What Are You So Affirmed Of?

 

Affirmations give us feedback. They tell us our status at a certain place and time. And so, we look for affirmations from those around us. 

A wife looks to her husband for affirmation of his love for her. A husband looks to his wife for affirmation of her respect for him. Children look to parents for affirmation of their boundaries.

Outside the family, the employed look for affirmation of their employment in a regular paycheck, in a regular review and in a manager’s approval. Students seek affirmation of their studies in the grade received and in the teacher’s approval. Church goers seek affirmation of their faith and atheists seek affirmation of their faith. Both faith groups do so in communities of others like themselves.

We choose friends who will affirm us in life-sustaining ways. Or, we look for friends who will affirm our unhealthy choices. We look for feedback from our friends. Our Friend the Way affirmed for us the life-sustaining way:

“Go in by the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction, you see, is nice and wide, and the road going there has plenty of room. Lots of people go that way. But the gate leading to life is narrow, and the road going there is a tight squeeze. Not many people find their way through.”

Like the roads signs I encountered on my recent trip to Memphis, affirmations can be signposts and confirmations that we are heading in the right direction. They can also tell us where paths diverge, as shown above. Affirmations guide us along.

Affirmations of relationships are writ large in the gospels. We read of God the Father’s out-of-the-heavens affirmation of His Son in Matthew 3:17 and again 17:5:

“This is my son, my beloved son,” said the voice. “I am delighted with him.”

The Lord’s affirmation of his followers is made obvious throughout the gospels. He let us know that we are of much greater value than a sparrow that the Father feeds and cares for daily. Through parables, Jesus affirmed to us our worth. He let it be known that when the lost are found and when the prodigal returns, the heavens rejoice. My last post talked about Jesus calling us his friends if we do what he asks of us.

Jesus affirms the choice his followers make in leaving all and following him. He does so by giving them the same confirmation that he received from the world: rejection. From John’s gospel account:

“If the world hates you, “Jesus went on, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were from the world, the world would be fond of its own. But the world hates you for this reason: that you are not from this world. No, I chose you out of this world.”

 

The world seeks affirmation from its own. Writ large on social media: the world is fond of its own. If the scroll of a Twitter feed is any indication, those in the world seek constant critical-free affirmation. Some, the malignantly narcissistic, insist upon “affirmation independent of all findings” per Austrian philosopher Martin Buber. These want to live in a fact-free world about their own character. They are intolerant of any examination of their character. When challenged many will quote Jesus about not judging others even though their behavior suggests that they do not care one iota about what Jesus has to say. That pretty much sums up many of the replies I receive on Twitter.

Typically, the world’s demand for affirmation is couched in the high-sounding “rights”. Legal rights as enforced affirmation is desired by the world because legal rights coerce others to affirm them. Affirmation was demanded of the Supreme Court. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the Court’s same-sex marriage decision that the plaintiffs in the case were seeking “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

Yet, even with “equal dignity in the eyes of the law” the world’s superficial affirmations, in the eyes of the beholder, quickly fade. And, with it satisfaction wanes. Consider receiving a participation trophy for just showing up. Or, receiving “dignity” for just showing up.

One has to wonder if the world’s narcissistic impulse to be constantly, dramatically and legally affirmed is due to popularization of self-esteem and the big business of self-love:

Self-Esteem in the Classroom is a curriculum guide for grades 1-12 contains 416 pages detailing over 220 classroom-tested activities to build self-esteem. -Jack Canfield, Maximizing Your Potential website

You can download a free About Me: Self-Esteem Sentence Completion Worksheet

Self Esteem Activities boost your self-esteem, confidence and experience of peace and happiness. Just as a muscle requires regular exercise to maintain its’ strength and flexibility your positive self-esteem brain pathways are fortified by specific self-esteem exercises and worksheets.

-15 Great Self Esteem Building Activities & Exercises For Teens and Adults

Many psychologists will spend a lot of your time (and your money) seeking out the cause of your low self-love. 

Retired psychologist Anthony Daniels, writing under his pen name Theodore Dalrymple, offered his tongue-in-cheek thoughts about self esteem in Chapter Four of his book, Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality

Whatever else you must do, you must always love and esteem yourself, otherwise you are doomed to a life of sterile denigration. In dynamic psychotherapy one must uncover the roots of a lack of self-esteem …

In behavioral psychotherapy a lack of necessary self-esteem is the result of a vicious circle of thought in which reflections upon failure lead to real failure, which lead to future reflections upon failure, and so on ad infinitum. The object of the cognitive behavioral therapy is break the vicious circle, thus transforming a wretched mouselike creature who barley dares to leave his mouse hole into a go-getter who wins friends and influences people. It is not difficult to see the connection between these ideas and the modern pedagogic tendency to praise children for their efforts, however desultory …

The notion of self-love or self-esteem is in itself either ridiculous or repellent. No one ascribes his good character or successes in life to an adequate fund of self-esteem … Self-doubt, within reason, is something to be overcome; self-esteem is complacency elevated to an ontological plane.

