Monthly Archives: June 2018

Truth’s Pain

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Truth’s Pain

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I wrote this to try to express the inexpressible, which is, of course, impossible.  One of the hardest struggles after significant trauma is coming to terms with the truth of it all.  I’m not done.  Interpersonal trauma is so permeated with lies that seeing truth takes supernatural power.  It is good to know the truth.  But it is painful.  Very, very painful.   Words become frustratingly difficult to find and use to describe what the process is like – people want to know why the struggle is so, so hard.

With genuine concern and no malice intended, people ask questions that sting:  “Why is this taking so long?”  “Aren’t you feeling like you’re back to your old self yet?” “Can’t you just __________?”

They want to understand, so I continue to try to explain, but even when I think I’ve found some words that might serve well, they reveal themselves to be pitifully insufficient.  Poetry, at least, adds imagery to the words.  People have responded with greater understanding to analogy, simile, and metaphor.  I started writing poetry for them.

But an unexpected (and happy) consequence of disciplining myself to choose and conform to a structure, format, or meter has been the settling of turbulent thoughts in my own mind.  This wrangling of words and emotions serves to corral them, if you will, into manageable bits that are easier to digest and wrestle with.  Jeremiah did this in Lamentations.  Out of the brutal chaos of horrific butchery and terror, Jeremiah poured out his heart to God in measured, metered, beautifully raw words.

I found that following Jeremiah’s lead has helped begin the process of navigating my own churning thoughts and emotions.  Using Lamentations as a model has begun to guide me through the tangled brier of questions and pain.  It doesn’t take the pain away – nothing could.  But it’s one more tool to use as I seek to learn to manage it and carry it with me.

The order of poetry in the midst of chaos is a gift.  The discipline of choosing words and forming thoughts into meaningful expression in the presence of the unspeakable is a gift.  The comfort of wrestling with one’s own assaulting thoughts and winning truth, though painful, is a gift.

So I offer this as a gift.  For those of you who are suffering – may it help you begin to choose words of your own.  For those of you walking with the suffering – may it help you sit in the ashes with greater understanding and patience.  And for those of you who have asked me, “why is this so hard?” – may it help you hear my heart.  Read it slowly.  Take it in.  Sit with the words and let them teach you.

 

Truth’s Pain

I asked for truth,

Detangled lies so I could see,

But vision overwhelms.

 

Truth shocking dawns

With crack of whip and razor sharp,

Upon my bloodied mind.

 

Sobs threaten, but

Refuse to come; fear mournful sounds,

Lest someone hear and know.

 

Betrayals seen

Through desperate eyes, truth layers on,

One more, one more, one more.

 

Fast, crashing blows

On opened eyes, relenting not.

Where is the promised hope?

 

Predestined wait

Like lifeless child yet unborn –

A dreaded, bitter birth.

 

I trusted one

Who ravaged, One who stood nearby.

Both left me bruised, broken.

 

Believing both,

Desired faith gained numbing pain.

Both leave me full of questions.

 

The Truth?  The Truth?

Wrapped in plastic cling filmed memories?

“What,” I ask, “has mattered?”

 

What do I do

With truths breaking life to pieces?

What truths to carry forth.

 

The lessons learned?

What service be for captives trapped?

Useful, always useful?

 

I want to flee

Fly far away, unseen, obscure.

To heal, and mend, be free.

 

Truth shocking dawns

These razored shards tear soul and wits.

Ceaseless in its mission.

 

 

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

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“What do you do when your friends are rapists?”

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“What do you do when your friends are rapists?”  Is a question I ran across in a blog post written by Shane O’Leary on Theology Corner.  I have to admit to being both intrigued and horrified by what I read.

Shane does an excellent job of describing the inner-turmoil that everyone goes through when they’ve learned that someone they’ve known and trusted is accused of (or confesses to) something as heinous as rape.  The swirling fog of dissonance is real and it’s difficult to shake off and gain clarity.

