Immediacy

For the fundamentalist the Christian life is not a process but rather a series of specific moments of decision. This view of the spiritual as a constant stream of “right now” decisions creates a strange state where every emotion, trauma, or tragedy must be dealt with immediately rather than given time and space to work itself out.

If someone has burned down your house, shot your dog, and stolen your best camel you must immediately forgive, forget, and put it behind you. Stick a smile on your face, claim you’re letting go and letting God and move on with your life. Stages of grief are just a myth concocted by atheist psychologists who want your money.

After all it’s biblical! Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Cast your burden on the Lord. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. There’s no Scripture that says anything about “working through stuff,” right? To delay is to disobey.

Well, except for that pesky Job fellow who even though he was a righteous man still sat for a straight week without talking just to try to process the loss of his children. And David who spent a whole lot of time writing dark poetry and fiddling with his harp while running for his life. Not to mention Elijah who got so depressed he went out and lived in a cave for a while and asked God to just kill him and get it over with. For some strange reason none of them thought to just decide to smile and keep on keeping on.

The only possible answer is that those guys were just not as spiritual as the average fundamentalist. Divorce, Rape, Unjust Accusations, Death, Dismemberment, Financial Problems, Illness, Depression, Dysfunction…just make the decision to not let them matter. Move on. Just “give it to God,” “Lean on the everlasting arms,” “Smile a while and give your face a rest.” Do it right here in this instant and then you can quit bugging me about it.

Action is the key, do it immediately.

117 thoughts on “Immediacy”

    1. Since I got my first first, I just wanted to say thanks to all of those who have been supporting me in this endeavor. I would like to thank my trainer, my sponsor UnderArmor, and most of all my beautiful wife who stood beside me the entire way.

      1. Congratulations, Kevin! You deserve this honor. I know you worked very hard, trained like a true professional, and are dedicated to the craft.

        Once you’re on top, however, you become a target of the rest. Don’t rest on your laurels … keep pushing!

        🙂

      1. I thought you had it today for sure I think the secret was abbreviating the first to just a 2 character smiley! I recommend copying “first” into your clipboard, and pasting it for maximal speed!

  1. And don’t forget that Jesus himself, on the night before he was crucified, said (paraphrased), “Hey Dad, if there’s any other way that we can do this, besides the whole being beaten and nailed to a cross thing, please let me know, okay?”

    I guess he just couldn’t see that God was testing him. 🙄

  2. The “Let go and let God” phrase is horrible. It is a sad misinterpretation of the sovereignty of God. It is such an abuse of that doctine to say that since God is sovereign that we will instantly be fine with everything that happens. Although there are overriding principles of joy, peace, and love in the scriptures, there is no indication that we will never struggle with those ideas or that we will never feel bad emotions as well.

    1. This is so very true. Even after leaving fundamentalism, I often find myself sitting on my butt as if I’m expecting a letter from God containing specific instructions to arrive in my mailbox. And when I’m around my family, the abdication of personal agency or personal responsibility drives me crazy: “I’ll teach that Bible study if God opens the door/I feel led to do so/[insert some other expression of passivity].” As if it were a sin to have an opinion about something.

      One of the most liberating sermons I ever heard was by an Anglican priest in Asia who said that these kinds of expressions were in fact the most common form of “taking the Lord’s name in vain” among modern Christians. His argument was that God’s will for us is that we use the reason that he has given us and the passions that he has instilled in us to choose among the various options that are presented to us and to act boldly and in confidence. Casual abdication of responsibility in our life choices in deference to some perceived “leading of the Holy Spirit” and so on, is, he insisted, all too often a form of blasphemy because it negates the gifts God has given to us.

  3. Wow! This is so true! This ties in with the low view of God that many fundies have. If I spend time grieving as is natural untold millions are going to die without hearing the Gospel, churches are going to close and God’s plan is going to be messed up. All because of decisions that I make. If I just chose to “grin and bear it” God would not be put in such a tough spot.

    You hit a sensitive spot for me with this post. It is as if you read my email prior to posting this. I just got a weepy email from a preacher explaining how I was messing up God’s
    “perfect will” for all time. It seems that God will never be able to use me again and will be forced to “put me on the shelf” or “deal with me even harsher”. He ended the email by saying he
    expected for God to kill me soon.

      1. I’ve been threatened God was going to kill me for “Stepping out of his will” too. I should leave a note on my phone, “in case I die suddenly, please look into so and so’s alibi.” 😯

      1. My first, second and third reactions were to write back and tear into him-really straighten him out. But, I remembered that I was where he is at one point. So I wrote back and was as gracious and as kind as I could be. I just pray that he escapes from fundydom.

    1. DOES God ever “put someone on the shelf”? I’ve heard that phrase too, but now I wonder at it. I have a hard time understanding why God would create and love someone just to discard them like yesterday’s newspaper.

  4. Several years ago while I was on staff I struggled (VERY privately) with anxiety and depression. Being on staff, I knew I could never go public with this information so I battled through it for about 2 years before finally getting the nerve to talk to my mog about it. I will quote for you nearly exactly his counseling advice to me. “Andy, you’re a good singer. When you start having those feelings, tell Satan to get behind you, and begin to sing praises to God. Read a Psalm a day for 30 days and 30 days from now we will meet again to see how you are doing.” Thankfully he forgot about it and my wife got me to see my doctor and I got some help. So yes, in my case, there was no hint of long-term help or counseling – only “Do this and *presto*” 30 days from now you will be fine.

    1. Same with my husband. Also on staff. He was falling apart with clinical depression. He went to the pastor and told him of the his struggles and asked for help. The pastor’s response? “Join the club.”
      Gee
      thanks.

      Thankfully my husband also finally went to a doctor and got some real help. It is a long process of even realizing it’s clinical and not something you can just shake off and sing a psalm and feel all better. I wish more pastors realized this.

      1. I’m so glad you reached out for help. I remember my early days, when I was still on staff at TW, and finally seeking help. I was so scared that I hid my car behind the therapist’s office during my sessions. Those first steps were so important. This graph is a perfect description of how we were all supposed to react immediately, no matter what the circumstances. Thanks, Darrell!

  5. It’s The Fundie Mystical Psychology tour, coming to a crisis near you. If you’re happy and you know it then your life will really show it, if you’re happy and you know it say, “Amen.”

    Yes, Brothers and sisters if you are hurting , depressed, victimized and down trodden you too can learn the Fundie mystical cure all for all the pain and suffering you think you are going through. With our package of cliche’s and trite sayings you can magically releive the sin that besets you. When you feel hurt or bitter we can teach you proof texts that will make it all better and you can put a smile on your face knowing that you are now right with god.

    In this package you will learn to recognize that it is your sin of unforgivness that is causing you so much hurt and sorrow.

    Nobody likes a Gloomy Gus and we all feel better when we don’t don’t have to weep with those who are weeping.

    No, we all feel better with a good ol’ dose of that ‘Honey from the Rock.’ Yes you will learn songs like “There’s Honey in the rock my Brother…” that will carry your cares away and put a smile on that face of yours.

    Call now and we will include a special bonus of three sermons designed to point out your lack of faith which will guilt you into coming to the old fashioned altar to cast your cares on the Lord and then just leave them there.

    Call now, operators are standing by to take your credit card free will offerings.

      1. I was in a very bad situation (won’t go into details), and got up the nerve as a teenager to ask a mog I *thought* that I respected about the problem (and this was extremely hard for me, because I was very scared to do this).

        He didn’t even *listen* to much of what I had to say, told me to honor my parents (I won’t go into the complexities of how bad this situation was), and then finished with “read a Proverb every day, and pray, and you’ll be fine. God will lead you.” It was just so. . helpful. NOT.

        Not everyone is like this. . .There are some good pastors, good counselors (even Christian counselors),etc. I’ve found that out since. And yes, some people definitely need medication. It’s not a sin. Sigh.

    1. Don’t forget the song “I’m Happy in the Lord,” especially the lyrics: “It really doesn’t matter what comes my way today / I’m going to wear a smile and hold my head up high and say, “I’m happy in the Lord, anyway.”

      Now, I think I know what bugged me about that song when Darrell posted that video not long ago.

  6. I had a pastor that once said, paraphrased, that if you were a Christian you had no right to be depressed. “Get out from underneath that juniper tree! You have everything to be happy about! You’re saved! Depression is just Satan’s tool to take your eyes off of God!” I could go on but I think anyone who’s lived this gets the picture.

    1. As someone who has struggled with the Black Dog of Depression for most of my life, my first reaction would be to kick this Pastor in the teeth (in Christian love of course) and THEN smile….

  7. To his credit I heard one fundy preacher speaking about “How to heal the wounded”. His first point was Recognize That There is a Wound to be Healed. He then went on to explain that our minds are complicated and things can go wrong that noone really understands. He then went on to explain how he had fought with depression his whole life.

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be the norm in Fundystan.

  8. Can’t we just go back to making fun of people. This hurts. There is so much to say that hits home I would rather not dredge those depths. Toooo Deeeeep

  9. I have an in-law right now who, at age 45, lost their spouse last summer to cancer. This person is trying to “give it to God” and “trust God”, which is all well and good … but methinks they won’t allow themselves to properly grieve and — most of all — GET HELP.

    It’s heartbreaking.

  10. He fought depression and was told to “Snap out of it” and “Give it to God”.

    He met God not long after, by his own hand.

    Yeah. I’ve seen it first hand. So very tragic.

  11. I’ve come to the point in my relationship with God that I tell Him when things suck and that it’s not fair and it’s not right what He is doing. I think honesty is important. But in the end I know He’s good and who else can I run to.

    1. I agree; its very freeing to be able to tell God “This sucks!” or “I hate this and don’t want to do it!”. It is much like when my children were younger and would say “I hate you!”. I would reply with “That’s o.k. to feel that way. I’ll still love you.”

    2. My best friend has relapsing/remmitting MS. She lives on a road in Wyoming that ends in a dirt path near a wilderness area. There’s a waterfall there that is her getaway when life gets tough. She’s been known to get in the car sometimes even in the middle of the night and drive to the end of the road. She screams and hollers “why??” at God until she runs out of strength. She says that is when she sees God’s love never fails and never runs out like the water gushing over the rocks from the mountain. It keeps coming. And He’s not angry with her for being real with Him. She has shared this story in our gospel concerts many times over the years. It never fails to reach folks. We choke back our own tears up on the stage as we watch people in the audience fumbling for hankies and wiping at their eyes. It’s not pity for her. It’s the relevance to their own experience. This is what the Christians in the pews are hungry to hear: how are God and His Word relevant to my life in the real world? Can I be honest with Him when I hurt? I don’t know the verse reference but I am reminded that God is described as a nurse tenderly caring for a young child. He’s not a drill sergeant yelling at us “maggots” to suck it up and carry on with a smile. Is it any wonder Christianity seems so irrelevant to our culture today?

      1. Wow, Kate. This resonates with me for two reasons. First, my wife has relapsing/remitting MS (mostly remitting, a mercy for which we are very grateful). But I have had my own fist-shaking yelling-at-God sessions. And He has loved me back and set me free. Life is still often hard, but God is always good.

  12. I think that a lot of people in Fundystan mean well when they try to help. They have been taught that there are only two ways to deal with someone who is hurting: The drill sergeant way and the Hallmark way.

    I know that is how I used to be. God has brought me through some amazing things. I know that many people are surprised that I am still sane after everything that has happened.
    I am thankful for the compassion that all this has taught me.

  13. Darrell, there are days that your insight into the fundy mindset amazes me. Today is one of those days. Ouch.

    I still do this a lot with other people because I don’t want to deal with their problems. And I do it a lot with myself because I don’t want to deal with my problems 😐 But it does not help me get through the day, it does not help my mother deal with extensive pain, it does not help my fiance write her term paper…. Just one more mask that will crack at the most inopportune moment.

  14. “To delay is to disobey”
    I think I’ve literally heard that before.

    No thank you for writing this. I was talking to my wife about this last night. When something major happens to a Fundamentalist they are to either forgive and forget immediately or they are labeled as sinners for harboring feelings about the situation. If you’ve been raped? Better not think about it, and if you do then you are bitter and sinning against God. You just lost your job? Keep on keeping on or else you are bitter.

    This also works with criticism against an institution. When people raise legitimate concerns the defenders always say, “Why can’t you just move on and get over it.” Right because if you do that then there is no opposition. That is the easy way to show that one one disagrees with you. “you disagree with me? Move on and get over it…see no one disagrees with me.”

  15. I remember being surprised when someone who went through the Catholic RCIA class decided not to become Catholic at that time. There was no pressure to get her to convert. No ‘you might die tomorrow!” None of that. They accepted her decision and told her they would pray for her and that was that. What a change from NOW NOW NOW!

    1. Catholic doctrine says that it is sacrilige to receive into church membership a person who does not give her full, willing, and uncoerced consent. I won’t claim that all Catholic clergy have always followed this principle, but it’s not an issue that they take lightly.

      1. I went through RCIA to become a Catholic. The first time, I quit halfway through because I wasn’t ready. I went through again two years later, and then it finally felt right. The acceptance and well wishes the first time around definitely helped; if I had been judged harshly you can bet I never, ever would have felt comfortable going back and saying “I want to have another go at this.”

        I’ve found it to be that way with a lot of Catholic sacrament preparation. When my husband and I went through marriage preparation classes, we were told by the deacon and by many speakers that if we had doubts about what we were doing, we needed to take those into consideration.

        When we attended baptism classes a few weeks ago (we’re expecting our first :)) we were told the same thing. “Don’t do this just because it’ll make your grandmother happy! We are doing this class so you can understand what it means and the kind of commitment it represents. If you aren’t ready now or aren’t sure what you want, then that’s OK – this isn’t about pleasing people, it’s about making the right decision for you.”

        Such a different atmosphere than the one I had growing up!!

    2. I used to teach confirmation classes. The first thing I’d say to parents is, “I hope this isn’t the first decision your kids will make concerning God. I know it’s not their last.” There’s this “once for all time” mentality in Fundyland that I find quite off putting. Every time you go to church, you made a decision about God. Every time you pray, you made a decision about God. Every time you take communion, you made a decision about God.

  16. Next to “hate the sin, love the sinner”, which is just a license for people to act like a__holes, the worst fundy cliche is “let go and let God”. It just smacks of la la la passivity and pasting a big false smile on everything.

    Jesus take the wheel? No, lady, I’m in the oncoming lane! How about you freaking drive!

    1. At our school, a teacher in our staff meeting used the sermon on the mount to show that that phrase should be turned around to, “Love the sinner, and hate your own sin.” I love that perspective.

      1. Hey I heard Mark Lowry (the singer/comedian) say that very same thing, he says that Bill Gaither’s wife (her name escapes me) taught him that. Cool!

        I think its Gloria.

  17. I think this is Christianity in general. People don’t know what to say when you are grieving or struggling, but Christians feel the need to have and answer and a pat verse to make your gloomies go away.

    I have lost many children through misscarriage and stillbirth. After going through my first stillbirth and burying my son, I stayed away from church for a while just trying to recover physically and mentally. I was out of church for maybe a month. My first day back was terribnle and I was having anxiety attacks just trying to sing praise to God etc. After church a lady asked me to go to a women’s luncheon or something, I don’t remember what the occasion was. Another lady in the church had a baby the same time I did. I asked if she and the baby were going to be there. She said yeah probably. I said, “I can’t” and ran off. The lady followed me and said, “Look you just need to get over it!” Get over it???

