Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Lord Is My Strength

I couldn't let that Who song up to long as my most current posting without replacing it with a better one. I was introduced to this song when we lived in Maryland, but I got all warm and tingly when I found out that Dennis Jernigan participated in worship at the Metro Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. (It seemed like all of the Christians that I met at work in OKC all lived in Edmond and went to Metro! Then they'd ask me why I'd decided to live in Norman...)

And this seemed appropriate since my worship team sang this song at the cultic church, and I loved to do the alto descant/echo in the chorus and the return at the end..."Each and every minute every hour of the day..." THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH!

And I liked to play this one on the piano as an altar call.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Behind Blue Eyes: A Little Girl's Shame

I had other problems before I was molested. I had terrible school phobia for a couple of years before it started. If all conditions were good, I seemed to be alright – something like a normal person. Something would always tip the scale, and to be out of balance even a little, I felt like the side of the balance I sat upon had fallen into the depths of the earth. And I just “knew,” in my little five year old brain, that there was something very dreadfully and inherently wrong with me. I was different in a very bad sort of way. Though my heart’s desire was to be perfect, I was helplessly, hopelessly bad. I already knew the language of shame.

I was drudgery for her and the bane of her existence. She’d wanted a boy to name “D…” I screamed for months, drove her mad with sleep deprivation, and these were only my first actions that would slowly kill her alive by ruining her life. I was helpless to do anything other than ruin my own in turn. She would… I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. I loved her and tried so hard and failed so miserably always. And I loved her, and I know that she loved me. That’s what makes it so hard. That’s why I hated myself for so long. The love was there, and it wasn’t for lack of love. It was life that had been unfair to her and unfair to us. Unfair to me.

But the sexual abuse certainly didn’t make things any better. I seemed to need absolutely no help to feel horrible about myself. With all the mixed and confused feelings of an eight year old little girl, there were things about it that were… well… frozen. I can’t move and I can’t escape… Going back to the memory, a journey that feels like walking down a dark spiral staircase that is narrow, takes me to the place where it happened and happened and happened again. And I feel… dead. I feel dead calm and it is dead silent. I am powerless to do anything. I wiggle away and can’t get away and I remember being afraid. Then nothing. I remember, but I think and I feel nothing when I try to remember when I was just a little girl. I feel dead, like my life and my body were nothing but flat photographs. I wonder what my face looks like as I write this? I imagine that it looks dead, but an emotionless, sad kind of expression. Death would have peace and comfort, but that is not like this. My death is empty nothing

I just wish that I could go on feeling nothing… But feeling comes back. It hurts deep and vaguely in my belly…. Then it is like cramping very low in my stomach…it feels empty as if my body is not there at all, but hurts around the edges of the emptiness… Sick, sick, sick… I’d rather feel nothing. When people ask me now why I didn’t tell anyone then, I don’t remember any thoughts. I remember the familiar pain that travels and takes over my tired, disgusting body that doesn’t even feel like my body anymore. I’m too afraid to really remember and too sick to really forget. I don’t remember thoughts or details, especially in the beginning. I remember feelings of sickness and almost like my soul died inside me with my body still alive, going through the motions of life. The world never stopped going on around me, but I did. I felt dead. No one listened. No one heard.

Little girls should be good and kind. They should be seen and not heard, packed full of sugar, spice, and nice. They should have no needs, and they should be helpful. What’s the use, then? I’m ruined, so I just don’t think about it, and I don’t know what I’d say. Do dead girls talk? Little girls should love everyone and only feel good feelings toward others, particularly adults that they should respect. Only love. Love your enemies and bless everyone, especially those who hurt you. Heap burning coals on their heads by loving them. I think of the red hot coals that burn in the furnace in the winter. I don’t want to burn anyone. Well, at least he loves me. I have to love him and respect him as my elder. I have to obey authorities and they know better than little girls, especially very horrible little girls. Oh, but I hate… the smell of him? The… I can’t even tell you... I feel horrible! Something is very, very wrong. Good girls don’t get angry. Maybe good girls die instead.

Then I became pretty compulsive. Obsessive. Driven. Restless. Lusting after justice and wanting to understand the truth about what was right and wrong. I would determine to do the right thing, and then I would be whole. They would see that I meant well. That would make it okay if I could just… Oh, compulsion soon rules me with an iron fist. I feel lust, but it is lust for justice for others who are mistreated, and maybe I’d find a little for myself.

