Sunday Everyday

Lies and Secrets are the Currency of Control.

Three things cannot long stay hidden:

The sun, the moon and the truth. – Buddha

In this post I will attempt to talk about two things that have deeply effected my childhood, adolescence and in fact, are still causing me pain today. 

Lies and Secrets.

I struggled writing this post.  Lies and secrets are interchangeable to me, so closely linked and at some times the same thing.  Others of you reading this will have a more defined understanding of these two terms but my mind is still unravelling the threads so I apologise.  

Lies and Secrets

Lies and secrets make up the major part of my life.  The effects of which are continuing to unfold in my life now.  Secrets do not go away. It may take decades but most resurface causing pain and trauma. Many of you may have read my story of finding out about my biological father on Ancestry DNA.  You  can read about it here.  When your Father is Not Your Father.

“Family secrets are like vampires. They never really die, and can always come back to bite you.” 

Alberta J. McMorris, Mercy: a love story

Even decades on when I thought I was free of the cult and free from my upbringing, secrets keep coming back to bite me.

My Childhood.

Imagine walking through kilometres of marshland and boggy soil.  One minute your foot is on hard ground, the next it is sinking in mud.  It all looks the same and it is impossible to tell the firm ground from the quicksand.   Inevitably you end up with both feet in the mire and you are sinking.  You reach out for help, shouting “ I’m sinking, this ground is unstable”. Only to be told that the ground is solid and you are making it up.  

“Don’t be silly, you’re not stuck, you are standing on rock solid surface”. 

This is what it is like to be raised by a pathological liar.  You don’t know if you are safe or sinking.  Up is down and east is west.  You don’t trust your own perceptions and you are constantly told that what you discern is wrong. 

They have you believe that you are: ‘making it all up’.  You are the one to blame.  You have a dirty mind, you are a liar,  you exaggerate,  how can you think such evil things?

It is a life of smoke and mirrors.   The abuser does this to regulate your behaviour and to control you. They are skilled at  hiding their infidelities, addictions, illicit behaviours and the best way to get away with it and cover the shame is to make you believe that it never happened.  

Another term for the behaviour of a pathological liar or narcissist is Gaslighting.  “Gaslighting” is a term that originated with the 1938 stage play, Gaslight, by British writer Patrick Hamilton. However, most people are familiar with the story through the 1944 film of the same name, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Boyer convinces his wife (Bergman) that she’s imagining things, most notably the occasional dimming of the house’s gas lights, as part of his plot to steal her deceased Aunt’s money and jewels. (The lights dim whenever he’s in the attic, searching for the treasure.) Over time, Bergman comes to believe her husband’s lies and, in turn, to question her sanity (Source).

Gaslighting is where the abuser convinces you that the lies are truth and that your truth is the lie.  Whereby you doubt yourself and your perception of reality, your memory and your sanity.   You lose your confidence and become immune to trauma and abuse.  In most situations you simply give up because you can never ever get to the truth.

“The thing about families, Arlo thought, was that there was always some question nobody wanted to answer for you, and it was like a stray thread pulling loose in a sweater. You could tug at it all you wanted, but in the end, all you’d have was a pile of twisted yarn.” 

Sarah Sullivan, All That’s Missing

To be honest,  when I have found out about some of the appaling secrets,  the overwhelming feeling is relief. “I’m not going crazy”.   The trauma of the secret is secondary to the revelation of the truth.  Abused children value the truth just about more than anything else.  “Just tell me the truth, tell me I am not going mad”.

“Nearly every person has a million secrets they’re carrying around,” says Barry Lubetkin, the founder and director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy. “They can be the silliest things, or they can be very significant, like I cheat constantly on my taxes”.

We all tell lies at some point even small lies.  However, narcissists and psychopathic liars simply don’t care about the truth. They prefer to tell lies and gain control over people than be honest.  They will never, ever, reveal their secrets.  

Their lies are the gatekeepers of their secrets and they are the best liars in the world.  Why:  because they fully believe their own lies.  They could take a lie detector test and pass.  It’s called cognitive disonnence.

For narcissists and psychopaths, secrets and lies are currency.  

Lies and secrets are two of the tools that they use to manipulate and control you. Secrets are their super power and lies are their shield of confidence.  

It is your word against theirs.  As they are usually in a more powerful position they know that if they hold their ground, you will eventually back down.  Without proof there is no truth.  Even with proof, they will still lie.

If someone has a secret on you, they can use it against you to control you. 

“Whether man or beast, the secrets you kept in the fathoms of your heart always held you to ransom.” 

Dianna Hardy, Reign Of The Wolf

I grew up in a large family full of secrets.  I was also raised in a cult who were adept at controlling people with secrets and lies.  Discretions and sins, told in the confidence of the confessional, became the currency of control.  If you stepped out of line suddenly one of those secrets would be released to errode and undermine your authenticity.  To keep you small.  To keep you pliable. 

“Did you know that she once had an affair? She can never be trusted”.

“I wouldn’t believe what he says,  he has been known to have a problem with pornography”.

Secrets are Currency of Control

Within this ,community my mother had an affair with one of the leaders.  The cult leaders used her affair to control me

I was told that I carried a familiar spirit of adultery which meant that I had to be monitored.  My natural sanguine effervescent personality had to curbed and contained so that I didn’t fall into sin.  Being born me,  meant that I could sin more, attract sin and be a sin.  An outgoing, talented, creative soul was a recipe for evil.  On top of all that,  I had to be careful that I didn’t lead others into sin and make them fall.  I was assigned monitors and was reported on weekly.   This monitoring or reporting to the elders went on for about 6 years on a weekly basis and then for the next decade but through the covering of my husband.  Of course the more information they got about me the more they could control me.  I am aware now as an adult that I was also being groomed by a sexual predator and that this was a way he could keep me close.  He was the leader of the cult at the time  (a story for another day). 

I recall one time when I was at home on the weekend.  It was a hot summers day.  We were lucky to have a backyard pool.  I loved to swim so was of course in the pool enjoying the summer day.  I had also just been given my first and only bikini by an aunt outside the cult.  I figured that I was home alone so I ‘should’ be safe to try it out.  Wrong.

Unexpectedly the music director/elder, his wife and young family arrived to enjoy the pool and escape the heat.  They were close family friends.  At the time I was 14.  The wife and children came into the backyard and I excitedly waved that little girls over to come and hop in the pool.  I looked up at their mother and noticed the look of disapproval on her face.  Where is ? I asked (her husband).  

“Lisa,  he is sitting in the car in the heat.  He could not come into the backyard with you looking like that.  You will need to go and change if you want him to join us in the pool”.

I thought I was safe in my own backyard.  Nope.  I was too naive to feel ashamed.  I was however very confused and felt blame.  I was horrified that my actions had caused someone to not be able to enter our home.  I raced to get changed,  apologising profusely.  Needless to say I never wore a bikini again.  I had been the cause of much offence.  This I knew would be used against me in the future.  I could be easily punished because of this.

When I reflect on this story now I laugh at the power of a bikini that would cause a grown adult male to avoid our backyard.  Also – how dare they.  I should be able to feel safe in my own backyard.  I was a minor enjoying the privacy of my own home.  Isn’t he the one with the problem?  Unfortunately logic is something that I had to learn after I left the cult.

