Stay with me here. I can make this work!
I came downstairs the other morning and smelled it. Something was rotting. I walked into my kitchen and the smell got worse. Then I saw them; the hand wash dishes. I don’t know if you’re like me, but if you are you will load the dishwasher and unload the dishwasher several times before you get tired of seeing the things in the sink that need to be washed by hand. We have several kinds of dishes that can’t be put in the dishwasher. Sometimes it’s an oversized pan and sometimes it’s a water bottle that will melt in the heat of the dishwasher. I put these dishes to the side and sometimes they get left for a day or so. I had quite the pile and on the surface it didn’t look bad, but underneath the stack of hand wash dishes was a pan that I had used for searing broccoli. It was actually meant for the dishwasher, but had gotten buried by the hand wash items. Few things smell worse than finding a pan with rotting broccoli water. Broccoli is good. Rotting broccoli water is bad, evil and, dare I say it, heinous.
This is how I view fear. Fear is good. Fear gives us wisdom. Sometimes we need to face the fear and have the faith to push through. Fear can also tell us we are headed in the wrong direction. In those times we need to listen to our fear and walk away from the situation before we do something dumb or dangerous.
When our fear gets the best of us we start to be like that broccoli water. We sit and do nothing until we start to rot. Fear tells us that doing something is harder than doing nothing. It tells us not to try because we might fail or look stupid or embarrass ourselves, etc. Doing nothing is easier, yes, but we end up rotting.
If you go to biblegateway.com and enter the word “fear” into its search engine it will come up with 336 times the word fear is used. If you put in the phrase “do not be afraid” you will find 70 references. Another 17 references are found when you enter the phrase “do not fear.” Fear is a big topic in the Bible.
If we look at the first reference to fear we will find it in the Garden. Adam and Eve had sinned and were afraid to be seen. So that fear was justified. When Mary hears the words, “Do not be afraid” it is when she sees the angel that has come to tell her she will be the mother of the Christ. It is natural to feel some trepidation when a heavenly being steps out of nothing into your room. Wise words calmed her fears.
Chip Dodd in his book “The Voice of the Heart” postulates that emotions are neutral. They are like breathing. Breathing is necessary. Fear is necessary. It’s what we do with it that defines whether or not it does anything positive in our life. If we allow fear to move us toward God we get the gift of wisdom and faith. If we isolate and try to deal with our fear on our own we get anxious and controlling and eventually if we lose control or we can’t control a situation or person we start to rage. When we start to feel anxious or like we need to control a situation the question to ask is, “What am I afraid of?” Then when we figure it out we have to go to the Lord and tell him about it and ask for wisdom for dealing with it and the faith to trust Him to work it out.
Easier said than done. When we don’t trust the Lord we will find ourselves controlling everything around us sometimes even to the point where we isolate ourselves from everyone and everything. We create a prison around ourselves and sometimes that prison is very, very comfortable, much more comfortable than the effort and risk it takes to move beyond our prison.
Our enemy would like nothing more than to paralyze us with fear. If we are in our nice comfortable prison we are not out fighting him. We are not out making a difference. We are not witnessing. We are not making disciples. We are being lied to and there is no one around to tell us differently. We are sitting and rotting.
One of the best verses to meditate on when we are stuck in our broccoli water is Psalm 46:1
“God is my refuge and my strength, a very present help in trouble.”
He is my strength, my physical strength to go the distance, my emotional strength to push through even when I’m feeling overwhelmed and my mental strength to reject the lies we tell ourselves and that we hear from our enemy. He is my refuge, but he isn’t my pan of stagnant water. He wants us to find our strength in Him, not a comfortable place to rot.
I found myself crying this out today as I got the call telling me that we would need to increase our son’s medication… again. Our son, Samuel, was diagnosed with epilepsy several months ago and it has been a roller coaster. He has had seizures since he was 16 months old, but through some bad diagnosis we didn’t know it was epilepsy until he was seven and a half. We had been told by two different pediatricians that Sam had a tic. He would space out for just a few seconds several times an hour, but it never developed beyond that so we took that diagnosis and ran with it. Every couple years we would broach the subject again only to be told that it wasn’t seizures. When we moved last year to Washington we thought we should mention it to his new doctor. This time the doctor was fairly certain Sam’s glitches, as we called them, were petit mal seizures. Petit means small. Mal means bad. Small. Bad. Seizures. As if there are small good seizures.