I didn’t need any help feeling terrible about myself before the death that part of who I was. I don’t even remember who I was or when I was innocent. I only remember feeling very bad and always guilty from the very beginning. Everything bad in the world that happened around me happened because of me, but the world never took notice of my death. And then I woke up to anger, but I couldn’t let it be anger because anger was bad. It was anger I wasn’t ever allowed to have. Inconsistencies brought more anger, and anger brought more shame. That brought more compulsion that seemed to operate in slow motion.


More than thirty years later, I find myself remembering, remembering, while watching the Superbowl XLIV Halftime Show. The Who sings “Behind Blue Eyes,” [LATE ENTRY: in the preliminary acoustic set the did before the game] and I remember when I first heard this song and understood what had happened to me. I’m flooded with memory and the feeling of waking up from my deadness as a young adolescent to feel shame and anger and even more disappointment. Townshend wrote this song as the anthem of an evil bureaucrat cog on a wheel in a totalitarian machine for a rock opera that no one could understand. They only ever recorded a few of the better songs from the opera. But I understand the anthem well. I like another remake of it that I saw on the “Gothika” DVD a few years ago, wept and sang the song for days thereafter. Like wringing a dishrag, I rang out my heart. I have blue grey eyes, I love the arpeggiated accompaniments in both renditions, the chords are beautiful, but the new one holds much more melancholy for me. Add the content of the “Gothika” film in context if you are familiar with it, and it might make even more sense. Everything about this haunts me tonight.

Behind Blue Eyes

No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
And no one knows
What it's like to be hated
To be fated to telling only lies
I am bad and sad, and no one knows. My eyes are blue and I look like a normal little girl, I think. But I am hated everywhere and my mother has claimed over and over that what happened to me at school today could not have happened. I know I’m not lying, but she doesn’t believe me. I either get laughed at or punished at home. When it becomes known that I didn’t lie, the vindication doesn’t seem sweet. I don’t remember them talking about me being right all along. If they apologized, I was so afraid that I don’t remember.
But my dreams they aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free
[When you are dead, you stop dreaming for awhile. Well, not really. I don’t know what you do when you are dead. I stopped having good dreams for a long time. I had nightmares, and my mother’s answer was to give me a copy of C.S. Lovett’s “Dealing With the Devil.” Oh, this is fantastic reading for a nine year old! (If you’re unfamiliar with what is known in evangelical circles as ‘deliverance,’ take a look at “Pigs in the Parlor” sometime. The book I read was a shorter, do-it-yourself version of that book.) My dreams were full of shame, being chased by floating baseballs that spoke condemnation that followed me… of dripping faucets that I could not stop… the dripping of my endless shame and inadequacies that never stopped.

My deadness was like the empty conscience in the song. Why didn’t I react differently? Why didn’t I seek out help? But who would have helped me? They didn’t believe me about how people pronounced their names or that I’d not done anything to “instigate” ridicule, save to act self-conscious. I would tell them this?

When I became a teenager and old enough to start processing what had happened to me, the overwhelming anger that I could not acknowledge made my conscience feel empty. I didn’t feel anything. I think that the shame deadened me. The deadness was emptiness.

I would, however, sometimes sing my own version. Well, I found myself singing my own version…

“BUT my dreams they ARE as BROKEN
As my HEART now seems to be…

I have hours, lonely hours, with my secrets and my shame. My love is a lust for justice that is never satisfied despite all of my striving. That sounds much to me like “vengeance that’s never free.” Love is about performance. I’m trapped and helpless.
No one knows what its like
To feel these feelings
Like I do, and I blame you!
No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through
My parents don’t know because I fear my father would murder the man in anger. He wasn’t born again then, and he could go to jail, to the electric chair, and then to hell. Then that would be my fault. It is all my fault. But, then I awaken to the first blushes of womanhood and talk of purity, and I know that I am hopeless. Anger tries to find an outlet, but I hold it down until I can crush myself no more. Until I am old enough to drive away in a car. Until I am old enough to pay my own way well enough to leave. None of my pain and woe can show through, and I do bite back hard. I bite back through striving to be good, and I am still never good enough. I developed a lust for justice. One day, I must be able to prove that I have not been as horrible as they think. And then the panic that I used to have that if people looked at me a certain way, they would see what had happened to me. If they saw me naked, they would know. The more of me they could see, the more they would be able to tell. But I had to see to it that none of my pain and woe showed through.