 “The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labor pains of birthing it.” 

Iyanla Vanzant

A truly free person, according to Don Miguel Ruiz, is immune to both the neurotic and normal attempts of others to regulate his or her behaviour. The advice he gives us for accomplishing this is to make the following agreement with ourselves: “Don’t take anything personally.”  When we agree not to take anything personally, we regard all attempts by others to control us as statements about them, not about us. By refusing to take threats, criticism, evasion, complaints, praise, or disapproval personally, we act upon our own reality, not upon theirs (source).

The great teacher of truth Jesus, tells us that:  “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

How does the truth set us free and what is truth? 

Truth is rare.  In my experience anyway.  Some people don’t even know what the truth is or they fear the truth.  

Truth is fact,  it is reality.  When you are dealing with people who constantly invent their own reality truth is hard to find.

In the end the way to find the truth is to be true to yourself.  To come to a place where other people cannot define your reality.  We can live and act upon our own reality.  Be true to ourselves and to what defines us.  

Secrets and lies are always born and flourish in the darkness.  Truth lives in the light.  When we turn a spotlight on the darkness we find freedom.  We may find pain initially but we will eventually find freedom. 

 “The truth will set you free, but you have to endure the labor pains of birthing it.”  (Iyanla Vanzan). Sometimes the truth is painful which is why it was hidden in the first place.  We are worried about what others will think.  

“What will people think of our family, of our marriage, if they find this out?”

You know what.  I don’t even care anymore.  I am so tired of secrets and lies that I truly don’t care.  The pain of the lie/secret is so much worse than the truth.  I have always told my children,  I don’t care what has happened,  what trouble you have got yourself into, but don’t lie to me.  

Just recently some horrific secrets have come into the light within my extended family.  Too awful for me to write about.  When I found out the reality of what had happened I picked up the phone and told every single family member:  Aunt, cousin, sister, brother, uncle, son and daughter.  I heralded the news and wore the pain, shock and horror.

The buck stops here.  I pulled back the blanket, told the facts as I knew them to be and let the truth take its course.  It was crippling, it was painful but it allowed light and healing to commence.  Some family members were not happy and would have preferred that the truth remain a secret.  Most were beautiful, supportive and appropriately appalled. Additionally, I was aware that we had a whole generation watching how we handled this.  When I was a teenager trauma was minimised and hidden.  I wanted to be an example to the next generation, that the truth is worth fighting for.  It is worth the pain.  It is worth the disclosure.

We cannot heal or be whole if we are spending all our energy protecting lies and secrets.  Together we can face any problem but I refuse to entertain lies and secrets anymore.  

Maybe this is what freedom looks like?  

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

NOTE: When it comes to secrets I am aware that I live in a privileged time in history. In the past secrets saved lives. You did not have a child out of wedlock, it was not possible. There was no contraception, therefore – a lot of babies. There was social shame attached to divorce and unwed mothers. Sexual abuse was less understood and swept under the family carpet and mental illness and suicide not understood at all. Therefore I am aware we are dealing with a generation of older relatives who are conditioned to ‘not air the dirty laundry”.

This is a fascinating story about fear and lying by Dr. Habib Sadeghi. As I finish this post I thought that this was a great analogy of the deadly power of lies and fear.

“My wife and I were touring the Amazon jungle when our guide suddenly stopped. Carefully, he reached down and picked up a spider from a tree branch. He easily manipulated the hairy tarantula by its bulbous abdomen. We were amazed. It didn’t move. It was completely frozen, like a statue. Our guide said the spider wasn’t dead, just temporarily anesthetized. 

He pointed to a tiny, pearl-like object on the back of its abdomen and explained it was an egg, planted there by a parasitic wasp. The spider had been stung and temporarily immobilized so the wasp could transplant its egg. Soon, the spider would shake off the trauma and go about its life as usual; completely unaware of the danger it carried.

Days later and without warning, the tarantula would stop cold in its tracks. Within seconds, a new wasp, that had eaten the spider from the inside out, would emerge from its abdomen and fly away, leaving behind the empty carcass of its host.

Like the wasp larva, feelings buried alive never die, especially fear. Lying comes from fear. It’s born from our traumas, disappointments and betrayals and is always the result of something that’s happened to us. You may be late meeting someone and blame it on the traffic or cover up being fired to avoid embarrassment. The scenarios surrounding why we lie are endless. The fact is that our lies are born from our traumas, both big and small.

“Lying comes from fear.”

When we are stung by life’s traumas, especially the big ones like losing a job, relationship, financial security, or our health, we become frozen in place like the tarantula. We rarely give ourselves enough time to process the hard lessons (truth) of the situation. We may grieve briefly, but then we anesthetize ourselves and it’s on with life”.

DNA ‘Surprise’: You Have Three New Sisters

“Mental health research indicates that major, unexpected shocks have the potential to cause much emotional upheaval. As such, learning new and unexpected truths about family relationships can raise intense psychological and existential issues for individuals and families” (Psychology Today)

DNA Surprise: You Have Three New Sisters is part two to my story of finding out at the age of 56 that my father was not my biological father. You can read that story here When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test.

Surprise

Meaning: An astonishing or unexpected event.

I have to say that this is not the first surprise that my mother has dropped on me. Because of a history of feeling unsafe as a child and of historical trauma and abuse, my first concern was to minimise the triggering effect that this may have on me and in turn on my family.

Finding out that I had three half-sisters was most definitely ‘astonishing and unexpected’. I have never really liked surprises, this one was no different. What does this now mean for me?

Therefore my first port of call was to contact my psychologist.

A shock like this leaves you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. When traumas happen, it can take a while to get over the pain and feel safe again.

My new sisters appointed Jade as spokes-person to help me not feel so overwhelmed. Jade kindly realised that this shock would take a while to navigate. As we were saying our good byes on that first phone call, she suggested that it may be helpful if she sent me some photos of her and the girls and also of our biological father. This was the text she sent after we had hung up.

“I hope you are okay. I completely understand this is virtually a tsunami of information. I will send through a couple of pics. I hope it helps. Please know that I am here if you need to chat, but I will just leave you to process the information from here and wait to hear from you when you are ready. Take care…. Jade”

She then sent through pictures of these glamorous creatures that were apparently somehow related to ME. Along with photos of my new nieces and nephews and a photo of my biological father.

I threw the phone across the room and started bawling like a baby. I raced down-stairs into the kitchen. My daughter in law Rachel was the only person home and the poor thing hardly knew what to do with her nearly hysterical mother in law.

She did the perfect thing and held me in her arms and cried right along with me even though at this stage she didn’t know what we were crying about. Bless her.

The next day I confirmed with Jade that I had spoken to my mother and that she had confirmed the affair, which meant that I was starting to believe her.  I then sent her photos of my husband Phil and our children.

Taking small digital steps to connect.

This was her reply.

Hi….

I’ve thought of you all day. What an enormous amount of ‘stuff’ to process with this bombshell. As I have said, I have sat on this information for so many years, only wanting to communicate what I knew WHEN you made contact with me.

I am so sorry darling, although I completely trust the process of how it unfolded, I do feel, in some small way, responsible for being the one who has delivered the news that has caused you shock and heartache.

