“I was given up for adoption at birth.” Words trembled between shaky lips. “When I was 14, my parents who adopted me put me back in the children’s home. I found my biological mother and went to live with her. But then she kicked me
out . . .”
Her life spilled in fragments through chattering teeth. By the time Hannah turned 27, she’d been married and divorced twice, had an abortion, given a daughter up for adoption, birthed three other children, been in and out of rehab, and became an alcoholic. But years of hardcore drug use made it hard to remember things. “And I also died,” she said. “I overdosed on heroin and the only reason I’m alive now is because my boyfriend knew to stick me in a tub of ice and shock me back. But I was dead. I really was. That’s another reason why I can’t think straight.” She showed me her arms, crisscrossed and sculpted by life, each a story of blade, of pain. “But I’m a neat freak. And I love to sew.” She showed me a quilted coin purse, dark and eclectic. “I sew all the time. It keeps me focused.” She looked at me with tears. “Can I give you a hug?” she asked, almost shyly. “Thank you for listening.” Then like a fragile doe, she bolted away and I never saw her again.
I went home and cried for hours.
Sisters of Sorrow
Children born within a Quiverfull or religious, conservative family have the reassurance of knowing we are, above anything else, wanted. This is a fundamental element of a Quiverfull life. Yet I wonder how many of us sometimes feel, deep down, more like Hannah? Given up at birth. Rejected by her adoptive family, then yet again by her biological mother. Married and divorced ~ not once, but twice.
Not good enough.
Not good enough.
Not good enough.
Roots of Darkness
The pressure to look like a godly woman, controlled by performance-based love, acceptance, or approval, is nothing less than a death sentence for many girls raised within a fundamentalist environment. For example, you are probably familiar with this simple directive: “Smile.” Or its twin siblings: “You need to smile more,” and “Turn that frown upside down!” We learn at an early age what emotions are acceptable, and which are not. We learn to reveal only that which is positive, “godly.” Yet when truth whispers otherwise, when reality is that we want or need to cry, or rage, or be spontaneous, and yet we stifle what is real in favor of what looks better, what looks Christ-like, what looks like a godly, joyful spirit, what does that do to our hearts? This form of fake-it-til-you-make-it is deceptive. And deception does not lead to healing, nor to life.
We read the words of Jesus, “The truth will make you free,” and yet as we strive and struggle to attain the level of perfection established for us, required of us ~ freedom grows distant. This is cognitive dissonance in its most disturbing form. It is confusion, for it is done in the name of God who is not the author of confusion, but of peace. What is peace? It is the state of being at rest. And in the furious trampling of the ancient paths, worn down by the Pharisees of old, rest came not to my weary soul.
A Depressed Perfectionist Finds Grace
I’ve carried Hannah with me now for years; she’s etched on my heart as her cries echoed my own.
Not good enough. Not loved for who I am. Not accepted “as is”. There was always more I could be. More I should do. Things I ought to do. The shoulds and oughts of life tormented me daily, hourly. Despite what I heard, what messages conveyed, what was real to me is that I, an ungodly, full-of-the-flesh blight of the earth, needed to be cut off from life, broken down, remolded, smothered.
There is a reason I’ve titled this series “Love Song”, but more accurately it is a mystery. My spiritual journey, a story longer than time allows here, culminated one beautiful starry night when Love came home. But first, first my childhood dream would come true.
I had to die.
To be continued: conclusion