Anger comes, and I am still struggling with it today, watching the Superbowl in 2010. Anger is a sign to us, not a sin. It tells us that we’ve been threatened or that we are in pain. It is protective. But I had no right to protect myself, and the double messages and double meanings swim in my head. Anger at me, at my mother, at my father. And at him. Though I didn’t really mean it, for awhile I’d hoped that the man was rotting in hell because of what he’d taken from me, but I’d given it willingly because I had no option. But I don’t really want to see anyone in hell, yet this blame rests with him. And the blame of who I am to my parents rests with me.

Then came my realization of spiritual abuse. My self had been shaken to the core. I’d been unfaithful to God by serving the church and the acceptance of men in the church. Idolatry. Idolatry of seeking my parents’ approval. Idolatry of acceptance. Idolatry of perfectionism. And my anger reared its raging head. I couldn’t choke it back or “bite back” on it anymore. I’d stored a whole lifetime of it, and this receptacle was full.
No one knows what its like
To be mistreated, to be defeated
Behind blue eyes
No one knows how to say
That they're sorry and don't worry
I'm not telling lies
The isolation that comes with this kind of thing is horrible. I have blue grey eyes and things look pretty normal on the outside. But the traumas happen while the world keeps on moving around you, like in some movie special effect. I’m in this world but I’m walking in a universe just a few breaths behind the real one. I’m isolated in defeat and unjust treatment. To be mistreated, to be defeated, behind blue eyes. I remember once saying to someone who was encouraging me to take better care of myself that it seemed like “spraying perfume over a cesspool.” They looked at me in shock and surprise… because no one knows what it’s like…

For a very long time, I’d hoped that those who had hurt me so deeply by rejecting me and expecting me to be perfect when I was tiny and helpless would come and say they were sorry. I wanted and needed comfort. But my story fell on deaf ears that couldn’t even process the horror of it. They don’t express sorrow for me – but they accuse me of more lies. It’s no different when I’m 23 or 33 or 43 than it was when I was five. “We don’t understand, we are uncomfortable with what we don’t understand, so the path of least resistance for us is to call you a liar.” The bad one. The sad one. Behind blue eyes that fill with tears until no tears even come anymore. But I’m not telling lies.
But my dreams they aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free

No one knows what its like
To be the bad man,
to be the sad man
Behind blue eyes.

I’d hoped for a long time that all I would need was prayer and my Bible to heal. And then the Holy Spirit. Then maybe some deliverance. Then, if I mastered spiritual warfare. Then, maybe, if I could get friends who would love and help me. If I could just get out of the house. If I could learn more of the Bible. If I married. If I could have a baby. If I could get far enough away from it, in time…

Some of these things did heal me, but I could not do it on my own. Some of the deep pain required someone who could love me through sessions of talking about my pain and my grief. I found a therapist who showed me the comfort that she’d received from others in the Lord. She encouraged me in love. She taught me and helped me find the way out of the Valley of the Shadow and the long, dark night of my soul. My faith in Jesus was enough to heal me, but I needed another to come along side of me. I needed someone to sit valiantly and patiently beside me while I vomited up the grief and sadness and pain of my dark night. I needed Jesus to extend love to me in a very specific and expert way, and He did that through someone else. The Lord will help you find healing. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it comes in time and through looking into the mirrors that other people provide us in their loving honesty. It comes through His Word, given to us so we can see what He sees in us.

Tonight I’m haunted. I don’t live in shame anymore because I’ve finally started to learn about the courage of unconditional love that I’ve begun to learn to extend to myself. But Superbowl Half-time has me teary eyed a little, grieving the things I barely remember having but feel a full portion of the grief of the loss. I feel heavy in my body, but not sick. Just sad. And it is sad.

I pulled up this video after half-time. Then I journaled. I didn’t weep on the outside, and I felt sad on the inside with a sense of sweetness to realize how much I’ve healed. Now I am weary and will sleep. Tomorrow is a new day and I will rejoice in it. I will look to find the joy in the morning. And the sadness will go to sleep for a few years until I’m reminded of this song and the sad memory of loss that it brings to my mind. I will remember and grieve and feel the sweetness again.

Purge me with hyssop and I will be clean
Wash me and I will be whiter than snow
Ps 51