Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Help in Unlikely Places: Can This Shoe Really Fit?

My survivor friends will never forget the disbelieving look on my face:

“You actually want me to talk to a male minister?”

I thought they had all gone mad. We were all in a therapy group for survivors of incest – female survivors. At the time, there was no way I was going to trust any man and especially one of the cloth. I also lacked trust in organized Christian religion because that involved embracing a God who killed his son for my sins. A God who equated to another abuser was not a God of my understanding.

Yet, one by one, my friends were getting spiritual counseling and guidance from this most unlikely Methodist source. And one by one, they came back raving at their newfound insights, the depth to which they felt heard, and the ability of this minister to make sense out of the senseless. According to them, this guy was performing the miracle of bringing meaning to their suffering.

Hmm…finally, I had to see for myself.

I felt like there was a metal rod up my spine as I stiffly walked into a church. Yuck! I then shook hands with a plump, balding, middle-aged man who looked every bit the part of the Midwest Bible Belt. What could he possibly offer me?

I immediately told him that he was the last person I ever wanted to talk to and I was only here because of the prodding of my friends. He had no qualms with that, and he reassured me I was free to leave at anytime. There, I put him in his place.

Then I just started to talk. I do not know how or why, but he had an aura of goodness and safety that melted the wall I threw around me. I told him of my trials, of the horrific things I had experienced, of the way I felt deeply different from everyone else. I told him that when I looked out the window on a sunny day, I see more than just the beauty of the flowers and grass. I have felt the true depth of the ugliness and evil that hides in the shadows. I can never really enjoy a nice day, not like everyone else. I just know too much.

He listened intently through my story, and then said one sentence that changed my whole world:

I feel like I am in the presence of something Holy.”

I had been called crazy, “dramatic”, over-reactive, and too sensitive. I had been given diagnostic labels for insurance companies to pay therapy bills, but never, ever in my life did anyone suggest that my experiences equated to holiness - that I was brought to bear the same burdens and knowledge as prophets. Prophets are on a mission, and so was I.

My suffering finally, finally found a purpose, and I had a male leader of an organized religion to thank for making it all clear. Unbelievable.

I think I was the one in the presence of something Holy.


  1. I relate to sometimes finding it difficult to enjoy things due to knowing too much. Typically, for me, it is during certain times of the year. I am able to shove it to the side and see the beauty around me a good portion of the time.

    Sometimes, though, I find myself feeling guilty for enjoying the things in life that I am able to enjoy. I feel as if it is, somehow, a betrayal of those who still suffer. Yet...I would also like to think that they would want me to enjoy life...almost like enjoying it for them because they cannot?

    Yes...suffering has a purpose, but it can sure be difficult at times to understand it. I really like that idea..."in the presence of something holy". I am so glad that you were able to connect with him and gain that perspective...that it could help you turn your life around. :-)

  2. Hi One Survivor,

    Sorry, I hsve been in "way-too-busy" mode (which I typcially find myself in every October - imagine insightful comments.

    For me, I think the goal for us all is to have a joyful life, and perhaps it is our responsibility to model joyfulness for those still in pain. We all deserve to have joy, and I think even those who have crossed over are cheering us on to get there.

    What was so powerful about this encounter with the minister was the fact that he saw me for my true self - he saw past all the crap and all the lies I was told. And he made me see it too. After he likened me to holiness (which I believe is the true nature of everyone albeit hidden in some), I just sat there stunned and speechless. Plus, I think it was good for me to see that something really good could come out of a religious source - which I had much fear of at the time.

    Isn't it amazing how you can spend hours in therapy and write a zillon checks, and then some dude out of the blue tells you something for free that changes you forever! He should open up a shop for survivors!

  3. Opps! I meant to say "imagine that" and how I appreciated your insightful comments. I have this darn problem that my curser likes to hop around on me and mess with my words!

  4. My cursor sometimes hops, too! LOL

    It is nice when people can see our real self. I am glad that you found that. It can be a rare thing.

    I hear what you are saying about modeling a joyfilled life. It is something I work hard on doing. I do struggle at times, though, with those old messages.

    It gets better every year and varies, I think, due to whatever is going on during the time of year.