Immediately after finishing Nashville half-marathon I headed into a week-long conference called Survivors of Abuse Leadership Training Seminar. This is a training seminar so I could potentially lead groups like the Retelling Group I participated in, in the fall of 2008. This is the group/training that really helped me so much in actually dealing with my sexual abuse.
Until Nashville was over, I couldn’t really focus on this. I knew what I was heading to, but I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. This would be all 12 weeks of my retelling group crammed into 5 days combined with a training element. It would be intense. I figured it would be emotional. I figured it would be tough.
I had no idea.
When I did Retelling, also called Grace Group, the first time. It was rough. I often wanted to puke as I headed to group and even after as I looked at and talked about in great detail, my abuse and all of the aftermath of it and how I dealt with it. So heading into this, I was expecting more of the same…x 5000.
I underestimated how tough this week would be actually. I thought I knew what the subject matter would be. I have come to be far more comfortable talking about this subject. However, I was completely unprepared for the direction God would take me during this week.
On breaks I found myself escaping back to my room, chatting with Coach trying to process some of this stuff. I was a hot mess, barely holding it together and finding myself full of questions without any clear answers. And wouldn’t you know, that on the most painfully emotional and longest day ever, they served fried chicken for dinner, with baked as an alternate…but still…in the midst of some serious crap, I had to make some choices about food. It wasn’t like I was being painfully conscious of my food intake that week other than to make sure that I didn’t go into crazy eating or NOT eating. But fried chicken…well shoot…that is my ultimate comfort food as you all know.
I passed on this. I took the baked chicken. 🙂
I wish I had words to best explain what this week was for me, except I am still not sure. The week after, I refused to think about it much at all. I was exhausted. Physically and emotionally and I needed a break. So that brought me to last week. Where all heck broke loose within me. I was wild and angry it seemed all the time. Stuff that had gotten stirred up at SALTS was back in my head and I couldn’t ignore it and yet I still didn’t and don’t know what to do with it all…except experience it all. Because if I have learned nothing else over the last year and a half, it is this. Stuffing it in any form does not work.
Here is some of what I learned from my week.
1. I am not done with this story in my life and may not ever be…and that is ok. Unraveling it is like peeling an onion. One layer at a time and the onion is much bigger than I thought.
2. I realized that I still very easily dismiss and disbelieve people when they compliment me, particularly new people. I thought I had gotten better at this, since I know I don’t so easily dismiss compliments from people who know me well…but apparently not, at least not all the time. This isn’t to say I NEVER believe a compliment, but I am quick to dismiss and disbelieve new ones.
3. The longings of my heart are coming unburied and it is hard to acknowledge them and the fear that they will never come true. I wrote a lament to God during this week filled with all sorts of questions I had for Him and expressing my longings to Him. One thing I noticed during this week is sometime over the last months I hadn’t fully noticed that I felt like I was alone in life again. If you have been reading for a while, you know that for almost a year straight I could almost feel the tangible presence of God walking with me. During this week, I noticed that presence seemed to be gone again and I wasn’t exactly sure when it went away and therefore couldn’t fix it. But when I wrote that lament, expressing myself fully and honestly to God telling Him I needed to hear from Him…suddenly my mind was filled with words that were not merely my thoughts and my pen began writing furiously in the dark of night as I sat on the shores of Lake Michigan. God answered me…and I was not alone. It was precious. I am grateful to know that no matter what it feels like I am not alone…ever!
4, I met some pretty amazing people, each with stories of their own that have had them entrapped in their own ways. AS we all entered into each others stories, hearing them and asking for the details that no one ever wants to say out loud, we learned together, that shame only has power when it is held in silence. When we are released from that shame by speaking the shameful things out loud and we hear from others the TRUTH and not the lies, freedom comes racing in and we become free to live who we are called to be…and we are then free to enter someone else’s story in much the same way to bring them to greater freedom and healing. Jason-stepped into a confidence that un-nerved me. If I wasn’t careful, he might have been able to see into my soul, so I avoided him for a bit and dismissed him a lot, until I realized how I was hurting him. But he was great! He pursued me until I was able to look him in the eye…and you know what I discovered after 5 days? He has blue eyes! HA! Jeff brought an insurmountable amount of courage as he faced his own story. Watching him struggle gave others, ME, courage to keep pressing in. Kathy brought a tender presence with her. She was so prayerfully discerning and yet so vulnerable in her need to be heard as well. It was amazing to watch how a quiet voice can still be heard. Shari brought a great longing to be loved for you she is and as she is…and she was…and is. It was awesome to watch her literally transform from a tough girl to a happy-go-lucky girl! Teresa brought a passion for others first and learned that she needed to come first. That her story is valid and true and worthy of being heard…and now she is so much freer to go out and minister to others. I am forever grateful that these beautiful people showed up and were in my group and were willing to go to very dark places in their own stories and to pursue me into mine.
I know this is a vague post. I am being deliberate in this. I want to be honest but also want to be wise in sharing all parts of this aspect of my story in such a public way. I also want to encourage anyone who has a story of any kind of abuse in their life…physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, etc…that there is power and freedom that comes from telling your story in a safe place.
Visit Open Hearts Ministry and contact them to find out if there is a Grace Group in your area or see if you can’t attend the next SALTS training. I truly believe that everyone’s story needs to be heard and shared in a way that can bring healing.
So where am I now in all of this? I am sitting in it. AS I talked with Aaron about some of this, he said to me that if I am committed to redemption then forgiveness is necessary. Honestly, this comment was a thorn in my side this past week…because it is true. He pointed out later that as a person who is committed to redemption, I don’t get to pick and choose who that redemption is for. Either I am living a redeemed life with redemption and forgiveness available for all…or I am not. (Note: redemption/forgiveness does not mean no consequences) So now I get to decide some things…to walk out redemption with a person in my life…or not.