On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I really don't feel well, so that's my story and I'm sticking to it but the down-to-earth, nitty-gritty answer is I don't want to go to church.

Yes, in the past few months I've had a few dust-ups with folks at church that have not understood our situation and have said things that left me feeling more victimized than before.  No one does these things on purpose but it does stem from a lack of understanding, forethought and to some degree, a lack of compassion (GASP! I know, right?  Christians that aren't compassionate.  Go figure). 

The bottom line is, there isn't a whole lot of discussion by clergy about mental health illness and what scripture and God have to say about it. Occasionally discussing the scripture in which the mentally ill man was delivered of his affliction by exorcism, his legion of demons being cast into pigs that ran off a cliff is the only exception. But for the uninformed parishioners, this perpetuates the belief that mental illness is religiously help able and that the afflicted can prevent their illness by not allowing themselves to be possessed. 

There also seems to be very little education for clergy about mental illness, particularly in nondenominational congregations. Thus the underlings in a church congregation like deacons, elders, superintendents, etc., are also uninformed of the devastating nature of such illnesses on a family and the staggering toll it has on the caregivers. All of this leaves sunday school teachers who are volunteers, woefully unprepared.

Let me restate succinctly.

There is NO education for churches about how to manage delayed, mentally ill or dually diagnosed people within a congregation.


And yet, the church is the most common source of comfort for individuals whose lives are altered by mental illness, developmental delay and other such naturally occurring afflictions of the body and mind.  Even more so for the adoptive families that are lead to adopt by "God" only to find their lives turned upside down by their children.  Imagine then how hard it is to voice to church family that some of your child's afflictions stem from the consequences of trauma they endured by the wayward first parents that abused them, these would be afflictions that ARE preventable.  Pour some acid in the mix when you acknowledge that these adoptive parents were ENCOURAGED, PRAYED FOR, SUPPORTED and PRAISED initially by their church families for taking on such a God-ordained task of parenting "orphaned" children only to later find that this same church family falls strangely silent and invisible when the rubber meets the road after the adoptions are finalized.  The occasional "God won't give you more than you can handle" nauseating rhetoric is all they are equipped to offer because it is the only truth they are taught from the pulpit: be a good person and God will bless you.  Be a bad person and you'll have a trial to learn from.  Fill the coffers and you'll be blessed financially.  Pray daily and read the Bible and God will give you the strength to see you through.  

You can't really blame churches then for their ignorance but man,  it sucks giant, rancid ostrich eggs!

I was in a position of leadership at a church for many years. In all the "training" classes I sat through, there was not one lesson on how to assist, comfort or address persons with disabilities or their families. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the general consensus was that such persons fell into hardships by their own devices.  After all, there are social agencies that can help them.


Oh, the irony of life ...

Last week I had the occasion to attend a craft/quilter group at a local baptist church. This group of women make crafts, projects and other items as a way to comfort, encourage or edify other individuals on hard times both in the church and in the community. As the ladies gabbed, one woman mentioned how ill-equipped she was to manage an autistic toddler in the nursery the previous week. Her words reiterate my concerns, "I've done toddler nursery for 11 years. I love doing it but I'm not prepared to manage an autistic child. I feel really bad for his mom, I do, but that little boy was a handful! I don't know how to handle that. His mother needs to be able to attend church and this little boy should be able to hear the word of God but I'm just not prepared for that."

I could hear the frustration in her voice and my own frustration rising within me. It's harsh to hear the words of someone whose life has been unaffected by impairments when my life revolves around it. It's hard to know that her concerns are as valid as mine but the fact remains, churches are not prepared for the impaired person and impaired persons and their families have the right to feel welcome and comforted by attending church.

Therefore I take the path of least resistance and claim feeling ill (really, I DON'T feel the best, honest) so I don't have to attend church and can avoid the issue entirely. Yet it nags me because I was raised to believe in Christ and I personally accept the Apostle's Creed. So I dig a little deeper and come up with this second truth about church:

How does God fit into the picture when I have served Him according to the scriptures with my whole heart, striving to abide by the ten commandments and seeking to do God's will and still, I suffer so much?

