Story, we’re encouraged to tell our story. In the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, the theme for the last few years has been, “Know Your Story, Live it Boldly.” It’s not at all that unique to the diocese as the greater Church itself has a link on their main website to storytelling encouraging people to share their stories. There are over 800 videos in the library, filled with ministry, and hope, love and protest. These are all good and positive stories. They may tackle some hard issues, but it is all part of a movement, the Jesus movement.
I often suspect that when we fish for these stories, we are looking for that transformative centre that empowers, and bolsters a new or deepening love of Christ. I love the encouragement, but I wonder as a church how open we are to all our stories in living transformation. In a world full of brokenness are we listening, truly listening with open hearts to the intimate stories of our siblings in Christ? Are we responding with urgent Love or do we trade in these stories for the easier softer stories that fit our greater need, unintentionally tucking away the brokenness among us as to bolster our cause?
Story, we’re all supposed to share our story. Encouraged to narrate the inner deep parts of us that make us both vulnerable and whole. Withholding casts a shadow on our authenticity and sharing, well, that can make others feel uncomfortable leading one down that Alice in Wonderland Rabbit hole.
If you have been following me on this blog, or know me as a friend then at the very least you know I am a survivor; and as a survivor, I navigate the appropriateness of each moment, scanning quickly for my safety whenever anyone begins to ask questions, seek advice or we happen to fall on a topic. Yup, falling on a topic is probably the hardest to navigate next to the Spiritual biography that as a seminarian I must write, rewrite and update as I move through my process.
Story, do you really want to know my story? The more I tell it, the more I share, the more I meet people like me. They are good support and a priceless resource, but still, I like many often fear the stigma associated with my story, and so many survivors warn me to protect myself; so as an additional resource, I create art to speak for me in a way that is safe but opens the door to those who so choose. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are people who are tired of hearing me share, but as I learn from the countless emails and messages, other survivors need me to open up as I too so very much need them.
Post Traumatic Stress sucks! I have a really great support system and toolbox to help cope, but triggers happen sometimes most unexpectedly. The above piece is titled: Fire and Ice and it comes as a prayerful response to my last trigger. I’ve been wrestling whether or not to share – at least this part of my story at this time.
Here it goes… This is a small sample of what Post Traumatic Stress looks like.
I went down to the chapel to change the color of the frontal. I love being in the Chapel alone and in the dark with only a small light from behind to show the way. It’s my time to sing, chant and pray, my time with God. Usually the statues are illumined commanding God’s great presence and invite people to sit awhile, but not that night. The statues were dark and what appeared to be an emergency lamp was left on illuminating only the Sacristans’ box. What struck the altar was lite by the left over flow from behind.
The stillness of dark didn’t diss way me from completing my task, I gently dismantled and folded and transposed one frontal for another as I sang. As I finished, I prayed using Christine Jackman’s Hebrew version of the Our Father, I sang out, Avinu, Avinu, Sheh ba Shamayam… I sang the entire prayer three times, like never before, my heart wide open. Perhaps after my trip to Israel the Hebrew meant something far more than before.
By now my task was complete but I felt called to be with God awhile and kept the music playing in my ear. It was music from my library. I don’t listen to it much anymore. There are far too many haunts, I’ve taken to other forms of streaming, but I gather my longing to sit with God singing this prayer was far greater than my haunting.
After all, I am healing, I’m moving on and I left my wounds at the tenth station in Jerusalem or so I thought, but suddenly out from the dark was her voice. Frozen, tears streaming from my eyes, I fell seated into the Sedalia. I couldn’t turn it off. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. It was like hearing a voice from the grave. I cried out and heavy to God, “What am I to do with this? What do you need me to hear?”
As her Sermon from the fourth Sunday after Easter in 2011 continued, though seated still bodily as I wept, I was no longer in the Chapel but transposed. I was suddenly lying at the back of the altar at my home parish. Lying back flat and still as a frightened animal, I stared up the back of the chancel. I can feel my breath; I can see it as if every morsel of Carbon Dioxide was a piece of God returning home through the rays of light penetrating the small triangular stained glass windows above me. I escaped. I lay beneath the plain golden Protestant cross, numb and cold, yet somehow comforted. It was my safe place, no one ever knew I was there. Only on a very rare occasion did someone wonder through, maybe from time to time they’d catch me praying, but no one ever knew how much time, how often I laid there, escaping her and at the same time trying to figure out or negotiate the reasons of her words and actions as if abuse has a justifiable reason.
That’s the thing, abuse NEVER has a justifiable reason.
Triggers suck, it takes some time to recover. Like having all the air and wind and everything that breathes life into you being sucked out in one unexpected swoop. I have a toolbox, a toolbox of coping mechanisms that help ease the transition back into life, but that’s just it – it’s an easing back into life.
Fire and Ice
Be well dear friends.