Today, after talking to the doctor we were told that since he is still having several seizures a day we would need to increase his medication again. This is the second medication he has been put on since our world turned upside down just five months ago.
I find myself wanting to stomp my feet and shout, “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!! TAKE THIS AWAY!” I want to listen to Mark Schultz’s song, “He’s My Son” over and over again while curling up in a ball and despairing just so I can cry harder. If you know this song you know how hard it makes you cry when there is nothing wrong at all. Normally I turn the radio off when I hear the opening notes of that song, but today I want to give in to the despair. I want to hold my breath until God takes it away.
Just so you know, I know it doesn’t work that way, but it’s how I feel today. So I chopped wood. It’s what I do. I chop wood when I am working something out. The callouses on my hands reveal how much time I have spent recently working through this. My arms may ache and I end up smelling like a lumberjack, but my it does my heart good. My heart calmed again and I heard God’s voice telling me, “I knit Sam together in your womb. Do you trust me to take care of him?” By the time I had sweat beading up on my forehead I remembered dedicating Samuel to God when he was a baby. He was my promise. I had been told it might be difficult to get pregnant, but God had promised me a son years before I had even gotten married. Like Hannah I prayed for a child and God fulfilled his promise to me. Like Hannah, I named him Samuel because “God hears.”
God heard me today too. Whether this cup passes or not I will trust God. I will. I will. I will. He was God’s before he was mine and His plans for Sam are not cancelled out by this diagnosis. God required this in His plan for Samuel and by extension us. I will trust God and His plan. I. Will.
Priscilla Shirer said it best, “The abundant life is not when no impossible situations occur and you’re experiencing peace, joy and happiness. While that’s nice, true abundance is really seen when you’re sitting in a prison circumstance, when you’re eye to eye with an impossible situation, and right in the heart of your impossible, you experience the fullness of God. When, like Paul, we can pour out our honor and praise upon God and maybe even write a doxology of our own in spite of what we’re going through.” Ephesians 3:20-21
Colton Dixon’s song “You Are” is so poignant to me right now.
When I can’t find the words to say how much it hurts
You are the healing in my heart
When all that I can see are broken memories
You are the light that’s in the dark
You are the song, You are the song I’m singing
You are the air, You are the air I’m breathing
You are the hope, You are the hope I needed
Oh, You are
He is. He really, really is.
Soggy Bottom Girl
I am a klutz. I do not say this to put myself down it is simply a statement of fact. I burn myself practically every time I cook or tend to our woodstove, I have a shirt that says, “I spill things” and I managed to get a stain on the back and I can’t walk across a flat surface without turning my ankle. Honestly I’m surprised I haven’t broken more bones than I have. The term “klutz” is not severe enough to adequately describe my condition, but it will have to do.
I was sitting on stage at Grace Community Church in Anchorage, AK, like I did every Saturday night. I sang on a worship team with two of the greatest people I’ve ever known, Mike & Michelle. We had sung together for so long we knew each other’s voices really well and they had begged to back me up on the solo I was to sing that night. We made a great team. I was wearing navy pants and a long, slouchy navy sweater. This detail is important, trust me.
The schedule that night was that we would sing worship songs for a while as a team, led by our worship pastor, Allen, then one of the elders would do a scripture reading and pray. During the prayer I would take my microphone and step forward and as soon as he was done I would sing my song.
During the prayer we were seated at the back of the elevated stage and I decided to take a sip of water. Then the water cup slipped from my hand and spilled what was left, about four ounces, into my lap. Cold water. My eyes went wide as a hiss slipped out from between my teeth. What would I do? I had only seconds until I had to stand up and sing.
I looked to my left for advice from Michelle, but realized she was going to be no help at all. Holding her mouth, with her face looking away from me she was red-faced and shaking with suppressed laughter. So I looked to my right at Mike. Same deal!
So I stood to my feet, leaving a puddle in my chair and walked to the center of the platform hoping that the dark color of my outfit & the shadows from the lighting would hide the fact that I looked like I had peed myself.
