A ‘Naturalized’ Woman

Transgender. The word sounds surreal, mysterious and out-of-the-comfort-zone scary. Transylvania, transubstantiation and transmogrification have similar unsettling effects on the hearer.

In a less frightening usage, “trans”, the Latin prefix “across”, evokes thoughts of crossing a border or a change from one type to another. Consider the words “translate”, “transition”, “transportation”, “transposition” and “transformer.”

The chemical usage of “trans” in describing food may also promote consumer acceptance or rejection based on whether or not a product contains “Trans Fat.”

In personal use I do not use the word “transgender” to describe myself. I find it reproachful and slighting, in fact, due to its connection to the LGBT community and the connotations that this community has engendered for the word.

I realize that there are many in the LGBT community who use the word “Trans” to describe themselves:  “I am happy to be a Trannie.” But this was never true for me.

To begin with I am not associated with the LGBT community whatsoever. There are reasons why I am not involved in the LGBT community and I have written about those reasons elsewhere in previous posts. But to mention it briefly my choice not to be involved in that community has to do with the fact that I am a Christian. Because I follow Jesus Christ I do not encourage or promote homosexual or bisexual behavior of any kind. Beyond this I certainly do not base my life or center my life around sexuality as do the members of the LGBT community.

In conversations with others I have often found that if a person says that someone is living a “lifestyle” they are in fact seeking to buttonhole that person into a predefined category. And certainly there are some people who want to be buttonholed.  You have probably seen the tee-shirt that says “Out and Proud”. But someone using the word “lifestyle” to define who I am and what I am about would be demeaning to me.

Often, the tag “lifestyle” will be used in a pejorative sense:  “Why are you living this lifestyle?”  The speaker presumes that he or she has a legitimate life and that in my case I, by cross purposes, have a faux or superfluous life, a life opposed to the “normal” conventions.  I find their point to be pointedly dismissive. Thankfully, though,  I am not thin-skinned. I don’t let their verbal barbs scratch the surface. And you can’t let others control the narrative of your life by giving them the chalk to draw a box on the ground for you to live in. Especially when you need to make the change that I and others have made, changes that were never as frivolous as a “lifestyle”.

I began living as woman several years ago. Since then I have written only a few posts regarding the topic of my change. To be honest, the whole “change” business bores me to death.  And yet there are times when I feel the need to dredge up the words and ‘splain myself to others. I do this because I have learned over the course of many years that people usually fear, dislike and even hate what they don’t understand.  So here goes.

Though not born with female body parts, I became woman through a naturalization process. I call the process “a naturalization process” because it is similar to becoming a naturalized US citizen: a person not born in this country can become a ‘naturalized’ citizen by acceptance of its Constitution, its language, its laws and so forth. You get the picture.

The naturalized citizen acquires all of the benefits and responsibilities of their new country. Likewise, as a naturalized woman I have acclimated to my new country: I go to work, I go to church, I go… as woman. If asked (and thankfully I never am), I would say that I am a “naturalized” woman as opposed to saying that I am “trans-gendered.”  In doing so I take the conversation out of the gutter to a whole new level.

As a person who was gender “stateless” before my naturalization process I felt I needed to find a place where I could live in one place without segregating the mind from the body. And having always believed in a God-given binary gender – male and female – I knew that I had to be one or the other. And though the out workings of so-called masculinity and femininity are  relative only to the opposite gender I could never see myself as an effeminate man or as a butch female. I had to be female and not a bastardized version of one or the other.

The genesis of my gender understanding and the psychological disconnect with my body was most likely genetic and pre-natal hormonal influences on my brain along with a good portion of mystery. It is not exactly clear as to why I desperately needed to make the change. But of course, along the way I have met those who see things “clearly”, who believe that you do not need to make the change. In their words, “”just bear your cross (gender).”

 Over the years I have been involved in para-church ministries where the gender dysphoria issue is lumped in with the main issue of homosexuality. These church ministries talk about “trans-genderism”  or gender confusion because of its guilt-by-association with homosexuality: the gender dysphoric participants practice homosexuality and they are looking for a way to stop.  

Now, every follower of Christ accepts that homosexuality is expressly forbidden by the Lord.  But gender dysphoria, on the other hand, is not talked about by the Lord and is not mentioned anywhere in Scripture (no matter how much hermeneutics parse or stretch the Scripture to fit a certain “Bible-ized” social ideology).

The leaders of these ministries will tell you that gender dysphoria comes from a broken place in the person. They will use the word “broken” (along with various psychological terminology ) in their spiritual diagnosis so as to make their underlying assertions: such a change would be morally wrong, a sin; it’s not “normal” because God doesn’t work like that; it doesn’t fit God’s redemptive purposes. But I disagree.

Over the years I have also had Christian psychologists tell me that if I wanted to become a woman that they could not help me with the change. And yet the very same Christian “professionals” told me that I should see a psychiatrist in their clinic to get a mind and mood altering drug prescription to help avoid depression. They were very willing to change the state of my mind but not the state of the rest of me.  Why? One remedy is seen as “Biblical, the other remedy is deemed not “Biblical.”   One can see where the true disconnect is and how much the subjective, inaccurate and unverifiable field of psychology influences Christian thinking! (I find it ironic to say the least that Christians will whole heartedly accept the unproven theories and conjectures of psychology to guide their lives in tandem with Scripture but they will not accept the  theory of evolution, a theory which has overwhelming evidence to support its claims.)

Now I would have to guess that Christian psychologists seek to alter your behavior via mind altering drugs and remedial counseling in order to be in keeping with Scripture’s own prescription:  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Translated this means that you change your way of thinking to be in line with what most people think and not your body, at least not in the mysterious gender dysphoria realm where the trollism of homosexuality may be lurking. “If you are obese or anorexic or addicted to mind altering drugs (see above) or whatever else then we will help you change your body.”

 At one point in his ministry Jesus spoke this practical polemic:  “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”  This is a direct and terse statement of transition from one physical state to another and clearly doesn’t come across as a metaphorical mind purging laxative. In this case His path to wholeness was to cut off that which causes you to sin (that which doesn’t make you whole or holy) and not deal with it anymore. He didn’t seek to medicate or to counsel the issue to some undefined conclusion.

J.B. Phillips once wrote a book called “Your God Is Too Small.”  I agree with the basic premise of the book that people’s conception of God is most readily based on a projection of their relationship with their parents, with male and female figures authority figures and so on. For Christian counselors, ministers, et al I would amend the title based on my experience with their counseling: “Your God is Too Much Like Sanitized Societal Norms.”

Those in the ministry who do not have gender dysphoria (and that would be most) think that it is something that can be dealt with or overridden with therapy, prayer and redemptive (bear the cross I am handing you) suffering. They will place a diagnostic label on you and curtly denounce you for living a “lifestyle.” This stereotyping happens over and over again in these ministries. 

A theologian at this point may say that such a change is working at cross purposes with God, that  the ‘naturalized’ person is not getting their understanding from Scripture (though the New Testament writers desire that people be trans-formed and put on Christ). The theologian may also say that they have ‘bastardized’ what God has created. A Christian psychologist may go further and say that they suffer a neurosis.  Others may say things like “God doesn’t make mistakes (implying that they know the mind of God because they have reason on their side.)” I have heard it all.

Now you should know that my gender understanding and change are both coupled with my understanding of God’s grace – God’s elbow room for sinners like me. But, at this point, let me make something clear: I don’t practice homosexuality. I am celibate. I have been given the grace to make the change and to be celibate. This has been a wonderful healing/direction for my life.

Grace and elbow room. Do divorced people receive God’s grace? If you listen to Christian talk radio the answer is yes.

Divorce, not a feature of Adam and Eve’s garden relationship came about because of the hardness of men’s hearts since the garden. Today we have Christian radio personalities who are divorced. Did God, who sanctifies marriage, allow divorce – the One becoming Two? Does God’s grace allow you to divorce your husband because he looked at pornography? Does grace (both God’s and yours) allow and enable you to stay with your sinner of a husband as a salient witness for Christ in the marriage? What’s the appropriate use and measure of grace? Is grace the wherewithal to transition from a broken state into a temple for the Holy Spirit? Is grace the transmogrification of a person’s point of view? (see Flannery O’Connor’s short story, A Temple of the Holy Ghost. )? Is it all of the above? I think so.