The fact is, church has sold us a bill of goods. The quote at the top of this blog says the truth, the truth that church doesn't preach, especially the high-faluttin'-lovey-dovey-God-will-bless-you-bogus-american-church philosophy preached with veracity for the last twenty years. if you love God and obey his commands He will bless you! then they pull into the church parking lots in $80,000 SUVs wearing $300 designer shoes saying, "look how God has blessed me!" And worse yet, when your life hits the dirt it is assumed you have sinned or the one that really chaps my butt, that "God is teaching you through this trial." and anyway, God won't give you more than you can handle.


Oh. How this crap ticks me off. The truth is, the only freedom we are promised in scripture is freedom from the wages of sin and death and that freedom is given only to those who choose Christ and live by his holy commands accepting the truth that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that the blood of Christ is the only redemption.

Why does one person have a lovely life while another struggles all the days of his life? There is no answer on earth and I doubt God will see the need to supply an answer when we are finally in his midst.

So hear this.
I'm a christian.

I love God.

I do not understand his ways.

I suffer daily.

My family suffers daily.

We have done nothing to deserve this suffering beyond being human and being born into a sinful world.

We are not paying a consequence.

We are not learning something.

This is not a trial that God is going to bring us through, it's our life. Every day.

We are not handling it.

My children are not impaired because it is a consequence for a sin.  They're impaired because that's life, that's the natural decay of human DNA.

My family has a voice that can not be squelched by ridiculous religious rhetoric.

God doesn't think I'm so much better and stronger than others that they get to have a pretty life and I get to struggle because if that's true, then the people with pretty lives are pathetic, pitiful, wretches. How do you like THEM apples?

And furthermore, suffering is relative. What do American Christians have to say about the intense, horrendous suffering around the WORLD?!? Oh yeah, probably that those countries deserve it for worshiping false gods.

wasn't Christ's blood for EVERYONE?

So why do I play hooky from church after 36 years of Christian living?

Because it's bunk. The American Christian church is a pedagogical human ideal that leaves no room for the have-not, down-and-out, pitiful wretches for whom Christ descended to earth to save.


Johanna said...

What I believe is that life is hard and it's supposed to be hard. When the scriptures talk about the "refiner's fire" they aren't kidding. Life isn't fair and people who do everything right are sometimes the ones that suffer the most (look at Job). If that's the truth of the Bible, then what Christ offers is NOT relief from pain and suffering - at least not in the sense of taking it all away. What I believe is that Christ works in ways for our good - but not necessarily in ways that we want. He can strengthen us in our burdens, He can comfort us in our sorrow, He can send help in the form of friends and even strangers. He promises that this life is just a short period in our eternal life, and that the most important thing we can do here is to follow Him. Our life might look messy - it might be mostly sorrowful - but if we never stop trying to follow Him we can't be stopped from being with Him in the end. Christ does promise peace - "not as the world giveth" - but peace nonetheless. Sissy may never change and that will be a huge sorrow - yet Christ can heal that sorrow for you, even if Sissy won't let Him heal her. I'm sorry your church isn't giving you the help you so desperately need. I wish I lived close to you so I could offer respite. But I am praying for you and I know that God loves you and weeps for your pain.

kisekileia said...

As someone with PTSD from religiously based abuse along with developmental issues, I can relate to parts of that. My minister was receptive when I talked to him about the PTSD, but I didn't mention the other stuff in detail because I wasn't sure how he'd handle it. I usually just skip church because it's such an emotional ordeal to go.

GB's Mom said...

You have my love, prayers, and support. God's too.

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Sorry your church has been so unsupportive of your experiences. We have found great acceptance and understanding in the United Church of Christ and thier inclusive ministry. Parents like us need more meaningful support systems for our success, not fewer supports. Hoping you can find a church home that holds your family up in good times and bad.

Rose said...

