by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. How is your brain change going?
I’m sure you’ve heard those worn out lines like: Christianity is just a list of “don’t’s.” Don’t drink, smoke, swear, sleep around, lie, etc.
At my first abusive church there were a lot of “don’t’s.”
At my second abusive church, there were a lot of “do’s.”
Read your bible.
Look happy (even if you’re not. This is called a “Dutch front” because the buildings in the community have a Dutch facade – what you see on the outside is fake).
Smile (Dutch front).
Prove your level of spirituality by showing your check book (the more spiritual you are the bigger the checks you will write).
And there were don’ts, as well, but these were more in the category of unspoken rules. Like:
Don’t express concern.
Don’t ask for help.
Don’t expect support during crises.
Don’t tell the truth if it means pointing out a problem.
Don’t let the door hit you in the back side if we decide we don’t want you. (Once, the senior pastor even told me that people are disposable. Seriously.)
But for me, I was always in the “to-do” mode. Do more. Pray more. Study more. Take more classes. Serve more. Give more. Smile more. Compliment more. Show up more. Work more.
So when we were tossed out of the church, I went into “more” mode for a while. Though I couldn’t do “more” at the church any more, I could do “more” in lots of other ways.
I read more (of the bible and other books on faith and living the Christian life), I worked more (cleaning my house, helping my kids with their houses, helping my step-father at his house – because it was Christmas break so I wasn’t teaching), giving more (to various charitable fund drives and activities in the community), praying more (okay, this was more like yesterday’s “God, where are You????”), and trying very hard to put on an “everything’s fine, me and God have got this, all I have to do is hit the right button and everything will be wonderful so I’m going to pretend it’s wonderful now” Dutch front.
And then the day came when I realized that doing was not getting me anywhere. I was doing all kinds of stuff I didn’t want to do and it was sapping what little life was left out of me.
So I stopped.
And I told myself it’s okay to stop.
I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. I didn’t have to earn anyone’s acceptance or love. I didn’t have to take care of everyone and everything else.
It was okay to just take care of me.
And that meant, first of all, to just stop.
And other than reminding myself several times a day of God’s deep and abiding, unconditional love for me, I quit praying (gasp!) And I quit reading my bible and all of those other books. And I quit doing.
I sat on my couch and played games on my iPad. I wrote in my journal and on my blog. I friended and un-friended people on Facebook so I wouldn’t feel judged or convicted to become a “do-er” again. I did a jigsaw puzzle with my husband and son.
I sat doing nothing. A lot.
At first, it was SOOOO uncomfortable. It almost hurt in some strange way that’s hard to wrap words around. And then I realized that it hurt good.
And it wasn’t long before it just felt good. Letting go of all of the stuff that I had been made to believe would give me worth but never had. And, in fact, had only brought judgment, pain, and exhaustion.
And I rested until I was tired of resting. Until resting was a little exhausting. And then what did I do?
I’ll start on that tomorrow. (How’s that for a teaser?)
For now, think about having a “To-don’t” list.
Think about stopping all of the stuff that keeps you on that treadmill of trying to earn love and acceptance. Guess what? You’re already loved and accepted. But then, you are probably already up on that if you’ve been working on the first 12 days. So stop. Rest.
If you must do something, write me a note here in the comments. See you tomorrow.
More about Ellen: