A Power Greater Than Myself

JenniferDaleJudd-Changing-Seasons

Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

~Charles Dickens

Through my experiences with a strict catholic school for most of my childhood education and being a non-catholic, I learned that God is fearsome and highly disappointed by my actions.  A sinner is a horrid thing in the eyes of God, and we should strive not to be one.  Perhaps that wasn’t the intended message, but it was my perception of what I heard, saw, felt, and experienced.  I always wondered why God would be so disappointed that the fallible beings he created would make mistakes.  Why didn’t He make us perfect if that’s what He wanted us to be?  The explanation was that Eve tempted Adam to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, so they were cast out of the Garden of Eden with the full knowledge of evil.  This makes it sound as though God wanted human being have very little knowledge of the world by forbidding them to eat from that tree.  To me, that illogical line of thinking implies that God is not so smart to have an expectation that humans should strive to be perfect when the task is impossible and that humans should be limited in their knowledge of the world.  This left me with many questions, none of them were answered.

When I visited my biological father in the summer, he and his wife took me to a Baptist church in their small southern town.   Even though the minister shook our hands as we came in as a gesture of welcome, his sermon seemed to be a lecture of blame, leaving me feel as though I was a horrid sinner beyond reproach or repair, which made me wish I could flee from the chapel and never return.  It wasn’t just his message that I abhorred.  He shouted louder than my mother and step-father when they were in the throes of battle.  He banged his fist on his podium with greater force than my step-father when he spanked us with whatever object was nearest.  

Perhaps the confusion lay in the hour I spent previously in Sunday school class before the service;  the teacher taught us, in such a gentle and calming manner, that Jesus loves everyone and so should we.  We just have to open our hearts and let Jesus in to share this love.  It was a vast contrast from what the nuns taught at Catholic school and what I witnessed in the chapel of the Baptist church.  I never felt the “relationship” that I heard religious leaders of both denominations speak of.  I felt anguish and dread more than anything else concerning God and all that He was to me.

My encounters with religion also led to a great deal of confusion about exactly what “loving” meant.  The nuns at my school told us that ours was a loving God.  Yet, the things that happened in my life at the hands of those who said they loved me were frightening.  Add to that fear was the image of Christ crucified on the cross.  This image terrorized me as a child.   I often thought if God can send his own son down to earth knowing he would suffer unfathomably, then of course he would continue to let me suffer.  I was not deserving of my definition of love, of the way I loved my grandmother or grandfather, for example.  I was doomed to a life of suffering.  How was that loving?

What I discovered later in life is that since I was not a trusting person, I did not trust God.  The pastor blamed me for being an intolerable sinner, but I blamed God for all the misery and terror that went on in my every day life.  Every human in my life, except my maternal grandparents, had let me down.  Try as I might to be a good person, a person who obeyed the laws, a person who was kind to others, a person who helped others, pain was inevitably mine to endure.  I grew very suspicious about the ideas I had learned, no matter true or false, about God and religion.  My perception was based on experience, and that is all I knew. What I did not comprehend was the many, many blessings and the healing power of God.  

I went through phases of my life when I “pretended” to trust God.  There was never a time that I didn’t believe that there was a power in this universe that was greater than myself or than any other human being.  Believing and trusting are two different things.  I believe that a dry cleaner can clean my clothes.  I believe a stylist can cut my hair.  I believe a mechanic can repair my car.  However, I don’t trust that these occurrences will always happen without some sort of pain or confusion.  I’ve had enough pain and confusion in my life.

The simple fact is it has taken me all the years to realize one thing, despite the foot long list of major stressors that occurred in my life that I recently shared with a friend, and when I saw its entirety, it nearly consumed me.  That fact is I am alive.  I have a beautiful home, even when I have to clean up after my family.  I have food readily available, even when I complain about having to prepare it.  I have warm clothes in the winter, even if I think their style is outdated.  I have my health, even though it’s not alway stable.  I have five precious pets, even though they are very messy and needy.  I have a good job, even though sometimes there is extra work or extra hours.  I have a nice car that I can drive (with the top down in the summer) to get the things I need, even though I have to pay far too much for gasoline.  I have caring friends, even though we may disagree from time to time.  I have a family who loves me, even though they don’t always show it.  And best of all, I have a husband who adores me as much as I adore him.

God made certain that, no matter what I have been through, I have also been blessed far more than I have suffered.  Though I may not understand it at the time, God has a plan that, no matter how hard I try, I cannot alter.   So, it matters not what God looked like to me as a little child or even as a young adult, He loved me enough to understand why I couldn’t trust Him then.  He gave me the blessings I needed anyway in order to sustain my life through that footlong list of major stressors, and He will continue to do so on this earth and beyond.  That is worth not just believing, but also trusting.

