Yesterday, someone said this to me:
“The first time we sat down and had a long conversation, shortly after we met, I had a sense of who you were and what you’d been through. Then I called you three weeks later, and you were a completely different person. It was after you’d been with your friends in St. Louis and and were currently with your family in Nebraska. You were a different person because you were in a place where you felt supported and cared for, with people that made you feel loved."
This was new information for me, because I suppose I don’t see what I’ve been through as something that altered who I was, but something I just had to live through and come out on the other side of. All this transition stuff, moving, new job, leaving my old life completely behind… the life stuff, the tasks… they had overshadowed how my soul has been altered.
I don’t say that last phrase lightly. But it’s true. My soul has been altered.
There are wounds still fresh. Some scars will start to appear. Make no mistake, I have been emotionally altered forever by this most recent season of my life.
My reply to this person was, “I am looking forward to being myself again someday.” But I really don’t believe that will truly happen. Just like the white towel soaked in mud for hours can never been fully white and the same again (no matter how much bleach) what happened has changed the lens with which I view the world and myself and ministry from this point on.
Now, I could go on with the rest of this post and write about the importance of owning our stories and how they define who we are, but it’s what we do with our stories that make the true impact. And that would be true. Our past has defined who we are, but it does not determine our action or our future.
But it does alter them, because we have been altered. And I need to process this alteration.
I spent July doing some intentional healing through different methods. I was glad for rest and probably could’ve used more, because even just today, I was reminded in the smallest of ways about what I came from and suddenly I’m right back there, and my heart starts to pound faster. And if I have to talk about it, the lump in the throat forms and I realize… I’m still working through it. Because it’s still so difficult to speak about it and not cry. So I’m not over it. And I’m angry I’m not over it. Since this is officially a trauma, I suppose it will be awhile before this anger will be gone.
These reminders that flash me back to things are the touchstones of how I’ve been altered. Of my scars. I am not willing to label these painful reminders as being part of my story, because I don’t believe they deserve that. Only the really important people and the really important things deserve that label. But these reminders are part of my crises. My trauma.
When a person goes through a transition, the crises seem to be more present. More sharp. More raw. So you don’t act and react like yourself. And you can make some bad decisions, you hurt some people, and hurt yourself. These are things you would normally never do, because that isn’t who you are. Because things in your heart are skewed from what they normally are, and so you process information differently. Experience the world differently. Even talk and act differently (as proven by the above conversation I had.) I find this somewhat shocking and unfair. That the core of who you are can be shaken so much by something that it alters you forever.
But of course this is true, because it’s no doubt that all of you have experienced it. Maybe in small ways, maybe big ones. And I know I have before this season of my life. But for some reason this one hurts a little bit more, and I feel altered a little bit more. There are lots of reasons this could be - the nature of what I went through, the context, perhaps even how much the people meant to me that are part of the hurt. It could also be my age, my isolation from family geographically, or, as the conversation above implied, that I was in a place without love and support when it all happened. (To clarify, there was one family who supported me wholeheartedly during my darkest season from April to the present. They provided many things for me, in particular many physical needs, like a place to live and help with moving and packing. But my emotional needs were/are HUGE. I had support. But unfortunately I needed more, and a different kind.)