The damage was too great, the surgeon told me, to close the wound. No amount of skill, no number of stitches, could close the bloody ellipse, much less hold it indefinitely. It could be cared for and fretted over as much as I liked, but only time would heal this open wound. Healing, closure the same thing, the only thing, I hope for. Watching the muscle twitch as I move and pulse with my beating heart, it occurs to me: I finally have the words to describe the languishing I felt years ago, when another piece of me - a people to whom I belonged - was cut away by graceless hands. With every heartbeat, I am reminded that the open wound in my very being has not yet closed, not yet healed. So, I care for the wound and fret over it, hoping time will bring healing, closure, to this open wound.
It was two years ago today, that I was banned from the church I served, and for two years I’ve wondered why. I don’t know why, and I think the leaders who made that decision couldn’t tell you why. Looking back, I think it’s because the truth I not only possessed, but embodied, threatened a false, fragile peace they had come to worship. Even the presence of a pastor was not more important than preserving that idolatrous lie. But, I don’t know, and no amount of knowledge or insight will heal the pain of not being able to say goodbye to a congregation I dearly loved.
When I got the call telling me I wasn’t allowed back on the property, I was in the middle of jotting ideas down for what would have been my final sermon. I knew that one would be important. This group of people, who had come together to breathe life back into dry bones deserved to know why their pastor resigned. Not being allowed to see them, to tell them what I needed to, and to hear them tell me what they needed to, is still an open wound.
It’s not holding on to the past. I am in a good place professionally and fortunate to have great community now. It’s just that I’ve learned from all of my operations, infusions, and radiation treatments, that even if you’re doing the work (e.g., rehab, eating right, getting enough rest, etc.) it takes time to heal the real serious stuff. Christians, you need to know that AREs (Adverse Religious Experiences) fall into that camp. When people get spiritually harmed, AREs do the kind of damage that only work + time can heal. Right now communities are coming together to process and heal from the AREs that countless people have experienced. So, make sure you AREn’t enabling harmful practices.
I still hear from a handful of my former congregants, and I know they still haven’t called a full time pastor to serve with them. And that open wound aches for them. Part of me wants to “fix it,” but I don’t know how to with any integrity, and more, after completing my EMDR trauma therapy earlier this year, I know that even with integrity, there’s no “fixing” this. My sincere hope is that they can continue forward, for they have real work to do in their community.
But for me. And for any of them with a wound that just won’t seem to heal. And for any of you with an open wound in your hearts, well, I hope time is kind to us all.