God hates divorce but he allows it to take place. His grace works with man’s brokenness. Should I be judged or weighed differently than a divorced person? But let’s not think about the subject of my change in relativistic terms. I don’t. I think about my change in terms of grace, in terms of unction, in terms of personhood, set apart not for sin and the world but for God.

There was no doubt that I was divided or split about my gender since my earliest remembrance. To resolve the matter I spoke to all manner of counselors. And, as mentioned above, psychologists will often use the word “neurotic” to describe someone who is ‘severely’ divided in their thinking. But I have since learned not to accept the unproven ‘science’ of psychology and its “naming” conventions as truth. And since I am not Woody Allen-esque enough to need regurgitation of emo and hypochondria three times a week or even once a week I stay away from counseling. Counseling, for me, has been nothing more than the ebb and flow of mindless goo.

Beyond all this, there will always be people who want to nail down the morality of my change as something bad. Some will seek to nail me down to their own cross but I’m not going there. I have my own cross to bear.

Wholeness, I have understood and accepted, could be achieved through a “naturalization” process where mind and body could coexist in a stable peaceful state – the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ in my life. I can live within God’s grace and with God’s blessing. And, I can now concentrate on God’s Kingdom.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” And, it was James, the brother of my Lord, who said, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” And, it was Carol King who sang, “You make me feel like a natural woman.”

Jesus said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

It was me who said, “Amen.”

Over Easy, Please

eggs over easy

Father Henry and his wife Margaret were already seated in the restaurant when Daniel arrived. Daniel had been futzing about at home looking for his reading glasses. He had wanted to read a newspaper article about claustrophobia when he realized that he was late for his weekly lunch with the rector and his wife.

As Daniel came in the restaurant door, Father Henry looked up at him from the table and caught Daniel glancing at the newspaper. Father Henry was reading the same article that he was trying to read at home: Claustrophobia, Uncovering Your Fears. The title of the article had caught Daniel’s eye and apparently Father Henry’s. Margaret moved across the table to sit with her husband and Daniel sat across facing them both.

“Hi, how are you Father Henry and Margaret?”

“We’re fine Daniel. How are things?” Father Henry spoke, looking at his wife Margaret.

“Except for some claustrophobia, I guess I am doing alright.” Daniel smiled with a nod to the newspaper lying open on the table.

“Hah, I see. Well, good. How about some coffee? Here comes the waitress.”

Daniel ordered some eggs over easy and some coffee. Father Henry ordered some French toast, two plates and two orange juices.

“The last time we had gotten together, Daniel, you had mentioned that you had a close friend at your previous church.” Father Henry spoke from behind a raised coffee cup.

“Yeah, Allan and I were close friends. I spent time with him and two other guys in a prayer cell group. This was before the divorce. We met at least once a month to talk and pray. Later, after the divorce, I would also bring my two kids over to his house and spend time with him and his wife. I often ate dinner with them. We both had kids the same age. The kids got along really well.”

“What was the prayer cell group like? Did you enjoy that?”

“It was alright, I guess. The prayer cells groups were started in order to bring together the people who ministered in the church. The cell group was to be a place of accountability and fellowship. Before that group ever met, I often met with Allan for breakfast to talk about work and to pray before going to work.

“Were you ministering in that church then?”

“Yes, I was a Sunday School teacher for grade school kids and I played in the worship band. I play the trumpet.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Music and my trumpet have been in life since I was a kid. Music has often helped me cope with a lot of life’s madness. I enjoy playing the horn in the worship service. It’s very Biblical you know?” Daniel smiled.

“Were the other guys in the ministry at that church?”

“Ah, yeah, two of them were in the music ministry, as well. My close friend, Allan, was a working priest. He wasn’t a full time priest at the church. He had a full time job.

“How did it go with those guys?”

“I met with them as often as I could for the prayer cell meetings. I had a full time job. I was a partner in a company which I helped to start. I was the VP of Engineering. This meant that any equipment issues – we were a manufacturing company – this meant that if a customer called up with a problem the call was always forwarded to me. I worked a ton of hours and was out of town a lot. When I was at home I wanted to stay at home. The job took a lot out of me.”

