One of the first questions my therapist asked me was not about my religion but about me. She was getting me to focus on MYSELF. I had to stop talking about everything wrong in my life. I am usually very intense about everything, and when I would come, I would talk about all of the weird things that were going on at church and in my life. Then it finally hit me. I realize that the things that I was complaining about in life were the result of the things I allowed.
No matter how badly other people behave, you have to heal by looking at yourself and how YOU are handling their actions.
We did some outstanding work this week on ME, and it answered so many questions about why I stayed so long in a bad situation that was not helping my life and was hurting my family. Why did I do that? Why does anyone do that?
People are complicated, and so am I.
So why did I feel comfortable in a cookie cutter type of religion that was so controlling of everything I did in my life? Mostly because my life didn’t matter enough to me. When I first started to ask questions publically a couple of years ago about my church’s stance on various Bible issues, and how they match up with scripture, one person wrote to me and said: “but they’ve always been like this.” Duh! It’s funny how other people outside of a situation can see things you can’t or more accurately –won’t. This particular person had left years before when they knew the leadership was changing hands. My relationship with Christ is huge part of who I am as a person, so to me, it was essential that my questions received an answer. The questions I asked were as per usual ignored by the leaders. So much so that when I told them, I wanted to work outside of the church, they simply helped me to the door.
I don’t know why I didn’t see it, but this week I finally realized why I allowed this mistreatment.
First, my childhood. Being neglected and left alone as a child took a toll on my adult life. The constant emotional neglect left me with a deep feeling that I didn’t matter. I was not important. Having to stay quiet while violent fights went on in my home, took away my voice. I was used to staying silent in the midst of chaos. So Renee was a prime candidate for a church that taught that the individual does not matter (stay invisible, and by the way, if you see something, don’t say anything. We don’t want to know). Renee was very willing to erase her identity (life-based on the approval of others) for a greater, elevated cause. Before being saved, the image of my parents was my sole purpose for existing, and now it was the image of the local congregation.
Second, my workaholic nature. The high level of activity in the church was great for me. They don’t work that hard now, but when I first joined, they did. I hid all my pain in being a workaholic. I was there for everything, and then they told me everything I did for the organization didn’t matter, and I had to start over again at the new church. Working hard to earn THEIR favor. So I plunged into working there too, only to find that didn’t matter either, and that overall they could care less about my efforts. I could work hard for the next 20 years there and still not be perfect enough to do the things I wanted to do as a Christian and Bible teacher. It didn’t matter. Well, it should matter to me the quality of my spiritual life and whether I reach my goals in God. As I heal from letting other people have so much control over my life, I realize that more than ever.
Jesus’ care of the individual does not stop once you become part of the body of Christ. We are not invisible entities, in fact, the Bible tells us the parts that are not on display in the body should receive more honor. I loved being the invisible person but in the wrong way. I thrived on not mattering to anyone, including myself, for a cause that was greater than me. “”It’s for the best cause in the world,” I would tell myself, ” The gospel of Jesus Christ, aren’t we supposed to be humble and not want attention?” But attention and validation are not the same things. What I needed was to be treated as a valid individual. I can want that and not just want everyone’s focus on me. There’s a difference.
I was settling for less than what I deserved. I fitted in, but I didn’t belong.
So my affirmation is:
I am important, and I thrive.
“Thriving” and growing is the one thought that makes me look past feeling invisible. It makes me speak up. I don’t want to go back to the person I was. I want my voice to be heard and matter in areas that affect my life. I have to remember, if I believe deep down that I don’t matter, people will treat me about the same.
When did your self-awareness kick in for you while going thru recovery? Are you still going through recovery? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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