“You’re not academic”

Another essay in. I still have 2 to do this year that I had deferred from previous years due to bereavements. It’s honestly a miracle I’ve got this far and I’m so grateful to God everytime I hand an essay in. I love my degree partly because it shows me something I never dreamed would ever happen. By the time I had gone through school, and then GCSE retakes and then a BTEC 1st Diploma I had had it drummed into me “you’re not academic” so much so that when the opportunity came up to do a HND I decided against it because I truly believed by then that “I wasn’t academic” and my days in academia were over, I hadn’t done great anyway so move on. If you’d have told me when I was 33 that I would start a 6 year degree course and love it beyond my wildest dreams, even when the worst things in life are happening to me I would continue it I would have laughed at you and told you to sit down. But here we are and I’ve almost finished year 4 and the last 2 essays I’ve done I have enjoyed the most. Beyond grateful to God for this opportunity. I never want it to end.

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Verbal Processing.

To be fair I have done quite a lot of verb processing today, and yet, I feel I need to do more. (This may be the lockdown effect.) Some people say you shouldn’t process on a  blog for others to read, and you should give yourself time to reflect. The other thing about verbal processors in general is we tend to get all our thoughts out of our system and say a bunch of statements, and then decide what we actually think is true afterwards. That description basically sums up my entire blog  (😂). So here it comes…

Today I have had three different people, from three different places, about three different subjects say the same thing to me. “Don’t let it knock your confidence.”  It’s an interesting phrase for me because this time last week I was in full meltdown of self-confidence. I was on the floor. I doubted everything I had ever done or said. It was excruciating. Those of you who know what having rock bottom self-confidence is like will know it’s a different pain to others.

Current events have not helped me with rebuilding my confidence. The actions of Dominic Cummins and the Government have enraged me like no other political situation has. It is made worse by the disagreement of what he did. When expressing my anger and having it challenged I have defaulted to doubting myself. The other thing that is absolutely wrecking my head is that naturally, I am a forgiving person. Naturally, I give people the benefit of the doubt. Anger does not come to me easily. So to have a sustained period of anger is unusual. I also want to be kind, I want to be forgiving, I want to be measured and I just cannot bring myself to be about this situation. I do feel that Dominic Cummings is facing a lot of criticism and is being attacked and normally when that happens I side with the person who is getting hounded, however his lack of remorse and refusal of an apology means I cannot force myself to be on his side. I just can’t. It’s totally repulsed me and I can’t seem to get over it. I’m also angry about various other things that are happening around the world that I feel less qualified to comment on. I’m very conscious that I may be wrong about a lot of things. I want to act with humility. I don’t want to be arrogant or proud. I guess I  still need Jesus’ love and compassion as much if not more than I ever did.

I’ve said this before in another post but it seems to have come up again, I recognise that I only have so much energy to give to “fighting battles”. ( I don’t particularly like this terminology of violence but I don’t have any other in my vocabulary.) My husband and sisters untimely deaths mean I spend a lot of energy functioning “normally”, meaning when I wake up every morning without John my energy is spent getting up instead of staying in bed and wanting it all to end. I have to spend the energy I have leftover wisely. I want to fight so many injustices for the poor, the refuge,  racism, the oppression of women, and the LGBTQ+ community. I realise I cannot do all that. Just the thought is exhausting. But how do you choose which ones? Do I have anything to offer them anyway? (Hear the self-doubt?) What is it I can do for them? 

All of this while doing a degree, working, thinking about vocation, and being in a pandemic means I am tired and emotional but I am trying. I’m trying to be true to God and myself. I’m trying on all fronts to do the right thing. I want to please God, I want to do right. Those are my end goals, that much I know at least.

 

 

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Maybe I’m just a cynic.

