Monday, November 21, 2011

Saved from death

This describes me- a passage from Ephesions, a new testament book written by Paul, the apostle, "As for you, don't you remember how you used to exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  You were the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobediance.  I'm not talking about outsiders alone; we were all guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; we all have had our fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers.  as a result, our natural inclinations led us to be children of wrath, just like the rest of human kind."  Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT). Everyone has heard of Zombies- the living dead. A body, reanimated, disgusting, grotesque and barbaric- alive yet devoid of the essential part that makes us human.  I don't know who hasn't hasn't heard of zombies- they are the subject of many horror movies. At one time in my life I really was no different from the personification of a zombie- the undead- physically alive,technically, yet dead, spiritually- alive in the form of a body, breathing, walking, existing- yet dead in spirit. I had the appearance of physical life, that is true, but I was dead in all that really mattered.

Even though the actual story begins when I was very young, with the memory of my earliest of memories, for the sake of time I will fast forward to the day when I made an important decision that changed my life. That day started like any other day. There were no distinct weather conditions, special holidays, anniversaries or achievements to mark the date. In fact the particular calendar day was so insignificant that I no longer remember the date or even the exact year for that matter. It had never crossed my mind to record the date. Yet, the significance of that decision cannot be measured.

Some minimal background is required to understand the change that resulted from that important decision. Like countless others, I too had some difficult and awkward years when I was young. I did not grow up with the burden of any extraordinary impairments or circumstances. I did not have any unusual traumatic events. I was not tortured nor was I abused. Never did I go to bed hungry, not did I have to live in a shack. No PTSD memories linger to haunt me. But I did have some physical and emotional impediments which became more pronounced as I grew older. The events of my life in of themselves were neither memorable nor significant. I had three sisters who kept to themselves and two parents: my mother, nevertheless was not always around when I was young- but that was ok.

When I was really young, I was always a bit antisocial and distant from the other children. During my teenaged years, my physical and emotional deficits became more pronounced at a most inopportune time of life when appearance and social skills are paramount for normal positive social interaction. As I matured, my appearance shamed me and I was distanced from the other girls my age. My physical appearance embarrassed me to such an extent that I lived in a constant state of abject discomfort and anxiety that someone would tease me. Graceless, indelicate and overgrown, I was isolated and frequently tormented by my peers. I was made fun of, humiliated and embarrassed. I was ignorant concerning the normal common social, health and hygiene knowledge that so many people take for granted. While the other girls engaged in sports, went to dances, took home economics and health class, I avoided these activities with the understanding that I would have no use for such skills which would most certainly never be put into the context of which they were intended. I lacked friends and was very lonely as a result of my physical appearance which was not considered to be even within the normal standards. I eventually reconciled myself to my fate, as well as my physical state. I did not have any hope for a better future. When I was very young, I was brought to therapists to “correct” my issues- to no avail. Attempts at brainwashing me to normalcy failed- retreats failed, counseling failed as well as writing those daily, laborious, repetitive positive affirmations in the spiral bound notebook that I was forced to do. Inside I had the same wants, goals and dreams as any other teenaged girl. Yet these were unattainable. While these problems may pale in comparison to the world’s social injustices and inequities, this was my life and my world! It was all that mattered to me at the time in my own selfish, self- centered world.

Outside I was quiet, yet within I was sad, angry, bitter and jealous. I was shy and lacked confidence and self esteem. I withdrew inward. Every night I would cry myself to sleep. . I could pass half the night awake in bed feeling sorry for myself. Sometimes I played out long scenarios of suicide despite the fact that I was too much of a coward for that. Imaginary scenarios of revenge and justice helped me fall asleep. In my dreams I lived out detailed fantasies of revenge and redemption- that is, of course- when I finally was able to sleep. I had a fear of death- not of my own but of my family. This extreme fear of others dying, made it very difficult for me to sleep. I specifically feared that my Dad would die. He had been hospitalized and had seizures, but no known diagnosis. I lived with a sick sense of dread and impending doom every night for years! In fact I would leave my bedroom sometime during the night and go out to the couch. I could barely even walk past the hall to go to the bathroom without having an intense fear of impending death. I hate nightmares often about death. I often wished my mother or older sisters were around so I didn’t have to face this fear alone. My only prayers were prayers that I would die peacefully in my sleep and never wake up. I didn’t fear my own death, however. I welcomed it. I doubted that even God existed because if He really did, I was sure that I had been abandoned by God. I wondered why I of all people deserved to have been singled out by my peers to endure such misery and frustration.

During the daytime I was withdrawn and anxious. I did not watch tv. I did not listen to music. I engaged in solitary activities: reading, writing, drawing and playing with dolls. I would clean and organize my room and my books and my dolls and my various collections. I had many collections: rocks, stickers, stamps, petrified/ shellacked hermit crabs….. All these things were my expressive outlet- especially writing. I could spend hours, and even an entire night simply writing- filling entire notebooks within a few short hours! This was the age before computers- so I would write and write and write until my fingers were red and callused and sore. I had to finish, I could not leave a piece of work unfinished! Oh, how I lived my life in my room. I lived out my dreams- reenacting a perfect world, and fulfilling my wishes for revenge and my dreams. All those little tiny people represented real people. I created a miniature replica of a town, filled with homes and schools, stores and people. After school from the time I was eight throughout high school, I lived out my life of normalcy and dreams through the fictitious town I created as well as its inhabitants. I found peace by playing within that town. Anything that happened in real life, I would reenact in my small miniature town. No detail was too insignificant to include in my little town replica. In fact, it had its own transportation system, school system, a library and even a newspaper! The newspaper was available both in miniature format as well as larger traditional format- to this day I still have some copies.

