Friday, February 19, 2010

Opening My Heart - Disappointed and Enlightened

Tonight I was browsing through my blog "drafts", things I wrote but never posted. As time goes on and other things get posted, the drafts get sort of lost in the chronological filing system of my Posts. I scrolled way down the line and came across this one, not even remembering it. Sometimes I will jot down a thought or idea and save it as a draft to add a picture to or expound on later. Or it might be something I was too chicken to post, like this one. Tonight, as I re-read it, I decided I'd go ahead, be brave, and post it. (Could it have something to do with the fact that I just a few minutes ago finished reading "Bo's Cafe" (I'll work on getting something posted about this awesome book.)

The post was written during my quiet, greiving, summer. I had just moved back home after Mom's death, and just returned from five weeks in Alaska. I'd had a whirlwind of it for the five or six months prior. I was adjusting to being back on the mountain, away from close friends and longtime church family, and real family. I was alone, recovering, resting, breathing, greiving, and trying to get my balance after a long period of emotional and physical upheaval. I found myself perfectly content to stay in isolation. Here is what I wrote...

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Yesterday (July 8, 2009) I had an interesting experience. A couple weeks ago I was invited by a friend I ran into at Wal-Mart to a Thursday night "home group", a Bible Study of sorts. I decided I needed to go; I need to re-connect here. It turned out to be a perfect evening for jumping into such a re-connecting effort. Several people were absent and it ended up being just four women: myself, two whom I knew, and one I didn't. Because it was their first meeting after several weeks off and because it was just the girls, all we did was chat and catch up. Perfect.

So. This week. I was planning all along to attend again, though I am always somewhat uncomfortable and insecure going into such things. I had a number of reasons for the twinge of anxiousness I felt: the rest of the group would likely be there, more new people to meet, it would be more formal, I would be expected to "join in" the discussion and prayers (if not expected by them, then by myself), the men would be there adding a different dynamic. But I had decided to go and I was planning my time around it. I wanted to leave at 6pm last night. I was on top of my time pretty well until at 5:30 I was just getting ready to take a shower.

Suddenly the thought hit me, "Hmmm. Maybe they changed their minds and aren't going to meet tonight. I think there was some question last week. I should call." But - I don't know why - I often just plain dislike using the phone. (Mom was the same way. It's totally weird and probably fits quite nicely into the definition of a dysfunctional idiosyncrasy.) So I hesitated.

ENTER TEMPTATION. Maybe you should just stay home. You could pop a movie in, do some knitting, go to bed early. Besides, the house will be really hot when you get home because you can't leave the windows open while you're gone.

THE BATTLE. But you know you really should go. You know your tendency to isolate, to not open your heart to people, to not let them in. You know you need to deliberately choose against that. You need to re-connect up here. Do you want to become a hermit and have no friends!?

I have always played my cards pretty close to the vest. Those of you who know me mostly in print, will be surprised at this, I know. It's way easier in print than in person for me. I can write a whole lot better than I can talk. When it comes to sharing my heart, I am much more comfortable with a keyboard and computer in front of me than a real live person. I have learned to fake it fairly well by walking the line between revealing things about myself and actually being vulnerable and trusting someone with my heart. Now, a blog is a whole 'nother thing! (Ever notice how we say " 'nother " but that's not really a word at all? I only became aware of it when I first tried to spell it years ago. The acceptable way is to simply write "that's a whole other thing" or perhaps "that's another thing entirely/altogether/your adjective of choice". However, I can't seem to shake the need to say it like I say it - 'nother. But this is a whole 'nother topic and I've digressed.)

Where was I? Oh yes, a blog. A blog is a strange mix of vulnerability and anonymity. I'm not anonymous to you, but in some ways you are to me. I don't exactly know who out there reads this blog of mine. I know of a specific few. Maybe it's the very nature of writing, as opposed to face to face speaking, that lends itself to the notion of a general anonymous audience, thereby making it feel "safer." Maybe I'm just a simpleton when it comes to my own thoughts and emotions and require the time and deliberation that writing requires. Maybe that's why writing is more comfortable to me.

Anyway... I was always shy as a child. Shy and afraid. My mom told stories of me hiding behind her legs when I'd meet someone new. I think I was born with a sensitive, fear prone nature. Then there's life experiences thrown into the mix. A more important ingredient in the recipe is how I chose to deal with those life experiences. My common choice was doing whatever the shyness and fear told me to do. Choice after choice, I either didn't know how to deal with something or I simply didn't want to. That's how habits are formed. Each choice made makes the same choice easier the next time. And the next, and the next. Mine became more like a reflex, almost instinctive, to the point that I didn't even realize I had a choice.

I often tend to "see" and feel things in my being rather than cognitively recognize, identify, and articulate them to myself. While this can be kind of cool in some ways (like how it opens up a whole new concept of praying to God), it can be the source of a lot of confusion, too, making it easier for me to stay within myself and not articulate my heart to others. And as we've seen, that's a fear based tendency of mine anyway.

Well, I hemmed and hawed for a few more minutes, in this battle of whether "to go or not to go" to this new Bible Study. Suddenly I "saw" a surprising truth: I had already made up my mind to not go. While I was still cognitively doing battle with the choice, I had actually already made the choice in the deeper places of myself. It was as if my heart had decided without telling my mind. But there it was plain as day, the reality that I had committed my heart to the choice to not go.

