Sometimes I have been known to cross the line . . . Whoops!
On occasions in a lesser way, my children have too. It’s tricky to know when to let them fall and when to catch them, and when to let them bang to the ground with a thump. It’s all a learning curve. Still even today I have been known to thump to the ground.
But hopefully it is rare.
One learning curve is modern technology, and its dangers. I am always on my children’s case about internet safety, especially as one of my children got themselves in a potentially compromising pickle. However I failed to take my own advice. When I was exploring Christianity online (before I joined the Catholic Church), I regularly used to go to a Christian forum and engage with the community. This community I eventually got bored and frustrated with and so I left. Having been a little slow on technology I never had at that time a Facebook page, so my 60+ year old mother talked me into opening one, however I did not take my own advice which I gave to my children.
I have had two friends on Facebook for the past few years, one of them to the outside world would have appeared to be a very good friend of mine, and yet they were personally unknown to me, one was male and one was female. I friend requested them initially through another mutual friend (who I do personally know), because we had been exchanging conversation for a year or so all together on this Christian forum site. For over two years these ‘friends’ have followed my Facebook page, and I their’s. My home address, mobile number and email address is known to them. It feels harsh to cut people off dead that you have built up ‘friendship’ with, even if ‘only’ on-line, and they were only ever kind, but yesterday I pulled the plug. I do not physically know these people, even though the false sense of security in them being ‘friends’ made me feel as if I did, and so they went. I consider myself a good judge of character and something felt uncomfortable because one of them was too frequently over-familiar. I am very good friends on Facebook with a policeman and his wife and after chatting over my concerns with them, I thought it best and more authentic to ‘unfriend’ the two ‘friends’.
When we were children these dangers were of course never a problem.
We had other ways. I remember my Dad once introducing us to his friend as his 3 special daughters, my big sister was introduced as the pretty one, my younger sister was the intelligent one, and I was introduced as the one with the personality. My Dad made each of us feel uniquely special and being bright of personality was my unique gift, but from that day on I never felt quite as academic as my little sister, or quite as pretty as my beautiful big sister. And whilst I never attracted a boyfriend like my big sister, and never had great school reports like my little sister, I was thought to be always the cheerful bright, happy-go-lucky friendly person. And this made me popular. It was only latterly that I had any idea that my personality attracted attention, even at times when it wasnt wanted.
Once adolescence had past I was no longer protected or camouflaged by my tomboy ways. My body took on its more adult form, with its more feminine posture and softer gestures, which left me all at once in a different place, even from other women. I was largely unaware of these characteristics, being slow off the starting block and to me it seemed that all the boys liked all the other girls. I was just a cool friend, whilst they were girly and pretty, and besides, they seemingly had much girly practise with their makeup and their hair, and their love of clothes and shopping, all things which I detested. Instead I had my hair french cropped (once someone said I looked like Jean Shrimpton), although on the outside with hindsight I must have looked like a ‘girl’, on the inside I still felt like just a quirky tomboy. Thus It took me an awkward long age to grow into my new skin.
Then life happened upon me . . . .
The years they pass by quickly . . . .
Last November when I read through the witness statement of my annulment, I was absolutely shaken and moved to tears. Because my 3 different witnesses (who didn’t know one another personally) all summed up my character with matching perfection. It was a touching revelation to see myself through others eyes, rather than through my own critical eye. They were very generous with their warmth and their kind words. It was for me an unexpected character reference which blew me away, because they all know me in deepest truth, from different times over a period of 20 years. One was a Christian chap, from a couple who lived in the flat below us, we were very close with them twenty years ago when we first were married. One was a best friend from a later stage in our married life, who we met after we had children, and the third witness was my mother. This revelation, of their witness to my character was so poignantly moving for me, as at the time I was feeling absolutely persecuted by somebody whom I cared for deeply, who I felt had portrayed me in the wrong light, and left me feeling devastated. My witnesses matching accuracy astounded me, they coincidentally also perfectly summed up both the lovely, and the complex part of my former husbands character too.
