On Friday I talked about Recasting Your Story and raised the question of whether the retelling of our story helps distance us from its pain and allow us to move on. This is an important question for church-leavers and I had expected a bit more dialogue on the subject… perhaps it’s not a good question for a Friday afternoon, especially based on a metaphor. I would encourage a further review of the post, as it ends with some unanswered questions which are followed by two comments which only raise more questions. For instance, if retelling our story helps remove the pain, does the retelling of hope have a negative effect? Why or why not? Friday’s post included an excerpt from Paulo Coelho‘s book, The Zahir, in which the author says “I try to understand why people are so afraid of changing.” For this discussion, there is another relevant excerpt in the book which I discovered Coelho also talks about on his blog when he mentions the concept of “the accommodating point.” He writes,
According to the magical practices of the witchdoctors in the North of Mexico, there is always an event in our lives that is responsible for our having stopped making progress. A trauma, a particularly bitter defeat, disappointment in love, even a victory that we fail to quite understand, ends up making us act cowardly and incapable of moving ahead. The witchdoctor, trying to connect with the occult powers, first of all needs to get rid of this “accommodating point”. To do so, he has to review our life and discover where this point lies.
Obviously I’m not suggesting that the churchless ought to consider the witch doctor… but the concept he describes has merit regardless of its source. The accommodating point can be a major trauma which halts much of the progress of our life, or it can be much more simple. Coelho:
For two years I tried to learn to play the guitar: I made a lot of progress in the beginning, until I reached the point where I could advance no further. Because I discovered that others learned faster than I did, I felt mediocre and decided that instead of feeling ashamed I was no longer interested in playing the guitar. The same happened with snooker, football, cycling: I learned enough to do everything fairly well, but then reached a point where I could go no further.
Because, according to the story that we were told, at a certain moment in our lives “we reach our limit”. There are no more changes to be made. We won’t grow any more. Both professionally and in love, we have reached the ideal point, and it’s best to leave things as they are. But the truth is that we can always go further. Love more, live more, risk more.
The truth is that we can always grow, always change… but the roadblocks to the next step may lie buried in our past. I left my CLB 3½ years ago, but the “trauma” of the events have lingered to greater and lesser degrees in parts of my life. If I look back on it though, the final “trauma” was just the straw that broke the camel’s back — the accommodating point would have to be some years before that even. The question remains in this post as in Friday’s, but fleshed out a bit more perhaps… in the retelling of our painful stories, do we help uncover the accommodating points which have stopped our spiritual lives? In what contexts should this take place, and how can it be facilitated safely? As for Friday’s question, is it even a necessary or fruitful practice?
Good to hear your voice today at Midday Prayer. Interesting post. I have a friend that is doing something called a “Life Map” which is, if I understand him right a prayer project where you look back at your life together with God to get a better understanding of why we have gotten stuck in certain areas. Sounds interesting to me…
What I have experienced and witnessed in others is that the telling of our story is a necessary part of the healing process. There are several factors involved in the telling – the right to be heard; the right to our perspective; the right to our feelings; the need to put all of those things into words; the need to be listened to, acknowledged, validated; the need to have our thoughts reflected back to us by those who hear us and to receive their input and perspective.
It is damaging to not be able to tell one’s story. With spiritual abuse, the victims are often intimidated into silence. A frequent concern of those who leave a church is becoming stuck in the bitterness of the old story. How do we know when retelling the story is too much? I think that given the freedom to speak, that people usually reach a place of healing where they no longer need to talk about it.
I don’t believe that everyone who is churchless is necessarily stuck. I believe that many of us are still growing, however we can’t find our way forward in familiar paths. How do we know if we are failing to make progress because we are being hindered by past trauma or if our progression no longer fits the accepted norms of churchgoing?
Am I stuck because I don’t trust the new pastor much more than the old one? Or am I just smarter? Am I stuck because I don’t pour my life into church programs? Or I have I learned that I don’t want to live that way?
While there are people who might think that I am stuck, I can’t buy into their version of fitting in. Perhaps when I am truly healed, I won’t have any trouble getting with the program at my local mcChurch.
I find it intriguing that you bring this subject up at my year anniversary of leaving our CLB … not that you’d know that. But somehow I think that God is speaking into this for me.
Telling my story has been a source of pain for me, as those who remain attempt to shame me into silence. These posts have been a great help as I rehearse and relive some of my story and rethink some of what happened. I think I’m beginning to learn to release some of it. Just beginning mind you … the tiniest of wobbly baby steps. But I will be writing more now, with less pain, shame and fear … and more hope.
Okay, most of the time I really love your widget which gives us different emotions. But I want to go on record as not having “snickered.” Okay ;-)
I think with any group that you join, telling your story is a key part to being known and knowing them. AA does it, small groups do it and so forth.
I did not have any idea that this would happen, but as I began to share my story a community, a group, was formed around me. True, it is the internet and may of these people I will never meet in person but the dynamics of the group have remained true here as in real life. These people have loved me and listened and responded. They have not tried to change me and only in a few instances have they tried to correct or adjust my thinking.
For me, this has been as healing as any other group I have ever heard of or been a part of. I wonder what would have happened to my heart if I had never ventured onto my first blog page and began my story.
In my case it not only aided my healing I believe it was my healing. And I thank you personally for being part of that community for me.