“Your story is yours and no one else’s. Each sunset is different depending on where you stand.” Al Andrews, from Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark
Over the last ten years, writing has become a therapeutic way for me to make sense of my world and my faith. I started a blog 6 years ago (to the day) as a systematic way of studying scripture and sharing opinions. In so doing, I also found a camaraderie with others that were interested in the scriptures or topics about which I wrote. Shortly after I started that blog, varying parts of my seemingly formulaic world started falling apart. However, with a few choice quotes, and familiar Bible verses, I could still explain it all away and make everything fit into a nice logical space.
Until I couldn’t.
For over two decades of my life, I sat under a teacher that drew crowds and adulation ad nauseam, and I was a good student. Through his Bible studies, I learned a lot about the Bible, but mostly I learned how to center each story around me, or in other words, I learned how to “apply it to my life.”
Horrifically, that “pastor” was caught being a sexual predator, and even though I would never defend him, I was such a faithful loyalist to the church, I wholeheartedly defended his moralistic teachings and the enormous kingdom he had amassed. I became so good at explaining the Bible as it relates to us, complete with “to do lists” and bullet points, that I began writing for other online publications in addition to my own. About the same time my husband became a pastor, and consequently I became a pastor’s wife which was a whole new world to try to understand. Predictably, the further down the rabbit hole we went, the less things made sense. I watched as scripture was used to control the benign behavior of some and then excuse the malicious conduct of others. Little by little we seemed to step fully through the looking glass at which point writing became impossible.
Along with the confusion, came devastation. So much loss. Most of the losses were too complicated to understand myself, never mind share about on a blog. I hardly knew what was true. The answers we fought to find seemed just out of reach. Trust was broken. And we had to walk away- not from God, but from those we really believed were our “family.”
During this time I had developed an unexpected community on Twitter. People who are willing to help me hash through difficult concepts without giving me trite answers. People who simply say. “I’m sorry for your pain,” without a silver lining tagline. People who encourage me in ways I didn’t know I needed encouraging. People who think differently than me, but are willing to stick around and discuss. People who make me laugh all day long. And my favorite, people who have shown me how to disagree with kindness and even humbly concede to being wrong.
What I found in 280 characters or less, (or more with the occasional thread) is that my situation is not unique. Realizing I wasn’t alone has helped me heal in ways I desperately needed. All throughout this year I kept feeling the urge to write, but felt paralyzed by the pain of losing the only faith community we have known for 25 years. Instead of writing blogs, I was writing down difficult conversations I needed to have. I was writing down topics to discuss with my therapist. I was writing down timelines to try to make sense of what happened. And despite feeling like I would never have any thoughts worth writing again, deep down I wanted to believe that someday soon I would be writing for truth, beauty and goodness again.
So here we are. Ready or not. I am writing.
I am writing to share my stories, because so many of your stories have helped me. I am writing to grow my understanding, because I have so much to learn. And I am writing to heal my wounds, because “communicating fully is the opposite of being traumatized.” (The Body Keeps the Score, Kolk MD, Bessel Van Der)
Most of the reasons that were holding me back from writing were about image. What if my writing friends think my writing is awful? What happens when I am wrong, again? What can I say without saying too much? What do I really have to gain? In the end, everyone has to weigh their own risk vs. gain. Personally, I have always erred towards being too vulnerable, and have learned the hard way that many will not care for your story. Some will hear it and dismiss it, argue with it, or forget it. But I have also experienced many joys through the connection that only telling your story can bring. And while these reasons are quite enough, the moment that tipped the scales for me is when I realized how many women and men are legally being kept from telling their stories. This made me realize the true gift I have to be able to tell my story to anyone I choose, and that is a gift I cannot waste. So for all of those that have been silenced, I am taking this risk for you, in the spirit of full disclosure.
“Finding words where words were absent before and as a result being able to share your deepest pain and deepest feelings with another human being-This is one of the most profound experiences.” ( Kolk MD, Bessel Van Der)