However the most heart-wrenching statement came from my mother, who said something along the lines of, (this is from memory) ‘we were concerned for Amber when she left home at just seventeen, because she has such a friendly, outgoing, trusting and warm nature, that we feared someone might take advantage of her.’ This was a massive shock to me because up until then my Mum had never ever said such a thing to me, neither had she shown that prophetic concern directly to me. She wasn’t really one for being emotive or soft or expressive, in fact even to this date she doesn’t know that I have read her statement. Its one of the sweetest things I think she has ever said. My mum is lovely and much fun, but she is not one for warm compliments, and she is not maternal and cuddly, but is practical and forthright. When I read her kind words I burst into tears.
I am a happy bright personality by nature . . . however I am also street wise. You do not grow up on the fringes of the East End without a certain amount of knowing, especially as a tomboy child, who is the second of 4 children, the last one being a brother. The girls at school were quite tough on me with my artistic quirky tomboy ways, so I learnt to be creative and to defend myself the hard way. I was never bullied because I fought back, I became the fun one of the crowd. I am not proud of my non-pacifist school moments, in fact at times I cringe, but they were good for character building. I was for a while kind-of one-of-the-lads, I preferred my skateboard, and footie, and going over the woods with my bike and my dog. My Dad was a big man and well known and liked for his presence, people didn’t mess with him or his family, and as a result of his willingness to protect his family, I remember him teaching us how to defend ourselves should somebody try to harm us, especially as from the age of sixteen I regularly travelled from home to the centre of London where I went to college. Its ironic that as a young nineteen year old woman I protected him, by choosing not to tell him something that I probably should have. I choose now however to teach my children a different way.
I refuse to let the ugly side I have seen of mankind make me shy away from my own bright personality and gift, and therefore my nature has every intention of being absolutely herself to the end. I will not allow my trust in people to become unnecessarily cynical and fractured despite it having been challenged on more than one occasion. I am happy to be warm, out-going and friendly still today, and to live in loving kindness. But I do also have an acute sense of danger and falsity, and the minute that line is crossed, I am confident in acknowledging that line will never be crossed by that person ever again. And when I sense an over familiarly that is not mutual, or wanted, or encouraged, then I will follow my instincts regardless. With five children of my own, getting the balance right between education and awareness without making them over fearful is a fine line to tread, but one that I am happy to tread with honesty, open dialogue and at times, when necessary, by sharing my own experiences, mistakes and example. As from today my Facebook page is two ‘friends’ down, taking me back to a perfect 113.
And just in case you were wondering what a young Jean Shrimpton crop looked like;
‘All of Jesus’ rules of ministry, his “tips for the road,” are very specific and interpersonal (see Matthew 10:1-42). They are putting people in touch with other people which becomes his very school of conversion (no hint of monasteries, universities, or seminaries yet!). We are essentially social beings, just as the Trinity is both one self and yet three selves at the same time. Person-to-person is the way the essential message is communicated: person-in-love-with-person, person-healing-person, person-forgiving-person, person-touching-person, person-crying-with-person, person-surrendering-to-person—all become the opening of the floodgates of both soul and Spirit, the waterwheel of Trinitarian grace.
When you see life being created between people and within people too, you see God. Restraint and passion—are the paradoxical experience of the Holy. Holding the self and then giving the self away are equally important, but it takes time to learn how to do that properly. You grow into your ability to love another in a way that totally gives yourself and entrusts yourself to them, and yet honors their boundaries and yours too. In my opinion, Jesus does both very well. He teaches us how to hold ourselves, lose ourselves, and paradoxically find ourselves in the process. He surely learned this as part of his own Trinitarian life. He is the Son who receives the Father totally, holds this identity proudly, and yet hands this Mystery on to all of us as Holy Spirit! God is a verb called relationship more than a noun called monarch.’
“The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.”
The Scriptures very clearly teach what we call today a “bias toward action.” It is not just belief systems or dogmas and doctrines, as we have often made it. The Word of God is telling us very clearly that if you do not do it, you, in fact, do not believe it and have not heard it (James 1:19-27) and much of the rest of this primitive letter, which likely precedes the later theological emphasis in Paul’s letters).
The only way that we become convinced of our own sense of power, dignity, and the power of God is by actually doing it—by crossing a line, a line that has a certain degree of nonsensicalness and unprovability to it—and that’s why we call it faith. In the crossing of that line, and acting in a new way, then and only then can we really believe what we say we believe in the first place. Lifestyle issues, like non-consumer living, non-violent actions, community building, service, and volunteerism, ask much more of us than mere belief systems ever do.