Wednesday, August 4

Tuesday’s Temptation: Relitigating

Relitigating. Well, that's what I call it. That moment when you replay an event or conversation over-and-over-and-over again in your mind. As if you could find some escape clause that didn't exist!

I have a tendency to get caught in these loops. I am not sure why, but I think it has to do with being shamed. By myself or by others or both. I have always been "that" student at school. Straight A student, over-achiever, even working ahead in some grade level activities.  I don't exactly where the shame comes in but I distinctly remember a few shaping activities:

In elementary school, third grade, our reading books were dispersed. Our teacher wrote our names on masking tape and stuck them to the front of the book. My teacher wrote "Terrible Terri" on mine. I could not believe it. I did, in fact, make a big stink about the situation and got that changed. My third-grade sense of justice was having none of that. But the shame is buried in there. That reading group in third grade.  Speak louder. Speak slower. Terrible. Terrible. Terri.  By fourth grade, I was checking out of school.  I suppose it is a blessing we moved and I got a reboot.

In junior high, at home, so many fights through the night. Some centered on me and my behavior. I could not (and still don't) understand why I couldn't play with others when I got home. I lived in the rural rural rural part of Colorado. On a dirt road. With like 10 houses in the neighborhood. Then corn fields as far as you could see. Literally. What could I have done that was so terrible that I couldn't play outside until after dinner?  Seeing injustice, I ignored this rule at least 50% of the time. Terrible. Terrible. Terri.  There really was nothing that I did, it was totally weird parent things. Parents who are addicts don't like opening up their spaces to others when they are not at home.

In high school, probably ninth grade, I distinctly remember answering a question wrong. My mind had wandered and was in an entirely different stratosphere. Whatever I answered caused everyone to laugh. My face turned red like a tomato. The heat and the shame. Stay on task. Terrible. Terrible. Terri.

I don't really think that I'm terrible. But it really takes time to work through these tapes and inadvertent harms people we honor and respect put onto us. But this relitigating is still a worrisome habit that has wormed its way into my thinking. My current relitigation is the sermons I preached yesterday.  While preaching the second sermon (same as the first, 1 hour later), I had two things happen: (1) I went off script and got distracted a little, and then (2) when finding my way back to my manuscript, I let dead-air happen for a few seconds. Yes. I am relitigating what I could have done to not have that happen. I actually know what I should have done is to not go off script because I was over-tired from being at a conference and presenting all week long the prior week. Literally flying in on Saturday night, eating, sleeping, waking at 4:00 a.m. and then rewriting my sermon in full.  Those are not great habits. But it is the way of things sometimes that you find yourself with an overfull life.  So I have been relitigating.

By relitigating, I mean that there is almost a prosecutor and defense attorney inside my head going, "I accuse you of messing up the sermon."

"In her defense, your honor, Terri was presenting hard issues and trying to frame them in ways people can hear them."

Oh yeah. I was preaching on whiteness, racism, and implicit bias.  Threading the needle of prophetic with being hearable. Egad.

So, your honor, I ask that you quiet these voices in my head. Release the prosecutor from their duties and send in the Comforter.

And that is my prayer for everyone. That the internalized prosecutor and accuser is released from duty and that we each find comfort in loving ourselves, understanding that we are enough, what we have done is enough, and that we will be called to do enough again.


Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

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