Friday, May 19, 2006

Hot Button Words

Written at 10:30pm, Thursday, May 17, 2006. Well, the lines for DSL and cable were cut today while the guys were working on the sprinkler system, so this post will have to wait until that is fixed. In the meantime, I am so agitated that I just have to write.

Tonight was worship practice, which for those who don’t know means that the singers and musicians get together and practice what we will sing during Sunday morning church services. It is often mistakenly called “Worship”. Oh, there can and should be worship happening during the singing of songs and hymns and praises, but worship doesn’t begin and end with the songs. Worship is to be part of what we do always as we recognize who God is in every part of our lives, and when we devote what we do to him and in honor of who he is, his unchanging character, and in praise of what he has done. I’m stepping down off of my soapbox now.

Anyway, at one point one of the ladies was gushing about how wonderful their small group was and how great it has been. (For a better explanation of small groups and their place in many local churches, please look up Saddleback Church, New Life Church, or go to As my small group is taking the summer off, I asked if I could visit theirs. I was told that theirs was “closed” right now.

That is a very powerful word to me, and hit me like a sucker punch in the gut. Whoosh. The air was knocked out of me. In the church where I grew up, and only left about a year and a half ago, “closed” has a very defined meaning. It is what is said about a “meeting” where you are not welcome except by invitation. One of the sister churches in town is a full-blown closed meeting, and though I have known many people who attend there for most of my life, I have never even been told where they meet. It is also used for churches that you may visit, but may not speak, may not partake of communion, and sometimes may not even be allowed to enter the sanctuary, but may have to watch the service from the foyer. The word has a lot of emotional punch. It represents all the years of feeling on the outside, of feeling “other”, of feeling rejected, not accepted. Of course, there were many who did accept me, just not the church as a body. They might deny it, but I always felt that there was a secret handshake or an initiation rite that I didn’t know about.

I thought I was over all of that, but that word brought it back up. The moment she said that word, my walls went up. I went into self-protect mode. I hurt. I tried to shut down my emotions the way I did for so many years, trying not to feel hurt, alone, rejected. But even thought I know it was not her intent to hurt, I admit it. I feel rejected, unwanted, outside.

Feeling rejected, unwanted and alone is a recurring theme in my life, something that began as a child. I just felt as if I never really fit in and was never really wanted. I have sometimes been pathetically grateful that someone wants to be my friend, and as a child even tried to bribe my way into friendships. Okay, that was the neurotic me. I am not that kid anymore, but as writers often do, I sometimes feel like I am on the outside watching the drama rather than participating in it. I feel like the audience, where everyone else knows their part, knows their line, and that I am merely an observer.

In part, this explains my love of all things Italian (except for the overly carved, gilded furniture). As a kid, I saw Italian families as loving, exuberant, affectionate, passionate—alive! I, on the other hand, come from a cold Scandinavian family. It isn’t that there isn’t love, but it is hidden, not displayed for all the world to see. Our emotions were scary things to be kept to oneself. Affection? Are you kidding? I often tell people that in my family a six foot couch was for two people, sitting at either end, clutching the arm for dear life. We don’t do hugs and kisses. And passion, if there is any, is to be controlled. Italians seem to be so present in the moment, in a way that I am not.

I’m glad that at the moment she said the words I was able to say, “You don’t know the meaning that word has for me, given my background.” In very few words I told her that it was powerful and painful. In the past I would have kept that inside and stewed on it, and never expressed to a soul the pain wrapped around that word.

I still feel rejected. Well, that is the nature of a closed group. You are rejecting anyone who wants to join you. You are saying “no”. My job is not to take it personally, but to deal with it and move on. Accept what is. And I need to really accept that I was never going to become knit into the fabric of my old church. It was not ever going to happen. And, somehow I need to let it go completely. Completely. Do the whys even matter? I’ll probably never know all the whys.

Perhaps all of this is part of making me more human, more real. The pain of fellowshipping at that church, and the painful decision to leave it, broke open some pretty stiff walls. The constant pricking broke through my hearts hard outer shell and let me bleed. It allowed me to cry. Tears aren’t the way I would have chosen to experience real deep emotion, but when you are calloused, it hurts tearing off the calluses. Only as the healing begins and the new skin is more flexible and tender are you able to really experience some of the finer emotions, the joy, the gladness and lightness of heart.

May your heart be tender, your life filled with affection, exuberance and passion. May you live in the moment in all the best ways and may you never, ever experience a closed group, a closed church, a closed heart.

1 comment:

Beth said...

You are incredible at making yourself vulnerable and being OPEN to all who know you. I don't know if I will ever be able to be as open with my emotions to the world at large in the way that you do. You are amazing. And you are also incredible at making everyone around you feel welcome and invited "in" as well.