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Categories: Dysfunctional, self-help

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. Again i can relate, i was raised in an abusive Christian family. (Missionary Church) I’m a Christian but in a huge wrestle with him right now.
    I spent 10 year in an abusive church, not unlike my home life in many ways (what are the odds…unhealthy comfort zone) Hubby stuck it out with me only because he didn’t want me to feel forced to leave and wanted to make sure i was going to be okay…he was abused terribly too even worse than me for all those years.
    then a couple years ago i found the first church ever that was what i thought it should be like….loving, accepting, caring, non- judgmental …since we’ve moved, i haven’t been able to find one.

    we’ve tried a few and non feel right, a couple were down right horrible and triggering.
    i’ve been in conversation with one of the pastors and i cried at his response today…but i could be hyper sensitive too…

    anyway, i’m wrestling…i guess that’s not always a bad thing. sorry this was so long.

    i’m also sorry you were almost consumed by that pain xo

    • I understand your pain a probably few can. It is so difficult to have that faith, but without it, I am lost. I am not an overly religious person. I am not bashing any denomination. I’m just sharing my experiences. I am so sorry that you’ve had the same. I pray that you find a place where you can rekindle your relationship. For me, it’s not so much at church, but among nature. I’m becoming like Thoreau in my old age! 😉

      Lots of Love,
      ~Noel

      • Nature is amazing, there truly is something supernatural about it.
        i know in time i will find my way back, right now i’m angry and maybe that’s a good thing, even a step in the right direction, admitting it to myself…
        i’m sorry you to learned distorted faith.
        i’m glad you’ve found what works for you xo

  2. You’ve certainly been through some bad experiences that haven’t really helped you understand how loving God really is. I’ve been very confused about God most of my life but I always believed that He loved me. I grew up in a United Church, then became Catholic for 20 years to please my husband and raise my children in that faith, although there were things I didn’t agree with. A wonderful friend took me to a Pentecostal Church 3 years ago and it changed my life and how I felt about God. Pentecostals are very passionate people who sing loudly and raise their hands – so I fit right in! It was a warm, welcoming church that literally ‘hugged’ me when I went in. I took the Alpha Course which helped me understand my faith better and now I read the Bible every day – I know that it is His love story to his children.

    Many churches do not follow the Bible teachings as written and follow their own teachings. Some believe church has to be serious and scary – neither of these things are mentioned in the Bible. It can be hard to find a church that truly follows the Bible teachings and shows this through its actions. I love my church not because of the denomination, but because it follows the Word and is not judging or condemning, just loving. Our pastor cares deeply about us and his messages are deeply moving and meaningful. It was his messages on marriage that helped heal my own marriage that was very broken.

    If you are interested in listening to his messages, they are taped weekly and are well worth listening to – NO condemnation – just great Godly advice http://main.centralcommunitychurch.ca/#/media

    Another Christian leader who might give you a clearer view on God is Joyce Meyer. I watch her daily and it is her ‘don’t give up’ attitude that keeps me going. She was a victim of abuse and she has overcome her past. She is amazing!

    Unfortunately there are a lot of bad Christians and churches that give God a bad name while they destroy people.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences! I will check out the website. I can always use more Godly advice no matter what! I didn’t set out to slam any one denomination, just share my experiences, too. I’ve found (very much like Thoreau) that I am very closest to God when I am out among the wonder of nature that He has created. I love to lie on a blanket in the grass and look at the trees and the sky. I love to sit in the sunshine, feel it on my face, and then feel a whisp of cool air brush my face.

      I think that you mentioned Joyce Meyer before. I saw a few youtube videos of her and her messages were very, very inspiring as well as thought-provoking.

      Thanks for sharing again! I always look forward to reading what you have to add!!!!
      ~N

  3. Beautifully written as always! Somehow I think the search for faith helps us cling to sanity through these experiences. I hope that one day I can make sense of it all and be as grounded as you are. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Noel: “I often thought if God can send his own son down to earth knowing he would suffer unfathomably, then of course he would continue to let me suffer.” I can’t get past this thought yet. And I can’t hear a word if someone is yelling and pacing! You read my posts and know I haven’t given up, though. I am so so so glad you have found the love of God! It is encouraging to me. I just don’t understand why it is so hard for some of us to find that….I would think a loving Father would reach right through all the misinformation and experiences and wrap me up….but not so far. I certainly can’t climb up to Him…I guess I just wait. Like you, experiencing nature helps tremendously. I have no doubt about God’s existence because of that. Its all the other stuff…….. Blessings!!! Thanks for a great post. Diane

  5. What a beautiful post. We all have so many blessings, it’s so important to remember this.

  6. I loved every word of this post. Funny thing–as I was sitting with the notion to find a read, I looked around at the mess of my place and thought, “I must remember to be thankful for all the things my new dog has NOT torn up.” 😉 (Thought I’d share a rare moment of my good humor and serenity.)

    It is so interesting to read people’s honest testimonies about their faiths. I easily recognized your Baptist preacher. Fortunately for me, my preacher’s passion was clearly compassionate and it made me want to learn how to forgive my parents, for he had proven that even good passion might get out of hand. His announcements of hellfire were overshadowed by pleas to forgive one another so as to receive God. To me, the biggest part of repentance was releasing bitterness, and then believing that something somewhere was capable of replacing it with joy.

    I think I was fortunate not to go to Catholic school, and that when I was most impressionable, my parents were committed to attending this small, loving Baptist Church, in spite of our turmoil at home. 🙂

  7. I still don’t have all the answers, but I look at it like my dog trying to understand the computer, he just does not have the mental ability in his little brain to reason it out. I believe in a God that is love and peace. Those things are innate in me and when I feel them and connect it is from beyond. I believe that we come from this great source of creativity and beauty beyond our current scope. I believe once my energy is freed from this brain, it will have greater capibilites to see and understand. I have the same Dickens quote on my calender for this month, I have been working on counting my blessings instead of my losses as well. I know that what you focus on changes how you feel about life. I choose blessings!

  8. Hallo,

    This is for you, for being kind to others and me, http://www.bigcards.nl/card/pickup/bc-c7cf3c10/

    Sweet Valentine greetings, Summer

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