If you have not already read Part 1 of this article, I would encourage you to do so in addition to reading Part 2. To read Part 1, please click on this link: Part 1
In my effort to purge myself of my unbeknownst sense of shame and guilt, I attended various types of churches. Fundamental, non-denominational, denominational, charismatic, full gospel and four square and assembly of God churches. I sat under pastoral teaching and submitted myself to what was taught. I diligently attempted to apply what I was learning, in order to gain favor with God and with those individuals with in the church I was attending. My motive was to be accepted and approved of through measuring up to the expectations set forth for me. My search for peace seemed fleeting at best.
My desire was to have peace with God, other people and myself. My efforts to measure up to the literal interpretation of the Bible proved to be inadequate. Feeling inadequate only reinforced my sense of shame and guilt. That although I strove to do enough, to be enough I did not feel enough. As I sought to learn from the leadership from these different churches I heard other conflicting messages.
These conflicting messages served to reinforce that I had to perform to have peace. Because I was led to and believed that my good was not good enough having peace with God was constantly in question to me.
One such double message told me that God loved me and wanted me to have life and have it more abundantly. However, I could not experience life more abundantly unless I measured up to specific expectations. Performance based acceptance to gain love and acceptance appeared to be the underlying requirement. Consequently, I continued to feel inadequate and unlovable in many church settings and fellowships. My experience with in these religious settings reflected the message that I had become all too familiar with in my life experience: Come close, Go away.
The impact of the come close, go away messages created confusion and reinforced my experiencing emotional duress. I found myself wanting what I could not have and seeking to be in relationships with an emotionally unavailable God. The crazy making behavior of come close, go away kept me trapped in a sense of inadequacy and unpredictability. Crazy making made it difficult for me to trust.
The impact of the come close, go away messages created confusion in my attempt to have peace with God. The impact of the come close go away messages — from my youth and from my experience in many churches — undermined my ability to trust. What became evident was that I was seeking to have a relationship with a God, who was like my Dad; was/had been emotionally unavailable to me. Emotionally unavailable to me unless I measured up to his expectations of me. Emotionally unavailable to me as I was criticized for not doing and being enough.
Because I experienced harsh criticism while growing up and then by actively participating in shame based spirituality, my relationship with God suffered greatly. Rather than being encouraged to draw upon the love of God, I was conditioned to avoid displeasing God, because if I displeased God, He would go away. My motivation was driven by fear, rather than by love. I believed based on my experience with my Dad and through my experience with the church (His representative on Earth) I could not satisfy the requirements to be in a relationship with a loving God. Subsequently, I found myself being cut off from the very source of my healing and courage. I believed that my hope could not be realized because I was not able to consistently measure up to expectations.
What became apparent to me was that I needed to make peace with my Dad so that I could make peace with God. Although I could not change my Dad, I realized that I needed to change me. What became evident to me, through my recovery process was that I needed to challenge messages. Challenge messages that I received from my Dad. Messages that were reinforced by people who were like my Dad. Messages that led me to believe that I needed to perform to have peace. Messages that led me to believe that…had to be met before I could trust. Messages that alienated me from having peace with God. Messages that alienated me from being able to be at peace with myself. Messages that distracted me. Messages that led me to believe that it was not safe to trust. Messages that “cut” me off from the Source of my healing. Messages that sought to convince me that my circumstances were being done to me, instead of for me. Messages of abandonment, instead of empowerment.
I would strongly encourage you to read Part 3 of this article by clicking on this link: Part 3.
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