Just before the prayer ended I glanced back at my back-up singers to see if they had gotten it together. Mike was holding my microphone out to me because in my horror and sogginess I had completely forgotten to take it with me. This made them both laugh even harder.
The prayer ended, the accompanist (who was completely oblivious) started to play the intro and I sang my heart out. The background vocals were noticeably absent from the first chorus, but they managed to pull it together by the second chorus.
Needless to say, I didn’t drink anything on the platform for a very long time!
What’s in a name?
My parents named me Megan Lorraine. Megan is the Welsh spelling. There are variations of the name depending on where it originates: Meagan, Meghan, Maegan, Meaghan, etc. It is the Welsh diminutive of Margaret. Right now the name Megan ranks 164th in popularity in the US. The name peaked in popularity in the mid 1980’s when about 1.1% of girls born were given the name. I remember someone in the early 1990s telling me I was too old to be a Megan because the only Megans around were toddlers. It has since dropped off to about .10%. At the time I was named, Megan meant “strong and able.” Now the meaning has changed somewhat, but when I look it up it means, “a pearl.” I love this since my beloved 92 year old grandmother’s name is Pearl. The crazy thing is that when we moved from Alaska to Washington a few months ago we moved into a house where a girl named Megan had been raised and her aunt Megan lives across the street. There are Megans aplenty on our street even though the name isn’t popular.
Lorraine on the other hand means “laurel-crowned” or “kingdom of Lothar.” The name peaked in popularity in the 1920s and doesn’t even show up on ranking charts these days. My parents gave me the name, not because of the meaning, but because it is the middle name of my mother’s aunt Lena Lorraine, who I love.
My husband’s name is Denis. Yes, I spelled it correctly. People add an extra “n” or an “e” at the end constantly because the spelling seems wrong to Americans. Denis is the French spelling. It was his grandfather’s middle name. Saint Denis of France was credited with converting the Gauls to Christianity in the 3rd century and beheaded because of it. It’s a pretty awesome heritage for a guy with a name meaning, “of the god of wine!”
Probably the funniest example of an unfortunate name for a career choice would be my paternal great-grandfather. His name was Hazzard Alexander Purdy. He was a dentist. Would you go to a dentist named Hazzard? Um, no.
These days the meaning of names doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the reason why a child is given a certain name. The most popular girls name for the last few years is seemingly as a result of a popular book series. Name trends are fickle now. While my husband and I steadfastly avoided any names on the most popular list we tend to be in the minority. Also these days it is important to ask the spelling of a name because, even if it seems familiar. Parents sometimes tweak the spelling to add a unique flair; i.e. replacing an “i” with a “y” or even adding an apostrophe just for kicks and maybe just a hint of Vulcan. (Trekkies will understand this reference)
When we look back at Biblical times, names were given because they had meaning in the family or described a particular situation surrounding a birth. Samuel is the perfect example of this. The name Samuel means, “The Lord hears.” If you look at a graph of popularity for the name Samuel you see a fairly steady stream across the years peaking in the 1970s. It’s not popular, but also not absent. About .5% of boys are given the name each year and I know from experience it tends to be more popular with the church going crowd.
The reason I loved the name is that when I was in high school I was told it might be difficult for me to conceive. I was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance called Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a very common reason for infertility troubles in women. Literally about 10% of women suffer from this syndrome to varying degrees and it’s possibly as a result of all the hormones injected into meat, but that’s not the only theory. It is marked by a myriad of symptoms from male pattern hair growth, weight gain and anovulation, meaning the absence of normal ovulation. In some very extreme cases women tend to look very masculine or can be completely infertile. Mine was marked by the fact that I started having periods before I went into 7th grade and then they stopped after a few years. When I finally told my parents years later, they sent me to an OB/GYN who diagnosed me with PCOS and gave me the unenviable news that I might never have children without help. So I started identifying with Hannah in the Bible.
1 Samuel 1 tells her story. Hannah is loved by her husband, but is infertile. Her husband’s other wife had children and the Bible says that she rubbed it in Hannah’s face. Hannah cries out to the Lord and is heard. She gives birth and calls her son Samuel, “because I asked the Lord for him.” She is still my favorite character in the Bible even though it turned out I never really struggled with infertility. About nine weeks after my husband and I started trying to get pregnant we found out I was already six weeks along. Even though infertility didn’t really turn out to be an issue for me I still love Hannah and named our firstborn, Samuel.
