My heart has felt very Lenten, which is to say that I lack peace. I began a “fearless self inventory,” after an article I read recently (“Transformed from Within,” by Fr. Ryan Rooney), if nothing else in tribute to the author’s courage, but with some small hopes that it would do me good as well and God might honor my attempts.
For as long as I can remember I have struggled in my relationships with other women. I don’t do the surface social relationships thing very well, but I manage it enough to skim along through skillful avoidance or good acting. This is why not many people know that I am addicted to reassurance. I need a lot of it, but I am very good about getting it quietly. I don’t need it from everybody, only certain women (usually old enough to be my mother, but there are exceptions). I can obsess in near invisibility. If only it could be contained into reasonable amounts.
A parade of women have kept both kept me afloat and bitterly disappointed me. The common theme when the longing for meaningful friendship is upon me is an absolutely desperate desire to be heard. I try to work hard enough to be worthy of attention, yet go unnoticed enough to avoid becoming an irritation. I’m not sure anyone knows how much it matters to me. What it costs me in time, money, sleep, hurt, disappointment, to long so deeply for love and acceptance.
Outside the zone of aching, I am detached and I need nothing, thank you. Inside the zone, if they hug me five times, I crave a sixth. If they listen for an hour, I crave just a few minutes more. Acceptance is fleeting ecstasy. Rejection is devastation followed by determination to improve. Middle ground is a figment of my imagination.
Of all of this I am ashamed. The holes-in-parental-bonds lights are flashing. The adult children of dysfunctional families checklist list, #9 says: Adult children (of dysfunctional families) constantly seek approval and affirmation . . . I know all this. So why do I still catch myself falling into it? Why isn’t all of me fixed yet?
I believe in a God who takes fearless inventories and marks them a holy and acceptable sacrifice. This week God’s son will be beaten down, naked, and reduced to bruises and brokenness. He won’t fly off the cross: he’ll die there. Messy is especially okay this week.
My brother recently showed me a great piece on youtube, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin.” (If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look.) I thought of it while I worked on my inventory. Then I wrote: To my addictive imbalance and the aching that it strives to fill, to my pride and my pretending . . . you are only Friday. If I never win, you will still be only Friday. I surrender you on the altar of Sunday.
Then I got on my knees on the floor to pray so I could figure out what to do. What disciplines to take on or how to let go of my insatiable need for other people to validate me. I don’t usually kneel on the floor but it felt like the place to be. I poured out my heart and waited for inspiration.
After a while I didn’t know what else to say so I looked up. It was supposed to be raining. Instead, massive sloppy snowflakes were pouring down from the sky outside the window. Not drifting but falling thick and fast.
“That’s like my mercy,” I heard in my head. “That’s how it comes down.”
I put on my coat and went outside. I told the dog we needed the mercy to touch us and make us wet.
I took pictures of the snow to remind myself that sometimes God asks us to stop manning up so we can stand out there in the mercy.
Copyright 2015 Michelle Dawn Jones; Image by author. All rights reserved.