Apparently, I am unable to write short blog posts. Just thought I should get that out there, to start with!
I've been thinking, for the last few days, about the last of Diana's questions - how do we deal with the hard/weird bits in the bible? - and the truth is, I struggle with them. I find the 'hard bits' in the bible difficult to deal with. If submission comes up in conversation, my heart starts pounding, my hands get clammy and I am prone to start stating my views rather forcefully.
For the first 23 years of my life, I lived a life dominated by verses of the bible taken literally. The one and only time women were permitted to speak in my church was to announce what hymn we would be singing. My head was always covered by a scarf, unless I was at home, and I always wore a bow in my hair, as a token for the angels. I only ever wore dresses or skirts, I didn't wear jewellery or make-up and my hair had only been trimmed once in my life (in a fit of mild rebellion, when I was 13, my aunty trimmed about an inch off the bottom of my hair). I lived at home, under the covering of my father, where I would stay until I got married and moved to the covering of my husband. I would always be under the covering of a man until I died, when I would be put safely under a covering of dirt.
When I eventually left (a story for another day!), I was 'withdrawn from', which means that since the day I left home, I haven't seen 3 of my brothers (my other 2 siblings I've seen twice each in 15yrs), I have not been allowed to attend a single family wedding or funeral, none of my immediate family came to my wedding, and I have 3 sister-in-laws and 7 nieces and nephews I have never seen. I lost my job (I worked for people in the cult), my family, my home, my friends and my entire social circle, all because people decided that that's what Paul meant when he told Timothy that 'everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness'. (2 Timothy 2, v 19) The wickedness that I was involved in was eating meals with people who didn't belong to the cult, cutting my hair, wearing jeans and watching tv!
My husband, who I met after leaving the cult, gets angry about how my family puts keeping their rules above their relationship with me and our children. I understand how they can do that - I was brainwashed for a couple of decades myself, so I know how it works - but that doesn't stop it hurting. A lot.
The hard bits that ruled my life for so long, are still a part of my life. When I look at my wedding photos and think of my family who should have been in them, when I hear one of my children asking who 'that lady' is, when they're looking at a photo of my mother, when I wish I could talk to my sister like sisters do... so many things I have been robbed of, because of the way 13 words have been interpreted.
As much as I would like to be able to just let go of the bits in the Bible I don't like or understand, I can't, because they are still impacting my life on a daily basis. I don't have issues with God about His views on women, or their place in the church or the world, but I have to admit to still having issues with Paul. The way people have taken what he wrote has drastically changed the course of my life, and I can't just 'let go and let God', because how does that help when I'm grieving over my children not knowing my parents?
I'm not bitter, but I am hurt. I will be hurt until the day I get to heaven, because there's no getting round this one. Sure, the raw edges have healed, but it's like an amputation - just because the stump has healed, doesn't mean that the limbs have been restored.
This loss is such a huge part of my story, that I find it hard to see round. I hear people say things like 'but that only happens when people take things out of context' and I wonder how that helps the people whose lives have been affected by things taken out of context?
The awful part of all of this is, that I know my family are Christians. They can acknowledge that I am still a Christian, and all of us will be in heaven together. We all believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who was born of a virgin, died on the cross for us and was resurrected after 3 days... and yet we can't eat a meal together. I have told them that I am looking forward to heaven, when we can be together without the wall of the cult between us anymore, and when the years that the locusts have eaten will be restored. That is my hope... that all, even our relationship, will be made new.
So yes, I struggle with the hard bits. Because they seem so hard - sharp edged, unyielding and trying to poke holes in the relationship God and I have created despite them. The thing is, that He reaches out to me past them - loving, compassionate and tender - and I have to just let it go. I can't make them make sense, I can't argue them into submission, or make them say what I think they should say. All I can do is try to understand them... and when I reach the end of that, God reminds me again, that He knows... and He loves me. And I sigh, as I turn my tear-streaked face back towards Him, and let Him be my Comforter.