own past, was Jeanette Wall’s best-selling memoir The Glass Castle. It kind of gave me a map. Before reading it, I thought that if my past were true, (ie: if I acknowledged it), it would mean I really was damaged goods, worthless, and no one would want to be friends with me. I didn’t want to be labeled victim. I didn’t want to hang out with victims or be classified as in that “group”. I didn’t want that to become my identity.
But when I read her story, I closed the book wishing we were real life friends. I didn’t view her as a victim, or surviver, or anything other than one dang amazingly cool person that I’d really enjoy knowing and being friends with. And then it occurred to me that maybe that’s how others would feel about me. That I wouldn’t have to be known as a “surviver of abuse”. So it changed my life, reading her story. I hope that I can share my own story someday, and if it helps even one other person heal the way Mrs. Wall’s book helped me, it’ll have been worth it.
Here are links to a few things I had never learned about that were complete surprises to me: Boundaries. Hadn’t really heard about them, nor were they in place in my life–that’s been a huge one. Co-dependence…which is when I allow someone else’s behavior to dictate my own…was also huge. The Drama Triangle—learning about it enabled me to stop playing the game. And finally, Detachment, and forming healthy attachments. These ideas are all connected, and there is an abundance of information about all of them a google-search away. The goal is to be a healthy, kind, loving person. There were some skills and information I needed to acquire to get there, and these are a few of the main ones.
Thanks for sharing your story, and for being beautiful and good and strong even though you had a crap hand dealt to you as a kid. That isn’t who you are and doesn’t have to define you. And this will be one of those things that, someday, is a mere blip in your life…just like high school was actually just one piece in the puzzle of your life. It probably seemed so HUGE! and SIGNIFICANT! when you were in it, but looking back, it’s now something you sum up in a sentence or two. It’s not who you are. All of these are just experiences that impacted you in various ways, but they don’t define you in the long run.
Thanks for the inspiration you’ve given me all these years, and hang in there. The light will come!
This is a big topic, and we can continue the discussion in future posts if there is interest. Do you have any thoughts or insights you’d like to share? Are there any ideas you’d like to delve into more? Have you or someone you know struggled with similar things?
Robin Tanner Markanich graduated from BYU in Broadcast Journalism and worked in TV news in Washington DC where she fell in love, literally and figuratively. Her Virginia-born husband tricked her into a life on the opposite side of the country in the Pacific Northwest. Robin is an Arizonan at heart who craves flip flops year round, taco stands and lime Cokes. She blogs at lovingcake.wordpress.com
To me, the advent of Christ is essentially a story of deliverance.
Generally we celebrate that deliverance on Easter Sunday much like the Jews celebrate the deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage during Passover. But the sacrifice of the grown Son of God began with the birth of the infant Jesus child.
My favorite Christmas carol is the Advent Hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Emmanuel meaning God with us is a name-title given in Isaiah as a sign of God’s deliverance.
The hymn speaks of Christ’s ransoming of captive Israel. It speaks of Christ freeing us from Satan, and giving us victory over the grave. The repeating refrain is an invitation for us to rejoice. Despite the realities of this life, even the horrors of the past week, we have cause to rejoice for Emmanuel is promised to come to us. He has and he does.
Light is used throughout our canon as a symbol of Christ. Light has preceded heavenly messengers, miraculous answers to prayer and pivotal conversions. Light is also at the center of the Christmas Story. Continue reading Deliverance