My Point: Reject EVERYTHING, So God Can Arrive

Yesterday I posted a piece called Unhappy? Reject Your Parents. As I understood beforehand would happen, a lot of people assumed I’d written that piece as a sort of knee-jerk, negative response to my father’s recent visit, about which, in Connecting Flights, I’d written the day before. As I also anticipated would happen, a lot of Christians immediately accused me of being a bad Christian.

Sigh. If there’s one thing of which this world will apparently never be short , it’s Christians telling other Christians they’re bad Christians.

Anyway, let me be clear on the two reasons I posted a piece about the importance of taking a long, hard, objective  look at the phenomenon of one’s relationship with one’s parents. First, I didn’t want to leave the impression with anyone who might not need to hear it (especially with Mother’s Day just passed, and Father’s Day coming) that I’m yet another of the endless stream of people who are forever wanting everyone to believe they’re happy, wonderful, wise people enjoying happy, wonderful relationships with their happy, wonderful parents. I’m sure there are people like that out in the world—according to every magazine I’ve ever read, all celebrities are infinitely delightful, infinitely wise, and infinitely well balanced—but I personally have never met one.

As it happens, I have put together a good relationship with my father—but that’s what we have now, after 30 years of not seeing one another. The cost of my now having a good relationship with my dad was profound. So I wanted to talk about that a little—and of course especially about the Big Lesson the process of paying that cost taught me—just in case doing so might prove helpful to anyone struggling to resolve their own relationship with one or both of their own parents.

Secondly—and much more importantly—my Big Theory in Life is that everything  that stands between a person and God needs to go. I think humans have one purpose: to do every last thing they can to clean out their minds, souls, and hearts, so that they can then be filled with as much Christ-consciousness as it’s possible for them to be filled with. We need, in a very real sense, to separate ourselves from our parents. We need to separate ourselves from our siblings. We need to separate ourselves from our spouses, our children, our possessions, our jobs. And by “separate,” all I mean is Understand Our True Relationship With.

Clarity, clarity, clarity. Nothing else matters. What we leave jumbled, God can’t get through. Being Christian doesn’t make you happy. Learning to take out your own personal garbage so that God can get  to you is what makes you happy. Learning to quiet the internal static we all live with so that can finally hear  God is what makes us happy. And the only way to do that is to psychologically and emotionally break with everything that’s causing that static, with everything that’s in effect standing between ourselves and our clear communication with God. And I don’t mean “break,” as in leave,  but rather as in, “Establish Clear and Healthy Autonomy From.”

For most people, the Biggest Block standing between themselves and a clear understanding of their true identity—the healthy, God-given identity that I believe God is waiting for them to recapture and revel in — is good ol’ Mom and Dad. So I went there first. That’s all.

 

(If you’d like, see what I wrote on Father’s Day last year, which was, Father’s Day: It’s Not For Everyone.)

 

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.ourworldcommunity.ning.com Jeff

    "If there’s one thing of which this world will apparently never be short , it’s Christians telling other Christians they’re bad Christians."

    Love it!

  • http://thereisnogray.wordpress.com thereisnogray

    That separation is so stinking hard. It means I have to give up control. It means I have to have faith that the mountain can be moved. It means I have to trust that God knows what He's doing. It means that even when He does a whole bunch of things that don't jive with my plan, or preconceived outcomes, or goals, I have to accept it graciously because it is His will and I have prayed to live in His will. When my Mom get's cancer, I have to believe that it's God's will and there is a purpose.

    And, ultimately, until we get to that point, much of what God is doing in our lives will serve to cheese us off because it's still about us. I have never given much thought to the "fullness" of God until now. I don't think I am experiencing the fullness of God as I should. And it's my fault because I want to control it. I don't want to be sanctified.

    Well said, John. Thanks

  • FreetoBe

    John, isn’t this what Christ was saying?

    Matthew 10:37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

    I got that from your post yesterday. You clarified it wonderfully. Thanks.

  • Dan Harrell

    Alright John, I want to know how yesterday you managed to describe my parents and my current emotional state perfectly. Come on man, who gave you the skinny on my life anyway?

    And remember, I’m 63, not exactly a teenager. And the crappy part of this whole state of mind, is that Dad passed away in 2003 and my Mom is in hospice, so I wonder what I can do to resolve these feelings at this point in my life anyway.

    How many generations will be afflicted by these same issues before someone breaks free of the curse, as we seem to become our parents as we age, with all their imperfections and none of their virtues.

    I looked up attachment disorders a few months ago, and it seemed to just add more fuel to my misery.

    Great job, John, now if you could recommend a really good shrink…..

  • http://iconographies.wordpress.com Michael

    I agree in the necessity of clear and healthy autonomy. What a great way to put that. I find that incredibly hard, not just with parents, but with job, identity, as a neighbor, and a member of a local church. If God is the greatest joy of my life, then organizing the rest of life will come easier. With God in His proper place, I am not as prone to feeling the need of approval from one of these other things. This, however, is not a one time decision. It is a daily decision. Persistant practice, though, I believe, can help to make the daily practice of delighting in God less of a struggle.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    “And the only way to do that is to psychologically and emotionally break with everything that’s causing that static,”

    How very Buddhist of you.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    FreetoBe: That’s exactly what I meant; while writing the post I did, in fact, have that exact quote in mind. Thanks for presenting that.

    thereisnogray: Wow. Thanks for that. God’s loving you today, that’s for sure.

