Friday, August 1, 2008

Mind Open; Mouth Closed

I've always been an open-minded person...well, okay, not always. But as I matured, my mind opened. (Give me a break! I grew up in a narrow-minded Southern family). As I grew up and questioned the beliefs my family tried to teach me--their values, if you will--I realized that those values weren't ever going to be my values. Oh yes, racism is alive and well in the South.

The problem with opening one's mind too much is that you start to lose your own sense of what you think, or at least I did. I wanted to be liked. Going from being a chubby kid with glasses to a young woman of some attractiveness was a head trip for me. I enjoyed the attention I got, and I never wanted anyone to know who I used to be. Only briefly as a young adult did I dip my toe back into the waters of how I grew up (by going back to my mother's church and coming under the spell of a corrupt preacher who sounded really good in the pulpit). Some things happened that shook me out of that and I was off and running, baby! I tried it all. A L L...

From then on out, the mind stayed open, even though the mouth didn't always stay closed. You see, I think you have to really shut your mouth if you want people to believe you have a truly open mind, because sometimes old things start spilling out even before you can stop them. Old values, old beliefs, old idioms. Ugh.

I once told a friend of mine - a dear friend who had been my place to go when my young life fell apart - that maybe he was having so many problems in his life because God was judging him because he was gay. Okay, give me a break again - I was 19 and it was during that dipping the toe back in the water phase. So many times I have replayed that whole thing in my mind and wondered, "If I could have just shut my mouth and listened to him, would I have been of more help?" His boyfriend was beating him, and he just needed a friend. Instead, my stupid brain and mouth lost me a friend forever. I'll never know what happened to him, but I don't think I'll ever fully forgive myself for that. So if you want to get in line to beat me up, trust me, I've already taken care of that. And if you believe what I said to him is true or correct? Please don't write to me at all, because it isn't. God loves us all, and every one of us is flawed in our own ways. It isn't up to us to fix anyone else or judge them. We should emulate the "God is love" truth instead.

It seems to me that I have to learn and relearn lessons in my life. I don't know if I'm stupid or hard-headed or what. Fear not. I'm not being judgmental again, at least not of anyone's sexuality. I did find myself judging someone I saw at a church meeting the other day. I prayed very hard afterwards (and continue to do so) for God to turn my mind. I don't want to be a judgmental person, though I grew up in a very judgmental household. There was no one who escaped the judgment of my family. They - we - picked everyone apart behind their backs, when it was us who had the worst of the problems.

The worst thing, though, is when I don't know how to be who I am without hurting someone else. My hubby is not a believer, at least not in the Christian theology. I don't know what his belief system is, honestly, because he doesn't talk about that with me. And yes, it scares me a lot that there is anything we don't talk about after 25 years of marriage and 30 years of being in each other's lives. I found out tonight that something I said which was said in praise of God hurt hubby's feelings deeply.

He had called to let me know that he got the new job (a GREAT job), and I said something about the wonderful power of prayer and how I'd been praying about it. He kind of laughed. I asked him later if that laugh meant something, if he was laughing at my beliefs or if he was upset. He said no.

Then tonight as we were talking about the new job and how he was the big bread-winner now (I was for a long time, but I'm just as happy not to be now). I agreed and told him how proud I was of him. He started with the self-deprecating stuff, because he doesn't believe in himself. I assured him that I'd always thought he could do it. He said, "I just get lucky sometimes." I said, "Power of prayer, my dear."

His face darkened. A little sweat broke out on his brow. "Oh, so I couldn't have possibly gotten this on my own, huh? God had to give it to me?"

He said that since it was the second time I'd said it, he had to speak up. I was devastated that something I'd said in genuine sincerity had hurt him or made him feel that I meant he couldn't get the job on his own merit.

Truth is, I believe that I need to acknowledge prayers answered. God has a hand in everything in my life, whether anyone else accepts that or not. That's okay if they don't. It's okay if hubby doesn't. But I want God to know that I get it. I'm not ashamed of Him. And one prayer I'm saying pretty often now is, "God, please don't let my love for You become a wedge between hubby and I." That would be the ultimate tragedy.

