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Love Song, IV — Mystery

continued from Love Song, III — Death

She sat across from me, knuckles clasped white except for streaks of mascara swiped from her cheeks.  She didn't know why she came; she'd stopped to turn around many times. But here she was. No coffee, thanks.

"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

So I Married a Fundamentalist Family

Four years ago, a trail of beaded lace swept along the plush burgundy carpet as Margaret walked down the aisle to meet the man of her dreams. She'd always remarked upon the significance of that journey past old familiar pews, bedecked with luscious bows of fluffy tulle, fresh roses, and smiling faces. "It's like the slate was being wiped clean," she says. "The past and future connected when we joined hands, but everything became new." She grows quiet; hazel eyes flicker with shadows. "Life started over."

In the bliss of a newly-wedded life, Margaret and John were unprepared for the dormant roots biding time within her heart. When two years later they sprouted green with life, husband and wife were rocked in ways they'd never anticipated. "Poor John—he didn't realize he was marrying my mom and dad, too," Margaret told me. "And even though there are some good things from my life, somehow it's the hard stuff, the struggles and issues, that carry over." She laughs with rue. "Why is that? Why do we have to be so human? It's taken a long time to get back on track—God's helped a lot, but there are still many things we're going through, that if I'd only known about before I got married, would eliminate some of the struggles we have. You see, I left home, but my mind, my emotions, ideas, everything else about me—they stayed behind."

My parents always said, "You marry a man, you marry his family." In many ways, this is very true. And sometimes, he marries yours. What Margaret shares is experienced by many young wives adjusting to the realities of a new home environment. It doesn't mean marriage loses its luster, but that unexpected dynamics may arise and create unique trials largely unaddressed within traditional counseling and lay resources.

My husband, one of two, still laughs remembering the first time he met mine. "I'd never even heard of someone having that many kids," he admits. I took this psychology major to a family picnic for his inauguration to conservatism. The older ones surged to meet him with grins and hugs and jokes about the Name Test coming later. The younger ones stared. "Hillary's boyfriend," they whispered, mouths gaped and eyes wide. But it didn't take long for reticence to flee and soon they were sneaking up, poking and prodding like he was from outer space, then running off in a cloud of giggles.

It was new for them, too.

"John is so patient with me," says Margaret. "But he couldn't understand how I'd read the Bible and hear my dad's voice in my head. My father was a pastor and all I could hear was the Word thundering down from the pulpit or at the dinner table. Thou shalt not . . . thou shalt not . . . it followed me everywhere, over every little thing I did. And sometimes it was hard to hear what John was saying, because my family was so ingrained in the core of my being. Even though I tried to listen to my husband, sometimes my dad would drown him out in my own head. But I didn't mean for it to be that way."

Margaret illustrates one of the practical problems of codependency, or enmeshment, within an unhealthy or dysfunctional family.

How do you leave home emotionally?

Names and identifying details have been changed to preserve anonymity.
Image credit: stock.xchng

Considering a Godly Response to Unhealthy Authority | Guest Post

By James A. Karpowitz

In a prior post I cited some examples of unhealthy authority, that which is abusive, domineering or controlling or which serves its own purposes and personal security. So how do we as believers respond to the abuse of authority in a godly manner? Since the scope of Quivering Daughters addresses issues within the family structure, my comments will be in that context. You can, of course, make other applications as you see fit. It’s difficult to get down to specifics without knowing more of a given situation but knowing what to do with a specific situation starts with some general guiding principles.

A godly response begins within the heart prior to any external, observable actions. Jesus addressed the heart motivations of people, those unseen components of our lives defining why we do what we do. This is an important truth to understand because you may have had your own motives wrongly questioned or criticized by someone either in authority or in pseudo-authority. If you want them to question your loyalty, just refuse to be manipulated and dominated. If you want them to doubt your spiritual maturity, don’t accept a burden that isn’t yours to carry. However, if you want to be labeled “rebellious”, complete with a tee shirt and a certificate suitable for framing, just take a contrary position to a person trying to claim (or subject you to) authoritarian rule in your life. Trust me, it will work. Is it rebellious, however, to make a personal decision as an adult that may or may not be in concert with a decision your parents would make? Is it rebellious to make decisions, period, rather than waiting to be told what to do? Is it rebellious to disagree with a husband concerning a matter of, say, a child’s well being?

A Virtual Party with Elizabeth!

Are you lonely for new friends, inspirational reading, and encouragement? Once again Elizabeth Esther is hosting her Saturday Evening Blog Post. (And yes, it is Sunday as I write this. I am woefully behind ~ and WHERE oh where has November gone?!!?) Please visit her virtual home to share a link from your own November archives, meet new kindred spirits, challenge your thinking, and become uplifted by others making their way along the path of life. I chose to link my Praise post because it is so important to remember the good things, the lovely things, the things worthy of praise, and to give thanks for all. Have a lovely weekend!! :-)

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Authority | Guest Post

I am happy to welcome James A. Karpowitz to Quivering Daughters! Please enjoy his guest post:

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Authority

By James A. Karpowitz

Authority is supposed to be a tool for good. You see it in the world when a policeman corrals a speeder or nabs a robbery suspect. You can observe it in a military command structure, keeping an entire army operating as a cohesive unit. In a Christian context, it’s difficult to argue from scripture that authority ought not to exist. God places spiritual leadership in the church. The Bible does say that the husband is the head of the wife. God does have parents exercise authority over their children by setting reasonable parameters and limits for their behavior (no Jason, you can’t attend that unsupervised party or practice your Tae Kwon Do skills on your little sister). I’ve heard much in conservative Christian circles about submission to authority over the years. I would like to see more emphasis on how healthy, functional authority is supposed to operate. Having acknowledged that authority does have its proper place, it is equally important to recognize that authority is not intended to be an end in itself, that it can function in an unhealthy manner and that it can even be falsely assumed. I just finished a bowl of cereal and it occurred to me that authority gone bad is like milk gone sour. It may have started out good but it ended up bad. Unfortunately, authority can turn unhealthy despite the best of intentions. I want to examine a few ways that authority can curdle, so to speak. The primary context for our discussion here will be Christian relationships between parents and adult children, husbands and wives, and pastors and their flock.