Stockholm Syndrome

I understand enough to get me into trouble, yet not quite enough to get me out of it.

I wish I understood more, but what stands for wisdom sometimes sounds like mere, empty platitudes—and it does me no good—in the face of death, and in the face of suffering.

I have seen friends die, and family, some confined to beds for years or decades, flesh wasting away from their bones, with few, if any, coming to visit them. Forgotten.

There is no escape from this place, this life, except through death, yet those who would help us are called murderers; and those who help themselves…are considered hopelessly lost. What and where is mercy?

Who, but God, can be responsible for allowing this misery? But I must love Him anyway, I see no other hope or choice. I must love my captor, and even apologize for Him, and take His side against all evidence. No other being has power to release me, but Him. Yet we are not released.

He tortures me, but I cannot resist Him. He tortures my loved ones, but I must find a way to smile and accept it.

I dream of another life, a next world where we will all live happily with our Captor; when we will be reconciled to Him, and our roles will change. All will be forgiven and forgotten: the agony, the misery, seeing children suffering with little hope, parents who have lost their children to death—this will all just be water under the bridge. Somehow.

Maybe I can forget and forgive here and now—paradise on earth.

I’m sorry. I don’t know anything. But I know what I see. I see into the eyes of the forgotten, the unloved, the desperate, those with chronic illnesses, those who have lost everything and everyone that they love, and this disturbs me, and it distresses me to my core.

The morning brings no relief; day after day my friends are still locked away in their beds unable to walk. Some even unable to think, as we watch helplessly, as their minds turn to jelly.

It makes me angry, and it makes me sad. And then it makes me weary, and I give up. I repent, and turn again to God.

Who else is there to help us, where else is there any shred of hope?

I take up my cross, try to bring a little joy and healing to the suffering souls that are all around me, and somehow this brings a little joy and healing to my own soul.

And then in time, perhaps a few days, weeks, or months, this cycle will repeat itself. I will once again be in a frenzy of sorrow for this world, and all the cruelty and indifference I experience here.

I will cry out yet again, against the omnipotent and omnipresent God, who loves us so much that he allows us to tear each other to shreds…and then I will find a way, somehow, to smile about this, and take His side once again, against all reason.

Yet, somehow, mysteriously, by doing so this aligns me with Love; and realigns me with what is good within me; and somehow this is the only way I can find, which brings any joy to my grieving heart.

~FS

Apathy at Milepost Seven

An arid wind appears to be blowing, insipidly, across the landscape here. I would hardly notice, and certainly not care to log it in my journal now, were it not for some sense of responsibility towards science. It hasn’t rained in weeks—maybe months—I’m sure I have the exact date entered here someplace, but…rain, wind…my interest in these things is entirely without passion now, rather from a sense of duty—I suppose—and perhaps out of habit, forged from earlier times, do I maintain these observations.

It was on the seventh day that God rested, so to speak, and though I’ve been here seven days, or has it been eight now, I’ve not yet seen my messiah. The eighth day comes so slowly it seems, and I wait, and watch, and grow tired as I watch, and then…nothing. Is this my fault? Perhaps, I started from a faulty hypothesis, or my methods have been wrong; maybe I took my eyes off the mark—all my efforts, wasted. Maybe I need rest.

They say these things take time, but believe me, I’ve given it. For instance, I’ve been here in this spot, watching, for years. Well, not all in a row, but I’ve returned here again, and again, so that if I were to add up all the time I’ve come back to this place, it would add up to years. I’m certain of this. And that’s not all, what about all the other places I’ve waited? There are many others. They’ve seen their share of me as well. Tired, they must be, of seeing me over and over again. I know I’m tired—they must be too.

It’s just past mid-day, closing in on one o’clock, and I’m feeling anxious. These are uncertain times. This is a silent road I’ve walked. Those who travel this way have left the hub-bub behind to follow this silence. But the clamoring of life is always just over our shoulders, to the left, and to the right, then flashing in our faces—catching our attention and cruelly captivating us. I smile, hoping to forget that this is a dusty road we travel, and we travel it constantly through dust; dust fills our nostrils, it gets in our eyes, we swallow it—we become the dust.

