Do you every think about the main trajectory of your life? It’s a process not unlike connecting the dots, making sense of all that has happened in our lives and where that has influenced the next and next things that have challenged us and what we have given back to life. I often think about the trajectory of my life, because there was a huge wounding in spending 12 years of my childhood in a hell-fire-and-damnation church, a huge desire to find a God I could love, a lot of healing and a new direction that came to me as I followed the Lord to a new way of relating to Him.
By the time I was a young adult God to me was a raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. I was paranoid and mistrusting of myself, hiding along the sidelines of life. I was out of the church by the time I was in my late 20’s. All I wanted in my life was to be a mother, but there was a period of 10 years after we got married when I did not get pregnant. I won’t tell the whole story now, but I thought that God was judging me by withholding my deepest desire. Any teaching about a loving God all just sounded to me like the punitive God of my childhood. I was tied so negatively to God, that I was driven to find a God I could love.
After we left the church in our late 20’s, my husband and I joined a cult in California which was based in the teachings of Jesus and not His divinity. There I learned that there are different ways to interpret the Scriptures than what I had been taught. Eventually, I saw that my deep desire for acceptance kept me in the cult long past its value for me. After eight years I severed the connection and learned to stand on my own two feet for the first time in my life.
A year later I gave my life to God; I had tried to surrender my life, but only God was able to accomplish that in me. Here’s how that happened. I clearly heard God’s voice on an airplane trip home from the East Coast with my family saying “Write!” And my response was Bill Cosby’s, “Right!” But the voice persisted after we settled back at home and over the next few weeks I found myself writing on scraps of paper or in a journal every chance I got. One piece I remember was about the courage to be me. And much more. While my mind was distracted by this writing, I gave my life to Christ. And walked on air for three days. I came crashing down to earth with this thought: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. And then I wrote pages of the gods I put before God: like other people’s opinion of me, a sugar addiction, fear and doubt and so much more.. God orchestrated that whole conversion for me. I had wanted to and even tried to surrender my life to Him, but only God could accomplish it in me.
What followed were years of reading in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, the lives of the saints and other Christian offerings. We went back to the church when our daughter asked if we could. When I think about these years, even that early church, I see God’s footprints in all of it. I see Him in the books I read. I kept thinking to myself as I read about those Eastern religions, “Oh, that’s what Jesus meant!”
Meanwhile, God was healing some really big things through His wisdom. First, it was this thought in my mind, “I have an agenda for my life!” I didn’t even know who the “I” was which had an agenda, much less what that agenda was. So my question in everything became, “what do I really want to do?” Not what “should” I be doing or what does everyone else think I should do? And so I began to listen to my deeper, truer self.
Then, it was, “How can you say you love God, if you can’t love your mother?” This was much more difficult. Two years of trying and failing were all done when God surrounded us with a cloud of love on a railway platform in Wilmington DE where she lived! Everything between us changed in that moment: she became grateful for every single thing I did for her and I could love her just as she was. A miracle.
Later I ran to sign up for spiritual direction classes when I heard that they were holding them for laypeople. I had been encouraging people in their spiritual lives, but now I would be able to do it as a profession. I learned so much in becoming a spiritual director and in my practice. I learned to focus on the person before me, to hear what he/she was saying, then to hear what the Holy Spirit was saying to me and then to pay attention to what was happening in me. [Directees always present your own issues!] But what I do with any issue is not the point of a session, so I learned to set aside my own issues to deal with later.
My supervisor at some point asked me, “When are you going to get mad at God?” I just stared at her. You don’t get mad at a punitive God. So she asked it again. And I stood up in the middle of the session, said, “I guess now,” and walked out the door. I headed straight to the beach and danced and cried out my anger at God for putting me in that church in the first place. That was the beginning of the end of that God in my whole being.
A few years later I became a blogger and then an author about living the spiritual life in God. None of this would have happened, I now see, without that early church. As negative a teaching as it was, it tied me to God. Then God led me to the natural healing of these deep issues in my life. And I am finding layer after layer exposed and then healed. That early church was certainly traumatic for me, but it set the path, the arc of my whole life. So I no longer am angry at God for putting me there. How else would I have become a spiritual director and author if these issues hadn’t been so important to me?
I do tease God, “If you hadn’t put me in that church in the first place, I’d be a proper Christian woman(50’s style), but since you did, this—me—is what you get!” But I am at peace with that placement and so grateful where the healing of that early teaching has taken me. I have a rich and fulfilling purpose in my life and I am tied to God in peaceful and loving ways. What more could I ask?
Can you see how the major issues you’ve had to deal with have had positive consequences over time? If you can, there is certainly less resistance to whatever is coming into your life, positive or negative. There is much more trust of God and peace in which you dwell.
Questions to ponder over the week: What major issue(s) have I had to deal with in my life and how have I been able to resolve it/them with God’s help? How has that resolution paved the way for something else, previously unsought, to come into my life which was healing/purposeful/fulfilling? How would I describe my life in terms of a trajectory? And how has any healing come for me?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who see our challenges as strengths to be gained, issues to be healed with God’s help. May we see clearly what God has done in our lives to bring us wholeness and strength to carry on. May we see our lives through the eyes of love.
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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. July 5th’s is titled “Five Stages of the Spiritual Journey.”