Haven’t written a post for a while, partly due to the number of blogs that other people are writing due to lockdown still being in place, and my blog is nothing of real substance to any debate, so haven’t felt the need and also as I have been writing an essay all my energy has been focused on that. It was an immense privilege to write on the different views of women in leadership and the Biblical hermeneutics involved. I really enjoyed the reading for it despite the hideousness of my concentration due to the pandemic. The writing was really difficult but I’m still glad I did it. I knew all the arguments against women’s leadership like the back of my hand so that was nothing new. It was good to actually read and study in-depth for myself the argument for women’s leadership, which I have really only taken as a given.  I have just written out 2 tweets and then deleted before posting and then 2 Facebook posts which I also deleted before posting. The tweets were about a video that has been released called The Blessing UK. Over 65 churches “came together” to record a song and release it on Youtube. When it was published I was knee-deep into my essay but thought it would be a welcome break so watched it and I will admit it was well done and it made me cry but not for the reason I thought it might. I had imagined I would well up because of the “unity” and the fact that all these people were singing a blessing over the UK and how wonderful that was. However, I didn’t. As I sat there in front of my essay knowing that the hermeneutics used against women’s leadership but also against women, in general, have caused millennia of pain, abuse, mistreatment, silencing, suppression, and exclusion of women all I could think was that some of the people singing “He is for you” deep down didn’t believe that at all.  When faced with a woman in leadership they would not have sung “He is for you” and don’t get me started on what they would sing faced with a Gay or Trans Christian. Lord have mercy! The truth of the matter is what should have been sung by some is “He is for you if you *say a certain prayer/ believing a certain thing/ live a certain way. *Delete as appropriate. And so when I watched the video and everyone was singing I cried, I sobbed because I knew that actually, people do not believe that God is for EVERYONE. People actually believe that God is only for people who change who they are and how they are, and if they are a woman then too bad, they can have no authority as the Bible “clearly” states. Reading people’s comments to the video has irked me as well. “Wow! This is incredible!”, “God is on the move!” Call me cynical (me to me: cynical), but over 65 churches “coming together” (reality recording people separately in their homes due to lockdown) and singing a song, makes God seem pretty small if that’s him on the move. How is it incredible? No one has said that about the participants of this year’s The Voice UK who did the same thing with the song “As”. No one said “God is on the move” because they all “came together”. Yes it was a nice thing to do, yes it probably did bring some people comfort, and yes I firmly believe God was most likely in it, but surely all those things could also be said of the video The Voice UK produced too?  God can and does use anything. Someone described the Christian reaction to The blessing video as ‘navel-gazing’, I laughed and moved on, but maybe they do have a little point. I understand that I am sounding like one of *those* people who are cynical and just want to ‘tear down anything that is good’ and I don’t want to be one of those people, but I do want to be real and think about what the actual reality is behind things. Maybe I have just done too much critical thinking and now I can’t stop pulling everything apart? I hope not. I do want to see the good in things and I can see the good that is in The Blessing UK, it is good that a blessing is being sung over the UK, boy are we in desperate need for it at the moment, and I pray this is genuinely the start of some unity in the church but let’s not be naive and think we have come leaps and bounds jut because some people sang a song from their homes without engaging in thoughtful, prayerful consideration of how the theology we hold works itself out.

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No holds barred.

Currently, the country is in lockdown due to the Coronavirus and so I have time on my hands to write, think and process…

My therapist a few weeks ago asked me to think about why I am writing the thing I am about to write on social media before I write it. I shall apply this rule here too. I am writing this partly just to get it out of my system which means it may never get published. Just cause I need to express it does not mean that other people need to read it. While to me it is a fascinating discovering, the limits of a blog may mean it gets lost in translation and also who really cares at the end of the day? It makes no difference to anyone other than myself really. Good. Now I’ve got all that pre-waffle out the way we turn to the main waffle 🙄.