I close my eyes to take that rest I’d been thinking about earlier; there is some solace, some comfort in the darkness I find now. But restful? No, this darkness isn’t restful; it only promises rest, but instead, it exposes me to many subtle disturbances. Most of these remain unrecognized until they’ve overwhelmed me—when it becomes too late—then I fail science, and science fails religion. This is a darkness that causes us to leave our posts, as we retreat in haphazard fashion, unsettled and unable to remain standing.

I open my eyes again and perceive a gentler darkness, kinder, and one that reveals light. From where does this light come; what grace is it that shines on us in our darkest hours? What power enables us to return to our post, and stand again, whereas before we couldn’t find our way? As I ponder these things, a cool breeze picks up from the east; I feel it as if it blows through me—dividing the wheat from the chaff—carrying away the dry-husks of my apathy, and leaving seeds of hope within me.

I am here, in this remote place, keeping watch, observing, and discerning what I must do; each milepost along this road, has its unique character, and its specific requirements, but they all ask this same question of us—what must we do now? Here, my answer is to wait for the rain; and I wait for the dust to settle. Tears begin to flow from my eyes, and they bring me rest. There are many ways to shed tears, some tears come from futility and flow from despair, while others are harbingers of life itself; these tears soften the earth beneath our feet, and make of us fertile ground from which new life springs forth.

I have endured apathy, and fought against indifference—powers that lead me into vanity, distractions and selfish-wanderings. Yet with hope, grace empowers us to win the struggle against these forces, moment by moment, and to stay standing when we grow weary, and to remain, when we can see no means of remaining. And when we lose interest in the wind and the rain—these very things which would inspire and encourage us to continue along this lonely, silent track—grace comes to us, reigniting our faith, so that we may simply begin to care once again.

~FS

A New Declaration of Independence

When in the course of a human life one becomes aware of the bondage and servitude to which his or her inner nature has become ensnared, and it becomes necessary to dissolve these bonds and to reorient them from what is bad towards what is good, and to assume the natural use of the powers granted them by the God of nature, to which His image and likeness entitle them, then for the benefit of this person, and for that of all mankind, it shall be declared, the causes for which this reorientation is required, and for which this new independence is sought.

These truths remain self-evident—that all people are created free; endowed by God with powers of mind, desire and strength, for the purpose of growing in love, peace and joy.—That by using these powers in the way intended by nature and by God, every person can achieve these ends.—That by the misuse of these powers mankind falls into every kind of difficulty, suffering, pain, deception and entrapment. —That the ruler of this world has used deception, trickery, seduction and malice to corrupt these natural powers to turn humanity from what is good towards what is evil. —That because mankind has fallen into enslavement to this evil, by improper use of our freedom, so that we desire what we shouldn’t, and hate others whom we should love, it is clear that we have become self-destructive and it is our necessity, and our duty to abolish this rule of evil within us, and to lay a new foundation upon Christ, Who’s power will reorganize the powers within us, so as to attain liberty once again.

By a long train of abuses and temptations, the current ruler of this world has reduced mankind under an absolute Despotism, so that it is now our duty, by the right of our Creator, for each to throw off this tyranny, and shelter under God’ grace for his or her future security. The history of the present ruler is a history of diabolical malefactions and malicious deceptions, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over mankind. To prove this, let facts be submitted to an honest and straightforward world:

…he has rejected, and causes mankind to reject, the law and commandments given us for the public and private good.

…he has confused and confounded mankind into becoming lovers of ourselves, instead of lovers of one another; seeking self-gain first, and then what is good for others only to the degree it benefits us.

…he has manipulated our natural desires, causing us to turn them towards superficial, transient or forbidden things which don’t satisfy our needs and which, after fleeting pleasure, yield greater sorrow.