As I said last night, I truly believe that you contacted me because you already knew.

I sincerely hope that you are okay and will follow your lead with however you want to move forward with this. NO pressure NO expectations.

Jade.

P.S. Your children and their partners are beautiful and what a gorgeous couple you and your husband make.

I included this correspondence because I think it gives such a clear picture of how Jades handling of me and the situation made the eventual contacts and ensuing meetings so much easier.

When I showed the message to Chloe and Rachel they were both shocked.

“OMG…….It’s like reading a text message from YOU mum. This is exactly something that you would say… its how you would react”.

This was not lost on me and made the mystery of our DNA connection even more insane. I will be forever grateful that I was taken care of by such a precious soul. There could have been a million reactions to my connection, but this was the one that meant that I could indeed take safe steps forward and not live under the bed for the rest of my life.

I am very aware that not everybody is held with such grace and wisdom in this unique journey. Many people are not so accepting. Some people are disbelieving, some people are angry, some people grieve the person they thought they knew and didn’t. Some people are incredibly grateful to find a sibling. Some don’t have the emotional energy or will to even care.

The choice of whether or not to reach out to these sisters was a difficult one. Was this going to bring more trauma into my life? Did my family need anymore upheaval? My psychologist, my family and friends were all amazing and echoed the same things.

This is your choice. You can control this. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. We will support whatever you want to do. They have known and waited for 10 years, they can wait a few more months.

When I showed my psychologist the message above from Jade, she just smiled and said. I feel really good about this. I think that this is going to be a positive experience for you.

“You’ve got this.”

She did advise me not to meet them all at once.

She said, ‘I know you, you will spend all your energy learning their stories and will exhaust yourself’. She suggested that I meet them one at a time on neutral ground and that I take someone with me the first time.

A month after the first contact I made a date to have lunch with Jade. I cannot even explain what this felt like. What do you wear to meet a sister for the first time? What to expect? Do we sit near the door in case I need to run out for air?

Chloe accompanied me and I will forever remember trying to look for the table where she would be seated. I had seen her photo but nothing could prepare me for the real deal. She jumped up and met me half-way and scooped me into a bear hug. We then sat and just stared for a while until the conversation and the questions naturally began to take over. Chloe was amazing. Hilariously she piped up early on in the piece with.

“I just want to say right at the beginning…. we don’t have any money”

Jade and I just looked at each other and exploded into laughter. She said that’s okay because we don’t have any either. lol…….

What followed was lots of questions, lots of long looks, secret studies of each other. Later Chloe explained it to her brothers like this when they asked what Jade was like.

“Well, it’s like having a really cool aunt. Like Jennifer Anniston on friends. What was really weird was that if you closed your eyes and just listened it was like you were sitting at the table with two of mum. They sound the same, they use the same words, the speak with the same sentence structures and have the same way of being careful of people.”

My poor husbands response: “OMG there is TWO of you” faint.

Jade later explains that seeing Chloe was like looking at a younger version of herself. She said. “I fell in love with Chloe the moment I saw her”.

The overwhelming summary of that first meeting was safety. We felt safe.

A little pause before I chat about the meeting of the other two sisters. This is a thumbnail sketch of the backstory of Kallan so that you can understand the somewhat complicated birth order of the four sisters.

At the age of 15 Kallan and a 15 year old work colleague had a rather short affair which resulted in the birth of a baby girl Felicity. It was the late 1950’s and an era that was not kind to single unmarried mothers. The young mother was put into a girls home to have the baby which was then put up for adoption. Felicity was raised by a loving family but was always on a journey of searching for her birth father.

In the early 60’s my mother and Kallan had an affair and I was conceived. Two years later Kallan and his wife had a baby daughter they called Jocelynn and not long after that baby Jade arrived.

Felicity had been on a search for her birth father for some time. We call her the ancestry sleuth. Felicity eventually found details about the other two girls by searching through death notices. She contacted the two girls expressing her desire to meet. You can imagine the shock of Jade and Jocelyn. They initially thought it was me trying to contacting them. Instead they were confronted with the news that there was ANOTHER sister.

Not long after my meeting with Jade I arranged to meet with Jocelynn. We decided to meet in a cafe in Abbotsford. I arrived first and waited anxiously for my half sister to arrive. There was no mistaking her. When she breezed into the cafe I jumped up and after a huge hug we just sat staring at each other. It was pretty confronting. I felt a little like I was looking in the mirror. We had the same build, the same colouring, the same eyes, the same chin. Talk about a mind spinning moment.

Growing up I was always told that I looked like my mother and never really identified with my siblings or father in regard to similarities. Here I was sitting opposite the other half of myself. To say I was a little wobbly was an understatement. We hit it off immediately and chatted like old friends. She was so kind, so gentle, so loving, so funny.

The meeting with Felicity was a little more orchestrated. The other two sisters advised that one of them should be there with me as I might feel a little overwhelmed. They were now understanding some of my story and were very protective of me. They had nothing to worry about. Although Jade accompanied me, Felicity was adorable. Bright, bubbly, gregarious and a lot like a puppy. She is very chatty and with a heart bigger than texas and a soul of teflon. We joke that Felicity won’t be happy until she has collected a full set of sisters.

So here I stand considering these three beautiful souls who have walked into my life. Each a vibrant expression of myself in some way. Parts of myself that are finding a place to belong for the first time. Jade the spiritually seeking, wise owl. Jocelynn the maternal, loving caregiver who cannot say ‘no’ to anyone. (Insert my daughters voice here. “As if you can say NO to anyone mum”). Felicity the bouncy, energetic sleuth who is responsible in some ways for connecting us all.

You never know when you are going to hit an epic bump in the road people and you can never prepare yourself – just hang on for the ride.

I am very aware that my experience is unique and not everyone has such a positive story to tell of DNA revelations. We are on the cusp of a new journey together and are currently planning an event where my sister, and our friends and families can all meet. We have been holding them all at bay while we navigate this space.

I now can’t imagine my life without these women in my life. I am not sure if I would have wanted to meet Kallan if he were still alive. I haven’t quite processed that yet. For the first few months I had a lot of referred anger toward him. It doesn’t make sense I know but that was how I was.

In those first few months when my life was like swimming under water. I stumbled through google trying to find resources. Unsuccessfully Googling sentences like “what to do when you find out your father is not your father”. I wrote to ancestry.com asking what support they provided for such earthquaking revelations that DNA tests revealed. This was the response I got back.

Hello Lisa,  Thank you for contacting Ancestry in regards to your DNA results. 
We’re sorry for any shock that this has caused.


Regrettably, we do not have any services like you described. Though we we completely empathize with your predicament, as a genealogy company your best bet for help with this would be to discuss this shock with your local GP who may be able to refer you to a family counselor.


  If you need additional assistance, please feel free to reply to this email or call us at 1-800-251-838 between the hours of 9 AM to 8 PM AEST, Monday through Friday or between the hours of 9 AM to 4 PM AEST, Saturday and Sunday.  

Sincerely,  

Barbara

Customer Solutions Associate Ancestry

Thanks for nothing Barbara.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many psychological resources available for people who stumble across family secrets with DNA testing. It is an ethical minefield. Support can be given by professionals like psychologists but there is little knowledge or training about these issues, perhaps due to the recency of the phenomena and the associated lack of research.

