This morning as I was helping my husband Jim count the offering at our big mainstream church my eyes fell upon a prayer request card I was pulling from the offering plate. I was immediately sorry I'd seen this request because it was by someone I knew asking for prayers for the marriage of a former leader in our service.
I looked down, my eyes landed on the card and I thought, 'Oh no, not this again!'
This leader had picked up and moved his entire family to the state of Florida in June of this last year in an effort to save his marriage. I knew him well and I knew his wife a little less well. I'd already felt sorry for the wife and tried to befriend her. We had quite a lot in common, yoga, gluten-free eating and some sort of different ideas about God than many others there. I'd befriended her at the behest of her husband, he had asked me to reach out to her because she felt isolated and had ongoing issues with depression. I liked her quite a lot, but didn't envy her being married to such a childish and immature man.
Not long afterward he'd sent out a Facebook message to literally 30 different women at our service complaining about her and his marriage, asking the ladies to pray for them. I took offense at the way he shared it, saying I didn't think a group Facebook message worded that way was respectful towards his wife. Pointed out that most women would have a problem with their husbands sharing something so personal willy-nilly with a pile of women.
Some of the women on the list really said some rather nasty things in the aftermath of my messages culminating in me being called onto the pastor's carpet to explain myself before the pastor told the husband that a) I was right about it being insensitive and improper to his wife and b) the husband and I needed to talk it out. The talk was largely useless, he felt he had every right to call out the prayer warriors any damn way he pleased and me still feeling he was going about it all the wrong way. I've written about this in detail last year.
By seeing this prayer request and how it was worded it was pretty obvious he's still up to the same old same old. He's clearly corresponding with this particular set of women while whining about his wife.
Seeing the prayer request, and knowing something of his wife and his marriage in the aftermath of finding out my other old friend is dying reinforced something in my mind this afternoon. It's that some folks are never going to peel that damn onion of recovery or healing. They're going to stay stuck on the same wilting brown stinky level.
Stacy, his wife, and Cathy, my dying friend, have both been deeply unhappy as far back as I can remember. They also have in common that neither of them is very willing to look at the why of their situations and what they could do to improve. It's easier and more familiar to stay with what you know, even if you sense deep inside you are missing out on what could make you happy. You stay, you stay stuck, you turn off your inner voice and you go through your life on autopilot, fooling no one that knows you very well.
That layer just keeps getting even more rotten, so you move, thinking that it's the location where you're living, but you find that stinking onion is now oozing pus and smells to high heaven.
I'm not saying that depression isn't real and it doesn't require treatment not at all. This type of deep unhappiness and accompanying depression does need treatment, but here's the thing about treatment, you have to decide to do it, to at least examine that stupid onion with a trained guide. You. You must make that choice.
So far neither of these ladies ever has, both dismissing treatment and counselors as unnecessary. Both have moved many states away and still the stinking onion was there. Both have tried various issues with food, food control, control over their bodies to no avail. Both have immersed themselves in extreme cult religion to fix whatever is going on inside only to be disappointed.
There's no hope for Cathy, she's going to die as unhappily as she's lived. I don't know for certain, but if I had to haphazard a guess I believe she's complaining about how unfair her fate is. Yes, it is.
For Stacy there's hope. She's young, she's educated, she's beautiful and she has the possibility of realizing one day that there's no avoiding the hard work you have to do to push past unhappy as a default setting. I have a feeling that facing the onion core is going to involve jettisoning her six foot tall toddler husband. None of it will be easy. But it will be worth it if she can gather the courage to start.
I've been there, I've worked on my stupid onion even if I have days like yesterday where I'm eager to ditch the damn thing, bounce it off the heads of some of those folks in the old church that have been so hateful. All the work has been worth it, even if I never started out from a place of deep unhappiness. Even if I complain here I've mostly lead a life with many moments of happiness and contentment. In hindsight most of the unhappiness and recovery work I've had to do involved trying to fit in, trying desperately to conform and knowing that I was faking it, hiding much of my unbelief and pain behind a facade.
It's why I do what I do with No Longer Quivering. I want so badly to see anyone so twisted up and mangled by a high demand cultic religion to start to peel the layers of their own onion and move towards the core and wholeness. Please don't settle for unhappiness.