What does trauma, pot lucks, and relationships have to do with each other?
In my world a lot.
For so many years grief was an abstract concept. I was a “Christian.” I didn’t acknowledge anxiety, depression, mental health… (sadly so many still don’t.)
When diagnosed with PTSD my response to the doctor was “That’s impossible, I have the peace that passes understanding!”
After all, in our Christian cult if our prayers weren’t answered it was a lack of faith or disobedience for whatever sins we may have been involved in – and that covered a multitude – from owning a TV, to women wearing pants, to listening to secular or Christian rock, to reading books with any magic like C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, to being in debt for anything – ever – to…
The list of don’ts was very long. The do’s were summed up quickly.
Especially sinful was going to the “arm of the flesh” – the doctors, the lawyers, the insurance salesman. Psalm 91 was our “assurance policy.”
If you lacked faith to trust, you didn’t love God and He wouldn’t love you. It fed right into my perfectionist upbringing where nothing was ever quite right – not good enough, perfect enough. Too much ice. Not hot enough. You look like a slut in that shirt.
“Perfect love casts out fear.” If we were afraid, we didn’t love God.
Fear, control, and manipulation is used far too often within church relationships, to persuade insecure people to confirm to what an individual person believes is truth.
When Micaiah died there were little comforting words of “I’m sorry.” Instead people wanted to know where we had “missed it.” It was their “truth.”
When I finally started to pursue the long road of healing which began with recognizing we were in a cult, the emphasis of the trauma was placed upon on the loss of our son and traumatic circumstances surrounding his birth. Though I had common trauma reactions from the horrors of the birth, it took years to realize my trauma was spiritual abuse, not the birth.
For an introvert, pot lucks are difficult enough – for a survivor of spiritual abuse – they scream conversation.
“Pot luck” dinners are opportunities for relationships.
Relationships that often judge and hold to expectations of what a Christian does or doesn’t do. Like church on Sundays.
Christians always go to church on Sunday. (“Forsake not the assembling…” they said. “If you’re not in church, where are you? they said.”
Relationships with people who have all the answers instead of simply loving silence.
People who always have the last word because they know better how you should believe or feel.
The same platitudes and attitudes that had been present in the cult. People are people.
After speaking at an event not long ago, I was told I couldn’t have been in a “Christian cult.“If it was a cult, it wasn’t Christian.” Therefore, I couldn’t have been a “Christian.”
I loved Jesus and had devoted my life to following him – enough to die for him. But I wasn’t a Christian because my theology was wrong.
Just recently someone who I called “friend,” someone whom I trusted enough to plead “please don’t go there it’s painful for me” – someone who Dave also told to leave certain doctrines alone – a leader -felt the need to instruct me in my most painful place – again. We don’t communicate, we don’t have a relationship, but the last word was dished out without any thought to what had been shared in dark places of honest vulnerability.
I wish I was dead to this. I’m not. It’s like Paul’s thorn to me. I cry out for God to take this last piece of healing and deliver me so I can laugh and not cry. Instead he says,
“My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”
My pain enables me to remain silent with others who are suffering and suffer with them.
Everyone who draws breath will be wounded and judged. It’s all part of this great journey we call life. The more visible you are, the worse it is.
It’s OK. We are in the company of all of humanity with Jesus as our shining example of humble forgiveness.
Let it be. Agree to disagree. Choose to be silent.
It took a long time to realize that it’s the people not the birth that triggers a traumatic response.
It was people who I trusted to mentor me in The Way of Life, who instead lead me – us – to death.
I was in a one sided abusive relationship with Jesus. God was not love – God was a judgmental jerk. He resembled judgmental humanity more than sinless perfection.
For a short time, God provided a safe place to heal and be. Mature and kind leadership loved us. We could leave when it hurt, stay when it was safe, discuss our beliefs with mutual respect. It wasn’t based upon being in church on Sunday, tithing, Sunday school attendance, or meeting the expected belief system of that church leadership.
We could serve in our strengths, be used in our wounds, and accepted in our own, unique, divine story.
The church is our battle zone. It’s where the music of worship can sound like bombs, the words of leadership whiz by like bullets, and the attitudes of people are a beheading.
For me, healing in community has been more therapy by immersion than by love. I want to call Dr. Leo Marvin and ask him for a copy of Baby Steps, instead of Bob’s, Death Therapy.
We can’t be healed if we don’t know where the wounds are.
People expose the wounds.
For Dave, his battle zone rages. Bullets whiz, bombs drop, sirens blare. Church is hard – really hard. It’s performance and failure, death and financial loss, expectations and damaged relationships – wrapped up in “praise the Lord brother, God is good.”
For Dave, church is the tears my father cried when he returned to Normandy Beach after fighting on D-Day. Overwhelming reminders of pain, death, and friendships lost.
For those who love us, for those who know, they understand you’ll find us serving God out there. In the pain. In the loss. In the suffering.
It’s our sanctuary.
Where Dave goes, I go. When Dave leaves, I leave. My journey is to see him let go of the voice that says, “What kind of man lets his son die in a cult?”
My heart may continue to race when I am among the church; I may experience the stale smell of fear in the musty odor of basement pot lucks…
But I also smell redemption…
..in the kindness of the pastor who understands.
A mom who grieves.
A father who has given his life to raise his family.
A refugee who has fled.
In being who I am.
In who He is.
Note: I would be remiss not to say that we have a few close friends and pastors who are “safe.” Dave has two. For me, a person who has always worn my heart on my sleeve – outside of blogging and writing I am stepping away from wounding relationships, becoming less trusting, and guarding my heart. For those who would question that attitude as healing – Jesus only had 12 he trusted, and among those there still was a betrayer.