I grabbed my purse and keys and called out, “I’m going to run and grab the pizza, be back in fifteen minutes.” My son dropped his game controller and followed me towards the door, “Hey, I want to ride along Mom.” The next fifteen minutes included a conversation which altered the trajectory of our life as he shared that he had been abused by a camp counselor, a story he had been holding inside, hoping he could convince himself it was bad dream.
The days that followed slowly exited me from my life, the life I had been living, as we began the process of walking the road towards prosecution for the man who had perpetrated the abuse. As is most often the case the abuser was known by us and others in our community. He was “such a nice young man, he couldn’t have done this.”
I felt like I was standing on the outside, looking in on my life, as if it were someone else’s story. I remember making the mental check list of what needed to happen that included all the things my years of hearing stories and caring for adult survivors of abuse had told me were important. Of course, this story could and would be “redeemed” and I had clear ideas of what that would look like. I told myself if we did all the right things to care for our son we could minimize the impact and restore the goodness to his young self.
My checklist, my strength and the energy I was generating within myself masqueraded as re-entry into my life. We were fine, Steven would be ok, we were surrounded by a community of people trained and passionate about caring for those wounded by the impact of sexual abuse, we were in the perfect place. I was good. I was grateful.
“The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, it is the good that is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.” Oswald Chambers
As I look back on the chapter of my life that holds that scene today I can see how my ideas of what redemption would look like actually kept me on the outside of my life. I stayed close to the door, smashing my face against the windows, almost willing myself back inside. I prayed, I begged God to redeem what had happened, I wrestled, I celebrated things that felt redemptive to me. And, I wasn’t the same, I wasn’t living fully connected to what was deep inside of my heart. While I was making choices that felt like faith there was a surrender that I was unwilling to engage.
Years went by and I began to share that story and it was a source of hope and inspiration to others, it was good.
And the approximated faith I was living that kept me outside of my life, outside of my heart, was not enough to carry me through the actual story of redemption that God was writing.
On a snowy morning I sat in my favorite chair tearful and torn. I didn’t know how to move or to be, I had lost any sense of control as the dreams I had been nurturing were all unraveling.
My reality felt complicated, disrupting and disappointing. Despair felt more true than life or joy.
I was reading a book that had appeared on my “recommended for you” list on Amazon, Soul Making by Alan Jones (I have become a believer in God speaking through such lists).
“In the desert tradition the gift of tears has something to do with both life and joy for the sake of the restructuring of our identity, for the re-ordering of our self-understanding. The gift ushers in a radical and sometimes painful transformation. In this tradition believing is closely related to being and to our refusal to be. Tears flow when we begin to realize just how deep that refusal goes. The gift of tears comes to our rescue when we despair of ever seeing clearly, when we want to give up…”
My tears began to flow, as if I had been given permission to believe that they mattered and were actually speaking something important.
That cold wintery day my tears opened the door and led me back inside to my real life. The faith they watered was inside my heart all along, I had just forgotten it in my refusal to fully surrender Steven and his story, and my own story to the only Author I want writing it.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories, a reluctant dreamer and the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for over 32 years, she is mother to five kids and a pastors wife. She loves quiet mornings with hot coffee, rich conversations and slowly savored meals at her favorite restaurants. She is awed that God chose her to mother four girls having grown up with no sisters. She writes about her life and her work here.