I have been thinking lately about not being or having an addictive personality. After all, I’ve never been addicted to drugs or alcohol. But I was brought up short recently by this thought: what do you mean you’re not addictive? You spent ¾ of your life being addicted to self-doubt and fear. You considered yourself less than other people, afraid that someone else would uncover just how much you didn’t belong.
And it’s true. I have not been dependent on drugs, but I have been consumed by, addicted to, afraid of my own lack of self-esteem. And everything in me was trying to make up for what I thought I lacked. Circular behavior and thinking had captured me and I could not free myself, nor did I really have an idea that I was caught in such a vise.
At the same time I was captivated by another idea—trying to make sense out of my own Christian background, the hell-fire-and-damnation church of my childhood. By my twenties I could no longer tolerate Christian language; every word just reminded me of a punitive, capricious God. I left the church then, but I wrestled for years with what I had been taught about God, just trying to find a God that I could live with. One who made sense in light of all creation and the whole Bible. One who was not punitive or capricious, one who was not the BIG GUY in the clouds riding in a chariot and throwing lightning bolts down on a sinning world.
Maybe you can see the connection between my very low self-esteem and my concept of God, but it took me years to get it. One thing was for sure—I was firmly tied to God, but not in a good way. So the task for me was to learn, to explore, to entertain a new way of relating to God and to myself.
As I look back on my life I see that I have clearly been in God’s hands all along, even if I didn’t know it consciously. Not long after I left the church my husband and I joined a cult centered on Jesus as the model for human behavior, but not divine at all. I gained two things from belonging to the cult. 1)I began to look at Jesus and God less rigidly. And 2) I found out how hungry I was for other people’s approval. At the time I would give up anything of myself to belong to that group. Leaving it eight years later was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself—the first time in my life I said “yes” to my own needs, to my own self, and set aside my own need to belong.
The ironic thing about this cult is that the leader decided that we should all surrender our lives to God! And being me, and wanting so much to make it in this group, I tried and tried during the fall of 1980, but I couldn’t do it. And later in the fall I began to argue at a meeting with what one of the leaders was saying—something I had never done before. And the leader suggested that I take a leave of absence to figure out if I really wanted to be a part of the group. So my husband and I left with the group’s blessings.
I cried for three days out of grief at loosing a group I so much wanted to belong to and then felt very relieved. And from then on I have experienced nothing but God’s leading me. I did surrender my life to Christ a couple of years later when my ego was distracted and my soul could say it’s loud “Yes!” Sometime later a thought went through my mind which shook me to my foundations: “I have an agenda for my life.” Until then I had been inhabiting roles—wife, mother and community volunteer, and had no idea of a purpose or any kind of agenda for my life.
I had to find out who the I was who had an agenda and then to figure out the agenda. And I was guided every step of the way in what I now call the “let’s-get-Pat-to-her-true-self” curriculum. Along the way I have read widely in other religions’, other denominations’ literature, come back to the church willingly and have discovered that all the work I have done since I surrendered my life to Christ is now being used in my life, in this blog which I write attempting to translate what Jesus taught into a language that we in the 21st century can understand about what it takes to truly follow him.
Fortunately, I did grow up in a church that tied me to God, even if those ties were toxic. They were also the impetus for my search for God, not of doctrine, but of my own experience that echoes the Biblical promises and allows me to let God teach me who he is. My experience of God has led me to let go of so much, but especially of the hold all the negativity of my childhood had on me—the source of all the addictive thinking. He has transformed so much in me and continues to be my inspiration, my all.
Questions to ponder over the week: How would I describe my own spiritual journey? Are the teachings about God that I learned as a child consistent with my adult experience of God? Have I let God teach me who he is?
Check out my new posting on youtube: “We Aren’t Terrible People”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPe-EMPdAxo
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