The Human Race

What is God Telling You Right Now?

I have an assignment to write about what God is telling me, what God is saying to me right now. Honestly, more often than not, I have no idea. Probably because I listen to myself more than I listen to God. I have a constant narrative of selfish chaos running on loop in my brain.

For those who don’t speak Christianese, there’s this prayer saying that you hear a lot among Christ followers. “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” Basically, we want to know what breaks God’s heart. We want to know how things going on in the world feel to God. I have prayed that prayer often.

See, sometimes people say “God hates ________.” This drives me crazy. I adamantly believe that God cannot, will not, does not hate. At all. God is love. Love can’t hate. Hate is a very strong word, and doesn’t belong in the same sentence with the word “God” unless there is a negative between the two. But sure, there is a lot in our world that HURTS God. How can there not be? God loves us so, and yet we do many awful things, the worst of which are done in the name of God.

I think a lot of “Christians” listen to themselves when it comes down to the truth about homosexuality. They’ve read the bible, and whatever trivial rules they overlook, they always highlight what it says about the issue. But when it really comes down to it, they don’t see LGBT people as human beings. They think it is a sin, and instead of seeing a human being, they see a sin. Nevermind the fact that if we were going to be going around calling people out by their sin, they wouldn’t be human beings either. 

I try to understand it, but I believe I can’t. I believe that God has placed an ache in my heart for the matter. I believe the way people treat LGBT in the name of God breaks God’s heart. We are ALL God’s children. Yes, of course, that means our LGBT brothers and sisters, but it also means the bigoted haters too.

I don’t know what God wants me to do with this knowledge. Feels quite useless, and quite frankly painful. I can’t handle the state of our world right now. In the U.S. we are quickly reverting back to the pre-civil rights movement days. And in the world as a whole, we are seeing treatment of gays that is reminiscent of the ways Jews were treated in the beginning of the holocaust. Why would any of us want to go back to that?

I’ll tell you why, because people make assumptions too much about what God is telling them. People listen to what they are told, or what comes up in their brains, and they honor it. No matter how it makes others feel, they honor it.

I want you to know that there are a large number of God’s children hurting on this planet, and there are a great many of God’s “followers” perpetuating that pain. And as much as either side sees the other as not being human beings, the fact is that they are. The fact is that both sides are just following their hearts.

I do not believe that it is okay, for any reason, to make someone feel, or to treat someone as though they are less than you. You do not know when the day will come when the shoe is on the other foot, when that will be you being thought of as less-than. As long as we’re quoting the bible, remember that it says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40)

So, as long as your making any human being feel less than, you best heed their concerns of maltreatment. For however you treat them, is how you are treating your God.

And quit telling yourself that you are treating them with love. You are not. They do not feel loved by you. I can guarantee you, that is the last thing they feel.

So, what is God telling me right now? What God is telling me right now, is that God is hurting. That these things hurt God. And I believe that the magnitude of God’s pain far exceeds mine, but this pain is breaking me.

Now, what is He telling me to do about that? I have no idea. Because the situation feels, quite frankly, hopeless. I don’t feel like there’s anything I can do about it. Surely, there is something God could do about it, but short of intervening upon free-will, I haven’t a clue. So, I’ll just keep going on in my daily life, waiting for some great revelation about how to fix the world’s problems.

You take that whatever way you will. I’m pretty sure that this post will piss off either side in one way or another, so I actually hope no one reads it.

Beyond My Power

As adamant as I am about the issue of sexual violence, I feel that maybe my take on it can come off misleading.  See, because of my own history with sexual violence, it is hard for me to actually be a part of the fight.

In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to “stop watching the news.”  So, I did.  Around the time, I had become fixated on the Shanyia Davis story.  A mom sold her 5 year old daughter into sexual slavery.  The daughter was later found raped and murdered, then tossed on the side of the road, like trash.  I was dumbfounded and destroyed by this story.  It pretty much shattered my world, and I couldn’t stop following it.  How could someone do that to a child?  How could a mother do that to her own child?  I couldn’t understand it, and it made a frightening reality come to light for me: there is evil in this world, beyond my comprehension, and even with what I’ve been through, I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

I wish I could tell you that when I stopped watching the news, everything got a little lighter for me.  And maybe it did, a wee bit.  Even to this day, I go online, and pick and choose headlines based on their triviality.  “Reality TV is going down the toilet–literally”  The more serious stories, I avoid.  I know enough just by the headlines.  “Police: Florida man linked to up to 1 million child porn videos, images”  The headline says enough.  I don’t need to read about this pig, and start to mull over the fact that those 1 million videos and images, mean that tens of thousands of children were forced to participate in sexual acts to make that stuff.  I know that already.  Although, maybe some people don’t.  Maybe a lot of people are completely desensitized to that stuff, and don’t even consider those children when they read a headline like that.   For them, I say: READ THE ARTICLE, and think about it.

