Friday, September 30, 2011

Fearfully Made . . . Celebrating the Gift of Terror Part IV

What’s wrong with you?” B’s mother demanding as they pulled out of the school’s parking lot. “Do you need to go home or to a hospital.” 

B couldn’t stop sobbing. She had not cried in years . . . not even at her father’s funeral but now she couldn’t stop.  She wanted to see where they were going but the tears blurred everything. “I don’t know.  I just feel like I’m dying.  I couldn’t breathe on the bus and it was closing in on me.”

“Can you breathe now?”

“I can breathe better but my heart is pounding and I’m scared I’m dying.”

So her mother made a sharp turn and the tires squealed. “Then we are taking you to the Emergency room!”

B just continued sobbing. In the silence her mother added, “This better be real . . . if you are faking being sick your father is going to spank you. You know, you’re not too old for that. Maybe that’s what your problem really is, that you were never raised in a Christian home and never raised with discipline!”

After the EKG, chest  X ray and exam the ER physician said, "We can’t find anything physical wrong. I really think it was a panic attack.  Are you under a lot of stress?”

Her mother answered for her, “Well, her father was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago, she hasn’t seem the same since.”

“Well, I recommend that you get her involved in counseling. “

Her mother wouldn’t have taken it seriously but the next morning, B wouldn’t get out of bed. When her mother forced her up, she wouldn’t get dressed. “What’s wrong with you?  You’ve got to go to school.”

“Mom . . . I just can’t go back there. They all hate me and I hate them.”

“I should wash your mouth out with hot sauce for saying such things. You know that they all love your there.  You aren’t use to being loved so you are afraid of it.”  Then she stooped down and put her hand B’s knee as she sat on the side of her bed, This was the first skin to skin contact B had with her mother in eighteen months. “Honey, you need to turn your troubles over to Jesus. He can help you. That’s what I did. I’ve never been so happy.  I’ve forgiven you father for what he did to me. I have peace with the Lord now. I just want you to be happy like me.”

B thought to herself that stick-on happiness was the last thing she wanted.  But as far as turning her problems over to Jesus, she had prayed nonstop since the first night her father hit her mother six years earlier.  It hadn’t worked so far, so would turning her life over to Jesus suddenly work now.

They always ate a formal dinner, each person had their place. Her mom cooked and waited on her husband and B. The conversations were always robotic. The mouths moved and words came out but the realities of the world were ignored.  Her mom and Mr. Ward smiled and talked about the blessings of the day they never talked about what her mother was sobbing about, and B heard her, locked up in the bathroom.  They never talked about why Mr. Ward slips out to the garage to talk on his cell phone, and B can hear him from her room and he always seems upset and screaming into the receiver. Dinner was a wax museum so much so that the most un-waxed things were the candles in the centerpiece.

Then her mother looked up. “B, your father and I were talking tonight.  I know the doctor wanted you to see a counselor and we do too.  However, we want you to see a godly counselor. We’ve talked to the pastor and he highly recommended Mark, the youth pastor. He actually had a major in Bible school in counseling.”

“You’re talking about our pastor Mark.”

“Yes, honey.”

B didn’t really respect Mark so much and she never thought about why. He was very articulate, animated and many of the kids loved him. But B thought he was shallow and lacked sincerity.

“I don’t know mom.  I mean I want help, but couldn’t I see someone else?”

Mr. Ward spoke up, “Now Beatrice, he is a professional and a man of God.  You really don’t have a choice in this matter. You’ve missed school four days this week, which I think is just pure laziness, but we’re going to get to the bottom of this.

So B met with Mark several times over the subsequent weeks.  At first he was hesitant.  He hardly knew her as she was always in the background in Sunday school and youth group trips.  But during their first session, Mark noticed something about her that he had never before . . . B was incredible beautiful.  It was like he discovered it.  Few others had noticed it and certainly not B herself.  When she looked in the mirror she saw this flat-chested, straight-haired, big-nosed girl that was hideous.  Little did she know that Gabe, the most handsome guy in youth group, who had sat beside her driving up to Cleveland, felt intimidated by her beauty but her quietness was a mystery to him. 

The girls at the school recognized it before anyone.  Girls always recognize beauty first. However, in order to contain it—never giving it an opportunity to blossom—they started rumors.  It was a self-fulfilled prophecy. B was deafening quiet in her character, so the girls said that they heard she dabbled in witchcraft.  This was passed around throughout the Assemblies Academy. So what had started as B’s shyness, ended up being magnified by her being shunned.

So Mark, a happily married man of thirty two, would never consider being infatuated with a thirteen year-old girl, but it was her striking beauty that kept him engaged in counseling and motivated him to be her knight in shining armor to save her from herself.  He would never touch her inappropriately, however, if she had been an ugly pimpled-faced girl, two sessions would have been enough.

One night a few weeks later, after their counseling session, Mark had called for a family-wide meeting.  He described for the group his impressions as a Biblical counselor.

“You see, I sense something dark going on here.  As you know, God sets up a hierarchy in a family where the father is the head and protector.  B grew up with a father who was not a spiritual leader and indeed wasn’t a Christian at all. So this is common where the children are left exposed to darkness.”

Mr. Ward was smiling, “So what does this mean?”

B sat quietly with her hands under her legs and drips of cold sweat were dropping from her armpits and running down to her elbows.  She hated being the center of attention where people were judging her. She felt like she was about to have another attack . . . the kind where she couldn’t breathe.

Mark continued, “Well, I sense a spiritual oppression.  B has never been interested in spiritual things. In youth group she never volunteered to lead or even to be part of things, like the drama team.  When we took the group to the climbing wall, she couldn’t do it and just watched.  I’ve seen many kids over the years full of the power of the Spirit of God.  They aren’t timid but are confident.  So, I think there is something demonic here.  If we could get that out of the way, maybe B could become the young woman God intended for her.  But she has to want it. I haven’t seen any spiritual passion in her thus far.”

B’s mom looked a little concerned, “Are you talking about an exorcism?”

“No. Not an exorcism . . . but a spiritual intervention.  I would like the elders meet with us, anoint B with oil and put our hands on her and pray.  I’ve seen some spooky things happen when we do that, then there everything changes for the better.”

Mr. Ward looked at her, “So B, what do you think.”

She felt too nervous to even make eye contact but mumbled, “Whatever.”

Inside B was hoping that this indeed would be the answer. She felt broken and didn’t understand why.  She had no courage and felt alienated from the universe.  Maybe this was her way out of the doorless labyrinth.  Maybe finally she could be fixed . . . and finally fit into the world.


Okay, I wanted to use this story as an introduction to anxiety and how the Church sometimes looks at it.  I know that I've been unfair.  This story has been played out just as I've described it.  I've seen the exact same scenario, where a mental illness is superficially treated as demonic, rather than looking at the root causes and true help. But of course there are plenty of Christian parents and pastors who would have much better insight and love.  But I do use reality, but maybe the fringe of reality to make a point.

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