Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Christine preached on the Old Testament reading this morning, so I thought I’d write a reflection on “the other one,” even though it was the very last thing I wanted to do today.
It just so happened that this Gospel scared the ever living shit out of me and I didn’t want to write about it. I just didn’t. I was kicking and screaming and being a total eight-year-old about it in my head. And that’s when I realized I had to write about it because it bothered me so damn much. Why does this scripture stop me in my tracks? Is scripture supposed to hurt? I’m going to have to find a way to reframe this one, because it makes my skin crawl. I sit there and get completely fucked up thinking about how my abuser and I lapsed into a world of our own, under the watchful eyes of our congregation. They could see that I was just becoming a whisper of an adult at 14, and they were suspicions of her attention/intention.
Sufficed to say, I wasn’t. There was maybe a month’s time in which someone could have unentangled us. It was that quick. My parents turned around and they didn’t live with me anymore, because only my body showed up to family events. The rest of me lived with her. Which, if you’ve ever seen us in the same room together, that description will click in your mind. There was a long period of time where I felt like I was waiting on her, and when I stopped waiting and tried to walk, she’d pretend that she hadn’t given me the silent treatment for six months and I could walk on water.
Not seeing this truth about her is what led to the theme of my life so far. It started with one or two church members that were worried about me (and rightfully so). By the time those two got to me, my heart was gone and the trap was set. Then there were four or six or eight. You weren’t getting anything out of me. I’d die first. The weird thing was thinking that it actually *might* be necessary. I’d die to keep a secret safe. Of course I would. I clearly remember nightmares in which a whole host of things stole my repose, including beheading my abuser’s attacker so I could, in turn, free myself. To just kill him was entirely too forgiving. I may have felt even more rage than my abuser herself, because hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Someone mentally entered my cave and threatened my pack. I was dark, and I wish I could say moreso because of the abuse, but all women are abused in some way or another. It just takes different forms. That is to say there’s nothing special about my story except that it’s mine. I’m glad that I’m understanding it more as I find out on my own how her actions affected mine.
My powers in understanding the human dance because of my pastor father created a loyal friend whose intentions toward protection were sullied by inaction. I did everything I could to help her, and I had already been discarded. She was everything to me, and I still have no earthly idea if I mean anything to her at all… because I know I will always have a piece of her heart when she sits back and thinks for a second, but it’s never going to be like it used to, when those thoughts drove her to write to me and let me, piece by piece, know her like no one else… not better or worse, just different. The difference is that I put forth effort, and the more I needed the dopamine from her abuse and didn’t get it, the sicker emotionally I got and the more effort I put forth. I felt as if I could metaphorically hang myself, because I’d certainly been given enough emotional rope.
Growing up this past year has included forgiving my congregation for the fear they instilled in me of them because I did not want to believe that someone I loved so much could stand at a distance with her hand on my head while I windmilled toward her. The people that saw it tried to get me out and I assured them that she was helping me. She was, genuinely, but I more than paid for it.
God, I am so glad that I got to own this part of the Lectionary. I think I would have had a really hard time in church if Christine had done it, and the Old Testament suits her preaching style well. It’s like playing against type. David preaching a sermon about Goliath. However, I will expand it to say that she is a wonderful, wonderful preacher. I was simply thankful that I did not become a basketcase in public, because I’m so emotionally vulnerable at church, anyway, that sometimes tears start before I have time to prepare and then I’m being handed Kleenex by everyone and receiving pats on my back while I pray and lose my snot with grief.