But why would a name be changed on purpose? We have always rescued animals rather than seeking out bloodlines. We were told when adopting a dog it’s best to change their name to help them with the transition to a new owner. We got a bloodhound mix puppy off craigslist and named him Hazard (after my paternal grandfather). That was a mistake and he lived up to his name. After six months of terror and destruction we gave him up. He had literally ruined thousands of dollars of our possessions, chewed up part of our deck and terrorized our one year old son. The horror! Honestly that dog almost ruined me for dogs. Months later we tried again. We found a dog on craigslist again. We were told he was a pure bred St. Bernard, but after years with him we have realized that while he may have some Saint he is also half “sneaky neighbor dog.” He is very small for a Saint and doesn’t drool in the least, THANK GOD! His name was “Go-gee” and we didn’t like that name at all. Our son had just started talking and would say, “Doo-wee, doo-wee, doo-wee” constantly. So when we brought “Go-gee” into our home we renamed him “Dewey.” Dewey is not be the greatest name. I think it makes him sound a little dopey, but he is the best dog ever! Honestly, the only things that would make him more perfect is if he had a hypoallergenic coat and if he didn’t shed or poo. Dewey loves us and we love him. He has a bark that is big enough to intimidate even a grown man, but a wonderful disposition. Our daughter was born about a year after we got Dewey and he was her main motivation for crawling. She would crawl over to him, flop on his back and use him as a pillow. She would grab handfuls of his fur and try to pull it into her mouth and he wouldn’t even whine. He loves her and she loves him. He would sit under her highchair because she would pass him anything she didn’t want to eat and still to this day he follows her around using what we call affectionately refer to as the “Dewey mind trick” where he stares at her until she gives him a dog bone. Would he have been as great with the name Go-gee? It’s probable, but we gave him a new name to separate his old life from his new one and he has embraced us fully.
When we look at Biblical times we see many examples of characters having their name changed either by God or someone else in authority. God changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, Jacob’s name to Israel, Saul to Paul, etc. Why? Abram became Abraham at the time of his circumcision and covenant with the Lord. It denoted a change in situation and an upgrade from a man who followed God to a man who would become the father of nations. Jacob’s name was changed as he became the origin of the Israelites, God’s chosen people. Saul’s name was changed to Paul at his conversion from the Pharisee who was killing Christians to an apostle of Christ.
A close look at Daniel shows us how much the name of the characters is part of their identity. Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael and Azariah were taken from Judah by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. After they were taken the king renamed them all. Daniel became Belteshazzar, Hanaiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach and Azariah became Abednego.
The name Daniel means “God is my judge”, whereas the name Belteshazzar means, “Bel will protect.” Hanaiah means, “Yah has been gracious” (Yah is a contraction for “Yahweh”), whereas Shadrach means “inspired by Aku.” Mishael means “who is what God is”, whereas Meshach means “belonging to Aku.” Azaraih meaning “Yah has helped” is changed to Abednego meaning, “servant of Nego.” The names given to the children of Judah all centered on the one true God. The new names centered on Bel, Nego & Aku who were the false gods of the Babylonians. Beth Moore, in her study “Daniel” describes the reason why. “Assigning new names was a common court practice in the ancient world. It’s blatant intention was to change the entire identity of the bearer until the life matched the title. The new name marked new ownership and was meant to hail a new destiny.” Nebuchadnezzar hoped in changing their names they would abandon worship of their God and embrace his gods. It didn’t work out that way for Daniel and his friends, but they weren’t the only boys taken from Judah. They are the only ones who resisted and therefore they have an amazing story. If you look at children’s Bibles you see two of the most popular stories are “Daniel in the Lions Den” & the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Daniel resisted the name change. Daniel resolved to remain unchanged.
