I had a visit on Tuesday night from some people from my church. You all know I am a believer, but also that my idea of The Big Guy does not necessarily take the same form as the Almighty God taught in church, so we don't need to get into a major theological discussion about whether or not He exists. I choose to believe, you don't, all is well. No, I thought maybe we could get into some actual CHURCH bashing, because I don't know, it just doesn't seem like a lot of churches actually have anything to do with, you know, God.
Anyway. I had this visit, and all day I was thinking about it, stewing about it, worrying. Because I might talk tough here on the old blog, and amongst my friends, but deep inside, I cringe from most kinds of confrontations (unless they have to do with my kids; I am good at that). I am brave and strong when thinking about the different possibilities regarding how any particular incident will go, but then when I am faced with any type of "authority" figure, I find myself immediately reverting back to that scuffling, lurking, subservient person that they expect me to be. I have gotten very good at blowing them off by saying all of the things I know they WANT me to say, but I just can't come right and say, "This is what is going on." Which is why I was worried about the prospect of a visit.
But something happened-and since I AM a believer, I choose to say that it was God-and I felt suddenly very powerful. It was, for me, exceedingly strange; we were talking and they asked me how I was doing and suddenly it ALL came spilling out. That I am, in fact, not doing well at all. That the reason I don't go to church is that I am so tired of having every lesson, every class, every freaking song, point out to me all that is lacking in my life. I am a single woman-not by choice. My ex-husband and now Steve did and have done some really, really awful things (the ex did things far worse than Steve, though, and Steve's biggest issues really don't have anything to do with me, but I am of course affected by them), yet I am the one who is left with the stigma of being a single parent. I am tired of the belief-verbalized or not-that we are not a family because there is no father/husband. I told them that they have no idea what it is like to go to a church event and have no one talk to me. Of going to a Scout event and having one person sit with me, a MAN who is married and technically isn't even supposed to talk to me, much less sit down with my kids and I, and feeling grateful that he had enough guts to buck the system. Much, much more was said, too much to go into detail here, but suffice it to say that by the end of the evening, I had both of these grown men crying. That makes me happy, because it means that for a brief moment in time, they both listened. They heard, and they felt, if only for a few minutes, exactly what my life is like. I am not egotistical enough to believe that anything is going to change, but I also hope that by my speaking up, they might choose to hear more often.
They offered to help me, though, which had my back up almost immediately. Not because I don't need help, mind you, but because any offer of help comes with conditions. I said this, too. I said "No, as much as I need help, I don't want your help, because it requires a commitment form me that I am not willing or able to fulfill." I talked about my belief that we are supposed to help everyone without expectation of gain of any kind, and we are supposed to help without taking into account where, or IF, someone goes to church. They both nodded their heads, said you are right, etc...but of course did not offer again.
However: when I got home from work last night, there was a message from one of them asking if I would please call, he had a couple of things to work out with me. The tone of his voice piqued my curiosity, so of course I called back, and that is when the negotiations started. The offer he put on the table to start was that they would provide groceries for a few months, as well as some counseling (hm, clearly he thinks I am just a typical hysterical woman who is losing her mind, right?), in exchange for my presence at church, with my kids, three times a month. I countered with groceries for one month and attendance at my leisure, with or without kids. I mean, Sam is already very active in Scouts, Hannah is in the YW and is also participating in a huge event in August, and Eli has gone hiking, trekking, etc...with them all as well, so it isn't as if I am keeping THEM from participating. At the end of the conversation, we were both satisfied: groceries and counseling for an indefinite time period, in exchange for one church attendance a month, with kids. I was firm about not going on Mother's or Father's Day, though. No way.
In some ways, I think I should feel a little bit guilty. I mean, this isn't a business deal, right? So should I feel guilty for somehow taking advantage of them by accepting their help and knowing that the one weekend a month (kind of like the Army Reserves) is not going to be enough to suddenly make me want to leap into the aisles and start shouting Hallelujah! (though, okay, this is SO not that kind of a church.)? Somehow, I know that I should, but I somehow don't. It's like feeling guilty, once removed. I am not an avaricious person by nature, am not particularly out for whatever I can get. I think what I am is practical. Yes, I need some help right now. And God knows I need counseling (which was really the deal-clincher for me), and he also knows I can't afford it. And I guess I also-whether it is fair or not-think that maybe, after all that they put me through during the divorce and the advent of Owen (illegitimate bastard that he was. What.The.Fuck.Ever.), they owe me. Is that wrong? Yes, I am sure it is.
But I am going to take it, because I know that the God I believe in has nothing to do with whether or not I go to church, and my best friend (in my mind only, but still) Anne Lamott says something like "God loves you exactly the way you are and He loves you too much to let you stay like this. " This is a way for me to get the help I need, because I am really not coping at well with things, and I have to find a way to fix myself. I have to find a way to deal with the shit that is my life, so that I can find me again, that woman who I used to love and cherish and be so proud of. Too much has happened and she is buried, but still, under the rubble, there is a small pocket of air and a little water and light; I just have to have help digging her the rest of the way out.