Verbal manipulations are not just child’s play. I hear them all the time from adults. I’ve even said them on occasion. “If you really loved me you’d know what I want for Christmas.” “If you really love your father and me, you won’t date that boy anymore.” Statements like these make me cringe. It’s manipulation and shaming under the guise of love. Whenever I make a statement like that I know I need to get on my knees and repent. I’m trying to get love and run someone else’s life by fear and power.
Archives for January 2011
My husband and I have been in Michigan for about two months. Temperatures here are about 20 degrees colder than our previous location in Memphis. The house we’re living in was a gift to the church from a beloved member of the congregation who died last spring. It is cozy and solid. Thick curtains, room darkening blinds, wool carpeting and three fireplaces give the impression of a winter-ready house.
In response to its warm invitation I have become a little bear in hibernation. For two months, I haven’t done much. I sleep 8-9 hours a night (about two or three more than usual). I’ve put on two or three (or four) pounds. I curl up in sweaters and wool socks and enjoy the view of bright snow and mauve winter skies from a big picture window. Even my hair seems to have grown thicker and faster than usual.
In rereading my description of the house and these two months, I might be tempted to deem this as a time of great spiritual renewal and insight. But that would imply some sort of intentional effort and observations on my part. And that would be completely untrue. Merriam-Webster’s definition of hibernate is much more accurate: “to be inactive or dormant.” Maybe in hindsight, there will be some insight. For now I’m just a grateful, sleepy bear enjoying the gifts of my little den.
Yesterday, I tried to write a post about Epiphany. I spent a couple of hours on it. It was boring, preachy, and full of errors. I couldn’t seem to find the words for what I wanted to say. The post was supposed to end up in the cyber-incinerator. Instead it ended up in the inboxes of subscribers. I must have pushed Publish instead of Trash. I was really surprised to find the new post in my Inbox last night– and horrified.
Except for changing the worst of the grammatical errors I’ve decided to leave the post up on the site as is. To all of my recovering perfectionist friends and myself I keep espousing, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” So the poorly written post stays. I’ve missed a lot of opportunities in my life to learn new skills and to embark on new adventures because I was worried about the lack of perfection in the end result. When Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”*, he’s not telling me to do everything without flaws all of the time. I think he means, “Be whole, be healthy, grow up, and get over yourself.”
* Matthew 5:48 (NRSV)
Last Thursday, January 6 was the Feast of the Epiphany. It is the day the church celebrates the arrival of the three wise men with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh at the manger. Epiphany means “manifestation” or “shining forth.” What led the kings or wise men to worship the newborn Jesus was the “shining forth” of a spectacular star. Matthew 2:1-12 tells us this story and is probably the most popular reading for the day.
Another Gospel story is also associated with Epiphany. It is the Luke 3 story of Jesus’ baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit on him in the form of a dove. It reminds me of the sacrament of Baptism in my church. At the end of the baptism, the minister takes oil and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the baptized. “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” I may not have a star to follow to Jesus. But I have the symbol of the Jesus’s death and his victory implanted on my forehead. This symbol and seal remind me of the one I try to follow.