The surprises thrown up by DNA ancestry testing raise a set of complex ethical, psychological, and social issues.

Support groups have sprung up over social media like the NPE Facebook community founded by Catherine St Clair. It has a rigorous screening process. (You can’t join the group unless you’ve actually gotten the DNA rug pulled out from under you. Lurkers need not apply.) NPE stands for Not Parent Expected.

In the following posts I will be exploring the power of DNA on a person and how profound it is as opposed to nurture and family of origin. I will also share some truly mind bending episodes of meetings with the sisters.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

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Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test.

When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test. Part One by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

By the start of 2019, more than 26 million consumers had added their DNA to four leading commercial ancestry and health databases, according to our estimates. If the pace continues, the gene troves could hold data on the genetic makeup of more than 100 million people within 24 months (Technology Review).

The scientific landscape that was once reserved only for lab technicians, doctors and detectives is now an open market. Any one happy to dish out about $100.00 and spit into a test tube, can take the test and have the results back in about 6 weeks. People are lining up to find out their ancestoral heritage but many are finding out a lot more than they bargained for. Myself included. Along with finding out you may have descended from vikings, you may also be finding out about infidelities, health concerns, affairs, and bumping into relatives that you never knew existed.

In March this year 2019, I had the traumatic experience of finding out at 56 years of age, that my father was not my father.

This is My Story

My father Joe was born in 1928 in the inner suburbs of Melbourne at the beginning of the great depression. Times were tough. Both his parents were caught up in the gangland wars of Squizzy Taylor and the Fitzroy Gangs. His older half brother Edward was the son of Squizzy Taylor or so the family secret goes.

The story of Mona and Peter is one for another day. It is a sad and heartbreaking tale. In 1931 after the death of his 26 year old mother, my dad was abandoned at the race track with a note pinned to him. He was 3 years old.

Interestingly he was abandoned at a race track and eventually grew up to become a jockey himself.

The note said 25.7.31 (original note see below)

I P Murray the father of Josif Peter Murray is to stay with Mr and Mrs F G Cooper as long as he is 21 years of age and none of his parents can take him away from them, he is in a good home and I could not find any better in Melb. Peter Murray. Born on the 8th.12.28

My father was raised by the Cooper family and recalls a loving and wild upbringing. Pop Cooper was a Melbourne Policeman. who was on the take from the gangs and involved in all sorts of goings on in the 1920’s. I think this is how my grandfather met Pop Cooper in the first place. Again, that is a story for another day.

My father was raised knowing nothing of his birth family. At 21 when he met my mother and wanted to get married there was the difficult task of getting hold of a birth certificate. This was when the note was produced. At least they had a name and a date. It was at this moment in his life that he found out he was not a Cooper by birth but was in fact a Murray.

For all of my life this was the only narrative I had of my father. We knew nothing of his parents, siblings or their families, where they were from or where they were now. We knew from his birth certificate that his father came from South Africa. That was the only information that we had.

Over the last ten years I have spent hundreds of hours on Ancestry.com trying to piece together my fathers heritage and trying to find some of his relatives who may know more of his story. I have poured through police gazettes, news papers, books, sent letters of request for information to South Africa and followed up hundreds of leads on ancestry.com. The family tree now has over 1000 people on it and over 500 photos, but little to no information about my grandfather ‘Peter Murray’.

I do however have a description of him from a police gazette. A seemingly typical description of an inner city gang member in the 1920’s Melbourne. This is the last record I have of him.

2.11.31 Murray, Peter is charged, on warrant issued at the instance of Jane Mollross 14 Webb St Fitzroy, with deserting his child at Fitzroy. Description: – About 33 years, 5 ft 7 in. nuggety build, full face, clean shaven, black curly hair, gold front teeth: wore a blue twill suit.

Two front Gold teeth. Let me tell you, only gang members had gold teeth in the great depression.

After hitting some serious road blocks, I decided that maybe the next step was to get dad to do a DNA test. He was now 89 years old, frail and I was running out of time. Easter 2018 my husband and I went to visit dad and asked if he would humour me by spitting into this test tube. Dad looked at me like I had lost my mind.

“You want me to do what? You want me to spit into that tiny thing”. My step mother Maureen came to the rescue and encouraged him to do it reminding him of the DNA shows that they had watched together on TV.

Six weeks went by and nothing. 8 weeks, 10 weeks and still no results. I finally got correspondence from Ancestry to say that they tried 3 times to do the test but there just wasn’t enough spit.

By this stage my father was quite ill and soon after had a crippling fall which put him into hospital. He never came home. We buried him in the August.

Ancestry then sent me a replacement DNA kit as an apology for not being able to complete the test for my father. Of course it was too late now for my dad so I put it at the top of the cupboard and forgot about it.

In January this year I remembered the DNA test siting there and thought that I may as well go ahead and do the test myself. It was free and it might still open up some fresh leads. Boy was I in for a life changing moment.

Six weeks later I got an email to say that my test results were in and to activate the DNA results. I was so excited. Maybe I would find a cousin or aunt or uncle of my dads that could give some fresh light to his story.

I activated the test and watched in amazement as the results started filling the screen. I was pretty puzzled at first. The initial data I looked at was a pie chart which showed me my ethnicity estimate. It said that I was 46 % English and 46% Irish. The English was not suprising as my mothers family had all come from England. However the Irish? My research had shown that my grandfather was born in The Port of Saint John in South Africa.

hmmmm… okay well I thought I was Dutch South African but maybe they were Irish South African?

The next thing you see is DNA matches to people who share your DNA, and there were hundreds of them. It is so confronting. All these peoples names and photos and percentages load up on the page in order from the highest match to the lowest. The ones up the top said ‘Close Family’. How strange. I was expecting 2nd and 3rd cousins not close family.

I click on the first one which told me the name and showed me the photo of this beautiful woman. The results told me that we were 100% match.

Holy Moly Batman

100% – I wasnt expecting that ……..what the heck does that mean? There is a question mark icon at the side of the box which shows you the DNA relationship. This woman and I regisgtered as 100% either as a grandparent, grandchild, half sibling, aunt/uncle, niece or nephew.

Okay, so this is explainable. Holy Moly Batman, this must be my cousin. A child of one of my fathers siblings. Oh… no it doesn’t say cousin. Hmm Well its not a grandparent, she looks about 50 years or less. Can’t be an aunt or uncle because my dad is 90 and she is too young.

When I click on her profile there are contact details. So I decide to email her. Excited that finally some of the missing pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.

A couple of things to note: from here on in the names have been changed because this is a very fresh trauma and family are still processing this information. The other thing you should know is that sometimes people don’t check ancestry for many months. Imagine my surprise when I receive an immediate response.

This is how the connection went.

Hello Jade,

I have just done a DNA test with Ancestry and you came up as a close relative – so interesting. I was wondering where you live? I am in Melbourne Australia.

Lisa x

Hi Lisa,

Yes, we are very closely related. 

I am happy to have contact and share all that I know about our connection. I live in Melbourne. 

Take care, Jade

Hi Jade

Wow, this is crazy.

I would love to chat, email or catch up. Let me know what works for you.  
Lisa. 

