In a recent Facebook dialogue I was forced to face my past once again. I wish that I could do like the experts tell me. You know what they say about the past right?
Forget it. All that matters IS the present. IT is all you really have. THIS moment, that is it. Be what you want to be right now. Forget about what went before. It is over, it is finished. You are not your past.
I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard that. It is so many that I want to scream, I can’t get OVER it, I just can NOT because I have a super sensitive soul and one that feels my life so deeply that the past is super hard for me to just let go of. But I don’t scream and I don’t throw things, I simply endeavor to work through them. As one who’s built my life around working with others, I have observed that the past doesn’t easily just go away for most people even when they purposely build their lives in a completely different direction.
When a soldier comes home from the battlefield and cannot just instantly forget the past and move on, it is because what took place when they were at war was very intense and traumatic for them and trauma literally changes the way a body responds to life from then on out. This soldier will never be able to not know what it is like to have fought in a war and seen such horror, every single moment of every single day.
Consider the physical trauma Brett Favre endured while having spent his career playing in the NFL. He recently said that he could not remember going to his daughter’s soccer games this past summer as a result the severe concusions he has endured throughout his career. Mr. Favre’s physically traumatic past will steal his present from now on, every single moment of every single day.
Elizabeth Smart was severely traumatized during her time with her captor and his wife in the Wasatch mountains and in California. Having only known the life of an upper class, Temple recommended Mormon, the intensity of what she went through was extreme and intensely traumatizing. She will move on but will live with this every single moment of every single day.
The past matters. Though we can learn to live with it and create a new life for ourselves, it will always remain there with us. It think that forgetting it and moving on has a great deal to do with how intensely personal and traumatizing it was for YOU. My experiences aren’t nearly as traumatizing with continual concussions, going to war or being kidnapped and abused for 9 months but in many ways it was equally intense for ME. And in the same way that these three people will never fully leave their past behind them, I will not easily leave it behind me, especially where the concept of an organized church is concerned.
Recently someone shared these words with me and it occurred to me than many of you may feel the exact same way.
You seem to think you and your family are the only ones who got dealt some tough blows, and having to go through them gives you this exclusive understanding about spiritual things, and the church. If anything, I think it has jaded you in some ways toward the church.
I am writing this blog out today because I realized this morning that I simply need an opportunity to have a conversation with you, my friends of faith who have known me as a committed, passionate, Evangelical Christian and have observed that I am indeed jaded toward “the church”. If Dictionary.com is correct, then these words are absolutely accurate in describing where I am it with reference to “the church”. It says that jaded means:1. dulled or satiated by overindulgence: a jaded appetite. 2.worn out or wearied, as by overwork or overuse.
I love it that the first definition means “dulled or satiated by overindulgence” because I simply ate too much of it. The second one, “worn out or wearied, as by overwork or overuse” fits equally well. I am writing this because my blows as this person put it, have jaded me. I’m totally spent where the institution of church is concerned and honestly have no desire to return to it. We visited a church here where I hoped we could feel at home and though I loved the people, I just couldn’t imagine doing it again. It had taken us 5 years of experiences with our church in Logan before we became members and I would go back there in a heartbeat because I highly trust the people I know there. The church here is a different denomination and everything is brand new to us, I just don’t seem to have the emotional energy to learn it all and develop relationships of the trust that I personally need to feel safe there. I’m jaded. I know that.
I also have to say that as intense as my church involvement was the 5 years and 6 weeks that I first taught in the Christian School were paradoxically some of the best of my life – the time in the classroom was a great joy to me. I loved it. BUT my experiences were as traumatic for me as any of the examples I have given here. So much was expected of me as an emerging leader in the church at large even with the full knowledge that I had two toddlers of my own at home. I know full well that I chose to do what I did but so did Brett Favre and any soldier who enlists in the military. We are never, ever prepared for trauma. I also know that I was very young and simply not mature enough to control my own life. I know that I had issues from my own past that led me to over commit and neglect my own body to the point that I was 30 lbs. underweight and desperately sick to the point that I almost died. The impact of this trauma on my children has been severe too. Hannah’s eating disorder had a lot to do with these years. All of it is interwoven within and part of the trauma that hit our family when Hannah was born 3 months early and had multiple health problems while we were in the midst of all of this overcommitment. Separating things out has not been, nor will it ever be easy but I am and we are trying.
As for whether or not I have any “exclusive understanding about spiritual things” well, I suppose I do think I might have some unique observations and insights from working through my past with therapists and friends who have given me the space to never go to church again if its not in my best interest. I also found God profoundly more real than ever in my own LIFE when I lived in the Cache Valley in northern Utah. In the 5 years of exposure to First Pres. in Logan I discovered what it was like to be a woman in a church where there are pretty much no male or female roles in the leadership unless you happen to be a male or female actually in that role. That was a profoundly healing experience for me personally. In Utah I also got to know many Mormons and discovered the face of Christ very present in their lives. That experience made me ask some really hard questions about all things Christian. My massage therapist in Logan is a beautiful lesbian Buddhist woman and I learned more from her about the deep love of God and being present in the moment than I ever had before. As one with a passion for the spiritual life and one rooted in Christianity, I’m constantly seeking and learning and I realize that many of you will not like the answers I determine to be true for myself. The only reason we even have a relationship is that somehow in the midst of all the confusion and pain we forged a friendship of sorts that continues and that is very meaningful to me still. It does not mean, however, that I think I’m all that right about a whole lot of things. In fact there are only a very few things in my life now that I am certain of and most have little to do with the church. The reality is that heavy involvement and leadership in my particular Evangelical Church those 5 years and 6 weeks prior to leaving for health reasons has jaded me. It just is that simple. It is is my past and it will be with me every single moment of every single day no matter how much I try to be present and let it go.