My life there and afterwards

Archive for December, 2013

An unusual (for me) comparison

I was at church yesterday, Sunday, and wrote down some thoughts from the talk the lead pastor was giving. 

If I  have any times in my life, or areas, where I am less than satisfied, then I need to learn how to live better in my own life. This was in reference to the fact that we can’t always change our circumstances right away, but don’t have to sit in misery. For me this starts with identifying what I’m not happy with, and currently it is a lack of motivation and focus. So I’m working on that, but the next thing that struck me as he talked about Mary and the Christmas story was an eye-opener, because I had never identified with Mary that much. She was, after all, perfect, and I sure am not.

How do I write this without sounding presumptuous, for I identify with Mary now. What God saw as a wonderful event, making Mary pregnant with Jesus, made Mary afraid. By human standards at that time she was doing a shameful thing that would get her shunned and possibly killed. I can identify with those fears. The culture I was living in at the C of J, and believed, said that if I left the Community, I would be breaking my vows and would be going against God’s will for my life; would be taking myself out of God’s protection and be putting myself into danger. Sickness, death and/or living a miserable life would be my lot. This fear kept me there years after I knew I wanted to leave, especially since I was getting older and did not have the energy of youth to start over again.

Having left has proven the falseness of that belief, and brought into question all that CJ teaches. As my life continues to blossom, and as I continue to deal with the legacy of fear and struggle that place has left me with, I am finding out all sorts of wonderful things. This identification with Mary is a pleasure and blessing to me. It humanizes her, and it uplifts me. (Who God is, who Jesus is, and what form a Creator takes is another whole lengthy philosophical discussion, but for now I will use common terminology. ) I feel blessed and closer to God as I get these little insights into the lives of people like Mary, and how it relates to my “today” life.

Have a Blessed Holiday, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, or any other celebration that includes life, love, and the individual sanctity of each person.

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Closure

What is closure? The dictionary defines it as “A feeling of finality or resolution, especially after a traumatic experience.” Well, that sounds nice. Who doesn’t want to feel resolved, especially about a difficult situation or after an experience that was traumatic. I personally steer away, however, from too quick of a resolution to a prolonged experience that slowly turned worse over the years. There is a sense of justice that needs to be met. I know all the advice that can be thrown my way. I hear all the voices in my head – don’t be vindictive – anger only hurts the person who is angry – God forgives, so should I – I was just as wrong, so I shouldn’t throw stones. The thing is, I don’t feel angry most of the time. If I am telling a story to someone, yes, the anger comes up. Once in a while there is a trigger situation that I respond strongly to. All that is natural and to be expected, considering what I have lived through. I am not claiming to be a saint with no negative emotions. To the contrary, I believe I deserve to have some anger, and that wrong doing should be brought to justice. If we all turned a blind eye, if we are all silent about the injustices we know about, we are then responsible for them also. Biblical: if the watchman on the tower does not cry out the warning as danger approaches, he is responsible for those who are harmed by the danger. I am the watchman. Actually it would be more accurate to say I am the survivor who has come out of a place that does harm, and it is my duty to sound the alarm. This blog is a beginning. I’ve had closure spoken to me twice now. If you read my blog titled “8 months”, at the end you will see where it is written “I was merely trying to find out what else you might be claiming, so that we could deal with it all at once, rather than piecemeal over an indefinite time into the future. I think I understand now that you have no interest in that and would like to keep the doors open indefinitely. I am not sure how that leads to closure, but I’ll see what I can do.” My reaction to this statement is that he is trying to shame me into leaving them alone. That his idea of “closure” is for me to leave them alone and not raise any questions about how they mistreated me, and what possible claims I might have on them for justice or restitution. It also makes me think  – what is it that they need closure for? Is it too much to hope that they feel a bit of shame for how they treated me? and for how they continue to treat each other? That may be hoping for too much, but we can always wish for the best, right? The other time it was spoken to me was by a dear friend who was wishing me well. I appreciate her thoughts for me and know it was out of the kindness of her heart that she spoke them. but closure for me cannot be just a turning away and “forgetting” the harm done to me. It was my life, and I will always carry it with me. I have peace, but I also cannot stay silent. I’m sure that is not what she meant, but I just have to make that point clear for myself and any readers.

Stage 3

I’m currently reading a book, and it references the book Scott Peck wrote, particularly the part about the stages of spiritual growth. I’ll now have to get Peck’s book and read it from the horse’s mouth instead of second hand, but in the meantime it is helpful. I think it is a very good perspective of where we might find ourselves from time to time, and where I find myself especially at this time. I am no longer in stage 2, am certainly in stage 3 and hopefully have some stage 4 in me also, considering my age and experience. Stage 2 is where most churches are, in that time where rules are set and imposed, and where we as individuals like that, since it sets boundaries and gives clear-cut answers to life. but it also creates an attitude of looking down on anyone not in that same stage, as being not “saved”. Stage 3 is the rebellious stage, where you question all the rules you were told you had to follow in stage 2. This is actually very healthy, and I believe the only way to truly find the depth and breadth of your own faith and relationship to God. Stage 4 is supposed to be mature and wise, and don’t we all like to think we have at least a bit of that. 

For those who are interested in life at the Community of Jesus, they have taken stage 2 to an extreme, and consider it the be-all and end-all of life. As I have said before, rules, strict guidelines, and absolutely no room for questioning. In and of itself, if that is what a person needs and wants, what is wrong with that? I actually have no problem with any person choosing a lifestyle that fits their needs. What I think needs to be exposed about C of J is that the style and extremity of their teaching and life has crossed the borderline into psychological abuse. There is no respect for free will, intellect and human dignity there. It is all strict obedience, mindless obedience, and freedom of thought and questioning are seen as rebellion which is “next to witchcraft” according to their teachings. 

Fear based life

As I continue to grapple with my fear of new situations and meeting new people, it highlights for me how much our life at The Community of Jesus was based on, and permeated by, fear. From the very beginning it was impressed on me that when I did anything wrong I could expect wrath. There was only one incident of physical abuse directed at me, but the rest of the time it was verbal abuse, yelling and name calling, and the threat of God’s displeasure and losing salvation.Can you imagine God’s love and salvation being used as a trump card to get you to obey? Between knowing that you had to be in the leaders’ good graces,and the shunning that occurred if you were out of line, every day was full of fear. I ask again, how is that Christian? It isn’t of course, but as a young adult, newly converted, I didn’t know that. This is what I was taught to be the Christian message. I read the Bible of course, but all the public teachings, and led Bible studies emphasized the “deeper message” of dying to yourself, needing to crucify all of your own will, thoughts and emotions. This was supposed to sanctify and clarify you so you could be a true vessel of God, with nothing of yourself to get in the way. It was/is a subversion of an individual’s identity so the leaders could use you as they pleased. They said they were led by the voice of God, and that we had to trust that the decisions they made about our lives was God’s will. No where and at no time was I allowed to be a part of those decision. Even the seemingly self-directed choice of taking vows was still very pressured by expectations and peer pressure, and by disclosed “words of truth” that the “Mothers” gave out as being prophecy from God for individuals. Very powerful stuff when coupled with a belief system. 

Naturally I am skeptical of any kind of control, now, but I do want fellowship, so I am feeling my way. I am discovering that CJ is not the norm. It is not unique, because every cult operates under the same principles of control, but they are way off of the mainstream, not just normal cultural mainstream, but way off of the teachings of Jesus.

The fear I experience now highlights for me what I lived under, and each fear is an opportunity to build new patterns and experiences, which I am very grateful for.