Immediately the phone rang.

I am like Tigger bouncing around and so excited. It’s Jade. Ahhhhhh.

“Hey so great to hear from you. Wow this is amazing. I can’t believe it. Do you know how we are related”?

Jade: “Yes I do. How much of the story do you know”

Story… what story. No I don’t know anything.

I went on briefly to explain about why I had done the test and about my fathers recent death ect.. She was very lovely and very composed. She told me later that she was shocked to hear that I had absolutely no idea what she was about to say.

Then she drops the bomb.

“Lisa I do know how we are related. I am your half sister”

It’s at this point that I have my first anxiety attack. My mind is blank, I have gone hot and cold all over and I am feeling panicky. I am thinking: I don’t know this lovely lady, this could be a hoax, ancestry has made a mistake. This cannot be true. I have been hacked!

She goes on. Lisa is your mothers name Lauris. “Yes”

Did you grow up in Canterbury, did you attend Canterbury Girls High is your mother a florist? “Yes…. faint”

OMG….. how does this stranger know these things about me. I am now nearing full panic as she calmly and gently goes on to tell the story of what she knows.

‘Lisa, you have three half sisters. About ten years ago our father was dying from cancer and a friend came to talk to us to say. Girls, there is something that you need to know. You have another sister, a half sister and her name is Lisa Jane”. The girls go to talk to the dad on his death bed and he confirms the details of the other sister Lisa Jane (me).

It is at this stage that I start crying uncontrollably and start to shake. I think that Jade is crying too and she is apologising for having to give such explosive and devestating news to me. I explain that I need to hang up and try to process all of this and that I will call her back in a few days when I get my head together.

I was still very much in denial and unbelief. I had to talk to my mother. Until she confirmed it, it just wouldn’t be real.

Jade kindly asks me if I would like her to tell the other sisters that I am not ready to speak to them yet. “Yes please I reply through my tears, it’s going to take me a little while to process this shock”. We hang up.

Of course Jade and the other two sisters have been eagerly waiting for this moment. They decided 10 years ago that they would not try to find me, they didn’t want to ruin my life with this news. They believed that if we were meant to be together then the universe would make it happen. Well the universe and a simple DNA test certainly did make it happen. As soon as I activated my DNA results they were notified that I had connected on Ancestry so they went balistic. They were very excited that Lisa Jane had arrived on the scene as confronting and confusing as it had been for them.

My husband and I got NO sleep that night. At 7 am I called my mother and said, “Mum, I am coming over now. Cancel everything you have on this morning there is urgent news that I need to speak to you about”. I then called my aunt and my older sister asking that they meet me at mums house immediately. It was urgent and shocking news that I had to bring and I needed support. I needed my aunt there because I was worried that my mother would need support. Support that I couldn’t give her if my life was about to fall apart.

We arrived at my mothers within minutes of each other. Everyone pretty confused and distressed. I assured everyone that I and the kids were okay but that I had news that couldn’t wait. This is a little how it went.

“Mum. You and I have been through a lot together over the years and there have been many times when you have lied to me. Today is not going to be one of those days. Today I am going to ask you some questions and you are going to answer me with the truth.

Do you know a man called Kallan Callaway, did you have an affair with him before I was born”

My mother “Yes, yes I knew Kallan and yes we had an affair.”

Holy mother of pearl.

It would take a book to explain to you the next few hours. The questions, the confusion. My older sister sat quietly crying as it dawns on us that we are now half sisters not full blood sisters. I begin to hate that word half. My aunt is in shock and distressed for all of us. Later I have to work out how to tell my brother and younger sister and also to tell my children that their grandfather is not their grandfather.

I know that my dad is my dad and always will be. But this shocking news brings a tsunami of information with it. It reframes and changes all of my narratives. What about medical history, relatives, new nieces and nephews.

I share this difficult story to my kids through heartbreaking sobs. Hours later, once the shock begins to subside, they reach for their phones to check FB. Do we have new cousins? Are they our age? Did they grow up near us? What if I’ve dated one or kissed one? Do we have mutual friends on FB?

One of my sons says to me. “When poppy died, at the funeral everyone said how I had his legs and that I looked like him. Does this mean that I don’t have pops legs anymore”. I know this sounds funny but all of a sudden our family history and identity had been ripped out from underneath us.

It was trauma on a new level. I found myself kind of glad that my dad was not alive to go have to go through this. I was also confused about the ‘new Irish dad’ who was also dead and unable to talk or share his life with me and my children. What was his story? What does it now mean for me?

This ends Part One of this blog When Your Father is Not Your Father: The Shock Results of Ancestry DNA Test. In the next post I will write how I go about meeting my new sisters and the next part of the journey that has just begun. There is good and wonderful news to come and I will explain that in part 2. (insert hand clapping)

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.
Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Can We Please Stop Judging Each Other?

Can We Please Stop Judging Each Other? by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Rarely a week goes by when I am not asked about my thoughts on homosexuality.

To be honest it is not an issue that worries me. I think there are far more pressing concerns in the world today. Also, please note: I am definitely, not an authority on this issue, I have just recorded my views a few times on this blog over that last few years.

I will put links at the end of this article for those who are interested. 

Just today my gorgeous local barista asked me what I was writing about on my blog at the moment.  He said, “I know what you should write about but we don’t agree on it”.  I said:  “Sam,  it’s perfectly fine that we don’t agree on things. That doesn’t even matter to me.  What matters is that I adore you and nothing will ever change that.  It is healthy to have discourse, discussion and disagreements.  What is important, is that it is done in love.

It annoys me that we spend so much time debating with each other about things that Jesus never once spoke about.  Jesus never once talked about birth control, homosexuality, and abortion—bodily “sins” because the body can most easily carry shame. We shouldn’t disregard bodily shame or addictions, but they are not the core problem. Jesus focused on issues of power, prestige, and possession—which all of us have largely ignored. 

If you are a follower of Christ and then your main concern should be love.  Jesus command was that we were to love God and love our neighbour.  He actually instructs us NOT to judge.   

I wonder what it would be like if we spent more time actually focussed on issues of power, inequality, prestige, consumerism and injustice instead of constantly pointing the finger and judging others.  So my opening comment about this topic is that we should lead with love and not with judgment or theology.  

At the very least, if we are not sure or don’t have the answers, don’t judge. 

The apostle Paul wrote, “Judge not, but wait for the Lord. He will bring to the light things now hidden in darkness, and disclose the secret purposes of the heart.

It’s actually not our job to judge.  We spend way too much of our time making up our minds about people.  Making decisions about them and  judging them. Are they right are they wrong?  Are they good or are they bad.  When you practice love you will stop judging others. You will love unconditionally.

God’s job is to judge, and ours is to love. 

“To die to our neighbours means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Notice the reason Jesus warns against judgment. The danger in passing judgment on someone is that we’ll have our own standard come back to haunt us.  We don’t know the full story, we don’t know the end from the beginning.  How can we judge when we are ourselves fallen, broken and have darkness within us.   When we form judgements about others we actually become hypocrites.

“Or how can you say to your brother, Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?” – Jesus

“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight ….And you look at the tree and you allow it. …You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” Ram Dass

But what about the biblical texts I hear you saying.  

