New Background

Can You Hear Me Now?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

No Hymns For Her!

I have mentioned, more than once, my disdain for all things ‘hymnal-esque’. Of course it’s not the actual book that I openly reject. It’s not even, ALWAYS the music inside that I run from. It’s the place, the memory ridden place, my mind and heart travel to when I hear these melodies and return to my childhood and youth.

My parents have had a bumpy marriage (and that’s a generous term in an effort not to offend this early on). They have been (in the past), shall we say, rather demonstrative and verbal in their marital woes. My father has also struggled with alcohol abuse back when it was not only accepted socially, but almost expected among businessmen. They were members of the Elks Club for goodness sake, a perfectly respectable establishment much like Vegas. What happens at the Elks Club stays at the Elks Club, sans a few well timed photographs.

The memories of our household remind me of perhaps… “Cleavers Gone Wild”. We were the average family, living in suburbia-America. We had two cars, the latest and greatest in electronics, a new home, good income, went to good schools, in the latest fashions, and my parents had the debt to prove it. There was a bit of stress to say the least.

Add to this mix, my parents were both the youngest children of their families and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were spoiled with material things…they do carry with them much of the mentality of a ‘youngest sibling’. Read that however you wish.

BUT…we were raised going to church. It is expected and required that unless you’re lying on your death bed, you WILL be attending church. My father would share that he even had to go when he was ill. We would get ready for church and pile into the Buick and head across town. Living in Colorado during this time, we didn’t even get to miss church on snow days because the city did such a fantastic job clearing the roads immediately upon first snowfall.

My parents, in their demonstrative, passionate way, would discuss (fight, argue, and verbally assault) the days activities or the previous night’s (at the Elks Club) activities on the way to church. My younger sister would be crying, my older brother would be zoning them out (before Ipods or even Walk-mans, mind you), and I would listen intently and hear the abuse and even speak up (no surprises there) in defense of my mother usually.

We would arrive at church 15 minutes later and be reminded of the proper appearance and we’d each put on our mask and enter the building for another fun filled Sunday message from God. I even thought God must be a complete idiot if he just allowed this to happen each week.

After an hour of Sunday School boredom and basically Sunday SCHOOL of sitting still and listening (no questions were allowed and YES I am serious), we would enter the Sanctuary, find our parents, and be seated for more listening. The organ would start playing, we’d be instructed to turn to page (fill in blank) and sing the first, third, and fifth stanzas of whichever hymn was first. We’d sing 2-3 hymns prior to service, an offering hymn, and of course the alter-call hymn of inspiration.

The whole time I’d be thinking… “I wonder if they’ll fight the whole way home. I wonder if they even love each other. Why doesn’t God DO something? Why don’t they just get a divorce? How can they stand there smiling and singing this stuff when they obviously hate each other? If this is marriage…I ain’t buying!”

You see I’m the child that wasn’t sent away during the fights. I’m the child that would hold my drunk father back while my mother tried to call for help. I’m the child that would watch as my mother flung hot oil on my father and covered them both with blisters. I’m the child that saw the knives thrown and the violence surge and escalate. I’m the child that would beg my mother not to take the handful of pills and end it all.

I’m the child that witnessed the tears from both, as they attempted healing once again. I was very angry and bitter for a long, long time because it seemed they were both too ‘weak’ to give up and divorce. And every week, when I re-entered that church building and had to put on the smile and sing those hymns and try to find the safety for those two hours, I was weeping uncontrollably inside.

Eventually the hymns became an audible cue to trigger these feelings and emotions of despair. I felt utterly helpless and no ‘slain lamb’ was coming to my emotional rescue. The ‘Old Rugged Cross’ was apparently completely useless, splintered wood and the only thing amazing about ‘Amazing Grace’ was how seemingly pointless it seemed.

My parents have both mellowed with age (don’t we all). There is no more flying oil or knives. The arguments are much more civil, and the few heated arguments are much shorter-lived. I actually think they love each other and I KNOW they like each other. There was fall-out...most of it mine.

I didn’t attend church for a very long time as an adult…but then it seemed the music was evolving and it wasn’t all hymns…it wasn’t hymns at ALL. It was music. It was choruses and beautiful, SAFE music. It didn’t trigger anything. It wasn’t always breathtaking and meaningful…but it was worshipful and gave me a chance to sing without trigger or fear. I returned to church and found it had changed as much as I had changed.

Then, like all things you think have gone away for good…they came back, the hymns came back. It seems these old hymns are making resurgence in modern and even post-modern churches.

The aftermath from my shoes is this: I didn’t trust marriage for a very long time. I felt it was an acceptable form of abuse via a contract of commitment and I wasn’t buying into that one bit. I was 34 before I married my husband. Thank you GOD for a husband that is so obviously created by YOU specifically for me for a lifetime! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

The other, less resolved outcome is, to this day, when I hear those ‘retro-hymns’ starting, I look around at the faces (even in my wonderful church home) and immediately travel back to those days in that church in Colorado where I knew the joy was merely a manic mask and the music wasn’t masking anything.

