this post is a continuation of First the Pain
There should be less stories like mine.
I shouldn’t be able to find story after story like my own, typed out mostly in blog posts and comments, because this seems to be the only arena not micromanaged by those who believe that we as Christians are God’s personal PR team, and so to say something about another Christian, or church, would hurt our image.
Modern day image builders, we are.
There in the tomb the loud came in waves, but it was mostly recall at this point. Every now and then the tomb would creep open, it seemed, just for someone to yell in and make sure I still knew how wrong I was. But for the most part it was a cycle of memory, reaction to that memory (mostly grief), and that reaction would trigger a spiral of PTSD. He used to cower over me and yell, listing the ways I has messed up, or “made” him do that thing to our son.
He would say, “Yeah, you’re crying because you know you’re wrong.”
And then he would walk away.
I was never allowed to talk about these things once they were “done.” For him anyway. They were never quite done for me.
Crying is still something I try to avoid. Those words are still there.
Once the wave had died down, the tomb would echo with the visceral memory of the trigger. It was hard in the tomb not to spend my time sifting through ashes, playing and replaying, 15 years of marriage, 36 years of church life, and the last few years in particular. I was not trying to see where I had gone wrong. Not anymore. I was learning instead where I had been right.
Gaslighting is a bit of a buzzword these days, but it is a very real thing that happens in many relationships. It involves reframing, lying outright, and a heavy sense by the person who is being gaslighted that they must be wrong. Always wrong. You heard it wrong, you’re overreacting, you don’t really think I’m that kind of person, do you?
The time had come to deconstruct.
I hadn’t yet learned that word, but that’s what it all was. The great undoing of a lifetime of misinformation, misapplication.
There were things I knew. And there in the quiet of the tomb, I laid them out one after the other.
The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
I knew this much was true.
I paged through my memory looking for it, in my marriage, in my church.
It was attention to the verses just before that ran like ice through me.
Couched in the words that the pearl-clutchers sought out in every possible media outlet (sex! debauchery! orgies!) were things easy to slide right over with those juicier bits to pay attention to. But…
I had walked into his office at the church once and he told me he was researching “holy hatred.”
conflict, struggle, controversy, antagonism, argument, contention, quarreling
fits of rage
holes in walls
items torn from hands and thrown across rooms
I looked back over years in the church, Christian school, youth group, and saw it all…
selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy.
Sure, nobody’s perfect, but were the words I was reading true or not?
If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
I still believed the Bible.
I just finally let myself believe all of it.
Before the veil dropped and I could see clearly, I had begun to feel free. Fresh off the study Breaking Free by Beth Moore, I finally seemed to grasp what freedom really meant. That I could fail, and still be loved
The buttoned-up, scared-to-breathe girl could maybe…live.
But in the tomb it was hard to live into that freedom. It was like the process of the divorce, both from my marriage and my church, had scared me full-force back into living in fear.
I knew what I knew.
But I didn’t know how to move.
I didn’t know what else to do but wait, lungs half full, eyes cried out, knowing I was safe and loved and held, wait in the dark and cold.
First the pain.
Then the waiting.
I had no idea what resurrection could possibly look like.
But I knew there would be air
and life to live again.