It’s Anti-Bully month at schools, and lately I taught a lesson to the kids that once again has been the very thing I myself have needed to hear. We’ve been learning about walking away from a bully. I lit a candle and we talked about flames being helpful or hurtful, and that a bully is hurtful. I then put a cup over the candle. Depleted of oxygen, the flame went out.
It’s hard to talk in metaphors to 7 and 8 year olds, but when we came back to the lesson a few days later, they had retained it. Starving the flame of oxygen is like walking away from a bully, or at least ignoring as best as we can. Good friends can help by walking away with us, ignoring what is hurtful.
I don’t have any literal bullies around me but in this lifetime I have found that I’ve had some inner “walking away” to do. My inner bullies have been in the form of false thoughts. I’m sure everyone has them. Insecurities, jealousies, lazy thinking, anger, greed – all these provide ample opportunity for false thoughts to grow like weeds in a graden.
My inner bully – The biggest false thought that I had to battle this week probably fits under the category of anger when I suspect that I don’t belong. I don’t “get things” as quickly as others, or my thoughts are off the beaten path of others and I just don’t know how to jump into conversations quickly. The thoughts go something like this, “You’ll never get it. You aren’t connected to others.” Like Frankenstein’s monster, I get to feeling doomed to wander alone, separate from community. These thoughts are not new to me but for some reason this week, they were stronger. Feelings of depression and separation seemed to be gaining the upper hand. Like a lake freezing over in winter, my inner landscape can become frozen, no longer animated and free. Everyone has their demons to battle.
You can see now why I need to write this blog! I would be a lonely person indeed if I didn’t have an answer to the question of “Where is God in all of this?” Franz Kafka said long ago that “A book should serve as an axe for the frozen sea within us.” I had some chopping to do to counter the false thoughts and I kept wondering what this week’s blog topic would be.
The first chop of the axe came in a birthday e-card given to me from friends Paul and Bev, and is a verse from Romans. “I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s Love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” When we have false thoughts, it is the hardest thing in the world to ignore them, but this verse helped me to begin walking. “Nothing can separate you from God’s love, Lydie”, is what this verse kept telling me. So I kept praying and saying no to the lie that I was separate. Knowing too that my friends pray for the same thing for me helped a lot too.
Another axe-chop came on Wednesday night at our weekly Bible study. We are beginning a study of the book of Romans, and it is a daunting study. Romans is a very complex letter. Our friend Eldon was leading that night and he talked about Paul (the author of Romans) writing to reconcile groups who thought they didn’t belong either. Eldon told us that “God’s tent is huge, big enough to welcome anyone, no matter what they think separates them.” My greatest wish for my students at school is that they feel welcome, no matter who they are or what challenges they have, and I remembered that God wishes the same for all of us. The tent is big enough to fit me too.
These two truths are what I walked towards as I walked away from the inner lies that kept tempting me. “You belong” and “You are loved” are true. When I tell the kids to walk away, I know how incredibly difficult it is. Like people who can’t help gawking at an accident scene, we seem drawn to fixating on our inner dramas. What helped the most was just going back to prayer and asking for help. “Casting our cares on God” can be difficult when pride gets in the way, but I really believe what St. Augustine said so long ago, that “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.” Our restlessness drives us back to God again and again. There is one relationship in my life which has an as-yet unhealed rift in it, and once again, I gave this relationship to God. I realized it had been heavy in my heart again lately. I pray that healing will someday come, and giving it to God helped to stop obsessing about it.
Strangely, what also helped is something that I’ve noticed before. It helped to be with the kids at school. They are master welcomers! Inside were these inner battles, but the kids bring out something better as compassion and kindness get called out of me. I think that’s why, no matter how difficult it can be, I am grateful for my job.
As the week went on, what I noticed is that the battle lessened, and this is how I experienced God. The power of the inner bully’s flame seemed to be extinguished as the cup of God’s truths was placed over it. Maybe you could say that peace came in the place of heaviness.
I pray for us all as we battle the demons that we might be able to walk away. As Johnny Cash sang, we gotta “Walk the line”. For me, the you in this song is God.
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time.
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line.