Our second born is, Esther Elizabeth. When we think of those names we automatically hear “queen” in front of them both because of queen Esther in the Bible and queen Elizabeth of England. The name Esther means “Star” and peaked around 1900 and has since disappeared for the most part. We have a lot of people tell us, “Oh, that was my grandmother’s name!” When we introduced her our friend’s son he thought we said, “Buster” and it has been her nickname ever since. Biblical Esther’s real name was Hadassah and she was a Jewess who was taken into the Persian palace as a candidate to replace queen Vashti, who had been deposed (and possibly disposed of). Her cousin, Mordecai, forbid her to tell anyone of her nationality. The use of Esther instead of Hadassah kept her identity hidden. Eventually she reveals her real origins and saves her people from annihilation. It’s a name with an amazing heritage. I pray that my daughter will be that brave!
What happens when someone without good intentions tries to rename us or renames us unintentionally? The name Megan is easy to morph. Megasaurus, Megalopolis, Megaphone, etc . were the first nicknames I collected. It was frustrating. Having a boy singing, “Little tiny Megan with the big long nose” was embarrassing. Then when a boy in junior high school started calling me Toucan things really changed. Why do you think he chose that name? Because the Toucan has a giant colorful beak that sticks out too far to go unnoticed. Funny side note: I named my son Sam even though I came to loathe Toucan Sam.
In the midst of all this I found where a close relative wrote that her first impression of me when I was born was that I was “homely.” Tweaking my name was really more irritating than hurtful. Toucan & homely cut me to the quick. Why is that? Because it gave me an identity I wasn’t intended to have. It changed the name I called myself. I took those names and allowed myself to think they were my new identity. If it were to happen today I don’t think it would affect me that way, but I was in junior high and everything is epic to a junior high girl. I didn’t know I could resolve not to take on that new identity. In part I believe it is possible that, even though I resisted, after years of daily name calling I was just plain worn down. By the time I was in high school I took to hiding instead of resisting. The trouble is that it’s 30 something years later and I still can’t seem to shake those names. There is part of me who is stuck in that junior high girl’s wounded shoes.
My challenge over the past couple of years has been to get unstuck. The Lord started working on this scar and I’ve had to pick it off to treat the wound underneath. It hasn’t been easy and it’s not over yet, but it’s worth it. It’s scary to look at how much work there is to do. There are days I don’t want to continue the process. I just want it to be over. I want to be healed and free. There are days when I remember something that happened and I sob over the memories of that little girl who had insult added to injury constantly. But I am determined though to go forward instead of sitting in my past listening to those hurtful words over and over again. That’s where the enemy wants me. He wants me to sit in my hurt and let it continue to fester into resentment. I hear those words whispered to me. It’s a constant. “You’re ugly.” “You’re really not worth anything.” “Don’t try anything new because you will probably fail.” “Do you really want to be humiliated again?” “Haven’t you had enough embarrassment?” “Stay where you are and you won’t expose yourself to ridicule.”
There is a world of insecurity in me. Some of that is what Chip Dodd calls “toxic shame” in his book “The Voice of the Heart.” Shame says, “I made a mistake.” Toxic shame says, “I am a mistake.” Big difference. I am not a mistake. Everyone has a purpose. It’s the enemy’s goal to get you to die without fulfilling that purpose. It’s like being infertile. Our bodies as women are made for childbearing. When infertility strikes it’s abnormal. I’m not trying to be insensitive to infertile women here at all. Remember I was told in high school I was infertile. I lived with that “knowledge” for over 19 years. It wasn’t until I was 35 years old that I found out I wasn’t. Please understand I’m just using this as an analogy. When our bodies cannot do what they were designed to do it’s because something has happened in us that keeps us from what we were designed for. Sometimes doctors can fix it and sometimes they can’t. That’s what being stuck feels like. Something changed in me that made me too afraid to fulfill my purpose. I was not designed to be stuck. I’m trusting the Great Physician to fix this in me and I’m not going to take no for an answer.
There are a few verses that stand out to me as I move forward on my journey. Jeremiah 29:11-14 “ I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” It goes on to say that God banished them and carried them into captivity. This tells me that not only does He have a plan, but that His plan for me included what happened to me as a kid. Not only that, He required those things in His plan for my life. I don’t understand that, but I accept it. God is sovereign and so if I am His I can trust that His plan may not make much sense to me at the time, but He has my best in mind.