So from here forward, I'm going to try to continue to keep my mind (and ears) open but my mouth closed. I don't want to lose the person who means the world to me just because I have returned to being the child of God that I once was. I'm going to have to trust God on this one.

Peace - D

[EDIT: We were supposed to be at my MIL's this weekend, but due to storms on the East Coast, we decided it would be prudent to postpone a week. I'll still be around until Thursday night.]


Jay said...

I need the gift of 'mind open, mouth closed' too. I am forever putting my foot in it with people and a lot of the time I don't even know what I've said or done wrong. I should learn to keep my mouth shut, but like you, I seem to have to keep learning the same lesson.

I am a firm believer in the fact that we get handed lessons in life, and progress is made by learning them, or they get presented to us again, in a slightly different form. Often I'll think I've learned, but it becomes clear, when the same thing happens again, that I hadn't learned at all - or at least, hadn't learned all there was to learn.

I don't think you can get anywhere with a total lack of judgement. Some is necessary - we make judgements on things all the time, and it's necessary for survival. Is this food bad? Am I driving at the right speed? Have I eaten enough? The trick is to know when we're being negatively judgemental and that's tricky.

All we can do is pick ourselves up and battle onward!

tysdaddy said...

Wow! There is so much I could write. I have a dear friend I almost lost for good many years ago because of something I said "in Christian love." It took years to repair the rift. We are closer now than ever before.

My dad likes to use the "isn't God good?!" thing quite a bit. As a recovering Pentecostal, it rubs me the wrong way every time.

I'll stop, before I start meandering. Hang in there, friend. And have a great weekend . . .

SandyCarlson said...

What a beautiful and candid post. I have been down this road, too. I have learned that the less I say, the less I have to take back. My friends have come to know and respect that a response, if it's coming, will come later. God, that great and mysterious wonder, is present always. We don't even have to notice!

Beautiful words here, friend. And so much to think about. Thank you for thsi gift.

LL said...

Another eloquent post that says so much and speaks to the reader directly.

I join you in believing that God has a hand in everything!

Daryl said...

I am always opening mouth, inserting foot .. I have a very odd sense of humor which I often use to stop myself from feeling too deeply .. make a joke and the serious is forgotten

Not always

I trust you two will find a middle ground where you can share your beliefs and he can learn that you are not trying to push him to feel the same. Its a tricky thing ..


Dave Baldwin said...

Dear River Poet,

The word prayer is one of the most loaded words in the English language. It has multiple meanings to multiple people. When I use the word prayer, it means something to me. When you hear the word prayer, quite possibly it means something completely different to you. Of course, it is possible you and I have exactly the same understanding.

Understanding the meaning of loaded words is a dicey proposition. That why it is important to talk about it. I don't mean a formal discussion like a graduate school seminar. Just a simple question: What do you mean by the word prayer?, and then wait for an answer.

Prayer is a tricky thing. We all have this Hollywood image of a child kneeling in prayer, asking God for this or that thing. For most adults, it really does not work that way. At least it has never worked that way for me. I consider prayer to be more of state of mind where I am looking for guidance—where I am open to receiving some help from a power greater than myself.

Anyway, thank you for your thought-provoking post. Peace always.


RiverPoet said...

Jay - True, we must have some judgment, of course. It's the "being judgmental part I'm working on. :-)

Tysdaddy - I get that, I really do. I just wonder where the middle ground is? I want to find that.

Sandy - Loved this part: "God, that great and mysterious wonder, is present always. We don't even have to notice!" Bidden or not bidden, God is present. Yes.

LL - Thanks, sweetie. I love that, coming from you.

Daryl - Wish me luck navigating this tricky ground.

Dave - Yes, it does sound as though you and I have the same understanding of prayer. I tried to explain it like they do so tritely in "The Secret," only I don't believe we make our own luck or bring everything we want to us. It is a matter of focusing on the good things you would like to have happen and praying that God guides you in such a way as to help you reach the goals that coincide with His will.

Peace - D