Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Large Crowd Panic Attack.

I am noticing a pattern as I continue to heal. Whenever I experience positive growth emotionally, within hours or days something negative comes up which I thought I wouldn't have to go through again. I have been enjoying my denominations District Convocation. An week long convention held at the Oakland Marriott involving several thousand people. I have not attended every night, but have attended Tuesday, and Wednesday. I was preparing to go to the Saturday goings on, where I'd get to see our new Presiding Bishop for the entire denomination. On Wednesday, it appeared the preacher was "working the crowd".

After being deeply involved with Dr. Scott for 14 years, I've seen various ways of "working a crowd" in the name of God. Scott relied on fear and guilt with some flattery thrown in, just to be on the safe side. He told us we were worshiping God, but we were just being used to make him rich. Everything was a crisis. Everything came down to giving money.

This is the first year I've attended my denomination's local Convocation. Meetings with lovely music, a sound stage and at least two thousand people present for each night's service. The meetings are loud and designed to excite the audience to the possibilities of God coming across with a miracle in their lives.

But, then the old throw-money-at-your-problems gambit was pulled. "How bad do you want God to DO something in your life?" I went cold inside, but stayed for the rest of the service on Wednesday. I was very angry, but prayed with my Pastor, in case I was misreading the proceedings. Everyone else seemed totally caught up in the movement of the Spirit. I wanted to walk out, as a protest in disgust.

Saturday was the final night meeting with our denomination's presiding Bishop giving the sermon. I had a wonderful surprise when I got to the Marriott for a light dinner before the nights activities were to begin. My favorite waiter was working (as they were very busy hosting several conventions). I ordered a small Caesar Salad and coffee. I'd blown most of my money on a beautiful church hat, so I was watching my pennies.

James surprised me with a full sized dinner Caesar Salad and my favorite desert. He bought my dinner! I was truly stunned. I have been dining there for almost ten years. I am still amazed how lovingly I am treated by all the staff at the Marriott. It is always such a nice feeling when I dine with them. With dinner over, it was time for the night's meeting.

The Bishop again began to work the crowd, getting them all riled up for that miracle in their lives. I could feel the energy building and was not going to change my financial decisions, no matter what incentive was offered. Frankly, God has done so much for me, I have real difficulty getting in His face and demanding more. It just feels tacky and selfish to me. He's healed my mind, taken my back pain away and loved me in a thousand different ways. Why would I want to "demand" anything of such a loving Father?

As the intensity of the sermon continued to build I realized I was getting frightened, really frightened. I was having trouble breathing and felt a wave of nausea wash over me. I felt like I was being crushed inside. I haven't had a panic attack in years, but I realized I had to get out of that room and away from all the noise FAST.

I took my offering and hurried to the back. As I moved my panic was still mounting. I had to get OUT! My friend was following me, trying to persuade me that I was fine. I found an usher, shoved my offering into her hand, and explained that I was ill. (I learned a long time ago that keeping it simple and non-dramatic speeds up exits very nicely). My friend then wanted to get a ride for us. I just wanted to take a bus and get home, away from all the noise. I didn't want my friend to leave something I knew she was enjoying.

She finally let me take a bus and returned to the meeting. She was kind enough to call me when she got home, to make sure I was alright. I let her know I had experienced a panic attack. If I'd tried to force myself to stay, I might have gotten emotionally out of control, crying, or even screaming. I am so glad I followed my instincts about taking care of myself.

You might ask: what is a panic attack? It is a state of mind where your body and emotions swing into a severe flight reaction. I've only had a few of these, but they come on quickly and can escalate into hours of hysterical crying and screaming. For me they start with a very strong sense of danger and fear. My body reacts by pumping extra blood and Adrenalin into my system with a racing heart. I then feel like I can't get enough air into my lungs. At this point I know I have to try and get away from what ever is frightening me.

If I begin to have these episodes on a regular basis, I will have to see my doctor at my HMO, as it may mean I need a medication change, or some intervention, short-term group therapy. This is not necessarily a bad thing, or a failing on my part. I can't pray for God to heal a condition I'm not aware of having. It seems that each move forward into positive emotional growth gives me the strength to re-live some of the terror.

My pattern seems to be: I experience a sense of positive feelings, well-being and safety. Followed by re-living something seemingly negative. Once the negative memory, or reaction is out in the open, where I realize it is still a problem, I pray and God walks me through another level of faith and healing.

I did not return to the huge events on Sunday. Sunday School followed by another blow-out service. The room would be so packed that an announcement was made about not being allowed to save seats for people who weren't there yet. I really didn't want to endure another attempt to get my "hoper" all riled up, so I'd throw money at God. I'm glad others find this uplifting, but I find it depressing and down right frightening.

Thankfully, I know my Pastor understands the very real damage Dr. Scott inflicted on my ability to trust. I truly hope these meetings are authentic moves of the Spirit of God and not just flimflam in the name of faith. I have seen so much good in my church. This is the first set of meetings which have me wondering what is really going on. Like all things, time will tell. No human institution is without its faults and flaws. I will honor my sense of fright and wait to speak to pastor later in the week.

I look forward to returning to our small church with an attendance of about twenty-five people. I am surprised how frightened I became. It all happened so quickly. More healing work is going on, as old fears rise to the surface for God to heal. I am so grateful to have been able to get away from a situation which truly scared me. Time will show me how to handle crowds better in the future, but for now, I'm home, safe in the quiet of my room.

1 comment:

MacPhilly said...

Being home and safe is good. And, it's part of the holiness/pentecostal culture to do the whip up the crowd and have them storm the alter with their offerings. Not a part that I endorse, encourage or even LIKE for that matter - but part of it.

You made the right decision cybergal - and you did the mature Christian thing in being responsive to God with your giving and responsible within your income for any offerings (that is non-tithe giving). My wife and I have a policy - we pray BEFORE we go to any meetings to see what the Lord will have us give. It's a good idea.