What I have discovered in the last year but particularly the last 6/7 months is how ordered and consistent my sexuality is. And it blows me away. I was convinced the moment I actually admitted to myself that I was bisexual everything would go crazy and I would be a mess of being attracted to all kinds of people and just be in a complete spin. What I have found is the complete opposite, I can see order, and here’s the clincher for me (and I know when I say it some people are gonna get really bent out of shape) but I have to be honest, it’s really natural. What I mean by that is I’m 100% not creating this, I’m not making it up. Naturally, I am attracted to both men and women. Without me paying any attention to it at all, it naturally occurs. And what I mean about it being ordered is, I have types of men I am attracted to and types of women I am attracted to. And it is consistent. I don’t see the pattern in the moment, it’s only on reflection that I see the order. And when I look back through my life (apart from my time with John as I didn’t look at anyone as I was totally consumed with him) I can see the pattern was there all along… the same consistent pattern of certain men and certain women. I do find it fascinating. Every time I like someone and then I realise they fit the pattern I’m amazed. It really isn’t chaotic. It’s ordered. And if you gonna believe that God isn’t a God of chaos then…… I can’t believe I am about to say what I am about to say but I can’t put it any other way than this and please know that I never thought I would say anything like this ever… but I feel honestly that this has always been in me, I was born this way. I’m aware that some people don’t believe that at all, and I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about this and talking it through with my therapist, but I can see clearly it’s always been this way.

When I was 15 I kind of knew or I certainly would have got there but shut it all down partly due to my mum’s reaction when I told her I liked a woman.  Also because there was so much going on in my life at that point with my mum and dad’s argumentative and sometimes violent relationship and consequent divorce. It was taking all my energy and strength to try and maintain a ‘normal’ life and keep my head down and go to school, that to have deal with the fall out from accepting a different sexuality (which in the mid to late nighties was somewhat still taboo) to the norm, I couldn’t have handled it I don’t think. So I shut it all down, right down. Yes, it tried to get out but I wouldn’t let it. I would wrestle it back in and in a way, I’m kinda glad I did, cause I would never have had the life I had with John if I had accepted it back then, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. So do I regret not dealing with it sooner? I guess on reflection no I don’t. This has needed time and space and thought and prayer and therapy and at no other point in my life have had all those things together. To use a cliche, I have been on a journey the last few years, it’s not been an easy ride, I’ve been anxious, scared, angry, sad but also experienced amazing relief, freedom, wonder and some smiles and giggles. I’ve had some good conversations, I’ve read some good books and theology. I still worry about how some people are gonna think about me differently especially Christians. I also worry that I should ‘do something’ and be more ‘visible’ but then who am I? I don’t hold any influence, I have no position or authority over anything or anyone so it’s kind of a non-starter.

So the question remains why even bother to write this in my blog? A couple of reasons. Currently with the Coronavirus and the death toll rising all over the world, but starting to now in Britain too. I work in a Supermarket and crazy as this is, I am now classed as a key worker which is ridiculous, but because everyone needs food and we keep the food supply going… anyway… sadly this also means that I am being exposed to the virus every time I go to work. Supermarkets are one of the main places you will encounter the virus because of the number of people who have the virus, don’t realise and pass it on to objects and other people. Yesterday the first Doctor in the UK working on the frontlines of the NHS died of Corona due to viral load. I know I will not experience anything like what the NHS staff experience in terms of my contact with the virus, but at this current stage we don’t know enough about it. It is indiscriminate in who it infects and how people react to it. I may have already had it, I may currently have it, I don’t know how it will affect me, so with that in mind, I wanted to write a little of my experience just to put it out there in case anything were to happen to me.

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Kindness

It wasn’t someone shouting at me that my beliefs were wrong that drew me to The Lord. It wasn’t someone screaming at me that I was ‘going to hell’ that drew me to The Lord. It wasn’t someone quoting Bible verses at me that drew me to The Lord. It was kindness that first drew me to the Lord. I have noticed that throughout my nearly 24 years of being a Christian the times of deep persistent repentance that I have had, aka metanoia aka ‘turning aside’ aka ‘changing direction’ aka ‘thinking anew’ and all the other ways it is described, have consistently been brought about by kindness, God’s kindness through others and when I have noticed it myself, in events and circumstances. What I am about to say maybe to my detriment in terms of my perception of being a Christian to others but, as ever, in my blog, I am always honest and open; I can only think of a couple of times where Bible verses have ever brought about repentance from me, and the occasions that they have, although sincere, haven’t lasted very long. In contrast to that my repentance brought about through kindness has lasted. It has withstood time and circumstances.

