Daily Archives: 14th January 2017

Where you go, I will go

This entry is part 5 of 38 in the series Fiona
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God”. – Ruth 1:16

Today’s post, unlike most of my posts, is a ‘spontaneous’ one. Most of the time, I write my posts in advance and schedule them to appear roughly every three days or so.

But not this one. Today would have been Fiona’s and my thirty-third wedding anniversary. (And I never once forgot, by the way!)

And so, today, it is only right that on my first anniversary without her, I acknowledge the day with something very special, deeply personal, spontaneous (I have just written it right now) and which would have meant a lot to her.

When we first met, Fiona and I used to do a lot of exploration, driving around the North of England in my little old white Mini (which we called ‘Cloud Nine’). And we used to play worship tapes through a ghetto blaster which sat on the back seat – and sing along, of course. One of the tapes we had was called ‘Emmanuel – God is With Us’, volume 5 of the ‘Songs of Fellowship’ series. And on there was a song called ‘Where you go, I will go’, which had a special significance for us. Once, before we were married, Fiona was ill in bed. I sat at her bedside and read her the lovely love story of Ruth and Boaz from the Bible, and we particularly loved the verse where Ruth says to her mother-in-law, Naomi:  “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God”. (Ruth 1:16). That song from the tape immediately became ‘our song’, and it became a symbol of our love for, and commitment to, each other.

I am absolutely sure that this next part of the story is no coincidence. For years now, I have been searching for a copy of that album, ‘Emmanuel’, that we lost so long ago. The album that contained ‘our song’.

And just this week, I have managed to find one on eBay and buy it – the vinyl record version – and so I have used the same technology that I use on my other website – VintageWorshipTapes.com – to convert the album into electronic files that I can play anywhere. I am sure the timing of this is entirely God’s work. Why this week, out of all the hundreds – yes, hundreds – of weeks I have been looking for this music, does it suddenly appear on eBay? That’s the Hand of God, right there. Thank You so much, Lord, for blessing me in this way!

Where you go, I will go”

Today, of all days, should rightly be the day that I make this song public, in honour of my darling wife. It’s cost me a lot of tears to digitise that album, and to hear once again the tracks that remind me so much of our early days together, and also to write this piece. But it’s been healthy. It’s reminded me of the solid foundations of our relationship, and reminded me once again of all the amazing adventures we had together.

We fulfilled our promise to each other for over 34 years.

Where you go, I will go. And we did exactly that.

(Click the play button on the track to hear the song)

Where you go, I will go
Where you lodge, I will lodge
Do not ask me to turn away, for I will follow you
We’ll serve the Lord together, and praise Him day to day
For He brought us together, to love Him and serve Him always

A Challenge to the ‘Heretics’

I’m a member of a Facebook group where we discuss difficult faith questions. We consider ourselves almost heretics, because a lot of what we discuss is what some would call heresy in that we are discussing things not normally ‘allowed’ in churches – things like Biblical inerrancy, Hell, Universalism; however, we assert very strongly that God is a God of Love, and that all that He does is infused through with His Love.

As a bit of background, it’s a good idea that I tell you that many of the Heretics come from a background of abusive churches (and some are still in them). These people have found, or are in the process of finding, their true freedom in Christ, without the strictures of man-made rules and regulations as imposed by these abusive churches. Don’t get me wrong, most churches are not abusive like that, but those still in abusive churches are trapped in the ‘system’ and many don’t even realise it.  And so what we discuss in our group is freedom, Grace and God’s Love. And it can be difficult to communicate to other Christians just what that freedom looks like, and it can be scary for those still ‘trapped’ to see the freedom we enjoy. I have written on this before, and today’s blog post, a great piece by Anna Dialdas, a member of the group, complements my piece nicely. It’s phrased as as challenge to the Heretics, hence my title today:

One of the things I would like to explore is “How do we approach the healing of human beings trapped in toxic religious belief systems?” That is, how do we support the possibility of freedom and peace and wholeness of such people whose condition we all once shared in?