Amen. Take what strength and peace you can from Christ's life and love, and leave all the rest behind.

MariaG said...

I'm Roman Catholic and this concept of someone suffering as a consequence and the concept of tithe generously and you shall be blessed has not been my experience at all. I've never heard it put that way in any RC church. HOWEVER I've been to a number of Pentecostal services with a friend and these concepts are EXACTLY what I was hearing preached ... repeatedly and in very plain language. (it was not a case of me interpeting something the wrong way). I was dumbfounded and sad because it just seems so "not right".

And then it would sometimes be "Communion Sunday" ... there would be the whole preamble of who should not partake because of sin, etc. I would have been welcomed to partake but did not wish to because it didn't feel right to me. I'd sit there and pass the juice along and feel like a total heathen. It was not a comfortable feeling at all. It all struck me as so different and unwelcoming.

I'm sorry that you feel unsupported and judged by the attitudes of those in your church. I'm sorry things are tough (understatement). (((Hugs))) and prayers.

Maria (Canada)

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

I believe much as you do . . . sometimes we just suffer because we live in a fallen world. There are no easy answers. None. As much as we might wish there are. The only thing Iknow to do is offer my pain up to God and allow Him to walk with me through it. I'm praying that you will find Him an ever present help in time of sorrow. Remember that He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Marcia said...

My daughter, 7, has been diagnosed with mental retardation (for unknown reasons), expressive/receptive language disorder, ADHD, poor muscle tone, an immature nervous system and shows autistic tendancies. I have an idea of how frustrating daily life can be. I also have to deal with the uninformed. However, I attend a small, protestant church where we truly feel like family, so most people are aware of Beauty's special needs.
Having never been catholic, I cannot relate entirely to your frustrations, though I have heard similar "theologies" in the evangelical/protestant world.
What I do know is, God never promised us a wealthy, healthy, easy life; no matter our level of spirituality etc. In fact Paul suffered from an affliction that was not removed, being told "my grace is sufficient". That's what it boils down to. We live in a fallen world, so disease and distress abound. However, God's grace is sufficient to see us through.
I am praying for God to give you strength and wisdom daily, as well as speak to your heart so you may be comforted and encouraged. You are doing a mighty work. As mothers, we must remember to do all for God's glory, for that is the purpose of life. We may or may not reap the rewards on earth, but will definately do so in Heaven.
God bless you and your family,

Heather said...

I'm so sorry you've had this judgemental experience. Please know that not all church bodies preach that your struggles are a consequence of your sin, and even individual congregations within a denomination can vary greatly. You are not being punished, though I know it feels like that some days. You are a blessing to your children, and even if it doesn't feel like it, you are making a difference in Sissy's life. And if even one family in your church learns from you, you have made a difference.

I am excited that recently a leader in our church synod sought me out, along with other moms dealing with mental health issues, to find out how they can better educate pastors and teachers about these challenges (especially in the seminary), and how they can support us. I know it will be slow in coming, but it gives me hope that someone realizes this is a need, and there will be change. Not fast enough to help you at your church, but slowly, it will come.

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

If I didn't know any better, I'd say we attend the same judgmental church. Even when the autistic 4 year old fell into the nursery window, shattering it, and him almost falling out and two stories down, they blamed the mom for "imposing" his disabilities on the nursery workers. I was sick to my stomach and very vocal about their judgments.

Even worse, one of the two ministers doesn't "believe" in ADHD, BiPolar Disorder, RAD, and other mental issues. How can you minister to those afflicted and affected if you don't believe it is possible??

jen said...

I knwo this is an old post but I am reading it for the 1st time and I am very saddened that your church isn't supporting you. I don't think many churches know how to handle families post adoption. We have a minstry at our church called Through The Roof. It partners kids with special needs with the same buddy every church service. They go to all the same classes as their peers but they always have their buddy to help them. And as far as "God will never give you more then you can handle'- that was a sermon at our church as one of Satan's lies. There will be times in our life when its more then we can handle, if we could handle it all-why in the world would we need God or Jesus?