    Then her husband pulled my husband aside and told him the same thing. My husband told him, “Until you hold your dead child in your arms don’t tell me how long is too long to grief.”

    Ok, thanks for letting me vent.
    Thanks Darrell.

        1. escapee,
          my heart aches for you and your husband. My wife had two miscarriages. There was this attitude of expectation that since the pregnancy wasn’t long your grief shouldn’t last too long either. Then there was the ignore it and we won’t have to deal with it attitude. If we don’t talk to her about it then she’ll get over it quicker. There was no real help and you just have to work through it on your own. When you don’t bounce right back then you need to get right with God.
          My tears and my heart are for your story and the unnecessary, insensitive pain you had to endure. We Christians have forgotten how to bear one another’s burdens, how to weep with those who weep, and what loving compassion even looks like it seems. We come together on Sunday morning and put on the mask of “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” and we never even know the hurt and pain the other is laboring under… we call ourselves brothers and sisters… and yet we are strangers in our own congregations.
          Sorry for the length…I know I’m long winded. **steps down from soapbox and disappears in the crowd***

    1. Tears and hugs for you, escapee. My sister died in a car accident 3 years ago. After a few months,my mom’s husband (my step-dad) told her to “just get over it already”. My mother has already buried 3 husbands and now her daughter. I don’t think “get over it” should ever escape someone’s lips to those who are grieving.

    2. I don’t think many Christians even realize this, but I think a lot of us have misread 1 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone.” Thus they spout cliches or shallow answers or judgmental generationalizations like Job’s friends. The verse, however, continues to say, “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Being prepared to explain to people why you’re a believer is a lot different that always having the right words for every situation in life.

      Also there’s the whole mistaken idea that we must be flawless, perfect examples in order to attract people to Christ. We must never show weakness – whether that weakness be not having an answer or be grieving – so the “stained-glass masquerade” continues.

      @escapee, I cannot imagine your loss. I’m so sorry.

    3. I am so sorry for not only your loss but for what others at your church put you through! I cannot imagine your pain and am shocked at how unbelievable insensitive some people are! Talk about judgmental! 😯

  18. Honestly,I try to never say stupid things to people, like “I know how you feel.” Because I don’t. . and in many cases, I never will. Sometimes they just need a listening ear and someone who cares.

  19. “Look you just need to get over it!” Nonsense! People that say such rubbish have never experienced loss.

    After my wife died, a wise old woman said: “You learn to cope, but you never get over it.” That bit of advice stuck with me, and is so true. The pain may diminish with time, but never goes away. It is part of one’s life.

  20. “Smile a while and give your face a rest.” As a child, I had a deforming nerve disease and experienced shame in my suffering. I remember one preacher constantly harping on people to be happy saying, “Did you know it takes more muscles to frown than to smile?” or “Smile, christians shouldn’t look like a bunch of long-faced lemon-juice drinkers.”

    More than anything I wanted to be a good Christian…but there was sadness in my life. Without the ability to critically think through this kind of garbage preaching, my sense of sadness was only compounded with GUILT for not being happy-go-lucky.

    I found it impossible to reconcile what I was taught the christian life was supposed to be like and what I actually experienced.

    1. Your last sentence totally rang true for me and was the catalyst for me to make a run for it away from fundamentalism. It is a miracle that my faith is still intact but only after truly wrestling between the disparity of reality and what I was taught as a fundamentalist.

  21. I think we need to recover the biblical tradition of lament. There are lots of jolly “sunshine in my soul” hymns, but where are the “just kill me now God or at least go away and leave me alone” hymns?? Ok, a little over-stated. But still…

  22. What an amazing model/chart of grief! And such wise words from all of you. I come to SFU for the snarks, but I often leave feeling comforted and inspired. Thank you Darrell!

  23. At the ripe old age of 16, after I had run away from my mother’s home, the only home I knew….two years out I started having severe anxiety. I had an underlying heart problem. Mom refused to take me to a doctor because she said “you KNOW what THIS is all about…” translation, you are having extreme feelings of guilt for leaving fundyland. Ironically, she was right, but what I was experiencing was trauma and PTSD. To this day she is not sorry for my neglect and still see herself as morally superior and I as “lost.” She is a textbook narcissist and I have nothing good to say about her, doubt I ever will. She was built for xtain fundamentalism.

  24. This is just so…..wrong.

    I know I’ve told this before, but it still hits hard. How my fundy preach announced that when you are discouraged or upset about something, “don’t tell anyone else or they’ll get discouraged too.”

    WOW. Didn’t help that at the time I was (and on a smaller scale still) was having a really hard time. Just miserable and tired of my life and frustrated with what church was.

    I suppose if we all pretend everything’s ok he doesn’t actually have to get personal with anyone. Except then all you see is hypocritical shells of people.

    Thanks for that advice, sir.

  25. On a different note, I had fundy childhood flashback this morning. One of the local non-profits named themselves “Keys for Kids”.

    Do any of you remember those old Keys for Kids books? I think they were from the radio personality Uncle Charlie…

  26. Hi. I’m new. 🙂

    I recently read a book that pointed out that people who grow up “faking it” are a psychologist’s worst nightmare. [Not that fundies give any credit to psychology.]

    When my actions are the opposite of where my heart is, there’s a problem. If I’m hurting and depressed on the inside, but I’m smiling and cheerful on the outside, that is not healthy. But if I reconcile my actions/responses to what is going on in my heart, I can begin to work through my problems. If I keep hiding it and pretending that everything is OK, I’m not helping anyone – especially not myself. I’m not being truthful and authentic – I’m being fake.

    I don’t think God ever intended for us to pretend to be “happy in the Lord” when we’re really not.

  27. This is a good one. It also hits home for me too. For all of you who have posted & shared some of your losses, I pray for you & thank you for being vulnerable so as to encourage us all. I remember going through such a dark valley emotionally & spiritually while I was pastoring a church, that I lterally thought I would die a couple of times. It was more than I could put into words. Depression is nothing to brush aside or laugh at. I am so thankful for my loving wife & a few caring believers who came alongside me & helped me through it. Most of all the Lord Jesus never left me, & used it to equip me to give a little encouragement to some fellow strugglers along the way (2 Co.1:3-4; Ps.84:6) This stuff of pretending its all OK when yo0u’re dying inside is ridiculous. I think this is what Solomon meant when he wrote Proverbs 27:14. God Bless you all.

    1. I’m glad people were there to help you. I agree that we must be real with others, although it is hard to not pretend to be perfect when you’re in ministry. But if we Christians are never open, how can we bear one another’s burdens?

  28. Thanks Darrell (and everyone else) My grandmother died this past (2/28)Monday. She was a precious saint of God and I know she is now at rest in heaven and her suffering is over. I know all of that; why do people think that I need to be told over and over again? Even though she will suffer no more, my family and I miss her terribly. The cliches don’t help. Those who suffer loss need time to grieve. How long is long enough or too long? I can’t really say. It takes the time that it takes. The last thing that the grieving need is some, supposedly, well-meaning person spouting meaningless platitudes that don’t help. They either make the person feel worse or piss them off. I think if anyone ever tells me they know how I feel again, I may do them bodily harm of a high and aggravated nature. Sorry, I didn’t mean to rant. 🙁 😥

    1. AMEN! Private I. Private and I are siblings and this has been the most hellacious week I have ever known. Your prayers are appreciated! But some of the dumb stuff I have heard from some folks this week made me want to hurl! I guess I appreciate the fact they have good intentions, I just wish they would combine it with good sense and propriety. I also apologize for the rant.

  29. Private I you are so right. I still miss my grandmother who died in 1981. I can’t help but remember that Job’s “friends” did him the most good & were the wisest until they started speaking. I am sorry for your loss as well. God Bless you.

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