I can see the anger in my parents’ eyes as I hear the music build. I can still feel each and every word ‘bomb’ thrown between them and the harmony only makes my stomach churn. I realize I am a bit like Pavlov’s dog. I realize therapy would probably help; I’m just not there yet. It’s easier and frankly much cheaper to just walk out during these hymn times and return for the music that isn’t the road to perdition for me.

In all honesty this is one of the reasons we almost didn’t join our current church, but I am believing God will heal me and I’m believing that one week, when we sing our one token hymn, I will be able to stand and sing along and believe what I’m singing. I’m hoping that there will be a day when I do not travel to a place in my life that holds pain resulting in wounds and scars and memories that refuse to die. Until that day, it’ll continue to be a great time for a bathroom break and making sure the coffee pot is turned off.

Have a melody-filled Thursday!


Butterfly Kisses said...

WOW! What a post. Ya know, the more I read your posts, the more I see little bits of me in you. It's weird. I too grew up in a home that was very verbally abusive. Everyone was very abusive to each other. It was never to the extent of hot oil and knives though. Thankfully for me, my parents stopped attending church and I found my own church at 13 years of age. For me, church became my sanctuary. I will keep you in my prayers and focus it on God slowly creating new hymn moments for that maybe something new can replace the hymn memories you have now.

Dawn said...

This is one of the saddest things I've ever read. I absolutely love the hymns and we still sing them at our church - out of a book! They bless me greatly. Some of the choruses bless me as well. I don't want to start a music war here, but I hope God can heal this hurt in you someday and that you can sing "And Can It Be" "To God Be the Glory" "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and on and on and on someday with tears flowing down your face and joy in your heart.

I'm thankful that God has given you a good marriage! Blessings

the voice said...

Wow, what a sad memory. I have no advice I can give you. I do, however, have prayers that I will offer up that you will be healed of these tragic memories. I too grew up in a home where alcohol was abused, arguments were loud, and sometimes things were thrown. Children should never have to witness these things. God bless you, Kim.

Spookie the Warrior said...

Oh hun, I am so sorry you had to experience such terrible and sad things as a child. It is funny how music can trigger such strong memories and emotions hey. I pray that you will find healing and forgiveness and that God will restore His perfect order to your heart. Love you lots!!

Grafted Branch said...

I'm so sorry the memory haunts you like that and robs...ROBS I say! you of the comfort those hymns have brought to so many souls for some many generations. Did you know Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded is -- I think -- 1000 years old?!

;) really shouldn't let your parents' memory have that kind of power over you. For hymns or anything else. In His timing....

Thank you, by the way, for your sweet comment to my Relation this morning. I'm on pins and needles about the whole thing, ya know?

Morning Glory said...

Wow! I would have to echo Dawn's comment. This is so very, very sad, and especially sad that the abuse between parents must be linked with the great, rich hymns of our past. That makes it more difficult to work through in your heart, I'm sure. I, too, pray that you will someday be able to separate the two and realize that the beautiful words, not the music tunes, of the hymns have wonderful encouragement in them. They carry deeply-expressed devotion to God and have food for needy, hurting souls in them. I can't imagine life without the heritage of hymns. The times in my life that have been some of the blackest moments have been lifted by the words of a hymn. God speaks through them and I truly hope and pray that His healing will come to you in a beautiful way.

Thank you for laying open your heart to us on this and blessings to you, Kim.

Shalee said...

Having not walked in your shoes or connected the songs with such the "masking lies", I can only pray that God will take away the connection that you have between the two. I love the way that the songs talk to my heart, sometimes more deeply than the lesson. Some words just strike a cord with my walk and I'll ponder the words - sometimes with joy, sometimes with heartache due to a sin in my life, sometimes with amazement that God loves me that much.

May God, who has already erased the sin in your soul, also erase the pain that is still embedded in your heart, so that you may know His full measure of joy to the point that it overflows and spills all over your shirt so that everyone cannot help but see it.

Heather Smith said...

Reading this made me want to cry. I posted the words to my favorite hymns today. They fill me with worship, but I guess I think about my dad leading worship and my mom standing beside me smiling up at him. It's all in your perspective I guess. As a songwriter, I just love the words, no matter what tune they are sung to.

Praying for your Prodigal said...

We are joint members in the silent club-->Adult Children of Alcholics. Members are many yet, we don't often speak of our membership. We let the pain of our childhoods silently eat away at our hearts until....we are empty. I can't support this theory, but I wonder if it isn't the enemy's ploy to fill our emptiness with memories--to keep us trapped in the shame-filled world we experienced. The smell of Old Spice or the sound of a beer can being opened used to send me into my own silent world of pain.

