An Easter basket, book burning, & spiritual abuse

I was home with my family last night and as I laid down to go to bed, my eyes began to wander around the room.

I'm a junior in college, but my room looks the same it did during my senior year of high school. In fact, there are things in the room that probably haven't moved since middle school. Over the past three years I've been on campus, away from home (though not very far), living in my own little world, and creating a new environment.

As I looked around the room, it was like I took a mental trip through the first half of my life. Each musical instrument, book, and poster had its own story.

On the dustiest shelf humanity has ever seen there are little ceramic figurines-- dogs, bunnies, and little women in winter jackets. In my closet is a mesh bag full of volleyballs, basketballs, and other sporting equipment. Hanging from hooks are science fair and basketball championship ribbons from middle school. On my book shelf, there are AP exam prep books and copies of worship leader magazines. The majority of the books I own are something Christianity related. A little John Piper here, a little Rob Bell there. I have five different bibles, leader guides for FCA, and even books on apologetics. In a little ceramic Easter basket lies neon colored guitar picks that say across the front on black letters "Jesus Saves."  I have "Jesus Freak" t-shirts and autographed copies of Fee and Kristian Stanfill albums. There are a few broken down guitar amps, an old keyboard, and a telescope given to me by a friend. In the basket on my bedside table, next to a pack of anti-diarrheal tablets sits the wooden figurine of a young girl raising her hands towards the sky. I remember my grandmother giving it to me the day of my baptism. I remember making a snarky comment about it being a stupid gift. She responded by saying "one day you'll like it when I'm dead."  And here we are today...

It's like the spirit of the first half of my life resides within the confines of these four walls.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in my therapist's office and stared over at the titles of her mindfulness books when she proposed something that caught my attention. We've talked about my current place in life, my struggles, and my hopes for the future. She knows the rigid background I've come from and how I've evolved into the person I am today. There are two versions of me: one who is wild, open, and free. One who works long hours so she can drive to another city, spend the night in her car, and explore new place just for the joy of it. Then there's another version. She suggested that perhaps the anxious part of me, the one who binge eats and pulls her hair out when she reaches her breaking point, perhaps that person is partially a result of the rigid mindset and worldview I had for the first half of life. Perhaps part of my anxiety has been a result of this need to constantly strive, save more people, and be better. Perhaps some of that "humanity is evil" business took a toll on my self-confidence and value. Those times when I was worried I could get in a car accident on the way home from church and go to hell because I forgot to confess a sin. Or times when pastors told stories about people who took communion with hate in their heart and then got deathly ill as a result. That paints a picture of a brutal God. My view of God wasn't always this bad, but I think that view has always been stuffed in the back of my head. What if a portion of my anxiety is a result of that god?

This morning after I woke up I confessed to a friend how my room triggered some of that anxiety for me because of the objects present. They are so closely connected with times in my life where my perspective of God was less than optimal. "You should burn them," she said.

I have a love-hate relationship with my past. I wouldn't trade those years for anything, but I'm simultaneously also dealing with the negative repercussions of some of the toxic things I came to believe and preach.

It was 23 degrees outside. I stacked fire wood onto the pile, poured kerosene on top, lit a match and watched the flames rage. I threw in a few books and old posters. I turned on the bagpipe version of "Amazing Grace" and cried as I continued to throw books into the fire. I watched the pages turn colors and shrink into ashes. It felt like a funeral. It felt cleansing. It helped with my anxiety. I mourned. I thanked God for the way he met me both then and now. I prayed that I'd have some relief from my anxiety and freedom to move on.

I bring this up because I know I'm not alone. I also know I'm VERY lucky to have experienced life I did for the first 17 years. I have good friends who have experienced real spiritual abuse and they're still trying to reclaim their lives. I think it's about time we start talking hearing one another out when it comes to this. Then and only then can we really work to bring the peace and compassion of heaven to Earth. 

LGH