Now, I don’t know all the complexities of what constitutes any core belief but it does seem to be shaped by many influences which may include physiological, psychological, neurological, familial, social, personal and emotional mechanisms (amongst others) that develop over time inside a person. Moreover, conscious beliefs are often attached to a spider web of unconscious beliefs, that together have such strong emotional attachments that are fundamental to who we are as people.

Changing a core belief therefore entails changing one’s identity and developing a different sense of self. It is therefore unsurprising that when beliefs are tied to one’s identity and sense of worth as a person, there seems to be some kind of energy that binds a person to their beliefs, effectively creating a blinding and numbing effect that keeps all contradictory information out. The point I want to make here is that I am not convinced that this is the result of a moral deficiency. Although this may well be a product of the ego, it is a defensive shutdown essential for [the ego’s] survival and I don’t believe it is the consequence of anyone’s willful, conscious choosing. We all desire to be safe; we are all trying to survive, and this is not a desire that ought to be judged. This is important because recognizing this I think, will largely determine how we approach others who believe differently.

Whatever the combination of complex mechanisms that underpin our core beliefs, the fact is, people have reasons for why they believe what they believe – even if it is a lie. It is my suspicion, however, that the root or foundational belief that underpins a belief in retributive or sacrificial religion is the grotesquely wretched belief that one is defective at their core. What we are dealing with is a group of people with such a distorted view of their worthlessness, they genuinely believe that are evil, wicked, and vile and are using religion to obliterate, or perhaps to say more accurately, cover over their intolerable and unendurable sense of worthlessness; and to appease the wrath and punishment they think they deserve. And I think we can all agree that anyone who holds such a belief is suffering internally.

No matter how rigid or stubborn or self-righteous or angry a person may appear, I believe that EVERYONE who holds to toxic beliefs are themselves suffering and we need to recognize their pain and respond compassionately. However, what I witness online [speaking generally and not specifically to this group] are attempts to win an argument through shaming the opposition — something that will almost certainly result in resistance, resentment and rage. But, even more than that, what I also see are jumbles of automatic responses that are the reliving of past emotional experiences — reactions to buried hurts in the past that have been triggered by the conversation– that serve no purpose in the healing of another or self.

Painful situations can be avoided if we pause to observe our own mind- states as well as the mind-state of others before entering into an interaction. Before attempting to engage in conversation, ask yourself: “Why exactly am I offended by this person’s beliefs? Have I healed from the bitterness and resentment I have felt towards religion and religious authorities, or am I projecting my anger and pain unto someone else who is still trapped in that system of belief?”

To share a bit of wisdom I read recently, “the belief that anyone “should” be any different than he or she is is toxic to oneself, to the other and to the relationship. Although we may believe we are acting out of love, when we are critical of others or work very hard to change them, it is always about ourselves” [In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Close Encounters with Addiction. By Gabor Maté]

In summary, “tough love” in the form of harsh criticism and judgment is almost sure to fail. Beliefs have strong emotional attachments that are glued to one’s core identity, and to attack a person’s beliefs, is to attack their sense of self. The result is that the person will shut down, withdraw or snap back with emotional edge and what we end up with is an exchange of toxic emotions. Further, it dismisses the complex origins, nature and structure of belief systems, wrongfully ostracizing people for beliefs they hold to, as if it is a moral defect on their part. Finally, it ignores the suffering and pain that the human trapped inside a toxic belief system is experiencing – whether or not they are conscious of that suffering.

As heretics, defined by your Love, I therefore challenge you to approach your interactions with others of differing beliefs out of compassion and a true desire to end their suffering. Only when we have a clear recognition of a person’s suffering, can there be a true desire to help. The goal is never about changing anyone. Ever. But if we can assist in the healing of another human being, let us do so compassionately, remembering that we all once sat in their darkness and pain.

– Anna Dialdas