For those of us who have survived similar experiences, I say: Don’t torture yourself.

No, I understand enough without subjecting myself to it.  I heard tidbits about the Steubenville rape case.  Enough to get a gist.  I cannot read an article about it.  I simply can’t.  Maybe this makes me a hypocrite, or maybe it makes me self-preserving, I don’t know.  All I know is, I just can’t stomach it and hold my world together.

Similarly, I write about the fight to end this stuff, because I cannot actually participate in the fight.  I’ve been on the front lines of the battle, and I know how hopeless it is there.  For those of you who can stay there and fight this battle, I thank you.  I know what it feels like to notice that the army is lacking in numbers, and that all the people at your side are survivors.  A lot of times, it is survivors like me, who cannot manage to stay and fight and hold their own lives in tact, but they fight anyway, their very livelihood falling by the wayside.  I understand that.

It feels like screaming endlessly in a sea of people, who know you’re there, but choose not to acknowledge you.

I cannot actively delve into the numerous cases of sexual violence and survive.  This is what I learned in recovery.  If I want to survive, I have to take a step back.  Sometimes, this makes me feel helpless and useless.  Most of the time, I know it is what keeps me breathing.

I learned that in recovery, but I also learned something from my relationship with God:  This battle isn’t just a physical one, or an emotional or mental one.  This is a spiritual battle too.

Now this is where my two worlds collide.  I know a lot of feminists working without God, and a lot of God-loving people, working without feminism.  For me, these two worlds are not mutually exclusive.

I cannot be out there fighting emotionally, mentally, physically, or judiciously, but I can fight like hell spiritually.

I’ve started praying feverishly on the subject of sexual violence.  I learned from my relationship with God, that the fight to end sexual violence isn’t hopeless, it just can’t be fought alone.  Human beings simply don’t have the power to end it based on the sure will of the fight.  We aren’t that powerful.  But I fully believe, that with God at our backs, this battle can be won.

I pray for the victims, that they find healing and wholeness despite their experiences.  And I pray for those who are on the front lines fighting, that they have the strength and ferocity to not back down, no matter what.  I pray for the un-listening, uncaring world, that their eyes and hearts are opened to this battle, and that they join in the fight.  I declare miracles over this battle, that it be won by the side that is good.  And I rebuke evil’s grasp on so many of us through such violence.  I declare victory against evil, and an end to sexual violence.

For those non-believers, you probably think this is useless.  But that’s ok, we all have our opinions.  Maybe prayer isn’t for you, but luckily, there are plenty of ways to join in the movement.

For those believers, I hope you’ll join me in prayer.

We have the power to end this battle.  We just have to claim it.

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Do You Care?

Sexual Assault.  Do you have to go through it to care about it?

This question always arises for me every April.  I have a lot of friends who know someone with autism, and thus, support Autism Awareness month, which also happens to be April.  This year, I see that friends who know someone who’ve benefited from an organ transplant supporting organ donation.  April is also Organ Donation Awareness month.  What simultaneously inspires and disheartens me is the fact that these people know someone who have been through these things, so they support these causes.  Every one of these people, and the other 400 people on my Facebook page, know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted: me.  And yet, the only people I see supporting this cause are the people who have themselves lived through such violence.

Sexual_assault_awareness

I think this is a huge problem in our culture.  “As long as I haven’t been raped, then who cares?”  Right?  Why do I continuously find that the only people driven to stop sexual violence are those who have personally lived through it?  Is it really that hard to imagine how awful it is if you haven’t experienced it?  Do you really not care that much about the women and men in your life who have been victimized by sexual predators?