Well there are many theologians who have grappled with these issues.   My own experience is that most of the clobber texts that are thrown around today against homosexuality are actually taken out of context.

My perhaps oversimplified ‘view’ at this time is that most or all of the Biblical passages about homosexuality are spoken about persons who are exercising their lusts and passions in selfish and/or violent and abusive ways, certainly not consistent with self-giving, sacrificial love.

No one is trying to make a case for promiscuous sexual behaviour regardless of what sexual orientation we may be talking about.  In fact, most of the sexual perversion, aggression, abuse and violence done in the world today is by heterosexual men.  I could write for days about that!

“What we are talking about today is a small percentage of the population across racial and geographic boundaries composed of same-sex oriented persons who genuinely desire to give their lives in self-giving, sacrificial loving covenant relationships with each other.  This is in my view very different from the matrix of most or all of the passages mentioning homosexuality in the Bible and I realise that scholars are divided on this”, (“Biblical Authority and Homosexuality” by Hardy Steinke)

I think Jesus gives us a very insightful clue of what awaits in the age to come.  There will be no marriage in the way that we now experience it. Matthew 22:30

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels[a] in heaven.

I will end this little discussion by leaving you with some quotes on sexuality by some very well respected theologians who have a lot more gravitas than me.

Tony Campolo is an American sociologist, pastor, author, public speaker

Rest assured that I have already heard –and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. 

Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again,

Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church

Julian of Norwich sometimes refers to God as Father and sometimes refers to Jesus as Mother. Gender means almost nothing to her because she is beyond that. There’s something deeper than gender. As alluring and as important as gender is, as it is our metaphor held in our body, it is not our ontological identity. It is not our foundational, essential truth. Your gender is not the True Self. It’s part of the False Self.

That’s what Jesus is referring to when he says, “…in heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mark 12:25). But because gender is so deep in our early conditioning, in many of our lives we cling to it until the very end.

Male and female are most different at their most immature levels and most alike at their most mature levels. When you have matured to the point where you are beyond the dualisms that our dualistic minds have imposed on reality, then you know you are children of the resurrection. You are children of light and there is no male or female, as both Paul and the Gospel of Thomas say. 

People who already begin to experience such unity in this world will usually find it very easy to be compassionate toward lesbian, gay, and transgendered people, because they know that the True Self, who we objectively are in God, is prior and superior to any issues of gender, culture, or sexuality. Gender is important, but it is still an “accidental” part of the human person and not its substance.

The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same for all genders: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, forgiveness of offenses, and generous service to the neighbor and the world. Here “there is no distinction…between male and female” (Galatians 3:28). Mature Christian spirituality leads us toward such universals and essentials. Yet people invariably divide and argue about nonessentials!

Walter Brueggeman is an American Protestant Old Testament scholar and theologian. Brueggemann is widely considered one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of the last several decades.

“I know those texts are in the Bible, but the Bible is a dynamic tradition that’s always on the move to new truth. If you track that out, probably the ultimate statement about that is made by Paul in Galatians 3, that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek nor

Barbarian, slave or free. We are all one in Christ. And what we know in the gospel is that God’s love reaches toward all of God’s creatures. To sort them out in terms of who are the deserving and the qualified and who are not is imposing a judgment on human reality that simply cannot be done.

But some Christians fear disobeying God when it comes to LGBTQ issues. Because of What the Bible says, they fear that they are compromising the gospel. Well, what we do is to pick and choose things out of the Bible that conform to our fears. It’s not a matter of obeying the Bible — it’s about obeying the gospel. The gospel is about God’s saving love that wants to restore all of humanity to full communion. To reach back to an ancient text that has now been corrected by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is simply a bad manoeuvre and poor methodology and theologically irresponsible. Those texts are not the determinative texts.

The texts that are determinative are those that talk about the love of God that has been shown to us in Jesus. We can’t compromise that.”

Links: Homosexuality A Chat

Homosexuality and Human Rights by Vicki Beeching

Welcoming but Not Affirming: Getting to the Slippery Truth by Nicole Conner

Why I Love the Gay Community by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.
Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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When Suffering Comes from an Angle you Never Expected.

Have you been in a season of great darkness, of suffering? Have you lost all sense of hope and faith?

This year for me has been one of shock, great challenges, bleak darkness and overwhelming sorrow. In fact the four words that would use to describe the last four months would be: “I have no words”.

Today I started to consider the two words hope and faith. What do they even mean? Have I lost all hope? Have I lost my faith?

What is Hope?

This was to be the title of this post. As I stared at a blank page I searched my soul to remember what it was that I had hoped for or in? In the face of great suffering and chaos hope is difficult to grasp. I pulled out some of my comfort books. Richard Rohrs Hope against Darkness and The Naked Now and John O’ Donohues Eternal Echoes. As I did and I zeroed in on the word darkness and unexpectadly stumbled into an Ah Haaa moment.

John O’ Donohue wrote these words that helped to reset my compass in the darkness.

“There is no life that is not called at some time to walk through the bleak valley of suffering. This is a path without hope, without shelter and without light. When suffering comes into your life it brings great loneliness and isolation”

Of course…. when things are dark you cannot see. No wonder I could not see hope or light. I was siting with my old friend darkness.

Suffering, when it comes, unhinges and dislocates us. Disorientated it takes a while to realise what is happening. “Suffering is the arrival of darkness from an angle you never expected” (O Donohue Eternal Echoes). It is a great shock that numbs us for many weeks and months. Gradually our poor soul begins to awaken from the shock to try and make sense of what is happening and when it does it looks around and can’t figure out why it cannot see. Why is everything so dark and bleak? Because the light has gone and we are sitting alone again with our friend darkness.

“When suffering comes the darkness has arrived. The light is out. Even your faith falls away. When you are at the heart of great pain, you enter a land of sheer desolation” (O’Donohue Eternal Echoes).

I call darkness our friend because it is one of our closest companions. Darkness is part of the natural order of life and soul. Just as the sun, moon and stars have their part to play in the cosmos, so does light and darkness have its part to play in bearing life and transformation both in the natural and in the spiritual.

Although we live and work in the light, we were conceived and shaped in darkness. You cannot grow unless you return to darkness.

Imagine the shock of seeds, born and raised in the sun to be suddenly plunged into utter darkness and smothered by clay and damp soil. “The seed has no defence, it must give way, abandoning itself to the new weave of life that will thread forth from its own dissolving” (O’Donohue Eternal Echoes).

New life and growth will eventually burst through the soil. Transformed into a new plant or tree. Its roots plunging down deep into the darkness, its branches reaching up to the light. This is the cycle of life and growth and transformation.

It is here that I find my hope.

What is it that I hope in?

I have hope in the fact that out of the darkest of nights and in the deepest of valleys, light and life eventually come. I cannot see at the moment but that is as it should be. The darkness does not last forever but it is necessary. The darkness may have come as a shock and from an angle that I never expected, but it has come to weave the magic of life and transformation in me so that what once would have been seen as incomprehensible suffering, will one day be seen as new life. A tree that will one day bring shelter and fruit to others who are suffering.

While you are cowering in a dark valley it is impossible to understand what is happening to you. You have to trust the darkness and wait. Light is a gift that suffering leaves behind. Out of the cold hard winter ground a new springtime of possibilities begin to arise.

