A few days ago I spent some time at the little church in my community where I go to Mass every Sunday. It's a tiny bit of a building where, on a good Sunday, we have 10 people, including kids, gathered together. When it doesn't freeze too hard at night, the furnace is shut off until Saturday night and then turned on in time so that Sunday the building is comfortably warm. I've entertained the idea of going there during the week to pray - the quiet of the building and the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle beckon me.
As I have been working on my step four (made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself) I have felt the need to go there to pray and write. Thursday I loaded up a quilt, my big (AA) book and papers and off I went. Picture me climbing over the wooden church fence with a quilt over my shoulder and book bag on my arm and just know I was praying no one would drive by in that moment! I visualized some farmer coming along and wondering if I was breaking into the church and planning on staying a while. "No, sir, I'm just going to cozy up to Jesus for a bit, okay?"
I wrote and prayed until the chill started to permeate my bones and then I soaked up the sunshine on the front steps while singing a few of my favourite songs. Being there hadn't made any difference. None. No relief from the burdens on my shoulders. I felt like I had made no headway in my writing and was on the verge of indifference. Let's just rip up my papers and forget about my inventory. That's how I felt. I stood to go and said outloud to Christ, "I am so tired of dealing with this same stuff over and over again. I feel like a little girl in a grown woman's body. I want to move forward but I don't know how. Help." And with that I dipped my fingers in the font, reminded myself that my sins were forgiven in baptism, slung the quilt over my shoulder and made my way back out to the gravel road and the van. I felt like God had let me down and that I would be carrying these burdens on my back forever. Oh sure, I know all about confessing your sins and being forgiven....1 John 1:9 right? But there is nothing worse than wanting to crawl out of your own skin because you want to forget just what it is you are capable of.
One of the other things we have been learning at the Lay Formation program is how to pray the Liturgy of The Hours. It is a discipline that appeals to me. I'm still new to all things liturgical. I've spent many years convinced that what I saw as rote prayer had no value at all - and if I ever did that (like only every time I prayed but of course that isn't rote prayer cause
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
And cleanse me from my sin.
My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.
and a bit further down this:
O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord,, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.
Instant tears on my part as the sins I have been confessing as part of my step four include things that weigh heavy on my heart, stuff that keeps sticking to me like a burr on a pant leg. This psalm was the unspoken cry of my heart.
That evening I was sharing with my husband some of my inventory - wondering outloud why I feel like I do - why was there so much guilt and shame surrounding my s*xual issues. Why did I struggle with the same sins in these areas ad nauseum? I wondered outloud why I felt cheap and ashamed whenever I had s*xual desires and why was that anyway? Having been violated at a young age and then again as a teen I knew my thinking when it came to sex was plain (pardon the choice of words) screwed up. I asked why was it easier for me to feel sleazy/bad when I was horny than anything else? God was just plain merciful to me in that moment of thinking outloud.
I looked at my husband and said, "I feel sleazy because I think if I want sex then that means I am going to use you for my pleasure." Oh. My. God. Ding,ding, ding....the bells went off in my head. Wow. What a lie I have believed about myself all these years. Of course I would think like that. My first s*xual experiences were of being used by men who were horny - who used me for their pleasure.
The next revelation was this.....there have been more times than I can count in my 24 year marriage where I have accused my husband of using me for his pleasure. He has always replied that he would sooner never touch me again than have me perceive his advances that way. When I realized I thought I had been using him I saw clearly.... I mean clearly that he had never used me. I had only projected onto him the lies I believed about myself.
I looked at him and said, "I know in my heart that you have never used me." Then I whispered, "I know that now." And then I told him that knowing that in my heart meant that I was now
My husband is a toucher by nature. He craves it. I have often misinterpreted his touch to mean something s*xual. My internal dialogue would go something like this: "You touch me that means you want s*x. You want s*x means you are going to use me. Fuck off." "Geez - anyone know the number of the closest shrink?"
I have prayed so much that I would learn to touch him with the touch that nourishes his soul. My hands have felt mechanical.
That night as I caressed his back I said...."Wow - your skin feels different...the invisible wall that was between my fingertips and your skin is gone. Does it feel different to you?" He told me gently that it was my story to tell.
That night's Psalm said this:
I love the Lord for he has heard
the cry of my appeal;
for he turned his ear to me
in the day when I called him.