In the world, self-importance and its kissing cousin self-affirmation are all the rage. Literally. Affirm one’s self and thereby avoid and denounce all critical examination. Allow others to generously affirm you at no cost to yourself. And, if someone gets close to the beloved self with the light of truth then release all stored-up wrath to blow out the candle.

 

What Are You So Affirmed Of?

Those who behave this way act out of fear. They do not know the affirmation of God that releases them from fear. As it is written, There is no fear in love; complete love drives out fear. Fear has to do with punishment, and anyone who is afraid has not been completed in love.

Jesus summed up his affirmation of us on the cross as he honored his own words: There is no greater affirmation than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. The world sums up its affirmation in self-image participation trophies and fortune cookies.

Double-Closeted And Doubled Down?

Study: Same-sex abuse rate high

Chicago Tribune, Sunday, September 21, 2014 article by Ted Gregory

From the page seven article:

“Same-sex couples may experience more domestic violence than opposite-sex couples, a Northwestern Medicine review of research suggests.

Richard Carroll, an associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Feinberg Ph.D. student Colleen Stiles-Shields made their conclusion after reviewing a handful of studies, including the 2011 National Violence Against Women Survey of about 16,000 people.

That survey found domestic violence rates among same-sex couples upward of twice as high as those of opposite-sex couples, Carroll said Thursday….as least as high and in many cases higher than for opposite-sex couples, …

“Their explanation for the higher rates, Carroll said, is that same sex couples “are dealing with the additional stress of being a sexual minority.”

That added stress also leads to lower rates of reporting domestic violence among same-sex couples, Carroll said.”(emphasis mine)

Note: I am unable to link to the Tribune article since I am not a member of the Chicago Tribune online circulation. I do have the newsprint in front of me. The article in its original form can be found at Northwestern University website:

Domestic Violence Likely More Frequent for Same-Sex Couples

Extra stress in same-sex couples may raise risk of domestic abuse

September 18, 2014

“Evidence suggests that the minority stress model may explain these high prevalence rates,” said senior author Richard Carroll, associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Domestic violence is exacerbated because same-sex couples are dealing with the additional stress of being a sexual minority. This leads to reluctance to address domestic violence issues.” (emphasis mine)(reluctance =Double Closeted in their thinking)

The review was published Sept. 4 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. The first author is Colleen Stiles-Shields, a student in the clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Feinberg.

Domestic violence — sometimes called intimate partner violence — is physical, sexual or psychological harm occurring between current or former intimate partners. Research concerning the issue began in the 1970s in response to the women’s movement, but traditionally studies focused on women abused by men in opposite-sex relationships.

“There has been a lot of research on domestic violence but it hasn’t looked as carefully at the subgroup of same-sex couples,” Carroll said. “Another obstacle is getting the appropriate samples because of the stigma that has been attached to sexual orientation. In the past, individuals were reluctant to talk about it.”

Of the research that has examined same-sex domestic violence, most has concentrated on lesbians rather than gay men and bisexuals.”

 

Minority stress model?!? Wow! And this from a psychiatrist, from a ‘professional?!’

NFL. No doubt you have witnessed the recent uproar over the Ray Rice video. Domestic abuse, caught on tape, is front and center. Should Ray Rice be given the option of choosing the NFL “stress model” as his psychological reasoning for acting violently towards his mate?

Remember the Penn State child-sex abuse scandal and Jerry Sandusky? Should the pressures of creating football success, football success which must translate into school donations coupled with a historical background of abuse be placed under a similar but somewhat different model: the unctuous demand for success dollars that creates stress and leads to abuse under situations conducive to abuse? With Sandusky there was more to the story than just the stress surrounding his job performance but I would certainly figure that being his team’s defensive coordinator was a stressor. Does the football “stress model” also apply to him?

Domestic abuse in any form is a deplorable act, needing immediate attention. And, there is no doubt that NFL players placing themselves under a contract and the spotlights, have put themselves under tremendous pressure to perform. Should a player’s stress factor be used to explain violent behavior and for some, excuse the behavior as understandable?

Of course the “minority stress model” extends well beyond same sex-sex couples. It would also apply to the sexual minority groups of polygamists, pedophiles and sexual predators the likes of John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer.  Every minority would fall under the umbrella diagnosis regardless of the violence inflicted on their victims.  One has to wonder when the “minority stress model” diagnosis will be used in court as a defense.

Minority stress model?!?

Now to my point: Is a “stress model” where the domestic abuse discussion should end? Are there not moral implications which are at work here? And, do people put themselves in positions and remain in positions where stress is a given? Are people culpable for their actions?

Regarding the above research by Carroll and the PhD student, where is the diagnostic factor that each person, regardless of stress, is responsible for their own actions, whether in a heterosexual marriage or in a same-sex marriage?

Certainly Carroll and Stiles-Shields, psychological diagnosticians, do not make a moral assessment as to why same-sex couples would encounter “Minority-stress.” Instead, they basically enable same-sex couples via a politically correct way to accept themselves-a “Get Out of Shame Free” card, if you will: “You are a sexual minority and therefore you encounter more stress than couples in heterosexual marriages would. You are victims of your status, nothing more. It is the world’s responsibility to make life better for you, a same-sex couple. “You are not ultimately responsible for your violent reactions under stress. You are only reacting out of minority stress.”