…he has caused murders, wars and every kind of violence, by turning our natural anger away from evil as its only proper object, and towards our brothers and sisters, and has deluded us into justifying our misdirected anger and our atrocities.

…he has caused us to lose our self-control, so that we are no longer masters of our appetites or our emotions; but have become slaves to the caprice and whim of our emotions, and easily manipulated by our desires.

…for entrapping us in despondency and hopelessness.

…for enticing us with money and fame, which never satisfy our inner longings.

…for mesmerizing us with possessions which we expect should give us joy, but only create a deepening emptiness within us.

…for isolating and dividing us from one another, under every pretext and justification, but yielding only more anger and misery.

…for causing us to see one another as objects, tools, or means for satisfying our own desires, rather than each as unique and precious images of God, with vast inherent worth.

…for using every kind of material deception to draw us out of ourselves, and away from God, so that we become lost and unable to perceive God any longer, so that we lose our relationship with the only One that can heal us and save us.

…he has bewildered us with entertainments, dulled our minds and hearts, and caused us to grow lazy and indifferent towards our spiritual realities.

…he has plundered us, ravaged us, burnt us, murdered us, raped us, and in every way destroyed the lives of mankind, all while hiding in the shadows so that mankind even doubts his very existence.

…he has made himself, thus, our perfect enemy, and turned each of us into unwitting accomplices to our own destruction.

We, therefore, each of us who desire to be truly free, appealing to the Lord of all, do, in His name, solemnly publish and declare, that we are by nature and by right afforded through His mercy and grace, independent and free from all allegiance to the ruler of this world, and that all spiritual connection between us and Satan, is and ought to be totally dissolved, and that as free and independent beings, we have full power, by God’s grace, to live virtuously and in accord with the commandments given for our peace, in control of ourselves, making proper use of all the faculties of our soul which have been given us for our fulfillment and blessing, and to do all things right and proper to those living in spiritual freedom.—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm and total reliance on the protection of the Triune God, we pledge to God our complete and enduring love, issuing forth from our mind, our heart, our soul and our strength, and we pledge to one another, a love that equals the love we have for our very selves.

 

~FS

Metanoia

What is despair,

but a sorrow without tears—

hope suspended,

a crying out, absent remorse.

 

Despair holds onto its pride,

and together we suffer.

 

Without repentance,

without humbling,

without accepting,

we live without healing.

 

I have seen the world’s evils,

magnitudes of anguish,

beyond my understanding,

and I’ve despaired.

 

What can I do?

I cannot change another,

I cannot topple governments,

or rescue nations.

 

I try to close my eyes and look away,

I’ve buried myself in television,

in pleasures to help me forget—

can I just pretend this life is pleasant?

 

After all, the sun is shining,

the rain falls on the good and the bad.

God’s mercies benefit us all,

and it is a beautiful day.

 

Yet, it was a glorious day in 1942,

clear blue skies with puffs of clouds,

as the crematoriums belched—

humans turned to ash.

 

And it is glorious still today,

with a light breeze,

the sounds of birds,

chirping in the trees.

 

Meanwhile in China—

living men and women,

their organs are harvested,

from their bodies, for profit.

 

We are free to do as we please,

this is God’s love for us I’m told,

we may exploit, dismember and torture—

we may despair, pretend or forgive.

 

On this beautiful day,

I don’t choose to despair,

I don’t choose to pretend,

I yearn for everyone to be healed.

 

What can I do for those who refuse to repent?

I feel I must repent in their place—

I must cry the tears they will not shed,

and beg forgiveness in their stead.

 

Let’s not despair,

nor seek to avoid,

though we might fight,

the evils of man towards man.

 

No, we must face these,

and when we do,

what choice have we but to embrace them,

with forgiving hearts—

 

Trembling and broken in our love,

taking these evils upon ourselves,

offering them to God,

offering ourselves to Him—

 

To be transformed, and made anew.

