Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I was recently given the opportunity to speak at a women's retreat. We used the videos from Women of Faith entitled "The Joy-Filled Life." You can get a copy of this video by following the instructions here. I thought I'd post the content of my talks here on the blog for anyone's edification. I'd love a conversation if you need to have one. Feel free to contact me.
Let's talk about abandonment. Abandonment looks different in almost every life. I need to tell you a couple stories. Both are quite different, but speak to abandonment and how it affects our lives.
First, here is one way abandonment manifested itself in my life. I’ve been in true love twice. Once was immature and I praise God that it ended. The other is with my husband, Todd. The first time, was in high school. I dated a boy for about a year. He had been one of my best friends before we dated. We had lots in common. I really loved him. It wasn’t the same as it is with my husband, but as much as I was capable at 16 years old, I loved him. He broke up with me shortly before my 17th birthday. It was the worst birthday of my life. I was miserable and heart broken. I was sad. Fast forward to the year I met Todd. We had been dating for 2.5 months and my birthday was fast-approaching. By this time, I already knew that Todd was “the one.” And those of you that know our story know that we didn’t waste any time in our relationship. We dated for 8 months, got engaged and were married 3 months later. Anyway, before all that, my birthday was approaching. Todd was in the National Guard, and his drill weekend was falling on my birthday. It was completely irrational and I know it was, but I was freaking out because boyfriends leave before your birthday. That was in my head. That abandonment was there for me and it came out almost 10 years later with the man I would spend the rest of my life with. I made his life miserable for several days leading up to my birthday. In my mind I knew he wasn't abandoning me, but in my heart, I couldn't shake that fear. This story ends happily, Todd took leave from drill and spent my birthday with me. And it worked out well, since we will be married 20 years in October 2012.
For, Todd, though, his abandonment issue is pretty deep. His parents were divorced when he was 11 years old. In my opinion, it was the single biggest impacter on Todd’s life. It has driven many of the decisions he’s made in his life especially with me and our sons. A few years ago, we took the boys to Northern Minnesota where Todd grew up. As we were getting into familiar territory, Todd began pointing out landmarks that had meaning from his childhood: “…there’s where I went to school…there’s where I fished with grandpa…there’s where grandpa dropped me off and said, ‘you’re the man of the family now.’ There’s where your great grandma lived. There’s where the greenhouse was…” I felt the wound as he spoke. The divorce was wedged into a slow stream of landmarks as if it was just one of the many occurrences in life. But our boys, too, felt the wound as he spoke. Todd’s dad didn’t completely abandon them but they saw him much less and he no longer lived with them. That moment in time and that geographical location was forever imprinted on Todd. And Todd has a horrible memory. He can’t remember what he had for lunch yesterday, but he can point out the exact spot where his dad dropped him off when the divorce was happening. It left a deep mark that influences how he is with the boys and I. Even though his dad remained in his life in a diminished capacity, Todd felt the abandonment of divorce in a very deep way.
The theme of our women's retreat was gardening. In our life, we must spend time weeding our gardens. You have to deal with the past in order to move to the future. What keeps you from fully connecting to another person, whether it be your spouse, your friends, or your family? We are made for connection. We are created for connection. We are meant for connection. In Genesis, we read that for Adam, no suitable helper, no suitable connection was found among the animal kingdom. He was made to connect to another human being. We are made for connection to other human beings. So what’s keeping us from connecting?
One of the parts of the Sunday worship service that I dislike the most is the meet-and-greet time. I watch everone jump up and walk across the room to greet someone and I turn to the person behind me, shake their hand, say good morning, turn to the person in front of me, shake their hand, say good morning, and sit down! And yet, I’m supposed to be made for connection?!? So what’s keeping me from connecting?
Rejection. I fear rejection. I fear it. I hate it. I obsess over it when it happens, it eats away at me. So I avoid it wherever possible. I was a “cheeky” kid. I said stupid stuff that I can get embarrassed over even today. I regret my big mouth even from when I was a kid. And the mouth didn’t shrink as I aged. I’m an idiot. I say the wrong things. I don’t want to be rejected because I don’t know the right thing to say. And so, shake, shake, good morning, good morning, good bye!
But, oh my goodness, that’s changing! I have looked back and forgiven that little girl for saying stupid stuff and I can talk to people I don’t know! And if they don’t like me, well, I can’t fix that. I can just be who God called me to be. I’m not responsible for others reactions. And I know that my motives are out of love.
During the women's retreat, I gave out "Hi My Name Is" stickers. I encouraged the women to put their names on one and wear it, but on the other, I wanted them to write on their sticker what was keeping them from connecting with others. For me, my sticker said, "Rejection." So what’s on your sticker? I love these stickers because that’s how we connect when we go to conferences and seminars. What is keeping you from connecting today? We are meant for connection. So why don’t we connect?
Quite often, I have a brown thumb. I neglect my plants outside especially. What if, when my neglected plant died, I replaced it with a plastic stem of flowers? Would I get the same reward from a plastic flower that I do from a living plant? We replace whatever it is we desire from a relationship with something else that will never satisfy the original need. I have replaced lots of stuff with food. I will never get the emotional response from a bag of cheese curls that I desire. But cheese curls are safer than people. We need to get to the root of our feelings and responses. And for many of us, there is an abandonment issue keeping you captive. Acknowledging it is the first step toward freedom.
If this has impacted you in any way, find a quiet place to pray. Ask the Lord to reveal to you what is your stumbling block to connection. You don't have to share it with me, but you may want to share it with someone. This stuff that the Lord is bringing you to, it isn’t just for you. Yes, it is first for your healing, but THEN, you are supposed to share it with others to help them toward their healing. That's what brought me to speaking at the women's retreat in the first place. I HAD to share what the Lord was doing in my life. Find another person and share with them your need for freedom. We are all in the process of deliverance. We are all in the process of freedom. So no one is here to judge you. Connect with someone after you’ve met with your Lord. Share what keeps you from connection and then agree with each other to pray!