Often after I write a new piece or have conversations with others about where I’m at spiritually and physically people respond with a word that I have an uneasy feeling about. They say it’s inspiring or inspirational and ugh, that just seems too heavy for me to carry. I think that somehow people miss the hard work that goes into getting to where I am. It’s as though they think that the hardships I face, do not, in fact phase me or that I easily move to a place of hope. Or worse, that I am somehow in part responsible for their own motivation. I know it’s supposed to be a word of encouragement but I’ll be honest it weighs heavily on me. Let me be clear here at the very beginning today. When I share it’s because I started in a place of devastation, despair, grief, and fear. My writings, my shaping, my listening, and my voice all begin there.
It’s not because I’m a whiner or a victim. It’s because in the journey of life we all face trials and tribulations. It’s because I do not want to stay in despair or fear that I choose to do the hard work of not automatically dismissing those realities.
When I first got diagnosed with Lupus I was grief stricken. Hoped seemed lost. The pain was great both physically and emotionally. I had to give myself the freedom to acknowledge those feelings. I needed to listen to my heart and soul. I needed to take those realities to the Divine and let my Creator mourn with me. This was holy grief.
When I was sexually and physically abused I was frightened and angry. Not because I was a victim but because I found it almost impossible to find a way to not only heal my own brokenness but to help nurture what healing needed to take place for those who tried to victimize me. This was not easy and joy-filled. Again, I held these realities close and welcomed the Divine in. I felt and heard my Savior weep with me and rage against the injustice of a reality in which these atrocities were possible. This was holy searching.
When I felt alone and abandoned by God my anger was palpable. It was no easy feat to keep my heart and soul open for a new word. This was holy listening.
In my limited experience on this earth I have learned few things, but I have learned this: when I allow myself to acknowledge my devastation the Divine will bring me through to new realities. This is what it means to engage with the Holy.
I move through devastation to despair, despair to anger, anger to calling, calling to hope, and hope turns to joy. I see that truth reflected in Scripture. I see it reflected in my relationship with my disease. And, this weekend I saw it in those across the nation and world who marched.
Now, before I go further I’d like to say this to my friends and family who had words to say about these demonstrations that were filled with concerns, confusion, and/or anger. I hear you. I’m thankful for your words.
To the women who have said that they’ve never felt like a victim or oppressed, I celebrate that that is your experience! How wonderful! I’m happy that that is your reality.
To the folks who call those of us who marched whiners, I appreciate that you are calling attention to our voices. I do not feel like I was whining personally nor did I encounter much of that, if at all, from the marchers I met. I felt like I was helping to safeguard the progress we have already made and giving voice to those across the nation and globe who needed one.
To the people who have asked that I give our new President a chance. I am and will continue to do so. Part of that is the freedom to state my concerns openly so that as the leader of our country he may take into account my voice and the voices of others.
Now that I’ve thanked you all for your voices and I hope you know I genuinely do thank you, I’d like to express what surprised me when I participated in our local rally.
I anticipated a lot of people who would be angry and that they would give voice to that anger. In fact, there were some who were angry and did give that anger voice. Some brought signs I would not have wanted to associate myself with but that did not negate their anger or concerns in my opinion.
And while there were those who were angry, the overwhelming majority of people I encountered and the atmosphere of the event were not marked by anger but by enormous love, acceptance, and gratitude. Indeed, these people had done the hard work of moving from devastation to anger. Then they felt that anger and heard a call. They responded to that call and found hope that others heard it too. Then even more astonishingly, when we gathered together we found great joy in one another and in the knowledge that our diverse experiences and voices could help safeguard what is good and right as well as shape what is to come.
Some may call this foolish. Others may call it inspiring. No matter what you call it, the truth is it is indeed shaping.
Wherever I go from here I will strive to listen to as many voices as possible. Your experiences matter. They are not just anecdotal. They are realities we all must grapple with. I am thankful for your stories, your wisdoms, and your voices. You shape me, praise be to God.