I think a lot of it has to do with the silence surrounding the issue, because it sure as hell isn’t the lack of prevalence.   1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.   (Finkelhor, David, et al. “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors.”)  Are you really going to tell me that you don’t know at least 4 women or 6 men?

No, a lot of it has to do with our silence around the issue.  Anything sexual is taboo.  You know, as long as it isn’t sexual imagery in time square, music videos, magazines, television, movies, or books.  From Fifty Shades of Grey to Abercrombie ads, sexuality is everywhere.  However, when it comes to sexual violence, we best not talk about it.  Virgin ears, and all.

abercrombie

Or maybe it is the violence part of it.  Although, I recently saw Olympus has Fallen, and it suggests Americans have an endless thirst for blood.  What’s a movie without a good knife through the head, eh?

Nah, it is just the careful combination of sexual and violence that sends people fleeing in a frenzy.

Let me be frank, you know someone, nay, you know A LOT of someones who have been sexually assaulted in their lives.  Not convinced?  Start asking around.  Your eyes might just open.  It is likely that your between your daughter, sister, best friend, mother, aunt, or cousin, at least one has been sexually assaulted.

What then is our problem with talking about it?

I venture to guess that this culture of victim-baming has a lot to do with it.  As most recently displayed in the Steubenville rape case, which has brought out the Ugly and the Brave around the issue of victim-blaming.  Keep her full of shame = Keep her silent = Let’s just pretend this stuff never happens = No one cares about Sexual Assault Awareness month, except for survivors of sexual assault.

Maybe I am being blunt, but I am personally insulted by the lack of interest around the issue.  And I expect a few more people to be displaying their teal ribbons after today.

Let me tell you, from personal experience, about the residual effects of trauma.  After it happened, I could barely sleep.  I stayed awake, alarmed by any small sound in the night.  I never felt safe.  I have yet to be able to trust men.  I have flashbacks, that feel as though I am reliving the trauma over again.  Therefore, I relive it over and over again.  My startle reflex is incredibly sensitive.  When I went to see Olympus has Fallen, I was jerking repeatedly, startled by the loud sounds.  Even a shadow on my computer screen makes me jump.  Whenever I am put into a vulnerable situation, I get disoriented and overwhelmed.  My pupils dilate, and I become sensitive to sounds.  Walking to my car in a parking lot at night, for example.  I avoid situations which might trigger these effects, such as: being around men, being by myself outside, being intimate with someone, or alone at night.  It has been years, and I am still working to undo the harm done.

I’m not saying I am not living a fulfilling life.  What I am saying is that it has taken years of hard work to get to where I can.  And what I want to impress upon you is that my case is lucky.  I’ve had a lot of resources that most people never have.  Such violence haunts a lot of people till the day they die.  It breaks their souls.  And mending a soul isn’t easy.  And even when mended, there will always be scars.

That is all I’m trying to say.  Sexual violence is an issue worth caring about.

controls our lives

Surviving Elementary School

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”           ~Susan Taylor

I don’t typically watch the news.  I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access.  I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube.  That’s about as much as I can take.  In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news.  I took her advice.  I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.

I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter.  I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old.  I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.

And it is true.  This world can be a very evil place.

I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence.  Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug.  It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18.  How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?

I don’t know, they just do.

In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter.  What have I found?  That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives.  It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.

First, you need to address your own trauma.

The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue.  All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.

This is just what I have found.

**********

I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”

I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked.  I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues.  Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold.  Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day.  Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.

How have we allowed this to lead to a divide?  What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them.  They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.

Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity.  For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen.  That is what breaks my heart now.

I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on.  What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter.  I trust that.

At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet.  I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy.  Am I alone in this?

U

I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense.  I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears.  I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart.  I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now.  I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.

I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life.  This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you.  This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation.  You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.

To the rest of us, I say: stand down.  This is not a fight.  We are worn and we are weary.  We have faced far too much as a country this year.  Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?

**********

To all of us, I plead:  Do not let this destroy us.  We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve.  Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma.  Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side.  So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on.  We can heal.  We can overcome.  But first, we must grieve.

A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.