I think we need to pray that the enemy will stop attacking you while you are listening to those hymns! I think he knows the power of those old hymns have! There is complete restoration--there is VICTORY in Jesus. It's a hard battle out--as you know--but a battle well worth it! To no longer be a victim of circumstances but to live VICTORIOUSLY is a miracle--everytime I see it, hear it, or experience it!

From one sistah' to anothah--I'm with you! Or in keeping with the lingo--I should have said, "I've got your back!" Keep token hymn at a time......there is a large chorus of voices waiting for your to join them!!!!

Anyone care to join me...

There is POWER,
wonder-working POWER
in the Blood
of the Lamb
There is POWER,
wonder working POWER
in the Precious Blood of the Lamb!


Sally said...

Oh Kim- what can I say... ((()))

FarmgirlCyn said...

There is no pain that heaven cannot heal. i will be praying for you, as you allow the sweet Lord Jesus to take away your pain. Blessings to you, dear sister in the Lord!

MommaB said...

Kim... you've certainly come a long way baby! My heart aches for you and the pain you have endured over the years. There is nothing harder than releasing the past and moving on to the future and I'm so thankful that you have a heavenly Father and an earthly husband to lead you through the valley. What a wonderfully open and honest post! Thank you for reminding me to not "get lost" in the masks of the people around me but to truly work at being aware of their inner pains. Thank you also for reminding me to remove the mask I often wear and be real... completely real. Blessings and prayers going out to you tonight, Girl!

Tami Boesiger said...

This was a beautifully written post. I was captured from the beginning. You have made me ponder all day if some of my responses can be linked to bad memories. May God continue to restore you.

Chaos-Jamie said...

How terribly sad that hymns trigger these memories for you! Hymns put me in a safe place and I get frustrated when they are jazzed up and sung to different melodies, etc because it doesnt provide the safe feelings.

On the other hand, my father almost never attended church with us. The only fighting on the way to church was between the sisters, over who got the front seat. (It was never me--youngest chid syndrome.)

I pray that soon, a hymn will take you to the sanctuary where I mentally go.

tam said...

The comments left for you here are beautifully and tenderly written for you my friend.

Your laying open of old wounds and scars can only hasten the process of healing that Christ has been tending to from the moment of your re-birth in Him.

Your honesty and spewing forth what lays in the hollow spots of your heart truly begin to shovel all of that muck so that Christ Himself can fill in the holes with truth. (not that what happened in your parents home did not truly happen but it is no longer YOUR truth...)

My heart cries out to Jesus for you in that your mind and heart will be healed of painful reminders when singing for and to Him...However!!! My heart cries out far more loudly that your mind and heart are healed of the pain and damage and I believe without an iota of doubt that it WILL happen in His time.

(just as a side note my friend..I too had some very difficult memories that went hand in hand with hymns...not the same as you...but still hard and painful...I can say that six years into my true salvation Christ has taken Victory in that stronghold for me and I CAN now sing those hymns with the same worship that those choruses that I love do...this was stated only to give you hope NOT to lecture or give reproof)

Joy M. said...

kp, I can so relate to the way the old hyms bring back memories-bad ones-not the same bad ones but bad nonetheless. I also have a few that hold for me-precious memories that make me cry happy tears EVERY time I hear them. But there are times when I am so into God, so in His presence, and there are no words. I want so badly to cry out some regal sounding praise worthy of the King of Kings and guess what comes to mind. THOSE HYMNS. Like you I shy away from the harmonizing and the organ...STUFF, but when I open my mouth and those words come spilling out, I'm not singing them, I'm shouting them. And boy to they make sense to me when they are spoken rather than sung.

In spite of the painful memories, do away with the music, read the words. Just the words. Some of them are added to if you know the story behind them. The story of It Is Well With My Soul for example. Those words take on new meaning when you see what the author was going through.

Personally, I know those gremlins from the past can eat us alive. It is up to us to decide what we do with them. You know what to do You already said it yourself:-)

BIG HUGZZZ You do so much to lift all of us up and edify us. I hope we are able to give some of that back. Love you girl.

Pilot Mom said...

Kim, this just breaks my heart! Like Dawn said above, I hope the good Lord can heal your heart in this area. There are some really great hymns out there which I just love...And Can It Be is one of them. Of course, I love the praise songs too and in our church we do a mixture of both each Sunday.

In the meantime, I'm going to be praying for you! God can do the unthinkable and unimaginable and I am trusting Him to break you free!

C. H. Green said...


Nancy said...

It saddens me that hymns triggers such a negative visceral response from you. I find them soothing and they always come to mind when I am beyond my sense of dealing with life.

I hope you have found other music that lets you praise God in a positive way. It isn't WHAT we listen to that matters, but the communion it brings with God. Maybe a contemporary worship setting would be good for you guys.