In Pt. 1, I gave away permission.
Dealing with the Darkness
In Pt. 2, I gave away my heart.
I gave away my heart to a concept of deity that does not exist. I gave away my heart to a capricious, arbitrary straw god.
If that god were truly God, I would turn my back on faith forever.
To my surprise and utter delight, there is far more to deity than I ever thought possible. Now, with complete confidence, I can turn my back on the straw god and my former diseased faith — and still know myself loved, blessed, and treasured.
Today, I thought that I would move on to Part 3 of my Confessions, but as I sit down to write, I find that it cannot yet be so. I need to dig a little deeper and give account. I need to make the connection:
How did that unhealthy faith, that diseased view of God lead to letting the world decide the direction of my life?
Here are the relevant particulars:
I believed that it was my job to make God happy.
I believed that the only way I, as a human, could ever please God was to sacrifice that which I prized most about myself.
What I prized most about myself was my God-given creativity.
(Please to be noticing the emphasis. It will become increasingly significant as I move into Parts 3 and 4.)
I lived in constant fear that God would one day demand that I give over my creativity to him, i.e. that he would take it away from me.
I suffered guilt, sorrow, depression, denial, rage, and bitterness. I hid these emotions. If I let them out, I let them out in my paintings, for which I was accused of being under the influence of demons.
(No, I’m not joking. #thatactuallyhappened)
About halfway through this period in my life, I took some classes, did some personality tests, and put together a report on boundaries. In the process, I learned something about myself that I didn’t know.
Truth stepped up and slapped me in the face. I sat down hard on my posterior and blinked stupidly several times while my mouth hung open. The word “NO” rang through my mind. I wanted to flee into denial and lose myself there forever.
cursed blessed with a particular type of heartstring that resonates when I hear Truth. It will not allow me to shut my ears against it. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep the “NO” from fading into weak echoes until it died away into silence.
After that, the only sound I could hear was Truth, and that Truth was this:
I have a difficult time setting boundaries — especially by saying “no” to others — because I am terrified of rejection.
Plain and simple, I say “yes” to things I shouldn’t, because I want everybody to like me.
“Oh,” you might be saying, “is that all? Pfft, doesn’t everybody have that problem?”
Well, maybe. It came as a great shock to me, however, because back then, I didn’t think of myself as a fearful person at all. (I had yet to realize on a conscious level that I feared the loss of my creativity to a capricious deity.)
I thought I was rather brave, really. I could listen to people tell horror stories of what was happening in their lives — and carry myself through such conversations with aplomb. I could traverse Europe alone on a train and cross the Atlantic in a plane by myself, all without batting a single mascaraed eye. I could step between a friend and a strange guy downtown at night and face the stranger down until he slunk away.
Me, scared? Ha!
But then came the classes and the quizzes and the report on boundaries, and I had to be able to face myself in the mirror. I couldn’t deny Truth and live with myself. So I admitted it: I was addicted to others’ approval. And once the admission came, one illusion after another broke apart around me.
I have a problem setting healthy boundaries.
I fear rejection.
I feared that God would reject my very Self by taking away the most basic part of me.
I feared that other people would reject me if I pursued my creativity along its natural path and to its natural conclusion.
So when I realized that the world around me rejected my art, I gave it up in order to gain approval.
Closing the Account?
When an acquaintance expressed disapproval of my high fantasy oil paintings, I took them off my walls and hid them away.
When a confidante said that I was letting down my co-workers by devoting time to my stories, I let the writing slide.
When a mentor opined that writing fiction is a waste of time and doesn’t help people, I inwardly disagreed but did not defend myself.
The end result, of course, was a spiritual, emotional bank account that hovered right around zero most of the time. Since I’m still alive, I’m assuming I didn’t accrue a negative balance at any point.
Actually, I know I never got into the red: because somehow, through all of it, I just couldn’t let go of this dream that one day, I would write fulltime and become a published author. Somehow, somewhere in the back pocket of my soul, I kept a little piece of grace that whispered, “Don’t let the darkness win. Do not give in. There is still hope.”
That hope was real. That grace was real. Those were not the words of an arbitrary, demanding straw god.
That was Love talking.
Waiting for me to stop ignoring it.
Come back next week, and I’ll tell you how I started to listen.
In the meantime, share your thoughts with me, my dears. I know some of you have been through this. I know some of you are going through this. Please share your insights. Tell your fears. The comments section is open to you, and it is a safe place because it is mine. I’m not going to let anyone bite you.
And if they try, I’m going to show them some very distinct, immovable boundaries.