It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good.  If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.

mended heart

Resources:

Post Traumatic Growth

NY Times PTSD Article

The Power to Change the World is Already in Your Hands

I’ve had an incredible year, and for the first time in a looonnnnggggg time (if ever), I hate to see the year go.  But I do know that a new year brings new beginnings, and I’m so excited to see what God has in store for me, because I know it will be good.

Yesterday, for the maybe 5th time, I watched the documentary, “I Am,” an incredible film that has changed my life.  It got me thinking about how my part in this world can change everything.  It made me realize that I don’t need power, or money, or my own non-profit organization to change the world.  We are all interconnected, and my very mood has an affect on something else going on in this world.  All I want to do is pour positivity and love into this world.  Knowing that my heart’s signals set off a butterfly effect on this planet, makes me want to keep a smile always on my face.

When I was miserable, I thought I was the only one suffering.  When I consider that my life changes, might’ve changed some vibration in this world for the better, it makes me appreciate my new happiness that much more.  Someone else’s life might’ve changed for the better with mine.  Beautiful.

“There are risks and costs to action.  But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”  ~John F. Kennedy

In that respect, I made a decision for my New Year’s resolution.  I don’t often make resolutions, and when I do, they do not look like weight loss or habit-changing.  I want to contribute goodness to this world.  I want to do my part to set a positive chain of events in motion, every. single. day.  I made the decision to go out of my way to practice a random act of kindness every day for the year 2013.

My prayer, is that God presents me daily with an opportunity to help someone, and that in doing so, I start to make a shift for the greater good.

I will be writing about this experiment/resolution here, but I will not specifically name who I helped or how.  I’m not doing this to receive kudos.  I’m doing this to show those around me that even the little things can change the world.  And to suggest that maybe others try this as well.  I will be writing about it to discuss how this venture helps transform my life and perspectives in the process.

i am the documentary

Staring Down the Pink Elephant

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” –Mother Theresa

On March 27, 2011, my life officially changed in an incredibly dramatic way.  I stayed for hours after church, hesitant to go home, and hesitant to make a commitment.  I stared back and forth at the pulpit and the exit, long after the service had ended and everyone, except for 2 friends and myself, had gone home.  Every time I looked at the doors, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, face it, or act because of it, I knew if I walked out those doors without God, I would die.  The pain was like a wrench in my gut, twisting with the thought of making that decision.  I didn’t want to lose myself, and as much as I felt like I wanted to die in that moment, I knew the truth was that I wanted to live.

I had stayed after service, hurling questions and arguments at the pastor, who mostly left it up to me, to look inside myself for the answers.  He knew that nothing he could say was going to be easily accepted by me.  And this had been the truth since the moment I had first stepped into this crowd of people who would become my family.

When the moment finally came, it was almost midnight.  In the following weeks, I would buy a little plaque that said “Even miracles take a little time” from the disney film Cinderella.  Without knowing what I was diving into, I dove, because I realized that if I wanted to live, I didn’t have a choice.

That night, I made a commitment to follow God, to be His faithful servant, to become the person He wanted me to be, and live the life He wanted me to live.  It wasn’t an instantaneous transformation.  It took time, and I fought.  I fought everyone around me, and I fought with God himself.  Quite violently, I might add.

The fact of the matter is, though, that I don’t take commitments lightly.  If I say that I am going to do something, I do it.

In the months that have followed, the transformation has taken over, and my life doesn’t even resemble what it looked like a year ago.  I am living in a different home, city, and state, with different friends, a different church, a different perspective, and a different way of living.

When I opened my mind to a church that truly conveyed a life modeled after that of Christ, it was a battle.  I always had this concept “well, if they really followed Christ, it would look like this…”  The difference was, this church actually embodied that.  Did I cut them any slack because of it?  Ohhhhhh no, definitely not.  I gave them hell for dragging me there.  I sat on my seat, arms crossed, scowl painted firmly on my face.  When they sang, I didn’t move.  When they greeted each other, I didn’t move.  Did that make a difference?  No.  They treated me, from the very first moment, like I was family, and that never wavered, even when they learned of our differences.

I wish I could say that churches like that are common, but they are the minority.

I came in with all of my doubts and anger.  I was drowning in resentments of what churches had done to me and my loved ones for years and years.  I hurled this resentment toward these innocent people with my laser beam death stare, and they never once treated me differently.

Eventually, I had a realization.  I expected these people not to judge me.  That is what real Christians would do.  But what about me?  Shouldn’t I be willing to do the same for them?  Why was I taking out all of this resentment on people who had never harmed me.  I judged them before I had a chance to walk through the door, accusing them of judging me.  That was my hypocrisy wake up call.  I had to give them a chance, if I expected that of them.

So, I did.

“Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.”  –Dandemis

That is when I realized that they were actually everything I had always thought churches should be.

Go figure.

I wish I could say that the judgments stopped from that moment, but as I have grown in my faith, I have noticed the other side of my friend pool shift.  They don’t directly tell me they hate me, but they definitely are weirded out and leery of this change in me.  As though the fact that my newfound relationship with God gives me a reason to live, just isn’t a good enough excuse.  I have, as of late, felt incredibly judged by a lot of my friends who are atheist or agnostic.  They are immediately on the defense with me, as though I am going to show up on their doorstep with a pamphlet.  As much as I understand that feeling, I don’t understand it coming at me.  I am not suddenly a horrible person because I believe differently.  I have started to realize that I feel far more judged now than I ever did when I was spiritually ambiguous.  The funny part is that, though I do have some strong specific beliefs, I am still spiritually ambiguous in a lot of ways.  And as for the current religious/political blur, none of my political beliefs have changed.  In fact, I would say I stand stronger in my political beliefs than I did before, because I believe that, although they are not the norm in my spiritual community, they have been distinctly placed on my heart for a reason.

I guess that, although so much of my life has changed, the only parts of me that have changed were the parts no one wanted here in the first place.  I am not destructive anymore.  I am not as selfish.  I am working hard to live a productive life.  I stay focused on ensuring that I am being kind to myself and to others.  I am learning balance.  I am implementing self-care.  I am capable of so much more.  I am grateful for each day, and I genuinely want to live it.

So yeah, something HUGE changed, but it didn’t change my heart.  My heart is in the same place, I am just learning how to put it into action.  I am learning to act upon the passions that have driven me all this time, and to grow and heal so that I am capable of doing that work.

So this is for those of you out there who think I have been brainwashed or suddenly became incredibly stupid.  This is not the case.  I heard that your IQ starts declining at 25 anyway, so maybe that part is true.  I’m just not the asshole I used to be.  And the truth is, that I am thankful for all of my friends.  For those who do not need a God to give their lives meaning, I do not judge.  I have learned in AA that living a life without a higher power is just a prerogative that some of us do not have the luxury of indulging in.  I need God to take a step further in this life, to march on.  The passions I have for change to come about in this world, are not efforts that I can make alone.  I will surely need God behind the work I want to do for our world in order to make it a safer, more beautiful place for each and every one of us to thrive.

I don’t plan on apologizing to my spiritual community for my political beliefs, and I don’t plan on apologizing to my political community for my spiritual beliefs.  I am going to march forward living in the way that I feel God guide me.  And you two groups can sort that crap out amongst yourselves.

That’s all.

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation.  It’s the one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”  

–Paulo Coelho 

God, Guide Me Home

I don’t know where to begin with the struggles I have recently faced and the miracles that have blossomed out of them.  I know God has blessed me with a gift for writing, but I ironically believe that words can never suffice.

I kind of feel the need to fill you in about my journeys over the past 6 months.  November 20th of 2011, I entered residential treatment for bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder, and substance abuse.  Over the past few years, I have struggled with intense depression.  I experienced depression most of my life, but it had intensified over the past 3 years, and I was being hospitalized pretty regularly.  That was the main reason, I decided to look into residential treatment.  That is how things seemed from my perspective anyway.  Looking back on it now, I see so clearly how God had His hand in everything.  He chose where I was going to go, and the moment I would arrive and leave.  He carefully chose my treatment team, and my fellow survivors that I would meet along the way.

The work that I did from November 20-May 1 was the most intense work of my life.  It was incredibly difficult to face the most trying moments of my past head on, and conquer them.  We worked from 7 am to 10 pm daily, on dissecting and addressing our traumas.  In that process, we were strengthened and equipped to move forward.

I worked with some incredible therapists while at Timberline Knolls.  My primary therapist was a Christian therapist.  At first I was uncertain as to whether or not I could share the ugliest parts of my past with her, but we built the trust and she constantly reminded me that I needed to push forward.  She helped me to stay focused on the tasks at hand, my purpose of a life spent serving the God who had saved me.  He pulled me through before, she promised, He won’t desert me now.  Sometimes she was the only person who I could listen to, the only person who knew just what to say.

My family therapist sacrificed so much time to care for me directly, and was moved when she witnessed me evolve.  I worked with specialists, art therapists, expressive therapists, and DBT therapists.  We took every single angle in addressing every single issue.  I was blessed with a team that I felt truly cared for me and believed that I was capable of overcoming.

Aside from my team, I met so many other residents who proved to me that survival was possible.  They proved to me that some of the most beautiful people in this world, are the people who have been through the most.  And you would never even know it.  We would spend our brief bouts of free time, laughing, coloring, knitting, or in fellowship.  You would never look at these women and know the horrors that they had lived through.  Getting to know them on a personal level made me realize why I am so passionate about working against the issue of sexual violence.  It helped me face the need in this world to build women up, to help them know that they are valuable, lovable, worthy, beautiful, and strong.

I cannot say enough about the impact that these women had on me.  Through high school, college, and even in church, I feel like my strongest friendships were built with the women who were there to witness me break and rebuild.

May 1st, I left to go to “transitional living” in the Los Angeles area.  After a week, I left.

The weeks since have been incredible, difficult, reinvigorating, transformative, and inspiring.  It hasn’t all been fun.  I have had moments of incredible stress.  Two weekends ago, I started to fold.  I wasn’t finding a job.  I wasn’t finding a home.  I was starting to believe I wasn’t capable of accomplishing everything I had dreamed of doing.  I quickly felt as though the presence of God was draining out from around me.  I started to lose faith.  I started to lose hope.

Last Sunday morning, I went to a church that I had been looking into since I arrive in San Diego.  I was certain that I simply needed to find a spiritual community.  Initially, I found myself trapped in one of those, “Seriously?! Really?!” moments.  You know, like the Saturday Night Live skit.  Almost as soon as church started, I was worried.  The sermon was on TRUTH, and I started to consider what my pastors would say on the issue.  I imagined them saying that the enemy will lie to you, tell you that you are weak, or try to convince you that you are the person you used to be.  I imagined them reminding me not to listen to the lies, that the voice that told me I was capable and worthy and loved was the voice of truth.  That voice was the voice of God.  This sermon didn’t go anything like that.  If you can consider for a moment every single controversial political issue that has ever arisen in which churches felt moved to comment, that was in the sermon.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  Other religions.  Evolution.  The pastor even fit the justification for rape into his angry rant, explaining that men have and natural reaction to scantily clad women… “they’re just wired that way.”  That was the point when I started frantically looking toward the doors.  Just so you know, if you ever start to question whether or not doors will be barricaded if you try to make a run for it… you should probably make a run for it.  I calmly headed to the doors, as if I was heading to the bathroom, but I just kept walking.

Let me tell you something that I genuinely believe.  I believe there are people who are directly being used by the enemy (satan, evil, etc) through the church.  The media has highlighted several of these recently in North Carolina.  I believe that this can be the devil’s strongest tool against God.  They are puppets for evil who hide behind the guise of Godliness.  On a daily basis, they are driving more and more people away from the love of God.  They are IN THE CHURCH, but working for the devil.  It is a perfect set up.  I am probably going to pay for this, but I am calling them out right now.  They do not work for God.

I have been in churches whose motives are genuine and true.  I have experienced churches where miracles are started, and hearts and minds are opened.  It is true that they are rare, but they are out there, I promise.  I didn’t not know, until recently that they even existed.  I did not know that church could be a spiritual experience.  I thought church was a punishment, a bore, and a waste of time.

When last Sunday morning unfolded, I was pretty pissed.  I didn’t resign myself to the disappearance of God, like I might’ve in the past.  I let the experience infuriate and motivate me.  That was NOT going to be my first experience of church in San Diego.  I was NOT going to let go that easily.  I set out for the rest of the day, focused on my recovery, and on turning things around.  I had a healthy, balanced lunch, and came home to find another option.  I recalled that I had looked at a church with a Sunday evening service, and I decided to try that one out instead.

