Off-the-Rails or On the Wrong Train?

Train Tracks.jpgMy 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.







8 thoughts on “Off-the-Rails or On the Wrong Train?

  1. Wondering Celt

    Robert that was a painfully vivid read and I take my hat off to you for your vulnerability and ABILITY to articulate it.

    I ran a course that deals with our deepest and most primal relationships i.e. parental and sibling ones. It covers adoptees too.

    On that basis and on the basis that our Father is merciful AND loving kindness itself, I want to respectfully disagree with your conclusion of idolatry.

    I often think in terms of big Karen and little Karen in my own healing journey. Big Karen frequently finds herself acting as little Karen would when her needs are not been met at some profound level. This varies between controlling or aggressive behaviour so fun to live with, huh?!

    As part of reconciling those two natures I have found Father is very willing to take little Karen (if I, big Karen, am brave enough to let him that is!) and give her the nurture and comfort she needs in moments of quiet and contemplation.

    Forgive me for my presumption in writing like this to you. I feel a profound sadness and grief for the little one who was taken away and ‘abandoned’ at such a vulnerable age. And I speak as one who is far from ‘there’…yet.

    You have correctly recognised your fear of abandonment. Imagine a small newborn baby crying desperately for their mother. Is that Idolatry or a reasonable and God-given need for love, protection and nurture? I believe that, in you, that little child is still crying…

    You’ve see the light, smelt those fresh winds of freedom, walked that high mountain of endless vistas…

    How about letting Father God in whom all comfort originated from and is found, hold you as you cry and see how He slowly reconciles little Rob and big Rob as the seasons pass? He is able to both mother and father you…

    Shalom, shalom

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this. Actually, what I was saying was the opposite. I’m suggesting that any terms offered me, generally overly “bible-y” ones, specifically “idolatry,” never really made any sense. These terms are far too punitive to offer anything close to answers, let alone healing. I am coming to terms with the complexities of adult adoptee behaviors and experience. Rarely nowadays does that include language stuck in Mosaic Law. It is, as you suggest, found in the arms of my ultimate Loving Parent. Thanks, dear soul


  2. krazykiwi

    One of the most profound and insightful wrestling with the notion of intimacy, vulnerability and self-flagellation! and as such, it speaks directly to my shame-wound. And it helps me to see the futility of “seconding” friends, as I have often done in the past. And it helps me to recognize why I’ve been seen so often by others as “effusive”. Makes more sense to me now. Thanks, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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