On New Beginnings
Posted on October 7, 2011
Transformed people transform people.
– Richard Rohr, The Naked Now
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It has been suggested to me by a number of people that I might, perhaps, want to start a blog. Okay, it was just one person, but I respect that person. Maybe he thought I might not fill his email box with my musings on, well, just about everything if I was occupied writing for a different venue. Besides, the idea sounded just crazy enough that it appealed to me. I’m not out to convince, attack, or convert anyone. The only thing that comes to mind as I share quotes that have touched me or comment on how they touched me, is that I need to challenge myself continually to think in broader terms. Perhaps you need to think in broader terms, also. There are no dues to pay, I won’t be begging you to dial 1-800-GVE-CASH because Daddy needs a new Mercedes, no guilt trips here of any kind. I don’t care to tell you what to believe. It seems to me, though, that too many people never question what they believe. They were told to believe A, B, C and that’s where it stops. When I stop questioning (as I did for a very long time), I’ve stopped growing. And, in my case, I slid backwards.
So, I should start at the beginning. Well, as close to the beginning as is possible. I hope this will help you understand where I came from, where I went, and where I’ve come. Bear with me if this introductory blog seems excessively long. If you prefer, you can nap through this part of it and wait for the next blog without all the background.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away from me (or at least about 223 miles from my current location), there lived a little, blondish boy. He was a boy full of contradictions. His mother was one of those people who, if the church doors were open, made sure we were there – rain or shine. And, that was overall a good thing, as I recall. Understand, however, that there’s a lot I don’t recall. That’s not just because I’m not as young as I used to be but because I made a very conscious effort to forget my life from birth to age eighteen. But, I digress – as I am wont to do. I don’t know when the abuse began, but I think it was no later than age three. Therein lies the contradiction. I was fifty-six years old before I was finally able to face these things in my past (with the help of others) and come to understand just how profoundly those events had colored my view of life. I tried to forget everything from my childhood – the good and the bad. Since the good things were tied so closely to the bad things, it all had to go. How else was I going to protect myself?
The little boy believed in a loving God. Even though other events made it increasingly difficult to hold on to that belief, it remained for a long time. Was I ever told in so many words that I was an abomination to God? Well, yes. But more than that, actions speak louder than words. And the actions were very, very loud around me growing up. As I got older, I retreated further and further inside my head. The walls I built during that time got higher and more dense until around age seventeen. At that point, I left the little boy behind and determined to be someone else. Alcohol helped me in that regard. I think the first time I got drunk was the first time in years I felt I could actually breathe. That was such a relief, my new goal in life was to be drunk as often as I could and that remained true for the next thirty-three years of my life.
For all intents and purposes, the boy who not only believed there was a God, but that God was loving and all about redemption, disappeared. In his place was an angry young man who felt that God had been stolen from him. The focus of my anger was organized religion and I moved into a time when I was more than willing to trash the religion of my youth, but also your religion if you dared mention it within earshot. That lasted until the age of fifty when I sobered up and well beyond.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been surrounded by loving people every day of my life and I will be forever grateful for that fact. But when you’ve been abused early in life and taught to be secretive, it becomes seemingly impossible to trust anyone around you. I couldn’t have survived till today without the people who stuck with me even while I kept them at arms-length and treated them with suspicion. After all, how could I really trust anyone who believed that I was worthy of any love at all? By the time I was an adult, I no longer needed anyone else to beat me down and tell me I just didn’t measure up. I’d taken over the job myself and was capable of telling myself all manner of bad things about me without any help. And I’d learned to be much harder on me than anyone else could possibly have been.
At age fifty, I sobered up. At age fifty-six, I went into therapy (once again) to try to deal with the abuse. I’d tried many times before but found that it was just too scary to even admit to myself what had happened back then. Each attempt ended in failure and I drank more than I had before. My final foray into therapy was prompted by circumstances which convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was now or never, terrified or not. It turned out to be the best decision of my life.
Several months into therapy, a very dear friend sent me a copy of the book, The Shack, by William P. Young. My friend suggested strongly that I read the book. I knew it talked about God, Jesus, faith, the loss of faith, etc. Consequently, I wanted to have nothing to do with it. But, I respect my friend too much not to have read it. I cried all the way through the book, pretending I didn’t know why. Still, reading the book prompted me about a month later to show up at my step-mother’s church to surprise her one Sunday. Her daughter had died of cancer a few weeks before and it occurred to me that she might appreciate my coming to surprise her. That first service was full of terrifying contradictions. I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of sadness and was comforted at the same time. In fact, I walked out of that first service before it was over. Even so, I found the next week that I wanted to return. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I decided I didn’t need to know right that minute why I wanted to return. I decided to follow my heart and let it play out however it would. I’ve been in church every week since. Still, I felt like the world’s biggest hypocrite. Another dear friend, however, said to me, “Ben, we’re all hypocrites.” And he was right. What I found was a place filled with loving people who, by their very presence, invited me to take a closer look. What I found was community.
In this blog, I will give credit where credit is due. In case you’re interested, I’ll mention the books I’m reading, the authors, and their publishers. I’ll also give credit to the amazing people I’ve known for many years and the people I’ve come to know in the past few years who have helped me come to grips with a painful past and begin a new journey in life.
So, if your thinker likes to think thoughts as mine does, please come along for the ride. When I ceased to be the center of the universe, it became much easier to be happy to wake up in the morning.