“Yeah, something like that would. I am called on at all hours of the night in my position.” Father Henry looked at Margaret.

“I would go to church on Sunday and then I would want to come home and stay at home for the balance of the day. My ex, who was at home all week, wanted to go out and be with our church friends all day Sunday. I would tell her that I was exhausted and that I just needed some rest. I often worked 60-70 hours a week besides taking care of the house, the kids and the rest. When she heard me say that I wanted to be at home on Sunday afternoon she would tell our friends that I wasn’t coming. She told our children, I later found out, that I was being unsociable. My own kids would later say this back to me. I was upset by such a characterization by my wife.”

Did the guys in your cell group talk about their jobs and their marriages?”

“Yeah, my friend Allan and I usually talked the most intimately about our lives and marriages. The other two guys would talk about somebody being sick at their office. That’s what they would pray about, too.”

The waitress brought the meals and poured some coffee in Daniel’s cup. Father Henry gave thanks for the meal.

“So you shared your life with these guys?” Margaret asked.

“I shared with them about my job and about my two business partners. I talked about the work I did and the frustrations of my job. I also talked about my marriage and about how my wife always wanted me to go to counseling. She constantly pushed for a separation. She would say that I was the cause of our marriage’s problems.  She, in turn, wouldn’t accept responsibility for her part in the marriage’s problems. I would go to counseling by myself and nothing would change because the issues she had with me were inside of her and she wasn’t willing to go there. Her past was present in our marriage but she couldn’t see it. My issues were being talked about constantly. I talked about my own unresolved anger and my projection onto her. I learned to stop doing this and to look at the source of my own anger, which usually came from out of my past. I learned that I must face my own anger and my past and to speak out about my real needs. I felt that I couldn’t share with her my needs or who I was and this made me angry. I often felt alone in the marriage, too. I did learn that I should know who I am, that I should know why I am angry, that I should speak about my needs to my spouse and then don’t expect her to meet those needs. If my needs were met by her then, of course, that would be great but I couldn’t demand such a thing from her. I learned to live in the tension of not having my needs met and of not becoming angry and not being escapist with pornography. I put that out of my life. I wanted to be real and be in a real relationship with someone for the first time in my life. But, it was actually at this point when I started to become ‘real’ and honest within that I started to say “No, its not true.” to her angry projections put onto me.  It was then that she became more determined to divorce. We were in two different places and she wouldn’t let me get near her, even though I had tried many times. I understood it later that her perfectionism, born out of her troubled past, kept her from responding to me. She wanted things to be perfect, for our marriage to lived out perfectly with no remembrance of her past troubles.  She denied having any issues at all.  And,  she wanted something that even she could not put her finger on and of course I couldn’t meet that undetermined need.  This was an impossible situation, so things remained unresolved.”

“That must have been frustrating.” Father Henry spoke looking into his coffee.

“It was extremely frustrating. And, I found out via the guys in the prayer group that my wife was saying negative things to their wives about me. They wanted me to share my “stuff” with them in our get-togethers. I felt betrayed by everyone involved. I later decided to stop going to the prayer cell group. I wasn’t going to become the focus of the prayer cell because of my wife’s projection onto me and because two of the guys in the group didn’t share anything of substance at all. I was also working so much that I needed as many breaks as I could get.”

“What happened then, with your wife?” Margaret asked.

“We separated and eventually divorced. We had gone to marriage counseling for a while but never once were her “issues” with me ever discussed, examined or understood. Never. The counselor and I, neither of us, knew what issue she had with me other than her saying, “I don’t think he loves me.” We did know that she wanted to end the marriage and it appeared that I was going to be the scapegoat for her decision. Again, as I found out later, she had talked to our close friends at the church, the rector and her family and she had made me look bad before them. I was being set up for the divorce.”

“What about your close friend, Allan? Did he see what was going on?” Father Henry queried.

