My thoughts have been troubled of late. They take turns volleying between self-abasement and self-awareness. The dizzying heights of self-knowledge are fleeting, never staying as long as I need them to in order to affect any real change. The easily derailed choo-choo that is my brain isn’t always the engine that could. Often, at least in darker times, it is the train that won’t!
As I’ve alluded to elsewhere, in January of this year, I experienced what I might call a “Spirit-induced glimpse” into the possibilities of anxiety-free living. Following an emotional breakdown, God granted a 12-day “deliverance” from a deeply embedded fear. A veil was lifted, if only for a time, just long enough for me to smell the better air above the clouds of my oft-stormy psyche.
It was a gift. One that would not last but which I eagerly received.
I saw no angels. I did not speak in tongues. The back-of-my-neck hair stayed still. And, I had no beatific visions. What I did have however was a new appreciation for the glorious mundane as it appears to an uncluttered mind at rest.
I made decisions. I cleared detritus from my schedule – a schedule unrealistically packed full of the vicissitudes of one reaching anywhere for validation.
As I am learning, adoptees suffer more than others with fear of rejection and of taking risks. Our need for deep connection, protection, and nurture runs far deeper in us than it might in others. It has led me to waltz too easily, regularly, and with little forethought across boundaries into the space of others.
I become unrealistic in my perceived need of their attention, their support; their endorsement. When it becomes too stifling and they pull away, I panic and up the ante, making things worse. I grab for ankles from under the water, threatening to pull the poor buggers down with me.
It is the price of my intensity. And, it has chased away more than one friend. It is a lonely existence. Those like me generally vacillate between the ache of loneliness and the ache of shame – an unwelcome tightrope to be sure.
Usually about now is when the psychologists offer a word or two about healthy boundaries. Very good. However, my own experience suggests that merely living within prescribed boundaries isn’t always enough. Helpful, yes. Necessary in fact. And, it can be protective of further damage to be sure. But, for me at least, it was still only symptomatic of deeper reasons that gave rise to over-extended living in the first place.
As an adult adoptee, I suffer from off-the-charts fear of abandonment. Until recently, it drove the bus of my life. It was the track upon which this train moved, with or without my conscious permission.
Biblical language would suggest the term idolatry lying at root of this harrowing ill. But I confess that even that was never deep enough to pull out any roots. I was always left treating symptoms: lack of boundaries, fear of risk, inability to delegate, fear of failure/rejection, etc., etc.
Instead, it was God who needed to reach in and pull out this lifelong fear (or, at least point it out), which lay at the root of many little idolatries. In other words, I only think, act, and live wrongly because of much deeper reasons – reasons of pain rather than peace.
Now that some real healing has begun, the blessing of a transformed consciousness has opened the door to limitless other possibilities for new life – one grounded in grace, rather than just scrambling after “idolatry-free” living. All that ever does is give rise to, and fuel, a life off-the-rails. The gardener knows to pull the root and many of the rotted branches begin to fall away. Heal the plant, and the leaves will follow.
Or, in keeping with our metaphor, we stoke the deepest fire and the core is given strength to move and guide as it should. The engine of spiritual health promises a more unified train pulling in one direction on well-laid track. This is God’s doing.
It’s not always that we’re off-the-rails. Sometimes we’re simply on the wrong train.