Another verse that means so much to me is in Joel 2:25 the Lord says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” I’m looking forward to the next years of my life knowing that He is going to give me those years back.
About a year ago I started a class at my church called Life on Life Discipleship (LOL) and as part of the class we were given homework. The first homework assignment we were given was to take off all our clothes and stand in front of a mirror and praise the Lord for what we saw. I had heard of the project from a girlfriend who was in the pilot version of the class, but I was not prepared for my own reaction to having to do it myself. I have always known I was full of self-loathing. I prepared my husband for it before we got married. His response was, “That’s my job to help you with that.” It was a sweet sentiment and I love him for it, but his seemingly “blind eye” to my imperfections wasn’t enough to cure me of all my hatred for myself. When I was told to do the mirror project I just felt angry. I know now that it wasn’t anger, it was fear. How could I stand looking at myself naked and praise the Lord for what I saw? I knew what I would see. I would see stretch marks & flab & sagginess & scars. So I fought with the Lord about it for a week. Honestly, by the time I actually did the project it was a little anti-climactic, but it showed me that it was time to start dealing with my issues rather than just ignoring them.
My self-loathing began before most girls are even aware of the fact that they might have imperfections. I was barely six years old. Before this time I was blissful in my ignorance. I loved being in front of people, I loved talking & playing. A friend of my mom’s discovered I could sing when I was about 4 and encouraged me to perform. I did it without pride or self-consciousness. It was fun! I sang my first solo when I was 5 in front of our whole church. No problem! I was comfortable and I had no reason not to be. I was loved and sheltered. My older sister and I went to a private Christian school attached to the church we went to in Anchorage, Alaska. My father was an Elder at the church and we had grown up there. Halfway through my first grade year there was a split in the church and my family left with half the congregation. We all went our separate ways and joined other churches and we eventually went to a start-up church that met at an old Laundromat.
As a result of the split we started attending the public school down the street from our house. This is where things changed for me. I remember my old school being light and happy, but my new school was dark and scary. I loved my old school and I don’t remember having any problems at all. It felt safe. I still remember the workbook we used had Curious George and I missed that workbook all the way through the rest of my elementary school years. Isn’t that strange? Now I know that I was grieving. There is no resolution when something like that happens and so it colored my new world. I missed my old school and old friends so much. When we started attending the new school it was already part way through the year so that was a shock to begin with. What happened that first week though changed me forever.
I was very out-going and made friends easily so faced with a new school I started right away to make friends. I could never sit still, I’m sure these days I would’ve been diagnosed with ADD or even ADHD by some professionals, but back then I just had “ants in my pants.” Naturally I was noticed. My new teacher didn’t seem to have any patience at all and tried very hard to discipline it out of me. I remember distinctly one day when she tried to spank me I kicked so hard she let me go. I didn’t understand really. All I understood was that my older sister was doing things right and I was doing things wrong. Every teacher from that point out would sigh and tell me things like, “You should try to be more like your big sister.” I did know that in my effort to please the new classmates I did a few things I shouldn’t have. I let a friend talk me into trying to kiss a boy. I ended up sitting through recess, sobbing over the 10 sentences I had to write; “I will not kiss the boys.” The other thing that happened that first week was that one of the boys pointed and laughed at my “big nose.” I still remember his name. Until this point I was blissfully unaware of my grandiose proboscis. I barely noticed I had a nose I certainly didn’t worry about the size.
What followed was years of teasing. I do recognize the difference between “teasing” and “bullying.” Teasing is something that is really essential. It helps us to not take life too seriously and to laugh at ourselves. I do know there is a difference, but when I look back it doesn’t feel different. Teasing someone because she just tripped walking on a flat surface or because she acts dopey around a guy she likes or because she snorts when she laughs is one thing, but teasing about someone’s looks is a whole different animal. It hurt. Maybe I didn’t recognize it back then, but that nose became the focus of my whole world. How had I never noticed it before? Never had I been shy about being in front of people, but by the time I got to sixth grade I couldn’t perform anymore without serious stage fright. In fact, when I was given a solo in our Christmas program by my sixth grade teacher I flatly turned it down. She wasn’t happy and tried shaming me into doing it. I still refused, but as a result of the shaming I kicked myself for being such a coward.