All great spirituality comes through letting go. All transformation comes through the pathways of love and suffering. The most amazing thing about Jesus is that he taught us that God and change are to be found in mess, darkness, weakness, imperfection and disorder.

Today I feel joy begin to emerge as I realise that I still have faith in wisdom, truth, mystery and paradox. I have hope in darkness, transformation and life. I can hope in the mysteries of the seasons. That there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Some of us it seems are more familiar with the darkness. It is not my job to wonder and worry about this. It is my job to be patient and to trust that the darkness is part of the process of life and that it never lasts forever.

When we are called to stand in places of pain may we be blessed by seasons of light.

7 Signs You Grew Up With Childhood Emotional Neglect

Childhood Emotional Neglect is both simple in its definition and powerful in its effects. It happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs while they’re raising you. Emotional Neglect is an invisible, unmemorable childhood…

Source: 7 Signs You Grew Up With Childhood Emotional Neglect

By
15 Jul 2018

Do You…

1. Sometimes feel like you don’t belong when with your family or friends ?

2. Pride yourself on not relying upon others ?

3. Have difficulty asking for help ?

4. Have friends or family who complain that you are aloof or distant ?

5. Feel you have not met your potential in life ?

6. Often just want to be left alone ?

7. Secretly feel that you may be a fraud ?

8. Tend to feel uncomfortable in social situations ?

9. Often feel disappointed with, or angry at, yourself ?

10. Judge yourself more harshly than you judge others ?

11. Compare yourself to others and often find yourself sadly lacking?

12. Find it easier to love animals than people ?

13. Often feel irritable or unhappy for no apparent reason?

14. Have trouble knowing what you’re feeling ?

15. Have trouble identifying your strengths and weaknesses?

16. Sometimes feel like you’re on the outside looking in ?

17. Believe you’re one of those people who could easily live as a hermit ?

18. Have trouble calming yourself ?

19. Feel there’s something holding you back from being present in the moment?

20. At times feel empty inside ?

21. Secretly feel there’s something wrong with you ?

22. Struggle with self-discipline ?

Look back over your YES answers. These answers give you a window into the areas in which you may have experienced Emotional Neglect as a child. The more questions you answered “Yes”, the more likely CEN has affected your life.

Neither Here nor There – The Many Voices of Liminality

Source: Neither Here nor There – The Many Voices of Liminality

Neither Here nor There – The Many Voices of Liminality

‘Jesus, on whom be peace, said
This world is a bridge.
Pass over it but do not build your dwelling there.’

(Inscribed in Persian on Buland Darwaza, the main gateway to the palace at Fatehpur Sikri, south of Delhi, India
by the Moghul emperor Akbar I in 1601)

Last year, I had the opportunity and privilege to contribute to an anthology on a subject that I am most interested and passionate about – liminality. I have blogged on this topic numerous times. Here are some introductory posts:

This latest compilation is the brainchild of pastor, writer, editor and friend, Tim Carson, who has written a variety of other books. I love Tim’s definition of liminality in his chapter contribution:

The experience of liminality is feeling a loss of steady and familiar landmarks, the kind of security that accompanied past structure, even as the future has not yet materialized. With everything in flux, angst becomes the predominant mood. Very often action seems fruitless because some transitions cannot be hurried. One has entered an incubation period in which time shifts. The liminal person does not necessarily know that transformation is occurring at the time it is happening. Does a caterpillar have any idea that metamorphosis is about to take place as it enters the cocoon?

I wept reading that. It resonated so deeply with my own life experience.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes the foreword for this book. Yes, I was slightly dizzy when I heard this and I went into serious fangirl mode. I love love love her writings. In her foreword, she acknowledges how most of the contributors did not consent to go on a liminal journey, but life took them there anyway. Some were catapulted into the liminal space through ‘war, illness, abuse, or natural disaster. Others found themselves there due to poverty, gender, apartheid, or immigration.’

Personally, I found solace and comfort in the stories of this communal motley crew of liminal travellers, sharing their bewilderment at finding themselves ‘betwixt and between’ where ‘the only way through is through. There are no guarantees … To engage liminal space is to live in faith, not certainty.’

This post would be too long if I discussed every chapter. Instead, I offer one of my favourite quotes from each chapter. If you are wandering the shadowy, mystical path of liminality, may it be a light to you in dark times.

I’ve heard some people describe liminality in the language of Celtic spirituality: a thin place, a narrow place, a place where the living and the dead commune, where heaven and earth all regard each other. Hell too, I hope. Otherwise, what’s the point?’ Pádraig Ó Tuama

I discovered my first hummingbirds as a small child in the gardens of the Theological Community in Mexico City where I was encouraged to nourish my love for nature while caring for others by cooperating, respecting, and sharing in the many social and spiritual activities with people from all over Latin America. Tucked gently away in my soul and mind is the gift of seeing the world from the borderlands, the in-between spaces, the nepantlera of ‘either/or’ and’ neither/nor,’ with thousands of beautiful colour hues and nuances of language and culture.’Elena Huegel

Ultimately, the purpose of pilgrimage is to bring the pilgrim, transformed in the journey, back home again.Kristine Culp

The liminal dimension undergirds all human experience. In some sense, there is nothing that is not liminal. We live our lives (and perhaps find sanity) by fashioning fixed structures of meaning and identity; selves and narratives that are generally static and contained. But that is not life, as much as it is the mask we put onto life. Meanwhile, the liminal waits for us.Joshua Boettiger

Liminality is essentially and always a middle. It is the moment of in-between-ness where what has been is gone, but what will be has not yet arrived. In Christian spirituality, it is the moment of Holy Saturday, when Christ has died but is not yet risen. There is nothing to be done on Holy Saturday except to learn how to die with Christ, in the hope that one day – but not today – life will be restored by resurrection.’ Michelle Trebilcock

War is a universal experience of social liminality. If the scale of hostilities is sufficiently large, war can expand to even global liminality. Societies and nations are cast into a time between the times, a state of being filled with uncertainty and dread. For warriors within these societies, war represents a rite of passage, a transition that changes the identity of those who enter warand the community of those who share it.’ Kate Hendricks Thomas

‘In the aftermath of the tornado, liminal time moved at its own pace, mostly slower than we might have preferred.’ Jill Cameron Michel

Adoptees exist between families for their entire lives. They are products of legal and biological families, but not fully either. This liminal space is their reality, and from it comes complex identity work. The extent to which adoptees engage with the liminality of their adoption status emerges as a product of individual, contextual, and familial characteristics.’ Colleen Warner Colaner

‘The literature of the ancient desert monks and medieval Celtic saints is extensive and filled with many tales like this. In this liminal time, when climate change presents us with an opaque and uncertain future, can the literature that emerged from the liminal experience of Christian contemplatives in late antiquity offer us any wisdom for navigating our challenges in better ways?’ Timothy Robinson

‘The liminal is the space between; it is a state in which the classifications of the everyday are bracketed to reveal an alternative order, a more basic relatedness, which undergirds the everyday power and position exemplified by given cultural norms.’ Adam Pryor