I have missed my church back home dearly.  I was almost certain I wouldn’t find a comparable church anywhere else.  That being said, I was wrong.  My church in NC is awesome.  They are loving, welcoming, and intentional representatives of Christ.  Their hearts are moved from truth.  Their lives were saved by the purpose they found in God.  One of my church’s focuses has been children with special needs.  The Pastor’s sister is a special education teacher, and one of the most devoted families in the congregation is a beautiful family whose son has autism.  The issue is close to their hearts.

Being that my passion has long been the issue of sexual violence, I have dreamed of finding a church who was committed to working on the issue.

See, it was my work in Women’s and Gender studies that led me to God.  I was driven into the area of study by personal experience and a motivation to change the world.  The passion to do this work has been powerful and unyielding.  It is the very reason I titled this blog “Incurable Hope.”  Because the issue of sexual violence feels hopeless, but the glimmer of a hope that things can be changed is the only thing that has kept me going all along, even when I wanted to give up.  I could have easily given up on myself, but I couldn’t give up on the masses of people across the world whose lives are devastated by such violence.  There were times when I felt like one of the only people who cared about it.  I grew overwhelmed, daunted, and weary.  I was in a perpetual tug-of-war between letting go, letting go of this purpose, of this life, and of this fight; and holding on.  Just before midnight on March 27, 2011, I gave it all over to God.  I had come to the point where I wanted to quit, and I knew that faith would be the only thing that would pull me through.  It was quite a stretch.  I believed in God, but I was cynical, jaded, and bitter.  I was irritated by all this “He” talk, and I thought “God” was the hateful dude who was hatin’ on the gay folk.  I surrendered anyway, and hoped for the best.

What I have found on the other side of that commitment has been incredible.  It has not been easy, but behind all of it, I have found purpose.  I have seen grueling struggles give birth to huge life changes.  These are changes I have been craving for years, growth that I have yearned to experience.  I had been stagnant, and God had been waiting.

I had considered residential treatment, but God made it happen, with nearly 100% coverage from my insurance company, something that is incredible, and sadly, very rare.  I made plans in the months before treatment and in the weeks since, but God constantly reminds me that he has more in mind for me.  I have met people who have blessed my life.  I have heard stories that have fueled my drive and reinforced my compassion.  I have pushed through and overcome trials that can often cripple or kill people.  In short, the blessings have been numerous.

Last Sunday night, I found a home church here.  It is a different kind of church, a church focused on changing the world in a positive way… “not by making a point, but by making a difference.”  By being living examples of Christ’s love in a world that doesn’t know it.  Keep in mind that this world is not unfamiliar with that love due to a lack of churches.  Oh no, I come from a town where there are almost more churches than people.  They have had a KKK rally and a cross burning in the past couple of weeks.  Lack of churches is not the problem.  The truth is that church is completely useless if it is not conceived from the genuine nature of Christ’s love and compassion.  And how many churches do you know that are like that?

The church that I found has a ministry that is committed to working against sex trafficking, both here in the U.S. and abroad.  The moment I saw that, I knew God had led me to my church.  He led me home.  Thursday night’s service focused on impacting the world around us, being kind, lending a hand to someone in need.  Simple gestures that are huge in a cold and distant world.  It helped me realize why I had been guided here.  I have been driven to do this work, and what I found in doing it, was that I couldn’t do it alone, in fact, as Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “No human power could…”  It is true.  Doing it alone would’ve killed me.  The world is largely unconcerned with the issue of sexual violence.  It is just too much.  I honestly believe that things can change with a sturdy spiritual foundation, with God behind the work being done.

I have been very active in AA, doing step work with a sponsor, and attending meetings regularly.  The entire concept mirrors how I came to believe.  We couldn’t do it alone.  We needed God to help us overcome.  And it is true also with other change.  I have watched women devote themselves to the work of fighting sexual violence, and drowning in the hopelessness of the issue.

What makes me laugh is that, as I reflect on my old view of this struggle, I see that I wanted to change the world.  The task seems far less daunting when I consider that it was already saved.

I don’t presume to know where things will go from here.  God’s plans for me are irrelevant until they come to fruition.  I move forward in pure faith.  I know he will not let me down.  I know he has my best interest at heart.  I know he has my back.  With that knowledge, what more do I need?  With God, all things are possible. 🙂