    Dan: I think one of the great, weird, infinitely destructive myths we all somehow have convinced ourselves is true is that our emotional past somehow fades as we get older. It doesn’t. If anything, as we get older our childhoods tighten the grip they have on us: we grow more entrenched by our past, more challenged by it, more afraid of it. William Faulkner said it so well: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” A lie hidden only grows in power, and the lie so many of us tell ourselves is the one we HAD to tell ourselves in order to survive our childhood, which is that our parents were really GOOD people who really MEANT well and who REALLY loved us with all their might. For any of us for whom that’s basically not true at all, life sure can be one hard, long struggle, as we spend our lives and energy frantically running away from something which is permanently attached to us, and from which we can’t escape at all.

    You have to go INTO that pain, not run from it. Nothing can stand before the power of the truth. It sounds like Matrix movie ad, or something–but it sure is true, isn’t it? It’s THE truth in life, I think.

    I wouldn’t say this in a post, because I get enough grief just for saying the kinds of things I do, but the bottom line is that, for many of us, we can’t make it to health until we actually psychologically murder our parents. It sounds awful, but I don’t care. It’s true. Our parents must be utterly and irrevocably dead to us. It really does take that level of emotional intensity. I guess a less intense way of saying it is that you have to absolutely FIRE your parents, and take over their job as your parent. They’re out. They’re gone. They’re fired. You’re in. You’re here. You’re the new Boss of You. That’s it. They can have no significance in your heart, mind, or soul. None. Nothing. They can have no life within you. And, oddly enough, THAT’S when you can finally relax around them, and the memory of them. It’s really when you have no hope for them whatsoever that you can make peace with them. They never changed. They never will. They’re always going to be the exact same pain-in-the-ass people they always were. Once you give up all hope for them, you’re … done with them, basically. Then you can move on.

    When it comes to our parents, it’s hope that’s the enemy. Hope they’ll affirm you. Hope they’ll treat you right. Hope you’ll have a good relationship with them. Hope they really DO love you.

    Hang on to that sort of stuff, wait for that kind of stuff, think you can’t be happy until you get that kind of stuff, and you basically waste your life waiting for something that will never exist, and never has. That’s how you end up wasting and sacrificing your life for a cause that barely gives a crap about you at all. No good.

    I think the best way most people can look at their parents–and the way I think virtually everyone can greatly benefit from understanding their parents–is as nothing more than egg and sperm donors.

    This isn’t about hating our parents. It’s about claiming our autonomy from them, which, in one way or another, MUST be done in order to establish our own identity, which we must do if we’re going to fulfill our potential.

    Anyway, I typed this all too fast, but I hope it’s made at least some sense.

    And Morse: What I’m saying is at the core of all great religions–or philosophies, for that matter. It’s not particularly Buddhist (though, actually, I know what you mean by claiming it is). It’s not Christian. It’s not Muslim, or Jewish. It’s all of them. It’s HUMAN, is what it is. That’s what I like about it. One truth for all people. It’s gold that way.

    • Jill H

      John, yes, yes, yes, and yes. It’s the biggest “growing-up” we ever do. There are enough unlived lives hopefully suspended in wait.

      I could say it was a ‘gift’ to me to watch how fearfully reverent my mother was toward her father when I was young. Always seeking approvals that never came. Didn’t understand then that she regressed into that rejected girl over and over and over in his presence. My final adult conversation with her, upon being confronted with just a fraction of what I needed her to hear, confirmed for me that her development arrested very young. She simply could not see her own actions. She only saw everything she missed out on. Ah, denial–a narcissist’s best friend.

      Now I’m roughly the same age she was when things were really tearing at the seams in our house. I like to think that I’ve become not only who I was meant to, but I’ve broken through the ‘curse’ of all that muddled mess. Strong @ the broken places, and all that. Now I hope only for (any, all) love that is True.

  • FreetoBe

    Dang, John (I get to say that, I’m from OK), dang, way to go! I’m sending this to my sister right now. Hope she gets it.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

    Yeah…yeah. More than breaking free from my parents (though that’s definitely part of it), breaking free from what I think my relationship with them should look like. I’ve done, and will continue to do, a lot of grieving over letting go of what I want my life to look like, versus what it actually is, and making peace with that. The whole serenity prayer and all…

    Out of the bitter, complaining people I meet, probably the one thing they all have in common is their response to “my life just didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.” It’s the ones who stubbornly insist that they really need their life to look like x-y-z who are the most miserable.

    Fantastic post…yeah the last one gave me pause, but I get what you are saying and I totally agree.

    But you’re still a bad Christian. ;)

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    I live for the day my 2 older children will reject the dead man they think was "really GOOD … really MEANT well and who REALLY loved them with all his might."

  • arlywn

    I heard a nifty song about god last night on American Idol. The song says that we have to accept that god isnt coming back- because his childen are no longer here, they gave up and left out the back door….

    Verry brave words to sing… especially coming from a homosexual…. Just thought you should hear that.

  • Dan Harrell

    What a revelation! Thank you. I love the way you explain it, John. Now for the hard part,actually making it work. In some ways it’s easier without the prospect of dealing with them for years in the future, but I still have all the internal expectations of approval to deal with. Christina Aguilera has a song called “Hurt”, that is really an anthem (In my mind) to parental approval.

    Would you tell me I was wrong?

    Would you help me understand?

    Are you looking down upon me?

    Are you proud of who I am?

    There’s nothing I wouldn’t do

    To have just one more chance

    The problem with parents, IMHO, is that it’s so easy to mimic them, and then hate yourself for doing the same stupid things they did with their children. Emotional baggage is so costly.

    Thanks again John.

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