“Yeah, I think so. He said he wouldn’t take sides. I was the one in the group who talked openly about things in my marriage so it would seem to the guys in the group, I think, that I was the one who was the problem in the marriage. I did not want the marriage to end and I had made that clear. I wanted to reconcile with her and she couldn’t bring herself to that place. Her own troubled past was too much in the present and I became the object of her unresolved anger. She couldn’t see that this was happening.”

“Did you and Allan get together after you and your wife were separated?”

“Yeah, we still hung out but it was more awkward because I was now single. I brought my kids over to his house, as I mentioned earlier. He and his wife, Joan, had seven kids. Two of their kids were my kid’s age, so they got along great. I enjoyed that friendship but I was hurting a lot from the destruction of our marriage. I didn’t know how I could even share it with anyone. Allan would talk even handedly like all the other counselors and say both people are to responsible in a marriage breakup and I knew this not to be true. I knew these words were just a gobbledygook response of impartiality on the part of the people saying this. If one person in a marriage wants a divorce than what can you do? Vows no longer matter to people like that. They are going to divorce and then relive their unresolved anger out with someone new.”

“I would agree with you, on this.” Father Henry again looked at Margaret.

Margaret asked, “Did Allan’s wife say anything to you about your marriage situation?”

“I felt a cold shoulder from her, like I was the problem in the marriage, like I was too stupid to know better or to change. This may not be true and it may only be my projection onto her but that is how I felt around her.”

Margaret spoke, “Maybe she felt in an odd place and she wasn’t sure of the whole truth.”

“I think you are right.” Daniel responded. “I was very sensitive at this time to any criticism. I knew that I was talking honestly to several people about myself and about my marriage during this time and I felt very vulnerable in doing so. I felt completely alone and isolated. My ex was making me out to be a pariah to my kids and to my friends at church and everyone, it seemed, was going along for the ride. Elise seemed so honest and sincere – this sweet girl from Iowa. I knew her differently, though, but I didn’t talk about her to my friends or to my kids. I just said that we were having problems at home and we were trying to find answers.”

“What happened with the kids? Who got custody?” Margaret asked.

“My ex finally got custody of our two children. I, of course, had to hire an attorney for the divorce and pay thousands of dollars defending myself. Elise knew that I had paid 28% of my income to a previous wife for my two older children for sixteen years. Elise hated the fact that I gave money to another woman for my two older sons. She wanted the money for her own purposes. She gave me grief over it every day. In fact, it became her new battle cry during the last two years of our marriage: “I can take your kids, I can take 28% of your income and I can make you pay!” “I wasn’t sure what I was going to pay for but she made it clear with her threats that I should toe her line. This situation was untenable for any marriage.”

“Wow, that became an impossible situation for you.”

“Imagine trying to run a business as a VP of Engineering and having to go out of town to represent your company. Imagine the weight placed on me trying to hold everything to together at work and at home and then being blamed for not doing enough by my wife to make her happy. Imagine.” Daniel looked down. “The real hard thing is that now I only see my own kids every other weekend. They are no longer the same happy kids. They are decidedly different. They are easily angered. They are no longer respectful to me or to each other or of anyone, for that matter. They have learned from their mother that they can choose who they want to obey. They no longer follow the Lord because Elise no longer follows the Lord. She abandoned her church and her church friends and they abandoned her. Elise tells the kids what to think about me. I get their attitude all the time when I see them. This is sad for me. Elise now lives with some guy she met at a bar. I love my kids and they have been hurt tremendously by Elise and the divorce industry. I have been almost destroyed by all of this, as well. My parents tell me that some day my kids will know better about all of this. I don’t know. I think they will be forever scarred. God help them.”

“Daniel, we will keep you in our prayers. The Lord knows your heart for your kids and towards Elise. He will make all things right for them and for you.” Father Henry ended our meal with a prayer:

“Father, let Your love surround these children, Elise and Daniel. Restore to them the joy of their salvation. Protect these children from the Evil One who desires to use this situation for His own purposes. Keep them in Your love. Give Daniel what he needs right now. We thank you for the courage he has shown in facing these issues. Grant him Your peace. I ask these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.”