I commend him for putting it out there, really – it’s an honest and accurate depiction of the wrestling match that goes on inside a person’s head.  “What should I do???”  But I was deeply saddened that he never answered his own question.

Shane offers three scenarios (I don’t know if they’re real recollections of actual events or if he made them up for the sake of the piece). Regardless of whether or not these particular stories are real, they are indicative of the kinds of real life scenarios that ordinary people might run into in the course of their own friendships.  Three women in three different settings are devastated by what “good guys” have done to them.  Three women’s lives are forever changed by the actions of “friends.”  Three moral dilemmas that Shane – and maybe you – faced where doing the “right” thing is eclipsed by doing the expedient thing, doing the loyal thing, or in fact, doing nothing at all.  In each of the three cases, Shane knows the rapist as a friend – not as a rapist.  The grappling with the truth of that horrible reality while at the same time trying to figure out what he should do in the face of it all (if, in fact, he should do anything at all) is the whole of the post.  I recommend reading the post yourself.  If nothing else, I hope it makes you think deeply about the times you’ve been faced with (or will be faced with) doing the right thing when it might cost you dearly.

I don’t know this author.  I’d like to think that his choice of leaving the questions unanswered was a stylistic decision purposefully used – to make his readers think, perhaps, or make them uncomfortable enough to ask the questions in their own circles of friendships or colleagues to try to find answers.  But it has become painfully clear that in the face of crisis, most of us don’t know what to do.  We might wrestle with the questions, but often we wrestle long enough that the opportunity to do anything at all passes and our de facto decision to do nothing has been made for us.  These are matters too serious to leave hanging in the thin wisps of theory – we need to start actually offering some concrete solutions to one another.  We need to be prepared for the day when we’re faced with this heavy responsibilities.  We need to know what we will do.

In response to Shane’s repeated question, “what do you do when your friends are rapists?”  I’m posting my response.  Hopefully this at least gets the conversation started:

Dear Shane:

I deeply appreciate the honesty that you share here – the wrestling and the fog are real and you describe them well. I hope these things represent the real inner-turmoil you have had if these are true stories. They are for me.

As a victim I will offer my suggestions – I’m not a therapist, I’m no expert, I have no formal training to say this is what one “ought” to do. But since you ask the open-ended question with such eloquence, and seem to be genuinely asking, I will offer a possible answer.

You do the right thing.

You put yourself in the shoes of the victim and do the right thing. The protective thing. The honorable thing. The God-glorifying thing. You imagine that these girls are your sister, your mother, your close friend if you have to, but you do what Jesus did – bend low, serve the needy, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the wounded. You lift up, you rescue, you resuscitate.

You go back and admit where you’ve failed – where you’ve retreated from standing firmly against sin and shrunk back as a coward hiding behind ignorance. If you’re not guilty of these crimes yourself (and everything you’ve described is a crime) you ask the victims if they want help in reporting the crimes. You ask them if they need help in finding help. You tell them you believe them. You tell them that what happened to them was not their fault. You offer to walk with them through the ugliness of the pain and the torturous path of healing and you keep that promise no matter what.

You do what the Good Samaritan did and set your life aside for a time to help the battered and bloodied victim of criminal activity survive and heal. Oh God! What will it take to wake us up? You do the right thing, Shane. You do the right thing.

Regarding your friends who are rapists? You let the consequences of their criminal activities have their full (hopefully redemptive) effect. You report them. You call them out. You risk the relationship for the sake of righteousness if that’s what it costs, but you do the right thing here, too. And then you walk with your friends, if they’ll let you, through the pain and the ugliness of harsh discipline by a loving Father who loves them too much to let them continue in the paths of wickedness without calling loudly, “Come home! Come home!” If they are really your friends, you will love them too much to let them continue down those roads, too.

It’s not that knowing what the right thing to do is that hard. It’s doing it.

Do the right thing, Shane. Please, do the right thing.

Humbly,
Laurie