By sixth grade the teasing that I’m sure was done innocently had turned. “Little tiny Megan with the big long nose,” was a song that was sung by the boys in my class every time I was around. My name was also a problem because its starts with “mega.” Nicknames collected around my feet like dead leaves. I was already “Megaphone,” “Megasaurus,” “Megalopolis,” etc. “Meganose” was just inevitable. So I started to whither. I became something I wasn’t meant to be; shy. It had never occurred to me before this time that shyness had any place in my world, but suddenly there it was. Becoming smaller became my only self-defense. I still sang all the time at church because it was safe and expected. No one at church noticed my nose and I certainly wasn’t going to point it out to them.
Also during my elementary school days I learned that God didn’t really want me. The God who created me and gave His Son for me didn’t really want me. The church we were going to told me this. We went to a church that didn’t serve grace on the menu. It was a carrot that dangled in front of our noses, but something that was only attainable to the perfect person. Ours was a works-based faith even though the Bible clearly says that faith was by grace alone. We were told that keeping the rules was key to our salvation. Salvation could be lost and so I was sure I lost mine on an almost hourly basis. We were taught that if we died without confessing each individual sin we would go to hell. We were told three times every week that we had to be obedient and stay that way or we were going to hell. Hell was an ever present topic and it loomed in the future for everyone who didn’t keep the rules. So I kept the rules, for the most part. I remember being around seven years old and running into my parents’ bedroom in the middle of the night terrified I would die in my sleep and go to hell because I had forgotten a sin. There was no talk of Christ’s sacrifice covering our sins past, present & future. It was always up in the air pending our next mistake. God was not loving. God was out to get us. I describe it now as feeling like God was actively trying to keep me out of heaven. However untrue it actually is it is how I felt for DECADES!
Anxiety doesn’t just run in my family, it takes it’s time to get to know each of us individually. Mine started with school and was multiplied at church. I tried to be good & not sin, but over and over again I would fall back into patterns, habits, thoughts, attitudes, etc, that were sinful. I lied to myself and my friends and God. I hid behind the things I did right to hide the shame I had over being such a mistake. I said before that singing was expected and I meant it. It didn’t occur to me to say no because that would’ve taken away my one advantage. I realize now I had a heaping course of toxic shame on my plate. I knew I was a hideous mistake, but I was a hideous mistake with talent. So my insides were at war. On the one side I blamed God for how I looked and yet I had this thing that no one else had. So I used my talent. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but it gave me something in return. I got positive feedback at a church that didn’t really preach anything positive and at a time when school was torturous. I began to dream of being a famous Gospel singer, but it had nothing to do with worshipping God and everything to do with getting people to worship me!
We were in the early 80s by now and the Pentecostal movement was full of people obsessed with demon possession and end times theology. We were rapture focused before rapture focus was made cool by the Left Behind series, which I have studiously avoided reading to this day because I had so much of it crammed down my throat. Our church watched the horrific end times movies “A Thief in the Night” series. There were four movies, but I think our parents let us skip out on the last two. Talk about scaring you into Heaven! Even Wikipedia says, “The film's premillenial dispensationalist interpretation of the Bible's end times prophecies is popular among U.S. evangelicals, but is a minority view among Christians globally.” My nightmares and anxiety got worse after that. How could I sleep if I wasn’t sure I was going to heaven if I died? My grades suffered and I was constantly sleep deprived. I would lie awake at night imagining what hell was like and imagining who would come to my funeral when I died in my sleep. Morbid, but true. I developed little anxiety habits then too. I still chew the inside of my mouth all the time, sometimes until I bleed and I pick at any bump on my arms and legs often to the point where I’m bloodied. I was maybe 9 or 10 and I was already displaying symptoms of anxiety. I really don’t think I heard a single sermon explaining God’s grace until I was well into my 20s and by then I just didn’t believe it. That was what sinful people wanted to believe, but I knew better! Any theology you are raised with from the time you are a child seems normal to you. This was my normal.
Honestly, by sixth grade I thought the teasing couldn’t get worse and I looked forward to junior high because I was sure someone else would be more of a freak than I was and the kids who teased me would just ignore me. Was I ever wrong!