The Box of Disorder: How I survived when I burned it all down

A few weeks ago, before I lost my brain to whole 30 and fourteen unexpected schedule crises, I wrote a bit about the three boxes: order< disorder< reorder. I learned about these boxes from Richard Rohr. Whether or not he originated the thought, I don’t know. I’m just glad I heard him speak of them. You can read about order here and disorder here. But I want to take a bit longer and talk about my own disorder story.

I believe everyone’s journey is unique; we don’t all walk the same path even when we are headed in the same direction. But I also know there is power in “me too”, and it’s very important for those of us on the disorder journey to hear this, because it can be an extremely lonely time.

I wrote earlier that sometimes the disorder starts with a simple question, and so it did with me. Back when I used to love to study scripture – a feeling it’s hard for me to remember now; the Bible and I approach each other gently now, like lovers who said too many horrible things in a fight and haven’t fully recovered – I read something which contradicted everything I’d been taught about Jewish people. Namely, they missed the boat in Jesus and so were lost to salvation. But what I was reading, didn’t support this idea at all.

Excited by my ‘discovery,’ I began to share with others. Their response is what you probably expect.

No. You’re wrong. God doesn’t work like that.

Their utter refusal to even entertain these, to me, exciting and beautiful revelations left me feeling diminished. Their tone when they rebuked me left me feeling ashamed. Questions open the doors to dangerous ideas; we sure don’t want to go down any slippery slopes.

Except I did.

I could write for days and weeks if I enumerated all the reasons the cracks in my iron-clad theology grew, personal relationships became strained and snapped. The dissonance in the doctrine I knew and what I was actually finding in scripture was too loud. I knew too much of what happens behind closed doors in churches (hint: people I placed unfairly on pedestals acting altogether human). All these things contributed their weight.  I struggled, floundered and pushed back.

Then we were kicked out of church.

I know now, after years of struggling with this huge, suffocating burden, that pushing back against the system was only part of the reason for our eviction. Ego, dysfunction, resentment and jealousy took part in the decision. I was not innocent of some of the uglier motives, but I no longer believe I deserved what I got. For years, I carried the weight of responsibility for this eviscerating event. When I took it upon myself, I also decided I would be the one to fix it and prevent it from ever happening again.

Obviously, the way to prevent pain was to be the best little evangelical pastor wife I could be. You can’t evict perfection, right?

I threw myself into my wifely position at our new church home attending all the services, promoting all the programs, keeping the nursery. I crossed all the t’s, dotted all the i’s and made countless covered dishes. The box of order was my security blanket, the thing that would keep me from ever being hurt again.

Except I kept getting hurt. Human relationships are messy; we can’t avoid hurt in this world unless we remove ourselves to a desert cave. Even then, we may still end up wounded. My wounds only added to the internal pressure I felt from denying all my questions and struggles from before. I couldn’t continue to embrace things I knew weren’t the final Truth and remain true to myself. If I embraced these dissonant doctrines, I was going to lose core pieces of my self entirely, and I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t.

The breakdown was not a lovely time. At all.

It was messy and painful. I ached and wept and railed in fury, isolated and shut down. I wounded people with sharp edges and anger. Honestly, I’m lucky to have anyone still withe me, who knew me before. I lost many along the way. Fortunately, despite all my fear of intimacy and strangers, I knew I needed professional help.  I spent many hours in the office of a therapist, a beautiful, open-minded soul who made space for my disaster and told me again and again and again that there was room in God’s love for even this.

That message, apart from religion or expectations or appearances or all the other things I hated about myself and everything else….Just God and space and LOVE…is the one thing I held, pressed right up against my heart, tight, tight, tight, tight.

Then I razed the rest.

Once I knew, really knew, God’s love held room for my disaster, I wanted nothing else. I wanted to rebuild my self piece by piece: likes, dislikes, theology, philosophy, relationships, dreams, hopes, all of it. Everything. Nothing was sacred, not even the sacred.

But first, I sat in the ashes. I mourned. I wept. God made space for it and me even as I railed against Him for my own decision. I cursed Him for my lonliness. I turned away from Him in my disappointment. But even in this, I found space. I found love.  Companions sat with me in the ashes, wisely speaking no platitudes, correction or rebuke. Simply bearing witness to the death of so many things.

Not everyone experiences disorder on this scale, but some do. I foolishly built my identity on something which couldn’t last, so when the time for disorder came, as it does for all of us, most of my identity disintegrated with it.

But there’s hope. Always hope. While we are still in the box of disorder hope does not leave us. In fact, it builds the bridge to the box of reorder, which is where we are going next.

Something Fun Sunday: Episode one

I think that success is having fun. – Bruno mars

Last week, I shared about my Sunday struggles
, and my plan to reframe how I feel by adding something fun each week.  I dubbed it “Something Fun Sunday.” This week, I made sure to take notice of books, events, songs, and moments so I could share them today.  I’m pleased to say, it worked! I was definitely more mindful of enjoyable moments. I anticipated their arrival and savored them longer, and then reflected on them more often in further anticipation of writing about it.  These are all keys to happiness. Without further ado, here’s Some fun things for Sunday
I’m an unashamed Marvel movies fan. No, I didn’t grow up reading the comic books, and I don’t know all the lore and back stories. I just know I enjoy a good completely imaginary action flick.  So when Craig showed me the new Thor: Ragarok trailer, I was thrilled! It’s not many movie trailers which make me laugh aloud, but this one does. “I know him! We’re friends from work!” I crack up every time. Watch it here.

Two books added to my enjoyment this week. While I tend more towards literary fiction and non-fiction, some weeks I want cozy chic-lit filled with tears and laughter and a guaranteed happy ending.  I want a great story about relationships and life and the crazy way its beautiful and terrible all at the same time. This week, I found it in Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves.  I don’t want to give anything away, but, friends, if you need a cozy good book this week, this is it.

On Thursday night, my book group gathered (more fun things!), and we ended up talking about an entirely different book. The Happiness Project is a long-time favorite.  In fact, I’m undertaking a happiness project of my own this year. I reread this book almost annually and was so excited it came up because it’s currently $1.99 on Kindle. I don’t know how much longer this deal will last, so if you decide to read it too, I wouldn’t wait too long to buy it. Incidentally, when I talk about how anticipating, experiencing and remembering an event increases happiness, that’s a concept I learned from Gretchen Rubin.

I’m a bit late to the bandwagon (aren’t I always?) We’ve had family premium on Spotify for about six months now, and the whole experience is wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I like music, and how entwined my mood and music can be. New music at my finger tips and the ability to make playlists for every mood?  YES, PLEASE!! EVERY DAY ALL DAY LONG!  A couple weeks ago I ran across this little gem, and I’ve probably listened to it sixty-eight times since then. So now I share it with you, enjoy!

Remember to Breathe: Sharks, faith and other things with teeth

Speaking of forgetting, last night we were sitting in bed, scrolling through Netflix, as you do, and Hunky ran across a new BBC documentary. Sharks. I cannot overemphasize how much I love sharks. Jaws is my secret favorite movie. For my 34th birthday, Hunky gave me an hour in the shark tank at Sea World for my birthday, arguably the greatest gift ever. When we still had cable, I treated Shark Week like a liturgical holy week.

Sadly, it’s been awhile since I watched or listened or paid attention to anything, really, about sharks. If asked, I will passionately exclaim, I LOVE SHARKS! And I’ll be telling the truth, even if my passion is more dry and dusty ancient knowledge than hands on, heart on, messy, wet, toothsome experience.

But last night, I remembered. As I watched the ragged-tooth shark on my TV screen, I remembered, ghostly forms swimming towards me in a shark cage. Oxygen sighed loudly in my ears as my very breath flowed into me, rather than being excessively available. I remembered the echoing, ghostly quiet as I watched a world in which I was completely foreign carrying on beneath and around me, entranced as living dinosaurs examined me, possibly a bit more hungrily than I examined them.

I can’t remember the last time I experienced something so visceral and full of wonder.

In the safety of my bedroom, I listened to the narrator talk about eons of time, 400 million years, as light slanted through the water and mysterious, alien landscapes burst forth on screen. Not too long ago, I fought so hard against those numbers, needing to be certain, desperate to be right.  I’m not that person anymore, but stepping away from certainty and those prescribed faith tracks is a bit like stepping into a cage over shark infested water.

More than a few decades ago, I earned my scuba license in a highly-chlorinated, basement, college swimming pool. The highlight of this experience would be diving the Crystal River during a weekend trip to Florida.  I remember squeezing into my farmer johns and lowering myself into the water, spitting into my mask and finally, adjusting the regulator, the thing tethering me to life when I enter the unknown.

The first time you lower yourself into the water you think, I can’t believe all of this is here, all the time. All this beauty and miracle going on all around me, and I didn’t even know it.  The next thing you think is Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe. Keep breathing. In and out.  Because while you are swept up in this utterly novel and foreign universe, your mind is yelling. You are in a place you don’t belong and cannot survive. It’s desperately trying to convince you if you breathe in, you will die.

During this dive in the Crystal River an alligator gar decided he wanted my mask for himself. He tried to take it from my face using only his teeth. In the moment I was terrified. Now I remember it as one of the most thrilling and unexpected moments in my life.

Faith is like this sometimes, too, entirely beautiful and safe inside the boat. You can go places you’ve never been and see things you’ve never seen before. It’s all completely safe as long as you stay inside the boat.  But underneath is completely different, beautiful and ancient, and mostly hidden beneath the surface.  Always there, as real as air and sunlight and flotation devices in case of emergency.  We can enter into it if we wish and see other, deeper things we’ve never seen. It feels lonely at first, but soon hosts of living creatures swim around us, as curious of us as we are of them. Some of them, maybe, a little dangerous.

It’s an experience both visceral and full of wonder. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s ok to breathe.