First the Pain

It is Easter tomorrow.

 

I must say, I don’t know how to approach it.

 

A few years back, Easter finally showed itself to be the quiet contemplation I had been longing to feel, hushed reverence among the loud, garish colors of candy, eggs, banners, dresses, expectations.

I had yet to understand resurrection. Though I had been living as dead for so long, I had yet to understand death.

I had prayed, sometimes quiet, sometimes desperate, to be stripped of everything not of God. Maybe its the kind of prayer you pray when you’re feeling particularly holy, or maybe the kind you pray when you know something is off, something is wrong, something is stuck inside of you choking off the air.

Praying to have things stripped from me, I never imagined that request would be answered with such a tearing.

First, my marriage. Eyes held wide open to the abuse I had become accustomed to, believing myself to be wrong

foolish

unworthy

lacking

never enough never enough, not in answers, and surely not once I started asking questions.

I had been steadfastly held alive in a tomb for the better part of fifteen years. Don’t breathe, don’t speak too loud, or too long, be still, maybe the walls won’t crash down today.

But that was not all.

 

Confessing to myself the death of my marriage, if it had ever been alive to begin with, was at once freeing, and disorienting. Who are you if you can no longer define yourself by this?

Longer held than my marriage was my faith. Looking in my tired hands to all I was trying to cling to, there was still this. Still this. Still this, like a heartbeat telling me how to live. Telling me how to be right.

Though there were several thoughts and beliefs I had started to look closer at, to question, I still held close to church. Weekly since I was child and sometimes more than that. Church = home.

I’m writing this the night before Easter and all I can think about is the tomb.

I had been in a tomb for fifteen years. There was light coming in, mostly from moments here and there, some from friends, mostly from my kids, though I could never leave the tomb to be the mother I had always dreamed of being. My heart still breaks daily over this.

The air would come in and I would try and send light out, but I never left.

One day I stood up. I asked a question and then another because something was not right about the tomb. A tomb can’t be right if I really believe that Jesus all out conquered death.

The closer I got to the opening, the harder things got.

Maybe I should be still. Don’t breathe, don’t speak too loud, or too long, be still, maybe the walls won’t crash down today.

As I got closer to the outside a weight like a heavy hand on my chest pushed me back in. Every time I tried to talk about it to those in my church, what seemed to come back at me was a confusing mix of “I don’t believe you, you’re saying too much, you’re not saying enough, I won’t believe you no matter what you say.”

Maybe I should be still. Don’t breathe, don’t speak too loud, or too long, be still, maybe the walls won’t crash down today.

Looking in my tired hands to all I was trying to cling to, there was still church. Still this. Still this, like a heartbeat telling me how to live. Telling me how to be right.

Telling me how to…

not be so wrong anymore

not be so foolish anymore

and to be careful with the word worthy.

The tomb had started to close and when I looked up to see whose hands rolled the stone into place, I expected to see only the eyes of my abuser. Instead, there next to his, were the faces of people who had said they loved me, cared for my kids, prayed with me and over me and it was their extra strength that added what was needed to close that tomb shut.

Maybe I should be still. Don’t breathe, don’t speak too loud, or too long, be still, maybe the walls won’t crash down today.

They had successfully put me where they thought I should belong.

 

It’s awfully quiet in a sealed tomb. It was dark, but this was a different dark than what I felt in the abuse. I found I did not want to harm myself; I found I did not believe I deserved death, or pain, even if they did. (A common refrain I remember being repeated, first by the abuser and then by those he had pulled in close around him, was “You should be thinking about suicide considering the way you’re acting.”)

Glennon Doyle talks about resurrection it this way: First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising.

I was too tired to rise. Maybe it was time to wait.

The prayer was answered. Finally cut off from the air that was making me sick, I could breathe. Walking into a different church didn’t feel much better. It sometimes felt worse.

This is trauma.

This post is continued in Then the Waiting.

For more information on spiritual abuse and trauma, consider reading The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen.

For Glennon Doyle’s brilliant talk on facing hard times, click here.

Click here to learn more about the artwork featured on each.little.spark.

 

2 Comments

  1. thesurrenderedone

    After the death of my roommate, and then my mother, both within the space of six months apart, 3 years ago; I can relate to trauma, pain, and grief. The tomb for me was my own need to ‘isolate’ and withdraw into my own protective “room”, so to speak. It is still difficult, but I feel that slowly things are now beginning to “open up”. And I am able to “breathe” the fresh air of Life again. Thank you for your honest, and revealing analogy used here. I felt, ‘now I’m not alone with this’. God is good and faithful. Now be alive! Timothy.

    Like

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