I've noticed something in the past several years. People usually think that those of us who don't have a family (no kids, no spouse, no immediate family) get pretty lonely and depressed during Thanksgiving and Christmas, so they invite us to their homes and let us join them for their families' festivities.
I appreciate these invitations, and I love it when people share their families with me. (And I always like getting free food.) It can be true that Thanksgiving and Christmas can be hard when you spend those holidays alone. But honestly, those aren't the only two holidays that exist. The calendar is full of holidays -- not to mention 52 entire weekends -- that you can spend with your families, and it can be very easy to take all of these family times for granted. For me, frankly, Thanksgiving and Christmas are nothing compared to all the other holidays that I end up spending by myself. Ripping myself away suddenly from my family was a pretty big shock to my system, even though I had prepared myself for it, and I spent a lot of time grieving at first.
But I feel like I've adjusted since then. I can't always depend on my friends to fill in the family void in my life, so I've learned to enjoy myself with just me. For example, so far I've spent this Memorial Day weekend (since it's a grilling holiday) decorating hot dogs and enjoying a Star Wars DVD marathon. (I started with Episode III because I like to see Anakin Skywalker's intense emotional progression into Darth Vader.)
Am I lonely or depressed? Sometimes I feel little flashes of emotion here and there, but I think I'm OK. Honestly, it's hard to be lonely or depressed when you have a loudly purring cat trying to snuggle on your lap while you're trying to type on your laptop. I think I've learned to be happy with what I have.
And I'm even happier that my family isn't in my life anymore.
"So Jesus answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -- houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions -- and in the age to come, eternal life.' " (Mark 10:29-30)
Today while I was working in my kitchen, I was thinking about this bit in the Bible, and I asked God if I had left everything behind for Jesus' sake or for my own sake (because of the extreme unhealthiness and toxicity of my family). He reminded me of that part in Psalm 23 that says that He leads me through paths of righteousness for His name's sake... so it's both. I walked away permanently from my family for Jesus' sake AND for my sake.
What I'm about to say isn't in any way meant to insult anyone who believes a certain theology. I'm just telling my story, and if you feel like God is softening your heart to agree with me, awesome and thank you. If you feel the need to lecture me for believing the wrong thing, well... let's just say I don't have a problem walking away from people permanently.
In a nutshell, cessationism is the belief that the Holy Spirit moved powerfully and miraculously in the First Century A.D., soon after Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to believers in the book of Acts, and that the Holy Spirit ceased moving with signs and wonders as soon as the Bible was canonized. In other words, cessationists believe that we don't need the Holy Spirit anymore because we have the Bible. We have God the Father, we have Jesus, and we receive the Holy Spirit as a seal/guarantee on our hearts when we get saved, and that's it. Get saved, get baptized, read your Bible, go to church, try to not get caught doing anything naughty, and that's it.
Well, I don't believe that anymore. When the Holy Spirit met me, started talking to me, and helped me hear my Father talking to me, that cessationist theory kind of flew out the window.
In recent years, I heard someone say (or maybe I read it in a book) that believing cessationist theology is a type of atheism. In other words, if you believe that the Holy Spirit stopped existing as soon as the Bible was created, you may as well be an atheist; you basically only believe in two-thirds of the Trinity.
I think this makes sense. This certainly explains all those atheistic/agnostic thoughts that I was fighting off and on through the years. My birth father (one of the biggest spiritual abusers you'll probably ever meet) spent a few years forcing his cessationist doctrine down my throat. I had to spend several years puking it out.
This is why I believe that John MacArthur is the biggest [bleep]hole in the body of Christ, but I digress. ("Grace" my foot.)
In cessationist doctrine, the Holy Spirit is explained away in a similar way that atheists explain away the concept of God. I remember my birth father telling me once that there was a time when he was open to the idea of the Holy Spirit still moving in the same way that He did in the First Century. So, perhaps in an effort to experience the intensity that charismatics sometimes experience, he told the Holy Spirit something to the effect of, "Just flex my muscles." Of course He didn't. Why would He do something so intrusive, so intimate, with someone who was so hard and cynical towards Him?
So, Dad spent the rest of his life looking down on charismatics and teaching against the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even from the pulpit -- even while looking right at me. (Thanks, Dad. I always enjoyed having a public lecture forced upon me. #sarcasm)
"Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." (Proverbs 17:1 in the NIV)
The reason why I said all that wasn't to spark an online debate but to say how increasingly relieved I am that I left my family. In a nutshell, what it really boiled down to was the fact that I had to choose: them or God?
I chose God. And I haven't regretted doing so -- not for one second.
Has it been easy? No, of course not. Has it been worth it? Right down to the very last drop.
My life is peaceful now. My life is quiet now. I can't say that any of the holidays I spent with my ex-family were peaceful or quiet. They can keep their house full of feasting. They can keep their strife. I'll be happy with my dry crust, thank you very much.
Speaking of signs and wonders, here are some pictures of my clean kitchen. (It isn't spotless, but it's useable.) Seriously, the fact that I've been developing better housecleaning habits is pretty darn awesome.
That's just one example of something that I couldn't have done during my cessationist days. That's something that God -- the Father, the Son, AND the Holy Spirit -- has needed to help me with. He didn't flex my muscles. He gently led me in paths of righteousness, for His name's sake. For His sake. For my sake. For our sake.