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

Fifty Minutes

 

door 

The clinic’s lobby ebbed and flowed of people.  A mother and her son came in one door.  A teenage girl came out another door and left through the door the mother and son came through.  A therapist stuck his head out of another door and looked around the room.  He saw his next client and said “Hi, come on in.”  A man, his wife and their son followed the therapist through the door.  A woman came in the front door and proceeded over to the glass window to check in with the half-door receptionist.  This flow of traffic continued for thirty five minutes while I read a year-old garden magazine.  I was waiting for my therapist to stick her head out of a door and say “Hi, come on in.”  I was paying her to open the door, stick her head out and say “Hi, come on in.”  She would listen to me.  I paid her good money.  Everyone else I talked to, those I didn’t pay, would just shrug their shoulders and go about their business.  My life had come to this: paying someone to listen to me.  I, of course, didn’t know for sure if they were listening, but at least the door was closed and they faced me while I talked.  They sometimes nodded, too.  They looked like they were listening, anyway. “You get out of it what you put in it.” is what they told me when I began counseling at Hope Well Clinic.

 The door opened and Melody stuck her blond head out the door.  She saw me, smiled and said, “Hi, Denny, come on in.”  I replaced the garden magazine back on the small table between two doors.  I followed Melody and went through the door that separated the outside world from the ’inside’ world.  On the other side of the door was a long hallway with many closed doors.  I knew what was going on behind those doors:   The mysteries of life being sorted into sanity, into something someone could use, something for people to get handle on.  I followed her down the hallway past the closed door sanctuaries and entered her small corner office.  Melody was new to the clinic so she didn’t have a window, just a reproduction of a Kandinsky, Composition X, I believe, hanging on a four foot wide egg shell painted wall.  A floor lamp hung its one light over a love seat. A lava lamp on a small table in front of the Kandinsky provided a pink glow to Melody’s right cheek. I sat down on the left side of the love seat and nestled a burgundy pillow behind the small of my back.  I leaned back into the shadow cast by the lamp and rested my head on my hand.

 Melody is a five-foot-two gorgeous blond with a petite figure that appeared to bubble out from her effervescence.  Her clothes were fashionable, maybe from Saks or Von Maur or Nordstroms.  Her look spoke volumes.  I appreciated the care she took in her appearance.  She didn’t look clinically challenged at all, just “peachy keen”.  A bevy of natural blond hair framed her oval cherubic face.  She appeared so angelic that it was easy for me to ‘see’ her every two weeks.  The visit with her provided for my own emotional ‘face lift’.

 Melody and I had developed some positive transference during our bi-monthly visits over six months   I was able to talk to her openly about most things and yet at the same time I held back on the one piece of the puzzle that confronted my daily life.  The reason for this resistance was the fact that a previous counselor, Jim, at the same clinic had told me that if I wanted to live as a woman and follow through with the surgery the Clinic, the Christian Clinic, couldn’t help me.   They couldn’t say why they wouldn’t help me only that they wouldn’t.  I was left to assume that they weren’t sure what do with the issue or that they just thought it was sinful or destructive. They couldn’t say why.  I later learned that Jim died from lung cancer.  I found this out when they cancelled my sixteenth session with him. That’s when they turned my case over to Melody, a licensed clinical counselor who had just joined Hope Well Clinic.  During my time at the clinic I saw a psychiatrist, too.  His method of dealing with me was to medicate me and then to take five minutes during the next appointment to ask how I was doing and then charge another $250.00 for another script.  I later decided not to medicate the pain. I decided that the financial pain was worse than the emotional pain of not being able to live as a woman. My impending personal financial recession brought about by his incessant billing was causing me severe emotional depression.  I quickly put a lid on the meds.

 There were reasons to talk to someone:   a 14 year long divorce that started as a marriage to Marybeth; my leaving a successful business partnership in hopes of saving the dissolving marriage; the accidental death of our eighteen year old son during the marriage, the everyday loss of my two children to an angry alcoholic woman because of the divorce; the loss of two significant jobs, long term joblessness and the financial collapse of my life.  A page of scripture verses or a bottle of anti-depressants was not what the doctor should have ordered.  Instead, someone just needed to listen to the pain being cast out of me like a demon from the recipient of the personal holocaust.

