Since undergoing EMDR therapy (highly recommended for those who have experienced trauma), I would say that my triggers are about 75% relieved. This percentage was, most definitely, put to the test this past weekend when I went to visit my two closest friends in Wake Forest, NC. This is my old stomping ground. Wake Forest is the home of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was there where I was more secluded than any time, in my life. It was there where I had all four of my babies, home schooled and had very little outside influence welcomed into my home, besides our church, because there is so much “evil in the world’ (sarcasm). It was there where I learned that women were (basically) created to please men, have babies and have a “quiet and gentle spirit” (more sarcasm). It was there where I lived in the isolated bubble of a miserable existence. . . . where I used to cry, literally in the closet, believing that I was worthless . . . where I used to cry out to God with questions like, “Is this all I was created for? To be used? Do you even like women, God?”
I often equate all of this awful with the seminary and the Southern Baptist denomination. And, yes, I saw awful there — IN ABUNDANCE. And mamas who come to our ministry for help experience the awful. But, I know that not everyone there believes these lies. Surely, they don’t. I know my two besties don’t. At the time, though (and for so long), I thought that the seminary had a corner on God and that I was living amongst the people who had it right. We were arrogant. We knew, people. We knew and no one else did. And part of what we knew was that it is OK for a woman to be abused in every way, and the church would practically endorse that.
You can imagine how I felt being all over the places where I felt so crushed.
But, it wasn’t the place that crushed me. It wasn’t the doctrine (skewed though some of it is — let’s be honest — we are all NEVER ALL OF THE TIME RIGHT ABOUT DOCTRINE). It wasn’t the young pastor-to-be boys who relished the idea of being “specially called”. They weren’t the ones. It was the bubble in which I lived. And, when you are being abused or neglected at home, I think you kind of believe that it is normal and that other people think you should be abused and neglected, as well. And we cannot look people in the eye. But, this is one of the greatest lies in the world of abuse — the lie that says, “I must deserve it. And he says everyone else thinks I deserve it. So, I cannot get close to anyone. Not really. It will only reinforce what I deserve. And I cannot manage that right now.”
We walked into the Summit Church in Raleigh and that same, old sickening feeling came over me . . . the mild nausea associated with Southern Baptists. The preacher was a young man I had never seen. It goes without saying that I had a slightly bad attitude. I wondered, “Would this church have responded to me the same way my church did when I took my children and fled an abusive man? Would they insist that I stay in the marriage? Would they have made me feel smaller, telling me that God wanted me to be abused for the rest of my life?” But, I love my friends and this church is important to them so, there I was.
The young man preaching, decked out in super-cool clothes and an even superer-cooler beard started talking about Joseph. And, all of a sudden, it was all I could do to hold back tears (which I released, relentlessly, later with my friend Anna). It was good. It was not oppressive. This young man spoke about being stripped of everything you thought you were . . . a son, a brother, a young man full of hope (a daughter, a sister, a young mother full of hope). He spoke about being stripped of dignity . . . and then being given a new name and being given all of the dignity back and more. He said things like, “The brothers weren’t the ones who sent Joseph away . . . God was. And He did so for a purpose.” Ya’ll. How could I have given certain people, in my life, so much power as to think they were responsible for my banishment? Whoa. They didn’t do it. God did this. Why? I don’t know all of the reasons. But, I DO know that, if I hadn’t left my abusive marriage and if my family of origin did not judge me so harshly and if the church I had been attending hadn’t been so gossipy and hurtful, I would not be here, directing Give Her Wings, which impacts thousands of hurting mothers and provides for so many of them to be able to pay bills and get on their feet. That’s why. This sermon was tailor-made for me. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
We went to the Mexican restaurant I had visited so frequently while being married to an abusive man. And I looked around, as I sipped my margarita (that would have been scandalous years ago), and realized that these people are not abusive people. They are just people. My isolation bubble kept me from seeing these people . . . . people who simply need to be loved; people who may be hurting; people who may not be hurting; just normal, run-of-the-mill, extraordinary created-in-God’s-image people. They did not do to me what had been done to me, so many years earlier. And it no longer felt that way, either.
And more . . . the mall in which I used to push my babies around . . . the corner ice-cream shop, the pathways I used to take when I ran . . . they are just places. Just places.
My isolation bubble has popped and I can see outside of my painful situation, more than ever. This may have been a final stage of my healing and I am so grateful for it! So, come on . . . come at me with your bad theology. I’m not crippled by it, anymore. I am here to tell you that there is a better way, a freer way, the way in which Jesus said He wanted to pave to show us how to love and forgive our sins and make us these awesome, funky, original creations that He just adores. I won’t shy away. I hear stuff and it hurts my heart . . . but it no longer affects me. And that is huge.
Are you still triggered by certain places? I would love to hear about it. What about theology? Do you get edgy when people throw out those words that used to keep you shackled? Has your isolation bubble popped, yet? I would love to hear from you. And, if the bubble hasn’t popped, yet, and you are isolated, all the more reason to reach out. We can help you with that! Jesus is allllll about relationships — good ones — not ones where someone has “authority” or the “upper hand” in your life. We will be your mutual, messy friends.
Warmly and Set Freely,