My heart is so full, you guys. I just finished my second “intensive” for my grad school program. We meet each semester in person for several days to start the semester and this one was in my hood, Portland. What a joy to have all my people in town and to share in experiences and learning together. In the process of embracing my 2-ness, I did not pace myself in providing care for my people. I let my soul soak up the joy of hosting and driving and giving myself. I did not judge how far my care was willing to go and I did not hold back. It was fun. And I’m so sad everyone left! My body was ready for care and I have so many things I’m processing from the experience (hence, this writing) but it’s such a cool thing to go through this immersive experience in community. I learn relationally so the cohort structure was the only way I wanted to do grad school, especially if the material was going to be mainly online.
So many surprising things occurred over our time together but I’ll write today about the biggest one, which is that I went to a local church of Christ and the experience was healing! I was looking forward to going, though bummed I didn’t get to introduce everyone to my church community. I was expecting the fun of going to be about seeing people I love who I only really get to see on social media. That, of course, did happen. But I was not expecting was the onslaught of emotion I experienced throughout the service. I only go to the church of Christ when I visit my parents and it’s my childhood church. It’s by no means safe for me but it’s just not the same as interacting with people in my city with whom I spent many years working alongside. Besides preaching last year, I haven’t attended a local church of Christ in probably 6 years.
It was like a “this is your life” moment where as soon as the worship leader started (we used to put on events where he led worship), this movie reel of our youth ministry days started playing. And the memories were GOOD. There was joy. And there was a faith that felt personal and emotional. My faith experience as I’ve unpacked my stuff has been way less personal than my old faith. I used to have a sense of what “God was doing in my life” and talked about “feeling called to…” I don’t necessarily intend to pick up that kind of language again, but I kind of thought that faith ship had sailed. That my faith now was going to be done in practice but not necessarily with the same level of emotion or submission to a higher purpose, whatever that meant. I’ve learned how to set healthy boundaries, form my own identity outside of actions and to be more curious about God rather than certain. Those things still hold true. But singing those songs with those people, I felt things I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was like my spiritual imagination brought a personal, emotional faith process back into the realm of possibility. It was the first time I wanted to sing TO God rather than ABOUT God in years. What a surprise!
I think when trauma occurs, especially trauma within your identity, it’s natural for some of the joy and beauty from before the trauma to get lost. The trauma takes up all the space. And the work becomes about finding yourself and your life within a new paradigm. Things get placed either before or after the traumatic event occurred. Not that it needs to define you. But it starts out very large and pervasive. I think some of the joy from that time in my life, the years of youth ministry, got buried under the rubble of our firing. This is a disgusting and inappropriate example but it’s almost like 9/11, where they dug and dug for weeks and occasionally found something underneath all that rubble that was still alive, or at least something that brought peace and closure to families processing the trauma. That possibility, the possibility that something was waiting for us communally under that rubble was worth all the horror and risk of the digging process. This blog has been about that process. And I was filled with joy and shock that Sunday morning at East County Church of Christ, my soul was presented with something still breathing under that rubble. What a gift.
Needless to say, I cried. I cried and cried and cried. There were many tasks and activities waiting for me that day after church, but I approached them all with a rubbery heart, mind and body. I had just run a spiritual marathon I had not trained or signed up for and I was done for the day at noon. I still had to move through the rest of the day. Which was fine. It was a wonderful day. But I felt like I got hit by a truck. I wanted to curl onto my couch under a blanket and sleep while still crying. That’s something people do, right? I did get to have a lot of kind and meaningful conversations after church. My soul started to imagine possibilities that have not been accessible to me for a long time. Possibilities for the future, for my future and my children’s future. It’s so interesting to have been hurt by your people and to find your people again on the other side.
There’s something waiting for me over there. I’m staying present in the process I’m in right now. But I think it may end up including my people after all. Life with God is wild. It’s like he’s some sort of cosmic wily minx. And yet the crazy things he brings are always full of something shockingly kind, restorative and unexpected. Who knew?