 “How are you doing this week, Denny?” Our dialog began with Melody’s opening line.

 “Alright, I guess.  No major tragedies the past two weeks.”

“Good.”

 “Marybeth is being a jerk again.

 “How so?”

“You remember how I told you that always threatened me that she would take my kids, take 28% of my income and make me pay?

 “Yes.”

 “That is what she is trying to do right now in the divorce agreement.  She wants me to agree to this arrangement and I am saying no.  It is costing me a small fortune to pay a lawyer to fight this.  My own lawyer keeps telling me that I can’t do this and that I can’t do that.”  My own lawyer is pretty useless if you ask me.  My lawyer expects me to just lay down and give Marybeth sole custody and I refuse to do this.  These are my children, as well.  I lived full time with my kids until this… this…this person decided to break up our marriage and our home with her perfectionism and her alcoholic rage.”

 “I thought last time that we agreed that we weren’t going to keep talking about Marybeth.”

 “I have to.  I am so angry at what she has done to our family, to the kids and to me.  Now she is living with some guy who looks like her father.  All of this in front of my two kids.”

 Melody lets me talk about the Marybeth situation but I realize that she has an agenda and is waiting to move on.  She just nods and looks dolefully at me while placing both feet on the floor in front of her rocking chair.  Her feet didn’t touch the floor unless she rocked forward to make a point.

 “I would like to get a different lawyer but I can’t get the retainer money together again.  I am deep in debt because of this whole divorce business.”

 Melody leaned forward.  “Yeah, that is hard.”  “Well, we have to get you through this, past Marybeth.”

 I leaned toward Melody and spoke directly to her large green eyes:  “I don’t understand it when people make vows and then they don’t fulfill them and just walk away from them.  How can you just walk away from a vow?”

 “”It happens every day.”

 “Then it isn’t a vow, is it?” Denny crossed his arms against his chest.

 “It is at the time.”

 “What?!” His threw his arms open into a wide questioning flare.

 “People say things and things change.”

 “What?! “For better or for worse” are the words we said to each other.  “To death do us part.”

 “Things change, people change.” Melody uncrossed her legs and then crossed them the other way.

 “Vows don’t change.”

 “Let’s move on and get past Marybeth.  You have to go on with your life.”

 “My vow to her was my life!”

 “That has changed.”

 What?!” Denny was incredulous.

 “The divorce is going forward and you must get past this and move on with your life.”

 “I can’t get past this.  Vows are serious things.”

 “She is with someone else.  You can’t make her love you.  You have to let go.”

 “I didn’t want the divorce. I wanted reconciliation.  I wanted to work through these things.  She was always pointing her finger at me and she never once took responsibility for our marriage.  That’s why I went to counseling in the first place.  She said that I was the problem. I was supposed to please her and if I didn’t then she said I was the problem – because she wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy but I thought I had a vow to fulfill and that I must keep working at it.  Happiness would just have to wait.”

 “People sometimes need to go away to realize what they left behind.”

 “What?!”  Denny’s face was bright red, flushed with anger.  “Once she sleeps with this other guy, her father, it is over for us.  I don’t want that to happen. We had children together; we have fourteen years of trying. We made vows.”

 “She changed her mind.  I don’t know why.  Let’s move on to talk about you.”

 “This is me!” Denny returned.

 “OK, but she is not going to change.  Let’s talk about what you can change instead.”

 “She and I were one.  How can you change that except by splitting one into two?  Don’t you understand?  We are getting a divorce because she is not happy!  That’s the reason!”

 “I understand.  She has changed for whatever reason.”

 Denny fell back into the glow of the pink lava lamp, his cheeks flushed red against the soft rose light. He knew that Melody’s ‘agenda’ took precedence over anything that he had wanted to say regarding Marybeth.  He had come through the labyrinth of doors, rooms and hallways into her office so that he could talk to her about these things and she had already moved next door.

 “Denny, remember when we first talked and I asked you about the Healing of Memories Prayer?  We talked about what it was and about bringing up the past.  You said that you were open to praying with me this prayer.  Is that still the case?”

 Denny shifted his legs and then leaned forward putting his hands on his knees.  “Yeah, I’m open to that.  I don’t see why not.”