‘Cancer is the quintessential liminal experience as it includes all the stages – pre-liminal, liminal, reintegration – and all the classic elements of the liminal journey: end of one way of life, loss of identity and status, bewilderment, confusion, ambiguity, reversal of hierarchy, uncertainty. Patients are between life as they once knew it and an uncertain future.’ Debra Jarvis

‘When I crossed the threshold into the strange world of incarceration, I was ushered into a state of permanent liminality, a time and space between the past and some seemingly unobtainable future. My life was stuck in a time between the times, a place between the spaces. Unlike van Gennep’s Rites of Passage, however, there was no design for movement, for transformation in the liminal passage.’ Jacob Davis

‘The stories that we tell to make sense of our world and our lives simultaneously open up certain possibilities for action and close others off. They define and limit the options we think exist. The danger is that we become so enamored with our own narrative that we shut ourselves from the narratives of the “other.” What if each of us needs both the presence and the narratives of the other to navigate the ambiguities of liminality?’ John Eliastam

‘Our collective challenge for the future is to produce a society that accepts diversity, welcomes difference, and champions human rights for all its citizens. If accomplished, this might enable Turner’s view of positive social change through community building actually to become reality. One can always remain hopeful.’ Diane Dentice and Michelle Dietert

‘To examine the liminal, where it may reside, are we well advised to avoid the paved road where, by following the markers, we do arrive, but it just may be a camouflaged dead end?’Kenneth Krushel

Let me end this post with a quote from my chapter. Writing this piece was part of a healing journey. I am grateful.

‘The gift of liminality, presented to me wrapped in pain, exile, and humiliation has assisted me in recognizing many of my ego’s trappings and yearnings. In this place, I have been confronted and stripped of much of the baggage that I carried over the years … of trying to live up to all sorts of expectations. Liminality, like the character V in the film V for Vendetta, showed me the bars of my ideological and structural prison, all dressed up in religious moralizing – and once you see, you cannot un-see.’

If you would like to order this book, you can do so via Lutterworth Press

What is Hell?

What is Hell? by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

We are a product of our history.  Much of our theology has been formed by the ancient church, by medieval thinking and by our personal theology.   Recently I was asked, ‘Do you believe in Hell and if so what or where is Hell’?

What is my view on Hell?  This stumped me for a while?  I actually found it pretty difficult to answer.  So this post comes out of weeks and weeks of me digging around in my theology attempting to work out what it is that I believe.  I actually came up with more questions than answers but here goes.

Hell:

Our first images of Heaven and Hell came from the middle ages where heaven and hell were seen as places of reward and punishment.  You may like to read my post on What is Heaven?  

The most prominent illustration of hell from this period was by Dante’s Divine Comedy.  He portrays Hell as nine circles in the centre of the earth where Satan dwells  (Mc Grath).

There are a few differing doctrines on Hell.  “One, the traditional Christian model of hell, articulated by some of the West’s most historically significant philosophers and theologians, hell involves permanent, conscious suffering for the purpose of punishing human sin. According to annihilationism, the damned ultimately cease to exist and so are not conscious. According to the free will view of hell, the purpose of hell is to respect the choice of the damned not to be with God in heaven. Finally, according to universalism, there is either no hell at all, or only a temporary hell” (Ref).

The most common translation for the word ‘Hell’ in the New Testament is Gehenna.  It was an actual location in Jerusalem. The term Gehenna is derived from the Valley of Hinnom, traditionally considered by the Jews the place of the final punishment of the ungodly. It was an old rubbish heap outside the southwest corner of the old city.  A smouldering smoking rubbish dump. The valley was used as a burial-place for criminals and for burning garbage.  They used sulphur, the flammable substance we now use in matches and gunpowder. Thus when the Jews talked about punishment in the next life, what better image could they use than the smoldering valley they called gehenna? (ref)

‘What Jesus was meaning in this reference when he referred to Gehenna was not that they would burn in hell as our medieval ancestors have translated, but that if they did not turn away from their hopeless and rebellious dreams of establishing Gods Kingdom on their own terms, Rome would do what all larger empires do when they take over smaller ones,  Rome would turn Jerusalem into a smouldering stinking rubbish heap and that is exactly what has happened and it is still smouldering and stinking.  When Jesus said: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish”  that was the primary meaning that he had in mind’ (N.T. Wright).

Jesus did say that who reject God will go away into eternal punishment,” which is “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”. Elsewhere in Matthew (8:12, 22:13, 24:51, and 25:30), Jesus invokes a rather different image, suggesting that hell is “outer darkness” (that is, outside heaven) “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  Though not always expressly stated, the implication is that the punishment will have duration and be endless.” John F. Walvoord in Four Views on Hell, p. 20

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Photo Cred:  Matt Lawson Photography

I come from the Christian worldview of eternal life. I think that heaven and hell are linked and that the goal is actually life now, not later and that it be a life that is demonstrating the goodness of God to those around us now and to the care of the planet.  N.T.Wright also confirms the connection saying that hell is necessary as part of the ethics of heaven.

Otherwise, it’s chaos. Unless God hates child murderers, child rapists, whatever, then God is a bad God. But God wants them to change. If they say, “No, this is the way for me to be human. I like doing this stuff,” then God will say, “Well, I’m sorry. There is no place in my new creation for somebody who insists on remaking their own humanity in that deadly way (Ref)

My view on Hell is similar to C. S. Lewis.  His book The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is a good picture of life without God – the frozen paralysing fear of Narnia.

Personally, my view of Hell would be considered the ‘free will’ view.  According to the free will view, one of God’s purposes in creation is to establish genuine love-based relationships between God and humans, and within the human community. But love is a relation that can exist only between people who are genuinely free. Therefore, God gives people freedom in this life to decide for themselves whether or not they will reciprocate God’s love by becoming the people God created them to be (Ref).

It teaches that God places the damned in hell not to punish them, but to honor the choices they have freely made. On this view, hell originates not so much from divine justice as from divine love.
Jesus prayed “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Lewis says in The Great Divorce:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” He is saying that Hell is actually life without God.

When someone says, “I do not want to have a relationship with God,” in that limited sense they ultimately get their way. The unbeliever’s “wish” to be away from God turns out to be his worst nightmare. The ultimate or eternal absence of God is an eternity without goodness where you will live with your own poor character.

“In one of his few treatments of hell in Following Jesus, Tom Wright employed a metaphor which would have made Lewis proud. He imagined a grand piano that had once played brilliant music, but it changed hands and fell into disuse. Eventually wormwood set in to the disused piano and it was chopped up and used for kindling (p. 91)“.
Second Thessalonians 1:9 describes hell like this:

“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord.”

Where God withdraws, there can be no good.  So, in Lewis’s terms, the unbeliever gets what he wants — God’s absence — yet with it gets what he doesn’t want — the loss of all good.

I hope that this has helped a little.  It is a very abbreviated look at these topics which I found a little overwhelming to be honest.  I would be interested to hear your thoughts. Happy to be corrected.

Featured Art by Matt Lawson:

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Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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References:

Christian Theology by Alister McGrath

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, top-selling author and Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright tackles the biblical question of what happens after we die and shows how most Christians get it wrong. We do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth–a difference that makes all of the difference to how we live on earth.

Beginning to see as the mystics see by  Richard Rohr

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