So what was my continued hemming and hawing about? Am I so disconnected with own self that I was just slow to catch on, slow to realize I had already made the choice? Quite likely. Was I just pretending (to myself!) trying to make myself feel better? I really tried. See how long I went back and forth? See how I struggled? I was trying to talk myself out of my discomfort, trying to choose the right thing for myself. Trying to choose against my old habits of barricading my heart behind the walls of withdrawal and isolation. I really tried! Maybe there's some truth to that, too.

Well, I didn't go. A few minutes later, I was in the kitchen and my thoughts wandered off to the days of my week so far. Something wasn't adding up. Wait, what day is it? Is today Thursday or Fri...? I checked my cell phone. It was Friday! The home group is on Thursday! All this battle went on an entire day late! I laughed out loud even as I recognized it was not for naught.

I realized what a valuable experience I'd been given. Two things stand out as important observations/lessons.

#1 Oddly enough, the cozy evening at home with my knitting in front of a movie wasn't so enticing now. Isn't that revealing about the nature of sin and temptation! When we're tempted by something that's not in our best interest, something that for us in that particular situation could be be defined as sin, it is very enticing indeed. Often times, apart from that battle, we can take or leave the enticing wrong. It's the same story through all of history. Tell someone "don't" and they will suddenly want to do it more than ever! The Bible tells it like it is when the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 7 that he would not have known coveting if not for the Law against it and that "sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind." The book of Romans especially reveals that God's Law (the Ten Commandments and more) was not ultimately given to keep us in line. It was given to show us our desire for doing wrong, our hopeless inclination to sin and rebelliousness. Now, that may be larger in some than in others, but it is in all of us. Most importantly, it was given to show us our helplessness against sin and our need for a Savior, Jesus, to provide the way back to relationship with God since we can't do it ourselves.

#2 Last night, I saw my choice. I saw that my heart had chosen without my mind really knowing it yet. I'm glad I saw it. Maybe now I will catch myself doing more things behind my back! Maybe now I will actually see my choices before I make them, and actually do the right thing more often. I am learning this surreptitious way my thoughts are thought, and how I "see" and feel a scenario first without really articulating it to myself. I am seeing that I have wasted a lot of years not pushing past those impressions and interpretations on to articulation. It has kept me befuddled and added bricks to the walls of natural introversion.

I was very disappointed in myself for choosing what I knew was choosing poorly for myself. Disappointed that I gave in to my weakness again. But I remain enlightened and eager to know myself better from now on. Eager to choose better.

Now for another aside. (A whole 'nother aside?):
Where the heck did we get the word "disappointed"? Is it the opposite of some old English version of "appointed"? Did it come about when someone missed an appointment and the one left waiting was dis-appointed?

And for that matter, where did we get the word "discombobulated"? On a very efficient day, have you ever felt quite combobulated? What about overwhelmed and underwhelmed? Have you ever felt just plain whelmed? (to quote a line from The Princess Diaries.) What is whelmed?

I got a million of 'em.

Not really. That's about it, actually.


  1. Love this post! And I'm glad I know you because I can actually 'hear' you speaking and telling your story complete with expressions, hand movements, etc... it's like having you sitting here telling me your story! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Judi, this post is so thought-provoking and hitting way to close to home. First of all, you are such a good writer. And second, I can totally relate on many levels. Thank you so much for being open & honest... for letting us sharing in your journey, your thought process.
    This is very valuable, as I am going through something similar... and I don't want to miss what God is teaching me.
    Yesterday I did NOT want to meet friends for coffee (I've been isolating since my Dad died)... but went and said very little till someone asked how I was doing... and then I fell apart. I am so glad I went. It became a sweet time of letting others love me.
    Love your heart and mind for Christ Judi. You are a blessing to me and so many others.

  3. Judi, Thanks for posting this, it mirrors exactly how I have felt at various times with church and home groups. On each occasion I have tried to justify my reasons but in my heart have known that the decision was not good for me. At one point this happened one after another leading to staying away from all church life for a couple of years, and I thank God for never leaving me during this time and being in my thoughts daily until I made those first tentative steps back.
    I think that we shouldn't be afraid to recognise when we are perhaps a bit too tired and not feeling very responsive to go, but at the same time be aware when we are making choices out of personal preference.

  4. Thanks, all. Your comments are affirming and encouraging in the face of sharing something very vulnerable.

    Angie, thanks for your enthusiasm. It's funny for me to think of myself speaking this story, wondering how it would look! Guess that's for others who know me to know and for me to wonder. :-)

    Linda, I'm glad you went to coffee and that God blessed it, as He so often does after we've hestitated and then chosen wisely for ourselves. Thanks for your affirmation.

    Gary, thanks for your openness in relating your story. Glad you found your way back to church life. It's a good point that there are legitimate conditions that sometimes make choosing "to go" the wrong choice. Sometimes we need to give ourselves grace to rest and sometimes we need to push past an isolating tendency. Guess that's why we need to stay near Him, to hear which is which.