 “Good, well if you are in a good place then we can try it today. I wanted to make sure there is enough time to pray and to work through whatever comes up.”

 “Alright.”

  … My previous therapist, Susan, was a psychologist.  Her office was in her home in a northwestern suburb of Chicago.  Susan was very friendly and approachable.  So much so, in fact, that she saw me once a week, charged me only $30.00/hour and we talked for two to three hours at a time – costing me only $30.00.  I would not call her a typical therapist but we did enjoy talking with each other.  We talked about everything:  her dog, her son, her friends, her life, church, spirituality, movies and so on.  I didn’t know who was more pixilated:  me or Susan.  After a year or so of sessions with Susan I traveled closer to home, to Hope Well Clinic in Wheaton.  I did that for post-marriage counseling and because I was giving Susan more counseling then she gave me in return.  I later found out that Susan had some serious health issue that resulted from her breast implants leaking silicone.  The silicone had affected her brain.  She became mentally handicapped as time went on.  During one session with Susan the year before I learned that she had dated a plastic surgeon and that he had done her breast implant surgery.  That relationship apparently had deteriorated over time…

 “Why don’t we pray and see what the Lord brings up from the past.  Are you ready to have these things come up?” “Do you feel OK about this?” Melody leaned toward me and folded her hands.

 “I’m not worried about the past. I’ve been there before.  It’s right now that has me bothered.”

 “OK, let’s get started.  Father, we pray for Denny.  We ask that You would bring Denny to a place in the past, a place that You want to heal.”

 We waited in silence.  The room was quiet except for the low hum of the lava lamp.  The hallway was quiet except for the closure of a door somewhere.  I didn’t know what was going on in the lobby.  I was deep in thought and the prayer was reaching even deeper into my soul.  After ten minutes of silence I began to see an image in my mind:  I was standing in the doorway of my bedroom.  The bedroom was in the house I had lived in since I was eight years old.  I understood that the house was empty, no furniture and no people.  I was alone.

 I began to cry softly.  The aching pain of being alone had followed me throughout my life.  A rush of sadness came to my head and poured out into tears which fell from my bowed face. In my vision I stood in the doorway looking into the bedroom.  It had now become pitch black.  I was enveloped in darkness within an empty house looking into an empty room.  It was then that I heard a voice say to me, “Run free.”  I instantly saw a little Indian boy running around without a shirt.  He was happy and utterly free.  He didn’t have a care in the world.  I knew then that the Lord had given me this understanding because this vision was so intimate to my understanding.  This image of this shirtless Indian boy was something I had immediately recognized in my spirit.  I realized that God had set me free from my past and had given me freedom to go forward with my heart’s desires.  Only the Lord knew exactly what was in my heart – the desire I had not mentioned to Melody or to anyone since I told Jim.  The spirit of the little boy now lived in me – the spirit of freedom.  The past no longer pinned me down.  People would no longer be able pin me down with their prejudice and fear.  I was free to go forward with my life.

 Melody asked what I had seen and I told her about the empty and dark bedroom in my childhood home.  She asked me if I had heard anything and I told her, “The Lord said, run free!”  She looked at me quizzically and I kept my thoughts to myself.  She asked if I was OK and all I could say was, “Yeah.”  I knew that if I had told her my understanding of the vision that she would seek to negate my vision and suppress my perception of it because of a Hope Well Clinic policy based on ignorance and bias and, perhaps, fear.  My heart was dancing but my eyes didn’t move from staring at the floor.

 I wiped my face and fell back into the loveseat with a sigh.  I sat in her office with a red face and a growing smile.  I knew that I was loved by the Lord and that I was heard by Him.  I was not alone anymore in my very personal struggle.  The session ended with Melody saying, “Well it’s time.  Let’s get together in two weeks and see how you are doing.”  I went through her door again, down the hallway of doors and into the lobby of many doors where I paid my bill.  I left the clinic and found my car in the parking lot.  I would return just two more times to see Melody.  Everything had a different perspective now.  The Lord had heard me and He had answered my prayers. I had gotten out of it what I had put in it.  And, more.

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved