Seeds and Scars

I felt an old scar of mine today and wondered that it didn’t hurt. The scar is a healed place, a fixed place, a place where I overcame an injury and knit back together.

It is not the scars of bygone days that trouble me now, it’s the seeds that those days planted.

Seeds are living things. Seeds grow and bear fruit. And then seeds spread.

The floggings of my fundamentalist past are long since gone and the sting stopped some years ago. I rarely think about those pains now, except to stare in the mirror at some ancient stripe and try to recall “now where did I get that one?”

What remains are the seeds of self-doubt and faux certainty, the seeds of judgment and scorn, the seeds of fight and fright that from time to time still bloom in my soul.

My scars just tell me “you survived.” The seeds then whisper “it’s not over yet.”

It isn’t over. It may never be over. But I’m still unplanting and it’s a little better all the time.

41 thoughts on “Seeds and Scars”

  1. Excellent – My seeds are fear and self-loathing – because that’s what good Christians have in a constant state. Always fearful of missing what God has for them and loathing the sin that is always present. Never moving on with life after the alter, always coming back to fear and self-loathing again.

  2. This is so, so true. We got out of fundyism gradually after my dad was fired by Bill Gothard, but it was still gradual. I still struggle with so many doubts, especially about my worth as a person and as a woman; I find it hard to believe that people don’t have better things to do with their time than spend it with me.
    The scars are still very much there, and the seeds all seem to germinate and spread before I realize it. It helps to know that others have been there and are making it through. Thank you for this blog.

      1. True. But I can’t help feeling like it would be so much better if we didn’t HAVE to be vindicated, if by some miracle we wouldn’t need to be because God rescued these people from such a debilitating, contaminated mindset. Sometimes being right is the worst thing possible.

        Does that make sense?

  3. Dear Darrell:

    The fruit of fundamentalism is the scar of sorrow, the disfigurement of doubt, the ignominy of unbelief.

    For the Christian, repentance is like breathing. We exhale our prayer of confession in order to inhale God’s cleansing grace.

    Fundamentalism is a thing of which to repent daily.

    Christian Socialist

    1. Poetic. And true. Unfortunately, I have this huge weight of self-doubt hanging on, and my constant connections to fundamentalism through family doesn’t help this. There are constant misunderstandings of motive or tone of voice. I could be too “down” or too “hyper.” Getting the communication right is a constant struggle.

      When I mention a problem, I am being too critical or selfish or what. I have learned to backpedal, but not nearly fast enough! It would be one thing if I knew where all the traps were, but they shift constantly.

      So I have scars. I also have fresh cuts. And I’m afraid it will never end.

      The thing is, for all the trouble I know my wife loves me as best she can in her own way. I just have to accept that there are limits to it in very inconvenient places, and that the love could end abruptly if I actually rely on it too much or need its support too much.

      But maybe she thinks the same thing about me. She doesn’t actually let me know what she thinks or why very often, not emotionally. I wonder if she actually can’t, or whether she just won’t.

      I hope things will improve when she gets away from her current fundamentalist environment.

  4. Reminds me of the Mandisa song “What Scars are For”. Specifically, these lyrics:

    They show me where I’ve been and
    That I’m not there any more
    That’s what scars, that’s what scars are for

    I saw her in concert earlier this year, and what she said about the song really touched me–she was talking to a girl who had scars from an attempted suicide, and she pointed out that the scars aren’t just showing her that she had problems in the past, but rather that she’s still alive. If we have scars, it’s proof that we’ve survived long enough for the wounds to heal. And that’s a pretty positive thing to me.

  5. This. Yes. I and my husband have to deal with the scars that I have from fundamentalism daily. In fact, we were talking about this yesterday. I get so caught up in thinking “Was that a sin? Do I need to confess? I’d better confess and apologize to my husband no matter how ridiculous it might seem!”

    Keep in mind that I’ve been out of a fundamentalist church for 8 years. My mind, however, still panics when I see fundies out in public. “Oh no! I’m not in a skirt! They’re going to come up and tell me I’m an evil woman.”

    Scars like mental disorders that I fight daily – after my last child was born, I panicked so severely (over something that fundamentalist thoughts triggered) that they had to give me something to calm me down.

    They leave scars to kill your joy. If we’re happy, we’re doing it wrong, and we need to be serious. I have a hard time enjoying non fundy music without guilt.

    Sometimes I look at my husband and wonder, “How can you be happy, seeing me wear pants, watching Star Wars? Don’t you know I’m going to Hell for it?”

    Sorry I got a bit rambly, it’s something I’m still working through.

    1. Hugs from someone who truly understands what you are going through. I married a non-Cindy, which is good and bad for recovery. Bad because he does not (and you cannot if you didn’t live it) understand many things. But wonderful because he doesn’t have the baggage; and I can safely say, since he and I agree, no one else’s legalistic opinion matters. I mean, they wouldn’t want me to go against my hubby and go back to a fundy church would they? Sadly we all know some would say it’s obeying God (cough… Pastor) to do that.

      1. My husband (#2, and more of a husband from the day I met him than fundy #1 was during the entire 20 years we were married) was raised strict Catholic. Whenever I tell him a crazy fundy belief or experience I had, or show him a good video of fundy preachin at its finest, he gets really mad. Especially with the fundy mentality of the woman’s role. He’s a keeper.

  6. In many ways the scars and the carelessly scattered seeds (like getting over false guilt over man-created rules) pass quickly into the past, I don’t even question most of those things any more at all.

    The deeper and more firmly rooted seeds are the more subtle and insidious perspectives that form the unconscious basis for many of my instinctive decisions and evaluations of myself and others. Even while aggressively questioning my motives and my worldview I can’t completely eliminate the possibility that my judgement is clouded by the mist of my past.

    Learning to focus on what the Bible actually says and developing the skills to determine what can and cannot be dogmatically stated helps, but questions remain.

    The other side is that at times I even question things I am pretty sure are right, just because they might match up with something that I know was wielded incorrectly during my upbringing. Those are the even more deadly seeds because they could cause me, and have caused many of my fellow cradle fundies to abandon things haphazardly that when viewed carefully and embraced appropriately could have become a comfort to them like they have to me in our rocky journey out of fundamentalism.

  7. Hast Thou No Scar
    by Amy Carmichael
    Hast thou no scar?
    No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
    I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
    I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
    Hast thou no scar?
    Hast thou no wound?
    Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
    Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
    By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
    Hast thou no wound?
    No wound? No scar?
    Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
    And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
    But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
    Who has no wound nor scar?

    This was what came to mind when I saw the post this morning. The poem is by Amy Carmichael, a British missionary to India during the early 20th century. Her actions in saving children from a life of servitude in brothels would scandalize most Fundies today. She also preached and taught, both men and women, and she adopted the lifestyle of India.

    Our scars are not missed by God, and He will use them for His glory.

  8. This was an insightful post…maybe your most helpful in terms of helping people navigate the PTS of Fundie land and living a life of progressive freedom and health. Simple and profound, thank you.

  9. I’ve been thinking about the same things a lot lately. 40 years in, and after ten years out My eyes are opening more and more with time. I believe fundamentalism ruined the first half of my life. It makes me sad and angry. Missed opportunities and regrets. I heard sermons as a teen about making the wrong choices and ruining your life. I never imagined that one day I would look back on the things I did/didn’t do, (trying not to ruin my life) and wish so bad that I had known then what I know now.

  10. I am thankful I was not a natural child of fundamentalism, more alng the lines of a foster child. I was saved, born-again, in a nonfundy church. I wandered into fundamentalism some years later. Once I began to see the errors I wandered back out. Vestiges of the negative aspects of fundy church days are still around. And those are mainly external. But internal seeds? Nah…only seeds were those planted by nonfundies years before I got saved, and they were good seeds that helped me see the truth of the gospel. Life is good. 🙂

  11. Dear SFL Reader:

    Various posts motivated me to offer some perspective on this matter. If anything here is encouraging, to God be the glory!