 

~FS

June 16

Saint Silouan makes a distinction between kinds of suffering, based on his own experience as he related it in his story of the fish-bone and the headaches. Renos Papadopoulos applies this teaching to his own practice in working with refugees, by adapting St. Silouan’s recognition of this distinction into an epistemological distinction as to the variety of way’s one can conceptualize suffering. Renos explains that we as care-givers should recognize the fact that suffering is not always “something we should get rid of” but that it can have important and life-changing meaning for the person undergoing it.

Renos says that we can look at suffering, or adversity, which we encounter in our lives as potentially positive, rather than seeing it entirely negatively, which is often how the helping professions approach suffering. Renos encourages us, based on the teaching of Saint Silouan, to seek out God’s will in our suffering, because this can expand our perspective on adversity. By understanding God’s love for us and His will for us, which is always a will for our good, this can mitigate our negative feelings towards suffering and open the door for us to trust more in the process and outcome deriving from adversity, and oftentimes this can lead us to greater strength and endurance in living through suffering.

Does suffering produce endurance, as St Paul writes, or does it crush us? How we interpret suffering makes a significant difference in how we approach it in our own lives, as well as how we approach those we are helping through their own responses to adversity. The outcome of our view on suffering can make the difference, as Renos says, in whether our response becomes pathological or merely a reaction according to ordinary human distress.

Man unfortunately uses his freedom, his free will, to distance himself from God, and then adversity and suffering often further distances him from God, because of man’s negative response to adversity, and this develops into a traumatic response. But this is not always and entirely the case. Renos explains that we need to recognize the possibility however, of positive responses to adversity. In his work with refugees he sees, in every case, resilient responses and the development of new positive traits occurring within these people along with negative responses; all of these occurring simultaneously and side-by-side. If we recognize this truth we can work together with our care-recipients to discover and foster these positive responses to help them achieve greater strength and health however, by failing to recognize this possibility we can miss an important opportunity in helping people who have been through adversity.

Viewing trauma only in the typical way, as needing cure and relief, but with no other intrinsic value, causes care-givers to take actions to remedy the ‘trauma’ that are “ineffective at best, or even detrimental (ed. Welker 146).” However, by seeking God’s will and trusting that He has a plan for us in all cases, Renos explains that we can seek and access greater meaning from our suffering, and draw nearer to God as well.

I think it is important to look for each individual’s strengths and help create conditions for these strengths to be activated as we help others work through their responses to the inevitable sufferings of their lives. Even by simply making these strengths apparent to the one who is suffering, or simply noting the possibility that strengths do exist within them, can be of great benefit to the one who may be lost in the despair and weakness of their situation.

Renos sees the Spirit having a dimension and power that can transform “an impossibly bleak situation devoid of hope and realistic resolution [into] an unexpected epiphany, indeed, the transformative power of the cross that enables Christ to ‘overcome death by death’ (ed. Welker 144-145). Saint Silouan’s teaching on suffering opens us to understand that suffering isn’t always negative. Based on this concept Renos developed the ‘Adversity Grid’ to illustrate the complexity in human responses to suffering, showing that responses can be neutral or even positive in reaction to adverse events.

In applying St Silouan’s teaching to ‘keep thy mind in hell and despair not’ Renos describes how this can help us recognize both the importance of ‘hellish’ experiences and also that these experiences can have positive effects (ed. Welker 151), that hell-states can be meaningful, and that understanding them in this way can facilitate positive transformation (153) and even that these hell-states can be the impetus for the growth of new positive traits within us that otherwise wouldn’t have been born (155).

As care-givers we can apply these teachings and insights in order to help those we serve to see suffering in another way, and encourage them to use their experiences with adversity in positive ways that can be transformational and healing. As Renos writes: “St Silouan’s dictum…encourages us not only not to run away from the excruciatingness of these hell situations but also to trust that this very persistent focus on the awfulness of the situation will activate a certain process of transcendence that will bring about a radical transformation, a paradigmatic shift, resulting in a new epistemology that will enable access to healing from sources and in ways that our previous state of being could not even have registered before (ed. Welker 154).”

