Archive for June, 2011

When my doctor gave me an official diagnosis (of sorts) after six or seven years of tests and frustration, he gave me one instruction.

“You’ll have to start making to-do lists–”
“I do that already!” (I’m a very organised person, in spite of the clutter)
“–and tear them in half. Some days you’ll have to tear it in half again.”

He went on to explain that the hardest part of the illness for most people was the gauging of how much you could do without overdoing it. Overdoing it is a huge no-no because you can send yourself into a flare. That means excruciating pain, fever, nausea…essentially giving yourself something that looks and feels like the flu from hell.

It’s been about three years now that I’ve been tearing my list in half, and I’m pretty accustomed to the shorter list, as it were. Fairly used to having to nap every afternoon if I plan to spend time with my husband in the evening. Fairly used to resting for thirty minutes after every hour of housework.

But now I’m working on a document layout for my mother’s Family history project. (Something that will probably be read by four of five people unless one of us becomes famous. Then the biographers will have a field day.) It’s the kind of work I used to do before I became ill. I would be able to throw nine or ten hours a day at it, come home and fix dinner and do stuff around the house. No problem. Then I’d go to bed, get up the next day and do it all again.

I can now only put in two hours a day, separated by a good chunk of downtime, without becoming seriously ill.

It’s one of the few times that I can hold a mirror to my old life and get a one-to-one comparison of How It Used To Be to How It Is Now. And it’s both daunting and incredibly sad to me. To have lost this much ability this quickly. When I told my mom I would take on the project I said I could have it done in a week. That was a remembrance of things past, apparently. Well, that and the fact that I had other people doing image cataloguing, so I’m doing two jobs instead of one here. Nevertheless, I feel sad to see how far I’ve slidden.

There is an upside, though. Last night my husband came home from work and we sat in the livingroom. Just talking, just watching the sun stream in from the west-facing windows, leaving lacy bits of gold and leafshadow on the walls. It was true peace and love and living of life. Contrast that to the frustrated conversations of office politics we’d have in years past as I’d come home and dissect missed deadlines, sales that had fallen through, co-workers who believed in two-hour lunch breaks. Our evenings are nicer now, to be sure. I only wish I brought more to the world, that I was still the soldier I used to be.

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Yesterday I read the first true-crime book I’ve picked up in over a year. It was a genre I used to love because of the anthropological and atmospheric nature of the earliest works such as _In Cold Blood_ and _Helter Skelter_. But when the market was flooded with junky, prurient titles that emphasised gore over human nature I got sick of trying to glean the better stuff. I also got sick of every marriage I read about ending in a murder for insurance money.

So I was a bit surprised to find myself compelled to read Gregg Olsen’s A Twisted Faith: A Minister’s Obsession and the Murder That Destroyed A Church. I suppose something about the current discussions I’ve found myself in about the nature of Christianity and the culture of the modern church had something to do with it.

It was interesting to see an outsider’s take on a church family and the church-centered world so much like the one I grew up in. Granted, Assemblies Of God are quite a bit different from Evangelical Mennonite Churches both in belief and worship style. But the core type of people, devout and devoted, are very much the same.

Part way through, though, I was struck by the saddest of thoughts. Purportedly about the murder of the youth pastor’s wife, the book was as much the story of a church split resulting from ingroup/outgroup politics, the details of which were painstakingly recorded from several points of view. And all of a sudden I realised that I had heard this story, lived this story, dozens of times.

The first church split I lived through was when I was around eight years old. Even then it was emotionally draining, as my Christian School friends were also church friends and the children of parents on the opposite side of the split. (My parents are very much of the “stay and work out the problems in your church family just like your marriage” philosophy.) I didn’t know the background as my parents didn’t think an eight year old needed to be told gossip about the pastor’s wife and the song leader. Then there were other mini-splits as pastoral search committees brought in new preachers that old members couldn’t agree on. And of course we had the obligatory “youth pastor has an affair with youth lay leader” shake-up. That one shook my aunt, uncle and cousins loose. And this isn’t even going into all the splits I heard about from friends at school who went to other churches around town. I think by the time I went to college I’d heard this story–the one Olsen’s book blurb says is “shocking”–at least two dozen times. I actually think modern congregations spend more time falling apart than being together.

And of course I’m married to a Preacher’s Kid (PK for short) and that means that I get to see first hand the scarring that church splits have on a young boy whose father is cast as the villain in petty dramas. If there’s no sex scandal there’s sure to be a fight over hymnals or carpeting or communion methods.

I can’t imagine we’re the only two people, my husband and I, who grew up in this environment and are now leery of church politics in the extreme. We love going to church. We are scared, though, to be too much a part of any church. I suspect all this mess is why.

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