So how does one become a Pharisee?
I don’t remember waking up one morning intent on hardening up over religious dogma, leaving my first love behind, developing a critical spirit…
Funny how it happened anyway.
Life on the Funny Farm
Living with mental illness stinks. When everyone sits around pretending nothing’s wrong, a girl questions her own sanity after awhile. We were a family of secrets, pretending to be okay while the world fell apart.
I learned to cope. Sleep meant escape. I slept hours and hours at a time. I developed migraines, not on purpose you understand but the effect was the same– escape into pain.
And then, for my next trick, I shut down entirely.
In the dark, I peeled off a portion of myself and backed away, leaving it behind to deal with things too big for someone so weak. The technical term is disassociation. I locked myself up, ran all my friends off and spent days in a fantasy world of my own creation.
I learned to run.
The smallest problem, the hint of pain and off I went– overly sensitive, unable to deal. That’s the trouble with terminal cancer—a head cold might do you in. Avoidance seemed like a mighty good idea.
I stopped crying.
One tear sneaks out and next you’re blubbering so loud they hear you in Kansas. Crying makes others uncomfortable. Blubbering gets you committed. So at the ripe old age of fifteen, a rock replaced a once tender heart.
I stopped feeling.
The problem with not feeling anything is you don’t feel anything. The Jesus I knew and loved brought an entire boatload of those pesky feelings with Him on every visit. Hardening up meant I no longer felt His presence but I could live with that.
I backed away from Him too.
Religion is Easier than Relationship.
The next fifteen years, I pretended to be okay.
This was the plan. It seemed like a mighty fine plan at the time.
- Grit teeth.
- Barrel through.
- Find all the right answers through intensive Bible study and/or sitting under the teaching of others.
- Spout said answers without thinking.
- Commit to a rigid life of correctness. Quiet time in the morning, Bible study at night. Attend church with ardent enthusiasm.
- Mumble canned religious rhetoric until others puke with joy.
- Pray desperate prayers occasionally, then snap back into hiding.
- Hope for a slow death to give time for any last minute repentance just in case.
- Don’t let anyone close enough to notice anything amiss.
After all, what more was there? I was saved by grace, filled with the Holy Ghost. Now I just needed to hang on tight and coast along a few dozen years until I got hit by a bus.
Only one problem. Other people hurt. My stellar acting skillz and religious pedigree gave people the silly idea I had it all together. After all, my father was a pastor, I was a nurse with an intact family and a couple of well-behaved children (Pharisee-ism is taught you know, but that’s another story entirely.)
A steady stream of the wounded arrived on my doorstep and bled all over the bricks. Not one. Not two or three.
I murmured religious answers, twice dead, plucked up by the roots and scooted them off as quick as possible. I had nothing to give them. No bread. No water. No deliverance. No healing.
I could hear God snickering as they paraded through my door.
From way inside my hard little heart, I raged against their weakness. I fussed and fumed, waved my arms and told them to buck up. Ignore that pain woman! Move on already!
But like the Grinch, something deep inside started to wiggle.
I was about to get hit by another sort of bus entirely.