____________________________________________________________________________________

Renos Papadopoulos (2018). “Compliance and Resistance: the Psychological Perspective.”

Papadopoulos, R.K. “Keep thy mind in hell and despair not: implications for psychosocial work with survivors of political violence.” The Spirit in Creation and New Creation. Michael Welker, Ed. Eerdmans Publishing. 2016.

 

~FS

The Love of Being Hated

Lately, I’ve been considering giving up the appearance of being smart. I’m not sure I’m courageous enough to give up appearances though. Everyone seems to admire smart people, give them more respect, or at least take them more seriously. And fear keeps me doing the things that get me lovin’, and keeps me from doing the things that get me ridiculed. I especially learned how to toe this line in college. Fear is an excellent headmaster which keeps us students saying the right things.

But faith teaches me other things, and if I’m honest—better things. I can’t explain it but a life of simple faith yields an abundant life of simple joys. I’m considering that this might actually be a lot better than trying to have others like me because I’m clever, or knowledgeable—and certainly better than expending energy towards avoiding or deflecting criticism, and derision, aimed at my simplicity.

Not too long ago a client was extremely angry towards me—screaming, and violently gesturing, he accused me of being a liar and a thief. It seemed a very unfair accusation but I decided to keep silent, and refrained from defending myself further against his railings. As it turns out though, he did me a great service, by helping me gain a measure of freedom over myself.

My good name, my integrity, my sense of being a good person—all of this was being called into question by his anger and vociferous attack. There were defenses to be made, I could have fought back with arguments, and explanations, but silence worked a better reward within my soul. I discovered that his hatred towards me in that situation only mattered to me if I was attached to his opinion of me. Otherwise, I was free.

He liberated me from my fear of losing face, and of being seen in a bad light. He appeared to be an enemy coming to take something away from me, but he unsuspectingly gave me a gift instead. He gave me an opportunity to forget myself, and even more, an opportunity to care about him in spite of this attack. I even saw an opportunity to love him, if I dared, and consider him a brother.

Now, I imagine this freedom in other areas of my life, especially the areas that are most important to me. What if I were to be called an idiot for my faith—a fool—or a simpleton for believing in Christ? How liberating that could be!!! Well, I’m sure there is no shortage of people happy to tell me this.

I have loved to be loved. However, might it not be more advantageous to love to be hated? Perhaps this is a doorway to complete freedom. But am I courageous enough to step through this door?

 

~FS

Woman Power

It has been said that, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There is no greater power given humanity than a woman’s power to bring forth another human into this world. This is an awesome power and one that requires an awesome responsibility on the part of every woman. Women are empowered with the responsibility of life itself.

Therefore, we must appeal to every woman to carefully consider her greatness with a clarity of mind, so as to recognize her great responsibility, and to protect herself from the lies of our current generation, which would try to convince her that she is merely a collection of choices, an individual with no significance beyond her personal desires.

No, every woman is much more important than this; and owes it to herself, and all of humanity, to believe that she is more than this, and to fight against the forces that would reduce her true stature, and that would substitute her true nobility with a false empowerment.

These forces in the world tell her that it is more important to grovel for the right to kill an innocent unborn child, than it is to rise up and defend the life that she bears within her. She is told it is more important to do only what she wants, rather than consider others, whom she could love, and who the world may need someday.

Woman is made to be selfless in her love—admirable and heroic—but these forces would rather keep her small, like a little child fighting for her own way. But no woman should be content to remain as such a little child, but rather must desire to mature into adulthood, becoming the powerful, loving and giving woman that she knows herself to be, that she can be, that we need her to be.

Women’s true power is being subverted by an artificial, and almost comical power. It would be almost funny, if the results weren’t so terribly sad. So many, many lives lost. Women’s true power, the power of life, is being subverted by the power of death, and this is a tragedy from which we all are victims.

Women. How you define yourselves is crucially important. You know what you are—givers, not takers of life. You possess a great power, bear it responsibly, and teach the whole world the true meaning of love. Inspire us, please, by your compassion.

~FS