October 7, 2018
This weekend is the “Blessing of the Animals” in many of our churches around the world. It is about the right time of year for that. Right about now, we have enough personal anxiety that surrounds us, we have plenty of background agita to add to it from our national partisan ugliness, we could all use a good pet to off load some of that stress and just chill.
We’ve had the #MeToo movement that has started to gain traction and just as it did, we had the Kavanaugh hearings, a wave of poor reactions to it from men, and more pain shared by more women than most of us were aware. You can read the statistics but that doesn’t prepare you for the emotional breadth of personal testimony. So many stories, so much pain. Some of it going back a long time with a longer string of consequence with turmoil and stress.
That can be so destructive as victims voice it. You relive your frustrations. Any time we are helpless and not able to be in control, we re-live that feeling hoping somehow this time to avoid or overcome that awful feeling of vulnerability. We flee from that at all costs. It can become a negatively defining part of your life, even though you don’t want it to be. You can become cynical, bitter, blaming- driven by negativity.
We have this long list of characters in the Bible that live through unjust suffering- Jonah, Bathsheba, Jeremiah, Tamar. Like Job, they all ask the question ‘Why?’ Why did this happen to me?
We raise that question, not because we are expecting some ordered justice throughout the universe. No, we ask that question because we don’t know what to do with this awful, nightmarish pain. What good can come out of this?
Richard Rohr says that our pain must become transformed. If it doesn’t it will become transmitted. That is the experience the frightening experience that we have generationally. The bible says that ‘the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children even unto the third and fourth generation’. The saying has more than one application.
But it is the terrible fate of people that have been subject to physical violence when they are children. They hated being controlled, humiliated. But there comes a day when they are adults that they find themselves becoming violent and controlling with the rising generation. They can’t even believe that they can behave in this way. But they are transmitting that pain from a long, long time ago.
If you are lucky, you realize that you’re are caught in a cycle and you have to break free of this cycle. You can try to repress it. You can try fleeing from it. But there comes a point where you realize that you actually have to stop and address it.
I was moved by this week, listening to Jason Kander, who has been running for Mayor in Kansas City. He is a bright, rising star apparently. A Veteran of the Iraq war, articulate, level headed. And he dropped out of the race for Mayor. He said, “I’ve been trying to outrun depression and PTSD. I’ve just recently concluded that I’m just not that fast and I have to turn and deal with this head on.”
He said he kept telling himself that he couldn’t have PTSD because he didn’t experience enough trauma to earn it. He wasn’t any different than anyone else. Others around him suffered more. He kept trying to stay busy, think bigger, wider, help more people- and it would just resolve itself.
He is realizing that his pain must be transformed. Richard Rohr says that, ironically, it can’t be transformed until you dig deeper into your pain.
That is essentially what my folks are doing every day at our AA meetings. They consciously try to gather with other people in recovery so that they can do a ‘fearless inventory of themselves’, accurately describe themselves as they are, not as they have projected themselves to other people, not as they have deluded themselves for the past many years.
They are digging into their pain, mapping it, trying to understand it realistically for what it is. And the closer they get to being honest and transparent, the more they realize that they actually cannot resolve this pain on their own. It is too big, too deep, too broad.
They have to give it to God- to their Higher Power as they say in AA. And as they start consciously trying to give their pain to God, they start to become aware that our job in this life is not to be the perfect human being. Our job is to make the most of what we actually have, to make the most of who we actually are.
Our job is to allow ourselves to be transformed by God’s love, God’s redemptive healing- No more, but no less…
There is a mildly profound line in the Bible that says, “Others meant it for evil, but God used it for good.” The people who traumatized you did a bad thing. But later on, now that you are an adult, now that you have some perspective on what happened, you can use this very bad thing to grow in a whole new direction.
Because one day, many months and years later, you realize that you have been going through this process of using your pain as a window into your soul, giving it to God, relying on the support and love that other victims have given you… And somehow, you are actually now quite a different person. In some ways you are actually strongest around the very points of brokenness that caused you so much pain. Without exactly being able to say when or where, you have become transformed.
You are transcending your negativity. Self-doubt is not defining you. You are not sabotaging yourself. And maybe the most important symptom of healing, you get indirect confirmation that you are not actively transmitting your pain to the next generation.
After more healing has taken place than you really realize, you become aware that you are not simply a victim, you are becoming a survivor. You are becoming something new. It may not be perfect but it is real, very real.
As Saint Paul said in his letter. When you get to this place, it ain’t no BS.
Find your way into God. You don’t have to face this pain alone. There are fellow sufferers to your left and to your right that don’t need for you to be perfect or powerful. They just hope for you to be real.
May you be able to pray the prayer that Jesus prayed, “Not my will, O God, but Your will… I give this over to You and Your power of resurrection.
May you find yourself surrounded with a support you didn’t know you had. May you let yourself be healed with love.