A Turning Point, Part 2

Naturally, I really didn’t know what to expect by way of a response from Vengeful Mother to my Lead Balloons e-mail, but I didn’t expect her to take a week to reply.  Yet, take a week she did:

I know you’re waiting for a response to your “lead balloons” email.  I’m sorry, but I’ve thought and thought about it, and there just isn’t anything I can say in response to it – especially considering that anything I say seems to hurt your feelings.  I’m sorry you feel the way you feel about all this.  I’m sorry your feelings are hurt.  We could go back and forth with it forever, I suppose.  You’ve said several things about which I could argue, but there would be no point.  If you don’t know by now that I love you and believe in you, there’s little I can do to change that.  Loving and believing in someone never has meant thinking they can do no wrong.  “Unconditional love and approval and support” is an unrealistic – and much too broad – expectation on your part.  At the moment, all I can do is keep quiet lest I say something else that will offend you.  “I’m not sure what it was you expected when you sent me this note, but for now this is the best I can do.

It’s too bad.  I miss you.

The truth is, I expected more from her, but as soon as I read this response I knew I should have known better.  I sort of expected anger and defensiveness from her.  I certainly didn’t expect this “Holier-than-thou” routine, though, again, I should have.  It seemed to me, at least at the time, like a bit of manipulation, whether deliberate or not.  Like so many people, it seemed like it was easier for her to push the fault back on me rather than acknowledge her own complicity.  What this e-mail definitely did do was remind me that there’s no getting through to her and that it’s a waste of time to try, and yet when I received her follow up e-mail I couldn’t, not respond:

Vengeful Mother wrote:

I need you to help me.  I’m afraid to talk to you because I don’t want to say something wrong.  I don’t want to have to walk on eggshells with you, but I don’t want this to go on.

I honestly don’t understand what I’ve done or said that is so awful.  I thought we were doing fine and had a good relationship.  Now I’m confused about it all.  I can’t become a person who just accepts without question.  I’m not that way about anything.  And I truly don’t believe healthy relationships operate that way.  Real love is love that sees and acknowledges shortcomings (Everybody has them!), but loves anyway.

I took a couple days to reply and I needed CPA Sis‘s input before sending this:

I’m really not sure how to answer this e-mail…  There is so much to say, but I don’t believe any of it will matter.

The most important thing is this:  I never wanted us not to be able to talk or not be able to have a relationship.  It is actually very important to me that we not find ourselves in that position.  However, I just do not know how to communicate with you.  You seem to be unable to understand, or see my perspective.  I think you think this is all about the conversation we had the other week.  It’s not.  There is a lot more to it.  There are some very base level factors that come together to make it impossible for us to communicate.  Knowing that, it almost seems pointless to even try.

I hope you are not expecting a simple answer or an easy solution.  Clearly neither exists…but at least here are some things for you to think about.  One word of advise, if you choose to reply, telling me that I’m wrong about any of this is not a good idea.  Everything we are talking about here is perception; therefore, it is not wrong.  It is a matter of whether or not the perception matches the intention.  I am willing to accept that your intentions are usually good and you do not mean to be hurtful when you do the things you do.  But I also know that there are times when you believe you are justified in your actions and I really don’t think you are.  I just hope you’re willing to accept that other perspectives do exist and are just as valid as your own and maybe you’ll be able to start considering them.

Nothing written in my e-mail to you the other day, nor in this e-mail, is intended to be any sort of attack.  All I want is for us to be able to talk, openly, to be able to disagree without arguing, and to be able to agree to disagree without any judgment or condemnation.  However, in the final analysis, you do not seem to be able to do this, because you do not seem to be able to acknowledge the validity of any perspective besides your own.  I know you do not agree with that and I don’t know what else I can say that might make you consider the possibility.

You are a very black and white person.  For you, there is right (which is always your way) or there is wrong (which is anyone Else’s way if it is not in agreement with yours.)  There is certainly room for black and white thinking in this world.  The problem is that you do not accept the possibility that your view is not the only acceptable view.  You won’t “agree to disagree”.  If a person’s thinking and behavior isn’t in line with what you believe then that person is “wrong”.  Case closed.

I, on the other hand, see all colors.  There is a lot of gray in this world, and I see a lot of gray in our religion, and I do my best to live with it and try to do the things that I believe are right and just.  To paraphrase a portion of your side of our conversation, I am an adult, and the condition of my heart, or my soul, or my spirit or whatever you want to say…  That is between God and me.

You told me that I said several things, about which you could argue, but you were not going to do it, essentially, because you think I am going to get my feelings hurt.  This, by the way, is not about feelings or sensitivity.  It goes much deeper than that.  But again, I don’t know how to express it to you, because I don’t think you will accept it.

I guess the bottom line is this; we can never expect to come to a real understanding because we cannot communicate on a level playing field.  There is, however, a reasonable expectation that I wish was possible for you to accept.  I have always treated you with respect and love, even at the times when you think I’m not.  In a lot of ways, you have been my “best friend”.  You are always the one I think to talk to about things.  You are always the one I want to share news with.  But at the same time, I’ve always been afraid to talk to you about much of anything that matter’s because I always know that some kind of criticism will arise from it and every time I risk it, I’m proven right.  The other day is a perfect example.  I told you about my situation with the promotion/raise, and asked you to keep it in your prayers and keep faith with me.  Instead of being happy that I am trusting God to handle it and putting it before Him, you had to point out all the things I am not doing that you believe I should.  Moreover, the way in which you presented it was as if only if I saw eye to eye with you could I be right and justified before God, and that was the only way I was going to get what I needed.  It’s fine for you to believe what you believe and I don’t have a problem with it.  But it’s fine for me to believe what I believe too, and if they don’t happen to be exactly the same thing, that doesn’t really make either one of us wrong.  Either way, it does not preclude being supportive.

You still view me as a child – as your child.  However, I am not a child.  I know you will instantly say, “That’s not true.  I know you’re an adult, etc., etc.”  But think about that a little more in depth.   When we are together, you still boss me around.  You still impose your views on me.  You still “reprimand” me.  None of those things is fair.  Think about it…  Do you tell D-Lite (Vengeful Mother’s best friend) to “Shut up“?  Do you tell her to “Just stop complaining“?  Do you move to put your hand in her face – or possibly hit her – if she responds in opposition?  Do you make hateful faces at her?  No, I don’t think you do.  If you did, she would not be friends with you.  Why would you expect that I, at 29 years old, would respond positively, or kindly accept that from anyone?  The years of child rearing and reprimanding, are over for us, and I really do not think you recognize that fact.

There is so much more that could be said, but right now, I think this is quite enough to swallow, so I’ll close with this:  I know you are not a person who blindly accepts things.  Neither am I and I know that you made me that way.  With life in general, I believe that is a good characteristic for any person.  However, not when it comes to people and your feelings for and interactions with them.  And yes, Healthy relationships do operate that way.

When I said the other day that my whole life has been about getting your unconditional love and approval and support, I agree that is an unrealistic expectation.  Unconditional approval is a ridiculous concept.  That word just slipped in there.  Nevertheless, unconditional love and support should be a given from a parent and that is what I feel I do not have.  Every time you criticize me, every time you point out where I fall short, every time you shut me down verbally, I feel there is no love and support.  Every time you do these things what I hear you really saying is, “You’re not good enough the way you are.  I want you to be this way.  Then maybe you’ll be good enough.”  You said yourself, “Real love is love that sees and acknowledges shortcomings but loves anyway.”  That is very true.  But at the same time, “real love” doesn’t constantly bring up the shortcomings and criticize the “short comer.”  Why can’t you show that?

Finally, just so you know, as I said, this isn’t about “hurt feelings” or “walking on eggshells”.  Your choice not to respond before was far worse than anything you could have said, if you are willing to discuss this like adults and try to come to some sort of understanding that really is what I want.

It took more than two weeks for her to answer this e-mail, and I’m sorry to say, nothing was really accomplished:

This, from my child who loves me…

I’ve thought and thought about how to answer you.

First of all, I am very sorry for anything I may ever have said or done that damaged you in some way.  There has been a lot of hurt and rejection in my own life, you know – ever since I was a child.  I know that that has made me into a person who has lots of rough edges.  The Lord is constantly  at work in me, and he has done a redemptive work over the years of my life that is bigger than you could ever understand.  Its still going on, and it will continue as long as I live.  This ongoing redemption should be the stuff of life of every believer.  But I am particularly grateful for it because I started with such a deficit.

Secondly, I have to tell you that you are very wrong about my being a black-and-white person who does not recognize shades of gray.  I do see and acknowledge many shades of gray.  Where there are not, shades of gray, however, are the areas where the scripture gives us absolutes.  On those – you’re right – I don’t budge.  God honors and stands behind His Word.  The more closely we adhere to His Word and adapt ourselves and our lives to what it says, the more we are able to partake of his blessing.  There are things about which the “only acceptable view” is the scriptural view.  No one’s opinion – not yours and not mine – changes the truth of what the scripture says.  On these things, I am a black-and-white person, and I make no apologies for it.  Over the years of my life there have been many instances when I’ve changed my mind about a thing where my own opinion was at odds with the scripture.  That is always a wise thing to do.  The Bible says we are to “prove (discern the validity of) all things, ” and then “hold fast to that which is good.”

In speaking about the dynamic of the relationships among God’s people, the Bible says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another…”

I felt it was important to be clear on terminology here so I looked up the term “admonish”.  Websters II, New Riverside Dictionary, Revised Edition 1996 states:

Admonish: 1. To reprove mildly but seriously; 2.  To warn against something: Caution.

Synonyms:  Rebuke, Reprimand, Reproach, Reprove

Look, “Reprove” came up twice.  So I looked that up too:

Reprove: 1. To rebuke: scold.  2. To find fault with.

That’s one of the tings God’s people do for each other.  It doesn’t apply only to parents and children.  It applies to ALL of God’s people within the sphere of influence where He places them.  It’s a very important thing.  It keeps us from becoming too subjective in our understanding of the ways of God.  It’s a part of our relationships with one another, and it’s good for us.  Of all the people on the face of the earth who I care about, I care most about my children.  It is only natural that, the more we care for a person, the more this “teaching and admonishing” will be part of the relationship.  Nothing matters more to me than seeing you succeed in your life by walking, accurately and according to truth, with your God.  That is the motivation behind the things I say to you that you seem able to receive only as criticism.

This is the only way I know to be.  The Word of God is the most important thing in the world.  The time is getting very short.  IT is no myth to say that Jesus is coming VERY soon.  It is concrete truth.  And, until he does, this world will become less and less amendable to truth and less and less safe (physically and spiritually) for those who are not strong and mature and always growing in their walk with Him.  We need to put aside our own ways and thoughts and opinions and grow up and learn to live according to truth.  Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  That means we are to be seeking always to know Him more accurately, to be constantly learning to perceive Him as He has revealed Himself – which quite often is not the same as we have perceived Him to be.  God is an objective, eternal, unchanging entity.  We don’t make Him up for ourselves.  He is who He is, and He doesn’t change.  Part of what God’s people are meant to do for each other is to help with this process.  I want all the people I love to be safe and blessed, in this world and the next.  This is part of my interaction with all my friends and family.  (Yes.  Even D-Lite.)  If you expect me to shut that down in order to be acceptable to you, you’re asking too much.

Honestly, I do my best not to think of you as a child.  However, I suspect it’s inevitable that some degree of that will always remain.  By the same token, I will always be your mother – and your elder.  As such (You know this, and you have always demonstrated it in your actions toward me.), a certain amount of respect and acceptance is appropriate from you, even at those times when I don’t do or say what you might like me to do or say.  We’re not just buddies.  I hope we will be that again, but we will never be only that.

Neither God nor I am sitting on some pedestal, watching you and evaluating you to determine whether you’re worthy of some blessing or other.  God’s blessings have already been poured out.  They are constantly flowing and available.  It is a matter of our learning how to adjust and position ourselves to be in the place where those blessings are flowing into this realm we live in.  This”place” I’m talking about is not so much a physical, geographical place – although sometimes that is part of it.  Rather, it is a way of thinking and believing and living – a way of being and speaking and obeying and expecting that puts us there.  That is only accomplished by knowing Him more and more each day, and by renewing our minds and conforming ourselves to what we learn.  When I make these suggestions to you, I’m not judging you and saying you’re not good enough.  NOBODY ever get this perfectly.  We always can improve.  I’ve walked this road a long time, though, and I can give the benefit of my experience to others if they’ll listen.  All I ever mean to say is “here is a thing that can be tweaked, an adjustment that can be made, that will help close the door to the thief (the devil) and help make you more available for the blessings God wants you to have in your life.”  It will never be true that your walk with God is your own business, and none of mine.  I love you too much for that.

And, honestly, many of my comments were made because I thought you already agreed with me – not because I was trying to make you change or make you do something.  It took me by surprise to realize you are as far away as you seem to be from the things I thought we shared.  My intent was to remind you, not to correct.

I believe that, by far, the greater portion of my infulicence in your life has been for good.  I apologize for the rest – For my own imperfectness and for the broken things within me that make me less than I should be.

Re-reading this exchange I find that it just sort of makes me feel sad.  Sad that I can’t communicate clearly with this woman who does mean so much to me.  Sad that she just can’t grasp that there is a bigger picture and that she can’t see past her own single minded focus of God, and Christianity, and spirituality.  I have always maintained that God is in everything but not everything is about God.  I think that’s the big difference between us.

But what I picked up, more than anything else, as I re-read these communique’s is this.  While arguing that I was wrong about her inability to accept any other perspectives, she also told me that the “Word of God” is the only perspective and on that she will not budge and she will not stop “admonishing” me.

My problem is that she believes that the Word of God is very cut and dried and there are no ifs, ands or buts.  Many other peopel believe that and it’s all well and good, but it’s not what I believe.  I have read every word of The Bible.  I read it and tried to make as much sense out of it as I could.  And, if I learned nothing else from that process, I learned that the Bible is not very cut and dried.  It’s very ambiguous.  It’s very myserious.  And most of all, it’s a historical document that was physically written by human beings (even if you do believe in the devine inspiration philosophy).  It was written by human beings, who may or may not have been inspired by the Holy Spirit (God if you prefer), but were nonetheless affected by their own personal beliefs and opinions as influenced by the times, AND it was written in a language that is dead and has been forgotten.  It has also been translated, repeatedly, into multiple languages and from those multiple languages into still more multiple languages.  Along the way, it would be very easy for the original content of the manuscript to have been confused and miscommunicated.

I believe that the Bible is an excellent baseline for establishing your faith, or your belief system, but I believe it is not all there is to it and never can be.  I believe that your spirit and your communion with The Holy Spirit, is just as important as The Bible is.  And I don’t believe that this philosophy constitutes “Making him up for myself.”  At the end of the day, we each have to decide for ourselves what we believe and what we think is right and wrong.  And I have to assume that a loving God who wants his creations to succeed and to go to heaven (if you believe in such a thing) would not create a handful of hard and fast rules that are the be all and end all and if you don’t get it exactly right you’re damned for all eternity.  Otherwise, I have to assume Heaven is going to be a real quiet place.

I actually feel very much at ease, or at peace with my beliefs as I’ve explained them.  The part of me that can get no peace is the part that was raised by the woman who wrote that e-mail.  The woman who so emphatically believes the things she does and doesn’t believe that there’s room for other interpretations.  The woman who will never let go of the idea that I could have a different belief struction then she and still be right and just, before God’s eyes.

Knowing that I have some very different opinions and beliefs, and that at my very core, there is something about me with which I have struggled; I have tried to deny; I have tried to “recover from”; and ultimately, had to accept, but about which she will never be accepting, what I’m reading is that she will never accept me.  She will never give me the unconditional support that I need to be able to put that part of me at ease.

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