    ‘Devil’ translates the Greek word, ‘diabolos’ [from which we derive ‘diabolic’]. Diabolos literally means ‘slanderer.’ In Job 1:6ff., the LXX [Greek OT] uses ‘diabolos’ to translate ‘Satan,’ which literally means ‘Adversary.’

    When the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness, it was the Slanderer who tempted him [Mt 4:1; Mk 1:12]. Job had the same problem [Job 1:6ff.]. 1Pe 5:8 ‘your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’ has Job 1:7 as its source ‘roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’ As much as they speak to other matters, Peter’s admonition to sobriety and alertness concerns also the barbs and slings of the Slanderer [1Pe 5:8].

    Darrell’s reference to ‘seeds’ is telling for another reason relevant to this discussion. In the parable of the tares, it is the devil/diabolos/false_accuser whoh sowed the bad seed [Mt 13:39].

    1] Christ’s spirit was insulted and attacked by the evil one; this, he underwent for us and for our deliverance. The pangs believers feel when ‘fundamentalism’s seeds’ slander us are a bond we share with our Lord.

    2] Let there be no doubting or mistaking that accusation is born of Satan’s realm, and slander is the diabolical work of the devil. Accusations are to be cast off for what they are — Satan’s lies.

    3] One day, the Slanderer’s accusations will be silenced. ‘For the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night’ [Re 12:10-11].

    4] Until then, we live knowing that we are vindicated already in, by and because of Christ. Before accusations, we reply with Ro 8:31-39, esp. v 33 — ‘Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.’

    5] The promise of God forever stands: ‘…Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth … loves us and released us from our sins by His blood’ [Re 1:5].

    Christian Socialist

  12. I went through a long period of licking my wounds and massaging scars. When it got boring I started to become interested in more interesting stuff. I found I could use the energy I had wasted on navel gazing to do the things I enjoy. It took practice and persistence but, believe me, it was worth it. Doesn’t mean the memories don’t rear their ugly heads but, face it, they don’t change. But I can change. There is light at the end of the tunnel if you keep moving forward. There is life to be lived.

    1. And, no, I have not arrived at my goal, but I’m closer every day. I don’t remember anyone from my parent’s generation worrying about this sort of thing. Seems all this introspection is more characteristic of us baby boomers and those younger. Would make an interesting psych study. But, as I said before, it has become boring to me. There are some advantages to being an old curmudgeon.

  13. So what is it that makes us so fearful/worried of what they will think about us or say to us when they see us out and about, free from bondage? Is it the lingering love we have for them that makes us not want to disappoint them? Are we, deep down inside, unsure yet if we are really right? Is it some sort of irrational fear we have of them? Some sort of spirit-realm control that they still hold over us? These questions have puzzled me ever since I left and really started trying to analyze my post-fundystan reactions to their judgments. Maybe clearer minds among you guys have thought it over already and can tell me about some of the conclusions you came to.

    1. I’m tied by two things. The first is that in leaving fundamentalism, I am exchanging certainty for uncertainty.

      As a fundystan, you may be wrong, actually. But in your mind you really believe you are right, and that conviction carries the day. Lies can be so definite. Truth is usually nuanced, with softer edges.

      The preacher shouts “thus saith the Lord!” While the scientist says “let’s look at the evidence … boy there’s a lot of evidence!”

      As a fundy you crave certainty. You hate change. Nuance is evil. And that desire for certainty never goes away for some of us.

      Second is the fact that, for all that it is a bad system, there are good people in it. And love doesn’t want to give up on people.

      My 2 cents’ worth.

      1. Dear rtgmath:

        Your point about fundies craving certainty, etc., raises the intriguing point that some people appear to have a need for a well-ordered world [or a world that at least appears to be so ordered].

        No stable mind wants a bizarre world; but healthy minds are better able to cope with a measure of uncertainty. Perhaps fundyism attracts people with low tolerance for such disorder.

        There may be psychological issues here. Of course that is largely taboo in fundy circles. So I suppose one could invert the problem into a spiritual matter and proclaim it a blessing of having come into the light. But upon escaping fundyism, those who need that ordered world may find themselves missing the clearly defined borders, black/white answers of their former fundy environment.