I enjoyed books and lived my life’s adventures from reading literature and novels. I also enjoyed philosophy, psychology and science as well. Much of my knowledge and experience came from books. I lived life experiences through reading, and made them come to life through my writings, my fantasies and the re-enactment through my dolls. To me this was life!

By today’s standards, my dreams as a youth were pretty mundane: my peers, normal and average by the world’s standards, represented the manifestation, and complete embodiment of my dreams. As impossible as it seemed my hopes consisted of getting a boyfriend, getting married and having children. That’s it! That was the scope of my ambition- simply to be normal like everyone else. Sure I did well in school- getting on the honor roll and honor society without ever having to study. I completed all my school work , studying and research papers in the time it took me to take the bus ride home and during the time it took finish my business on the toilet bowl. I had three cats, and these three animals were my only physical companions. I constantly feared they would get loose and run away.

The irony is that despite the anger and jealous feelings I harbored within, I felt morally superior to everyone else. I deluded myself into thinking I was righteously perfect. I believed I was so good and guilty of no wrong whatsoever. I believed I was morally superior to all those other so-called ingrates of society masquerading as “good” people. In fact everyone else had wronged me in my own mind. I believed if there actually was such a place as heaven, then I would go there with no problem. I was so puffed up with pride about my own goodness when I compared myself with all those other degenerates that dated, went to dances, listened to music or dressed in nice clothing. At least they were degenerates in my own mind. Yet at times when my father who was a believer in the bible would discuss the bible, I would silently, and without a word, stomp out in offense and leave the room. I simply did not want to hear about God or the bible. I silently and without complaint kept all my worries and miseries to myself.

One day this internal misery came to an end. I vaguely recall a young woman in her twenties associated with a high school self esteem related assembly program who somehow crossed my path and befriended me. She was a Christian, yet at the time having no interest in religion, Christianity or the bible, I do not recall any specific details concerning her associations. She invited me to lunch at Burger King during my lunch hour. We talked, or rather she talked, and I “listened”. In actuality I was more concerned about finishing my french fries than listening to whatever she appeared to be rambling about. She could not have missed my apathy and lack of response. She dutifully and in a perfunctory manner went over, laboriously page by page, a green booklet. She did not miss a detail explaining every diagram and caption- of which I barely glanced indifferently. But one statement of all the others stood out: she called me a sinner. Well she also explained how everyone was a sinner and that no one was righteous in God’s eyes. A sinner! I didn’t say anything, but immediately I took offense. How dare she assume that I was a sinner! She did not know who she was speaking to obviously. Obviously she didn’t know about my sufferings and misery. How inaccurate and ridiculous to accuse me of all people a sinner. As far as I was concerned I never sinned. I don’t remember anything else except that I felt disappointed somehow and she gave me that booklet and that somehow I made it back in time for my History class on time.

Looking back I remember the parables of Jesus about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle….. Well, a more formidable obstacle comes to mind- pride and self righteousness! How much easier it is for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a self righteous, stubborn, self pitying young girl (or anyone for that matter) to humble herself spiritually and enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet, it did happen!

Later that day I tried to put the entire conversation out of my mind. I still couldn’t get over the idea that she had referred to me as a sinner like everyone else. But the thoughts of that conversation and that verse consumed me! “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory if God”. (Romans 3:23) I was a sinner according to that statement! I pondered in my mind the implications of that statement. What if it was true? What if I was actually separated from God? The consequences were to terrible for me to even imagine. Just the thought that it may be true and I was outside of God was too much to bear.For days and maybe even weeks, I can not recall, I thought about it- deliberating and debating in my mind the consequences of that new knowledge. Oh how I wished that my comfortable vague ideas about God and heaven had not been challenged. I had grown accustomed to living comfortably within my own world with my self righteous attitude and self pity. What if it were really true? What if it was possible to have a relationship with God? What if I was separated from God? I had to humble myself spiritually and admit that I was a sinner. I had no choice and no excuse. Despite the hardships of my life, I still was guilty of sin in my actions and most of all my thoughts. My feelings of revenge and anger and envy were sinful! My fictitious fantasies were impure and sinful in God’s eyes. I was not morally perfect as I had deluded myself into believing. I had to make a choice and I had to make a change. It was a real decision. I decided to accept God’s friendship and gift of grace, admitting that I was guilty of sin. In that moment I had made the decision. There was no turning back. The message of the gospel and of salvation was truly good news. “God demonstrated his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 For the first time in my life I felt truly happy and hopeful, as if an enormous burden had been cast off. The evil feelings I harbored within were a burden all my life, and it was liberating to release those negative feelings and to have God as my friend.

I still remember how I used to exist, as a corpse, dead in life, buried by my transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  I was the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned me,  living in disobediance, guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; having had my fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers.   Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT).  I once was dead, but now I am alive, born again- saved. Because I have heard the word of truth- and received  the good news of salvation- and because I have believed in the One who is truth, marked with the Holy Spirit, who is promised as the guarentee, who frees and resuces all who belong to Him.

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