Mama Flowers kept a garden behind the house she shared with her daughter. Out of the earth sown in their tiny inner-city backyard came fresh, succulent turnip greens that she washed leaf by leaf then simmered for hours with chunks of greasy salt pork. She served the greens with barbecued chicken slow-cooked in tangy sauce or with crispy fried chicken, along with cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet. After the meal, when I finally convinced her that I couldn’t eat a third helping, she put me to bed in the bedroom her son used before he moved out. Warm and full, I napped deeply until the smell of warmed sweet potato pie enticed me into consciousness.
Though outsiders can often recognize a toxic faith system, it is difficult for a person entrenched within that community to identify the subtle progression of deception that affects their relationship with church. A person might say, as I did, “How can a place where I have wonderful experiences be anything but good?” That same person may one day realize that the things they enjoyed about church now feels like a tremendous, overpowering obligation with no way out. They may see themself as a disappointment to God, a rebellious doubter, a failure. Or they may recognize a problem, bring their concern to the pastor, and be labeled a troublemaker. Based upon personal experience, the book I am writing gently exposes the subtle progression of deception.
“Religious addiction doesn’t occur overnight. It is a long progression that subtly captures every aspect of the addict’s life. It rarely begins in adulthood” (Toxic Faith: Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton, P 126).
I rarely allow myself the luxury of feeling sorry for myself, but today I feel too lousy to resist. This is the first Wednesday I’ve had off in months. The plan? 1. attend Toastmasters 2. go to woman’s Bible study. 3. write! write! write! But I woke up in the middle of the night and watched the end of one movie with my hubbie and the beginning of another. We turned the TV off at 3 a.m. and went to bed. I slept through Toastmasters and Bible study. Woke up and watched the end of Julia and Julie and another movie in full.
Watching the end of Julia and Julie, a movie I found delightfully entertaining and encouraging the first time I saw it, this time seemed an unwelcome reminder of my unpublished book. Julie Powell faithfully poured her heart out on a daily blog not knowing if anyone read it. Before the year was out, Julie Powell received 65 calls from editors, literary agents, and publishers after a New York Times article publicised her cooking and blogging experiment. They invited her to write a book. That book turned into a movie. And she didn’t even have a book proposal! How lucky can a break be?
I’d sure like a break like that. But for now, it’s back to the proposal.