I even remember a time when kindness from my Mum drew a form of repentance from me and it was at a seriously low point in our relationship, one of the lowest. I had a complicated relationship with my mum due to her drinking and ashamedly our relationship was often strained, and I am still sad about that.  She had been harassing me at work for a few months. And I mean harassing. Following me to and from work, ringing the store repeatedly to try to speak to me. One day (somehow) she managed to get through to me, and I began with a barrage of ‘Mum. Please, leave me alone, you can’t be ringing me up like this when I’m at work.’ There was silence on the phone. I was a little taken aback as I thought she would start her normal monologue about how I must return back home and live with her immediately. But she didn’t. She started to cry. At which point my reflex reaction (to my shame now) was to jump in ‘Mum don’t cry it’s not going to get you what you want, I’m not coming home.’ and then she sobbed, ‘I was only ringing to tell you the last time you were here you left your purse.’ And with that, she put down the phone. Her kindness led me to repent of my awful reflex defensiveness towards her. It made me see that actually, she was, at the end of the day, still a mother to me, even if alcohol clouded and robbed that frequently/daily from her and me. Our relationship continued to be stormy right up until she passed away, but thankfully the week before we had been on good terms and I’m grateful for that. But I shall never forget the repentance her kindness brought about in me and continues to, as I give people the benefit of the doubt more often than not now.

Yesterday I posted a status on my Facebook that was highly controversial. I did it on purpose I’m not gonna lie. I genuinely wanted to know people’s reactions and who would bite and how. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am probably not Evangelical anymore. Some would say I definitely am not. But I know some people who are Liberal Evangelicals and even though the Evangelical Alliance totally would not embrace them, at all, they remain committed to keeping that label/identity. I must say at this point I know the word Evangelical and the word Liberal both have a vast array of meanings, but to help nuance that I’m talking about British Christian leanings. (Does that help? Maybe not!) Over the past 3 years, I have come to recognise the damage that some evangelical teaching does to people, myself very much included. I believe some evangelical teachings only teach you to be kind to other Christians who are like yourself. What I learnt from it was that anyone who differed from me was to be discarded and (although unspoken) disrespected, meaning I didn’t have an ounce of respect for them the moment I realised they were different to me in some way…ESPECIALLY the way they thought about the world and the Bible. I see the damage it does to people frequently, especially when people do not hold to Evangelical views. I’ve been guilty of causing some of the harm to others and to my very self. It has taken more therapy sessions than I can count to try and heal someone of the harm I have done inwardly to myself because of the teachings I held. I literally screwed myself internally, almost to the point of no return, and as someone bereaved by suicide I do not say that lightly. Believe. There is however something in me that can’t quite publically renounce evangelicalism because although recently I have seen the damage it does, I also know the good it does, it kept me a Christian for most of my Christian life, I love how it takes the Bible seriously, I love the fervour and zeal for the Lord evangelicalism has that honestly liberal Christianity just doesn’t have in the same manner. I totally understand how Evangelicals feel that Liberal Christianity is just wishy-washy. But this is all like anything else is it not? Everything needs balance. Yes, Evangelicalism can be so cruel and harsh and harmful, but equally Liberal Christianity can be so watered down Jesus can get thrown out with the bathwater, often I’m left wondering ‘Do these people even have a faith?’. There’s a balance. I know there is, cause I know people who have it. And the people who do have it, have such a beautiful faith that shines through to me and funnily enough through kindness. And it’s kindness that brought this blog about. Someone who I was fairly certain would ‘take me down’ and ‘whip me’ with Bible verse because of my opinion didn’t but was kind to me. So leave a light on for me Evangelicals, I may one day reclaim the label, just not now, and not yet, for me being Liberal is saving my faith, and ultimately my life. Love you all regardless of your opinions, beliefs and leanings. I’ll leave you with a Bible verse Romans 2:4. Peace out.

 

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Chinks of light.

Phew. The third-year anniversary of John’s death is over. It was so hard this year. Every day since John died I have got out of bed straight away when I’ve been awake but twice in the last month I haven’t been able to, and this worried me. I’ve never struggled with depression but I would imagine that is what was going on. Life just felt too much and I had no energy at all. After work I would be totally done in, I mean utterly spent. I’ve really had to keep an eye on myself. Two days before John’s anniversary I had Therapy and boy did it knock me out. I came home and lay on the sofa unable to move, a good friend came and got me something to eat. Many thoughts have plagued me the last month: “How is John not here?”, “This cannot be happening.”, “I just want John.”, “He was my best friend.”, “What am I meant to do now?”, “I can’t do this without him.”, “Am I doing the right thing?”, “Would John be proud of me or disappointed.” During therapy, we walked through the last three years and I commented on how much in my life has changed (for obvious reasons) and how much my thoughts, attitudes and theology has changed. “It looks like I have just walked to a different place completely..” I said. My Therapist interrupted (I think she picked up on the sense of panic in my voice), “Yes but you haven’t just walked to another place, I have seen you genuinely think things through, wrestle with things,  read up on things, pray things over for years and months. You haven’t just arrived at where you are. You have worked really hard on your internal life, and I’m proud of you. So don’t worry. Even if no one else knows and no one else has seen. God has seen you, and I have seen you think and pray and agonise over many different things.” I needed it to hear that. That has helped a lot, I was beginning to believe the lie that I have just flippantly changed my mind about things and not thought things through properly. This hasn’t all happened overnight, the morning after John died as I stood in the shower and cried out to God that I wanted to somehow still serve God and live my life through Him even though I had no idea how that was ever going to happen now, I promised to rebuild my life with honesty and integrity to Him and myself. And this is how it is forming. I’ve also realised as I wrote on Twitter yesterday, my compassion for humanity is at an all-time high and so is my Christology. I’m extremely grateful for those. I’m extremely grateful to my therapist and my Vicar who have helped me think and talk things through without pressure to come to decisions or without judgement. So even though the sadness has been heavy, I’ve seen a few chinks of light appearing.

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Christmas time.

The last day of the Christmas has arrived in the church calendar. Midnight Mass was beautiful, I cried even though I was serving but did it discreetly so no one saw, I was overwhelmed by the story of Jesus’ birth, and how special and what a celebration it is, in a way I don’t think I have been before. Christmas was alright, my sister came and we had a good time, walked the dogs and went to church and then shopped on Boxing Day, well she shopped, I just went along with her. I crept into church early Christmas Morning before anyone got there and had a good cry on my own for all the Christmases I won’t celebrate with John or Paula. Life feels so cruel in moments like that. Thought I would be fine over New year but New Year’s Eve at work one of the people we used to employ came into work who I haven’t seen for a few years and the moment she walked away I felt my inside crumble, I just stood in the aisle and the weight of all I had lost hit me, I quickly hurried off the shop floor and into the produce chiller and cried my eyes out in the fridge. It sometimes feels so surreal that I was married and we had a business and we were so happy and now I’m a single part time supermarket assistant struggling to get by. In moments like that the struggle against self pity is sometimes unbearable. It’s a really fight to try and stay positive and remember all the good things that I currently do have and all that God is doing and has blessed me with.

Now away at my Theological College Residential which I adore. I have had and still have a awful cold that is making me feel really under the weather and highly emotional which is annoying me. I cried at an advert the other day 🙄. But I’m beyond grateful to be here and looking forward to all I’m going to learn about and from The Lord. I’m praying this cold doesn’t hamper it.

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