What do you do when some of the things you need to work through are God and church related, and you have always kept those topics very off limits because they carry such weight and pain, but now you may have an opportunity to work on these old hurts? And not only work through them with your therapist, but have a church that could help you?
Because oddly –shockingly– enough, that is the situation I find myself in.
This all started back when we first attended our new church. The church, the people, the way the pastors taught and spoke, everything about this church felt open and real to me. There were some services that triggered me, and some services that just made me stop and think. But every service has continued to convince me that this is a church where I might be able to ask my questions, to have my feelings about God and to be authentic
On Sunday, the entire service was about #metoo, and how God intended for men to treat women. The talk started out with acknowledging that this could be a diffiicult topic, but that it is an important one, because the magnitude of #metoo shows that we have a seroius problem in our world. The pastor said this talk may be painful and triggering for so many women, but that it was important the church doesn’t hide from messy, hard topics. Then the main part of the talk was what the Bible says about how men are supposed to treat women, and how God intended things to be. At the end of this talk, when the pastor started to wrap things up, that was about how God sees sexual abuse, harassment, all of those #metoo things and how those things are never okay, and we can see God clearly condemning these acts in the bible. Then he said that it’s not just women who can claim #metoo, but girls, and sometimes very young girls and they need to know there is no blame towards them in God’s eyes. And then it was the usual praying with a point to say there were people available if something about today hit home, or triggered you, and that if you were going through something or dealing with abuse or trauma or anything you could use support in, that the pastors are available to talk, or to even email, that you dont have to go through whatever it is you’re going through alone. There was even a mention of hooking you up with a therapist if that’s what is needed.
On Sunday, I email Bea that I did church and it was hard and that I can’t write about it or talk about it even though I want to. She sent back a short “I’m still here. 👂👁🤝🐶🍫” message. Last week, when the teen got stirred up, I asked Bea to please be sure to respond to emails, but not to use words. They teen is very, very good twisting words around and making things seem really awful and bad when they aren’t. It’s a defense; if she can stir things up enough to create a big ruture with Bea, then whatever ugly, messy crap has come up to the surface gets shoved back into a big lock box so that the rupture can be dealt with. The wisest part of myself wants to avoid that this time. The teen needs help processing these raw painful feelings. So, we use emojis instead of words when we email for now. It may be silly, but its given the little girl reassurance that Bea has not left, and the teen a way to forrm a connection with Bea and be seen.
Monday then, Bea asked about chuch, and we talked. Well, she talked, raised questions, and I filed it all away for when I had my notebook and pen. It wasn’t until Wednesday, however, that I really started to process Sunday’s service.
There was this funny sort of acknowledgment that I have had this firm “no church or God talk” rule from the beginning of therapy. It’s really true though. It was a boundry because I was too afraid to go there, it was too painful. I don’t know if Bea reallized just how messy this all is, or how much hurt and anger and big feelings there are because I kept it all separate.
Its messy in the way that teen years are always messy; big intense feelings, emotional ups and downs, school and fitting in, parental expectations, all of those things. And then there is the confusion of crushes, and first kisses, and new feelings in your body, and peers thinking about sex and then you add on the church sex ed talk, the realization that I had been having sex, my belief in being bad and going to hell. Now, all of that is piled on this other layer from childhood. Littte Alice prayed and prayed for God to make it better— she prayed for kenny to leave her alone, for things to not hurt, for no more blood, she prayed to be saved. And God didn’t save her. So she tried harder to be good enough, to be perfect, to pray better, to deserve to be saved. The little girl remains hurt and sad and disappointed that God did not save her.
The teen is mad. Mad doesn’t even begin to cover it. She is livid. How could God not save her? It’s not okay. She can’t make sense of it. She understands that there is this thing called freewill, and that freewill means people can make choices to hurt others, like Kenny did. She knows that God can– and will– use all things for his glory. She knows that our pain is never in vain; God will use it. She knows that we can be given tough situations because it is those hard things that draw us nearer to Him. She doesn’t want to hear those things. They are rote responses to pain, hurt, suffering. The teen wants and needs a real answer. She is so mad, she may even hate God for being all powerful and doing nothing to stop the hurt.
And so, the grown up me is grappling with this. Bea has encouraged me to reach out via email and talk. I’ve reminded her that if I were to talk about the anger, I would have to break the number one rule: do not tell the secreet. Bea sugggested I say I’m grappling with this anger towards God, and that I am reaching out to start a conversation. She suggested I could explain all the things that have led up to my thinking about asking the pastor to help me find answers. I’m just not sure what to do. I suppose I’m going to grapple with that for a while longer.