        Christian Socialist

        1. CS, you said, Your point about fundies craving certainty, etc., raises the intriguing point that some people appear to have a need for a well-ordered world [or a world that at least appears to be so ordered].

          And that is pretty much the point. Think of any major emphasis by fundamentalism and it reduces to this factor. You need to know and need to believe you are right and absolutely must defend your beliefs with everything you have, whether they are important or not.

          Furthermore, you believe that everything belongs to you–or ought to. And everyone should do what you say since you are the Spoiled Brat (aka “Child of the King”) and laws don’t apply to you in the regular world. You are allowed to shape your own reality — and that of others!

          Science? I have heard a lot of preachers intone that Science is always changing, but The Word of God never changes! “Ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth!” 2 Tim 3:7. And 1 Tim 6:20 “the oppositions of science falsely so called”.

          Is it a “disorder”? Well, there have always been those trying to bend others to their will. History is made up of a few leaders and lots of followers–and a few people who determine not to be led like the rest.

      2. I left my Fundy church when I began to realize that I was turning into the very kind of Pharisee that I never wanted to be. I kept some friendships, many of whom challenged my thinking, but who are now evangelical rather than Fundy.

    2. Dear I Hope You Dance:

      Interesting post. You’ve made some good observations.

      I don’t doubt that each of these come to play in some situations with some ex-fundies. We could add to the list the fact that we are taught to struggle to preserve church unity under Christ’s headship. The problem is further complicated when some have family members still in fundyland, and some who post on this forum are in that situation.

      Jesus certainly felt compassion for the multitudes of people who were lost sheep with no shepherd. He viewed the rich young externally moral man with love. I think that if our hearts did not ache for fundies in their lostness, something would be wrong with us.

      No doubt other points can be raised as well. Unless I’m mistaken, there is no one, clear answer to this one. And truthfully, life is often like that. But then, I’m no fundy …

      Christian Socialist

    3. Yes, love for my family. A bit of sadness, knowing that they think I have fallen away, yet I am actually much more secure than I ever was before. I know what they say about people who have left THE church, and I know that all that stuff now applies to me, in their eyes. I used to be part of something, and now I’m the prayer request. It’s sometimes hilarious, and sometimes really painful. I am still sorting out the things I loved from fundyness.

  14. It’s ironic to me that fundies tell you that if you just live life their way, you’ll have no baggage to live with.

    And yet, here we are, daily dealing with the heavy, heavy baggage they heaped upon us.

  15. I have a system, a wonderful system;
    It’s perfect and flawless, just like a machine.
    I need everybody to get with my system.
    Then life will be perfect and easy and clean.

    I have a system, a wonderful system;
    It’s simple and neat–but the world is complex!
    I need to chop out all this mad complication
    Of reason and logic and facts that perplex.

    I have a system, a wonderful system,
    But everyone has to keep stepping in place
    Or the gears will go bonk and the springs will go sproing,
    So let’s shut out nearly the whole human race.

    I have a system, a wonderful system,
    But children get fussy and grubby and loud,
    So let’s shut them up, shut them down, shut them in:
    Get them under control; make them march with the crowd.

    I have a system, a wonderful system,
    But women don’t always deliver on time.
    Let’s shame them and blame them and teach them submission
    And make them think anything else is a crime.

    I have a system, a wonderful system,
    But men who are manly are thin on the ground;
    Let’s beat all the others, young boys and big brothers,
    For no shred of mercy for them can be found.

    I have a system, a wonderful system,
    But bad things still happen to people like me
    So I’ll look for a reason why they must deserve it,
    Some sinful shortcoming from which I am free.

    I have a system, a wonderful system!
    Hey, look, don’t you want it? It’s all in this tract.
    Repeat after me and come join in my system–
    Hey, wait, where you going? I love you! Come back!

    I have a system, a wonderful system;
    It’s perfect and flawless, just like a machine.
    I need everybody to get with my system.
    Then life will be perfect and easy and clean.

      1. My Dad always said Fundamentlists are people who insist on easy answers to hard questions.

        (He meant intellectually “easy,” not that it’s easy to follow their rules.)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.