The Inevitability of Female Physical Pain

I was talking to a dear friend years ago and she explained how girls grow up experiencing "routine" menstrual pain from a young age and that sets us up as women to accept that pain is just part of our reality. Girls learn that their body experiences pain and that there is no real help for that because it's "normal." If Midol isn't enough, you're kind of screwed. I remember the desperation I felt when I could not keep my pain under control. What can you do? Go into an ER and have someone laugh at you? Have a medical professional hear your situation, tie it to menstruation and say AND? That is the female experience.

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Church and Abuse

I'm part of some great online communities that help people process religious trauma, abuse,  and fundamentalism. I've read a couple of great books based on people's experiences with these things as well. As we experienced trauma both inside and outside of the church, I find the way the brain processes trauma and how communities hold or let go of (repress) it to be fascinating, horrifying and redeeming. It makes you feel less crazy, which I think is something women in our culture need to experience daily as that seems to be the number one way to keep us quiet. 

I had something connect for me that I found really insightful. Someone said the church confuses forgiveness with healing. BOOM. Brain exploded. When anyone ever talks about being abused in church, in particular when it occurred within the church community (not just the remote anecdote unrelated to the group), the reaction often comes down to forgiveness. Like the Christian solution to pain and horror is forgiveness and if we just find a way to forgive, the pain goes away or is made to be okay. And while I find forgiveness, true forgiveness not forced victim-silencing "forgiveness" to be beautiful and liberating and most definitely part of Christian community and faith, it does not equate healing. In fact, if we force forgiveness and skip holding the horror, grieving it, assigning blame, creating accountability (hello jail time), and lots of support and help (therapy, meds, support groups) for those harmed, this is the antithesis of healing. Healing must include some sort of reckoning. You can't skip to the end without doing the painful work. (I find one of the obnoxious things about harming others is that by acting out your own shit instead of facing it, you create shit for someone else to have to work through, thus perpetuating the cycle of shame and violation). Then, after all that work, can you imagine how gorgeous, how empowering, how HEALING forgiveness could be?!?! It could be amazing. But please don't call that shoving everything under the rug stuff forgiveness. You might just piss off the king of forgiveness (yea Jesus!) in the process. Ever think of that?

Abuse is not regular sin. We don't treat it like "well, everyone makes mistakes." It's predatory. It's violating. It's just different. Of course, it's sin. But it's sin on crack and we need to treat it differently. Please let your theology and how you handle abuse as a community reflect that. Because if you don't, you're part of the problem. You have little people in your care. If you don't take that seriously, you're putting a target for abusers on your back. I promise you that. They're looking for you, naive ones. And you've been found again and again. 

There's a cool movement I just discovered on top of the #metoo movement. It's called #churchtoo. It's awesome to hear women sharing their stories. Don't get me wrong: the stories are awful. And I would add plenty of trigger warnings to it and ask that you give yourself a lot of self-care if you choose to dive in, because coupling sexual abuse with religious privilege (like having your youth minister force you to give him oral sex) is abuse on another level. BUT IT HAPPENS. And how the church deals with it matters. So far, our track record is not good. Maybe this is the beginning of hearing those voices cry out in truth and create the reckoning that is long overdue. These victims are brave. These victims have been greatly harmed. And many of their abusers have gone on to have successful ministry careers. Time to cause a ruckus, friends. Dear ones, speak your truth. It's time to clean house. 

The Challenge of Holding Space

Is it just me or does it feel like, at least on some days, life is primarily about witnessing pain you can't resolve? I feel like this social trend in "holding space" for others, for their stories, for their pain, for their existence separate from yet connected to mine, is one of the most difficult things for me to practice. Now that I've admitted to myself that it's not healthy or possible for me to try to fix the pain of my loved ones (the real tricky one is not trying to fix your own after you're not distracted by the pain of others'), it is becoming a practice of mine to just hold space. When Black Lives Matter started, it was important to me to watch the graphic videos of black lives being targeted. A lot of people in my inner circle did not make that choice. And that was okay too.

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