A weight lifted
I left church this morning with my shoulders straighter and my head held higher. I could feel a weight lifted. I came out … in church. I was REAL about the shame I carry around sex.
So much support
My friends are a blessing. Seven came to give me support. Most of them sat in the first two rows with me and directly behind me. Their presence gave me courage to do what I came to do.
Another friend texted me love and encouragement.
And another friend sent me Reiki from Seattle. She sent me encouraging messages all week on Facebook.
Many more who couldn’t be there were wishing me well. And some of you, my blog followers, begged me to post sooner rather than later. I am so touched by all this support. I have elected to wait until the audio is posted so you have a choice … listen, read, or listen and read.
One friend present was impressed that I received a standing ovation. But everyone with the courage to give their testimony at Harmony Creek receives a standing ovation.
After church, several people approached me and told me how powerful my message was.
I have to give credit to the Spirit for that. I could never have orchestrated this.
You can listen to it here:
You can read it here:
By the time I was 10, my parents stopped attending church. They considered my spiritual seeking “weird.” That hurt.
People in church valued me.
- When I was 8, Shirley smiled at me every Sunday from the choir loft.
- Alice, our parish worker, encouraged me to go to college, something I hadn’t considered because I didn’t think I was smart enough. She suggested I become a parish worker like her.
- Because of Phyllis and Ruby, I entered seminary. They wanted me to be a Director of Christian Education like them.
- Harold, a New Testament Professor, and several others urged me to seek ordination.
The church was my go-to place to receive validation, a sense of worthiness, and guidance. I overcame a lot of childhood neglect because of people like these.
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When Mike called to ask me to give this testimony, he invited the “counselor minister” part of me … to speak of the God who pronounced as “good” all of creation including sex, gender, and sexuality. Yes, I knew intuitively that sex was a sacred gift of connection between two people who love each other. But there was nothing in my experience to validate that knowing.
Mike was unaware that the greatest pain and anguish I carry in my personal life is around sex. He was surprised by my response.
I laughed at him. “I think it’s hilarious that you are asking me to give a testimony on sex. If you knew my story, you wouldn’t be asking me.” And then I threw out a couple of tidbits to persuade him that someone else would be a better choice.
He was not dissuaded. He said my hurtful experience needs to be said in church … that I might inspire other folks to ground their sexuality in the goodness and love of God and not settle for less.
I took time to discern what of value I might have to say on this subject.
Then after hearing Hillary’s testimony, emotion I couldn’t understand welled up in me. Our stories are different. Why all the tears? And then a revelation came. She was so REAL ………. in church.
You can listen to Hillary’s testimony here.
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I experienced desolation with sex for my husband’s self-gratification. There was no connection. I was repulsed by the pornography he brought into our home and that our children found at a young age. And then something horrible happened. My shame lies in my failure to protect my children from the abusive side of sex. I still have difficulty talking about it. Writing about it is easier. The details are in my memoir.
This happened thirty-six years ago while I served a church as an associate pastor. In 1983, I stopped being “REAL” in church. Judging myself harshly, I doubted my belief in a loving God and wondered if I was being punished.
I couldn’t bear risking judgment and rejection in the one place where I had been valued. I began leading a double life. I wore a professional mask and tried to hide what was happening in my family. I felt like a hypocrite.
Gradually church became peripheral in my life. I sought spiritual guidance elsewhere.
I found it in Al-Anon meetings where The Spirituality of Imperfection is practiced. In 12-step meetings, I could be REAL … I could share my worst stuff and receive love and acceptance. We all helped each other heal from some kind of horrendous pain. We developed a different relationship with a power greater than ourselves.
I tapped in and out of church for many years … always hiding … never feeling a sense of belonging. On rare occasions, our family’s brokenness showed itself. Even though I was treated with kindness and compassion, I did not trust that church is a safe place to be REAL.
Writing my memoir gave me courage to come out of hiding two years ago by publishing it. I braced myself for judgment. When none came, a new sense of freedom emerged.
Kathy Swenson and Mary Taylor came to my first book signing. They received my story without a shred of judgment. They drew me back to Harmony Creek. Several in the congregation who read it commented positively. One mentioned finding it helpful.
While writing this testimony, it dawned on me: Without being aware, I have been testing how safe it is to be “REAL” here.
And then Mike found the courage to preach on sex … asked me to give a testimony … Hillary gave hers … and my tears wouldn’t stop.
I continue to be amazed at the mysterious ways in which the Spirit works.
I believe that Jesus celebrates Harmony Creek’s intention to change the culture of “Church” … from a place where we pretend righteousness to a place safe to be REAL … in all our imperfect, messy, wonderful humanness.
If I could have said this I would have … but I would have gone over the 800 word limit I was given. “…in all our imperfect, messy, wonderful humanness … just the way we were created to be.”
And God saw everything that had been made, and behold, it was very good. ~Genesis 1:31
There is still a little bit of a preacher in me. 🙂