Is the opposite scenario true? Would there be less stress on same-sex couples if only the rest of the world accepted their “minority” behavior? And, what makes them a minority? It is their sexual and emotional codependency on a person of the same sex.

Isn’t it the implication of Carroll and Stiles-Shields that there would there be less stress and domestic violence in same-sex marriages if everyone around them jumped up and down and said “Yes, gay is good for everyone? ”Carroll specifically used the words “Minority stress model”- a politically correct way of sifting victims out of thin air.

Becoming a victim is now vogue, a cause célèbre. Victimization will almost ensure that people will take notice of and senimentalize your ‘dilemma’, thereby feeding any narcissitic tendencies.

Yet, what is written onto everyone’s heart is truth, not unjust and obtuse psychological mumbo-jumbo.

From an absolute moral perspective a Christian knows that a person’s ‘heart’, his or her psyche, is not a tabula rasa but rather a tablet inscribed with a moral knowledge-a BIOS operating system embedded by God.

“For the anger of God is unveiled from heaven against all the ungodliness and injustice performed by people who use injustice to suppress the truth. What can be known about God, you see, is plain to them, since God has made it plain to them. There are, of course, things about God which you can’t see: namely his eternal power and deity. But, ever since the world was created, they have been known and seen in the things that he has made. As a result, they have no excuse: they knew God, but didn’t honor him as God or thank him. Instead, they learned to think in useless ways, and their unwise hearts grew dark. They declared themselves to be wise, but in fact they became foolish. They swapped the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of the image of mortal humans-and birds, animals and reptiles.

So God gave them up to uncleanness in the desires of their hearts, with the result that they dishonored their bodies among themselves. They swapped God’s truth for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever, Amen.

So God gave them up to shameful desire. Even women, you see, swapped natural sexual practice for unnatural; and the men, too, abandoned natural sexual relations with women, and were inflamed with their lust for one another. Men performed shameless acts with men, and received in themselves the appropriate repayment for their mistaken ways.

Moreover, just as they did not see fit to hold on to knowledge of God, God gave them up to an unfit mind, so that they would behave inappropriately. They were filled with all kinds of injustice, wickedness, greed, and evil; they were full of envy, murder, enmity, deceit, and cunning. They became gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, self-important, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, unwise, unfaithful in marriage, unfeeling, uncaring. They know that God has rightly decreed that people who do things like that deserve death. But not only do they do them; they gave their approval to people who practice them. (emphasis mine)

The Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the Roman church is a true psychological diagnosis of the human psyche. With God there is no politically correct word spinning or blame shifting, no pandering of victimization. Each of us is responsible for our own actions whether we are in a majority, minority or in a minority within a minority. God doesn’t offer secular humanism. He offers a safe harbor and redemption.

The good news is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” so that mankind could courageously confront and acknowledge each our own sinfulness, repent and find our God-renewed right minds.

Paul’s letter to the Roman church goes on to tell you the good news worked out in our lives. I suggest that you buy a copy of New Testament scholar N.T. Wright’s translation of the New Testament: “The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation” Read about the good news and the healing process for yourself. It works when applied!

One final observation: the “Minority stress model” sounds analogous to the global warming models, models that are designed to be overly sensitive to CO2 in order to make certain political and economic justifications… and to make everyone a victim.

Has the Dark Night Risen in You?

The recent massacre of innocent lives at the movie theatre should shock everyone back into reality.  Sadly, I doubt this will happen. Entertainment violence must go on for the sake of masses.  Liberal causes must be funded with the proceeds.

 As a kid I paid 25 cents for a Batman or Superman comic. I understood these illustrated ‘funny’ papers as fantasy narratives. The bad guys appeared as a weird assortment of surreal characters that seemed to be annoyances more than anything. I stopped buying comic books when I grew up.

 The Batman cult has evolved from fantasy comic books to serial spoofs (TV’s Adam West) to abstracted violence (Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher) to evil and chaos personified – Heath Ledger’s Joker (Christopher Nolan).  None of this is lost on the ravenous crowds who lust for more bloody entertainment.

 Teens, adults, even parents with young children come to the theatre to watch the gladiator sport of murder on the big screen. No age is immune to an addiction to violence. And the addiction is gladly reinforced by the profiteers of Hollywood.

 The Dark Knight Rises. Christopher Nolan. Auteurial vision. I see nothing but decadence from the bottom up. I will not go to see this movie out of respect for the victims. I don’t need Batman.

 Something to think about:  you know how a TV jingle or ad gets in your head and stays there?  What is lurking in your head, crouching, waiting to come out?  Will a psychotic break push you to unload the burned-in images of your anger, discontent, loneliness and rage onto others in the form of a cold-calculated bullet?

You are responsible for what you load into your heart, mind and soul. And, for what comes out.

Added:  https://sallyparadise.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/the-trajectory-of-jared-lee-loughner/

In memoriam, from Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony #3 “Sorrowful Songs”:

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.”

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