She was uncomfortable with it – my pain – and so the only way she knew how to deal with it was to ridicule it. She rebuked me on how long it was taking me to transition beyond the hurt. “Get over it. You are stuck,” she pushed back with frustration. For her there must have been some imaginary time frame I was missing for navigating my pain. Once again I was deficient. She couldn’t tolerate my weakness and neediness. I guess that is what I get for sharing my pain in places where “Jesus heals it all. We just need to have enough faith and trust him.” But the truth? Healing takes time. There is no special formula for “getting over” things which harm us.
“The world is impatient. It tells you. You should be over that by now. The page does not judge how long it takes you. The page can hold your sorrow and will not rush you on. Honor your inner life and trust the process. When you have a mind-boggling loss in your life, or have lived through war, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or other trauma, you need to heal on your own time frame. Nobody but you can say how long that takes.”(Henriette Anne Klauser, “With Pen in Hand: the Healing Power of Writing,” p.10)
Find Someone Who Listens Well
I went to an older, wise friend who knew about church hurt and loss. I called across the distance and began the conversation with these words, “I need a safe place to talk about what has happened. Will you listen?” And she did. She would answer the phone and listen well. She would ask the questions I knew meant she was hearing my heart. Her acceptance of my pain instead of avoidance helped me to authentically navigate my hurt.
I did not need to hurry up and get over it with her. My pain was valid. This injury was legitimate. My healing was a process. She spoke to me from the experience of her own church hurt. In the process I found hope. I wasn’t crazy. Healing does take time.
Despite what some may lead you to believe there is not a magic balm you rub on your church wounds which will make them disappear without a scar. Sometimes you say all the prayers and speak all the words, but the depression, anger, and fear does not lift. A magic salve does not exist. No matter how many times people mention Jesus or forgiveness the process of walking out your pain will take months and even years. However long it takes you does not mean there is something wrong with you or that you are stuck. You are not stuck. You are hurt. Take as much time as you need.
Healing Takes Time
What I know is how essential it is to find a therapist, a counselor, or trusted friend who will not rush you through some magic steps or hand you a few books and send you on your way. Venting is OK. You need a safe space to cry and scream and NOT be OK. You might need medication. I know none of these things are acceptable in some circles of faith, but those “wise churched grownups” have been hiding one essential truth: we are given professional helpers for a reason. They are gifts to us. It is brave to ask for help. Courage shows up to those appointments.
When we see someone going through a horrific relationship or church experience – our encouragement should never be a whole bunch of spiritual platitudes which are meant to encourage “spur them on,” but instead make the pain worse by invalidating it Perhaps when someone is hurting they simply need the quiet, supportive presence of someone who loves them well without hurry, frustration, agenda, or rebuke. Some people can do this well; others cannot. Don’t hold it against them too harshly if they are not able. Simply find someone who can.
As you begin to get your head up above the water/pit again, you take one day at a time, each new step. Rest well. You practice healing until you are healed. You practice abundant self love and care.
Breath a little more slowly every day – the deep gasping for air will slowly fade.
It will come. Healing takes time.
Looking for a safe place to process church hurt or faith shifting – join our Facebook Group The Front Porch Here.
This is part 4. in a series on Confronting My Church Wounds – a look at shifting faith – you can find the rest of the series below:
- Part 1. Introduction
- Part 2. Coming Undone
- Part 3. Pit of Despair
- Part 4: Healing Takes Time
- Part 5: The Act of Seeing
- Part 6: Mean Church Girls
- Part 7: You are NOT Good Enough
- Part 8: A Year of Silence
- Part 9: Evangelicals and the Gay Agenda
- Part 10: I Felt Duped
- Part 11: Critical Sexist Church Man
- Part 12: Anniversary of Tears
- Part 13: Conservative Christian Women Support Trump