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Thursday, December 12, 2013

What It Meant to be a Christian Today; Switching on One Light Rather than Wallowing in Darkness

Lighting a Candle by Friiskiwi 
This is what it means to me today to be a Christian.

Some people hurt me yesterday. Their identities don't matter and I won't report their identities here.

I can say that they hurt me on purpose, and they hurt me because they perceived themselves as receiving some psychological or perhaps Darwinian reward from hurting me.

I am vulnerable to them. I have been trying for years to be helpful to them and supportive of them, especially in the last little while.

So, I was hurt. Physical pain, dark, troubled thoughts.

I didn't want to lose a minute more to their sadism than I had to.

A couple of my atheist acquaintances have insisted to me, with the determined orthodoxy of the zealot, that anyone who was abused as a child must be scarred for life. There is no such thing as free will, they insist. There is no such thing as soul. There is no such thing as choice or personal responsibility. We are all nothing but mechanical wind-up toys. If someone hurts you, you will hurt yourself or someone else.

So my atheist acquaintances insist.

See, though, the universe is not purely mechanical. You can bless loaves and fishes and feed a multitude. You can be an abused kid and not turn into an abuser. You can be hurt as an adult by the same people who hurt you when you were a child and you can choose not to be scarred.

So, back to yesterday.

I dealt with my pain by going for a walk.

During my walk, bad words did enter my head. I did think about revenge. To that extent, I am a mechanical wind-up toy. I do lack free will. Someone hurts me; I want to hurt back.

I saw that I was thinking bad words and vengeful thoughts, and I realized that that doesn't mesh with the faith I profess. I didn't even have to banish the bad words or vengeful thoughts, because my brain was going a mile a minute, and I just cruised past that neighborhood into mute, deep sorrow.

Days are short this time of year so I outwalked the sun, and had to turn back to Paterson in darkness. I was a bit scared. An SUV driven by an African American woman pulled into my portion of the sidewalk. I thought I might be about to be kidnapped as a sex slave, or I might be in luck. I was in luck. The driver offered me a ride home. God bless her

I was still hurt. I was alone in my apartment. Talking to others helps; I had no one at hand to talk to. I debated with myself about posting on Facebook about the ugly thing that happened, but I decided that posting risked more harm than good. I would have to say publicly what these easily identifiable people did to me. I didn't want to tarnish their reputations. Often people respond to others' pain by badmouthing the perpetrator. I rarely feel any benefit from hearing others badmouthed. Rather what I want to hear is how to retain equilibrium when being hit hard. I remained mum.

This morning I woke up and still didn't know how to address what happened yesterday.

I knew I had to address it.

I decided to give it time.

I prayed for guidance.

I'm an adult now, and the worst of what was done to me is behind me. I thought about all the kids being abused right now. I thought about how bleak their lives are. Abusers want to feel good about some aspect of their lives, and so they choose to abuse others as a route to feeling good. We are their drug of choice. Our bodies, our days, our plans, our hopes, our psyches, our health. We are their chew toys.

I thought of what a shock it was for me when I emerged from the abusive home and met people who were nice to me. Compliments – what a shock! People treating me with respect – what a shock! People honoring commitments to me – what a shock! People inviting me over for dinner – Wow!

I thought of Karla Thrush, a Facebook friend, saying that she likes my writing.

Courtesy, compliments, concern directed at me. All big shocks. All very educational.

You start to respect yourself, value yourself. You start to realize how crazy your family is. You actually start to pity your family.

When I interact with those who abused me in my childhood, and they are abusive again, it reminds me of all those past hurts, and the shock of emerging, of being treated with respect.

I began going through my mail. I found a solicitation for donations from the Humane Society. Groups I donated to last year are asking for this years' donation.

In some cases, I have not given. That's because my medical bills, which I am handling out of pocket, without insurance, are intimidating me.

This morning, I thought about yesterday's ugly event. I thought about what I could do to change the world. To bring more light into it.

I wrote out a big check to the Humane Society.

That's what it meant to me to be a Christian today.

To be hurt yesterday.

Not to lash out, but to wait for insight on how best to handle the pain.

Not to overeat. Not to drink more alcohol than is suitable for my body. Not to say things publicly that might hurt others, others I don't want to hurt, no matter how they treated me. Not to get revenge. Not to swear a lot.

To use what puny powers I have to reverse the crappy thing. To witness a world that hates, and to manifest love. To bring more light into the world.

Why? Because of Jesus. That's it. I want to be true to him.

As I mentioned, above, I'm not a particularly good person. I did want revenge. I fantasized revenge. What I am is someone who tries to make choices that mesh with my beliefs. Small choices about small things, because I am a small person.

The point is, I can make those small choices for the good, and I do, and I do because of Jesus. 

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