3.19.07 from xgcw….get over it

i had someone tell me last week that i needed to “get over it.” i need to get over my hurt and pain related to the white, suburban evangelical megachurch and move on. i read the words several times and wanted to scream and shout at the top of my lungs “don’t you think i want to, you idiot!” of course I want to get over it. do you think i want to waste any more time feeling the pain of this wound? of spending any more energy afraid, angry, or crippled? of course i don’t, who would? but it’s so much more complicated than a simple, “well, it’s time to get over it.” this right here is my problem with the unwritten rules of the evangelical church—if we believe enough, we won’t struggle…if we will our minds to submit to God, it will all be over with…grief is bad…feeling angry is prideful…if we say the right words that will make everyone feel comfortable right, we will get off the hook. i am absolutely positive that works for millions of avid church-goers. they can do it, they can pull it off. but what about those of us who can’t? where does this leave us? i have more compassion than i have ever had for those who are struggling with forgiveness, confusion, and just plain old anger at God. He just doesn’t make sense a lot of the time. He calls us to hard things, He asks us to look at the ugliness in our hearts, He asks us to turn the other cheek….and He also asks us to stand up against the status quo. the status quo when it comes to pain in the church is “it’s time to get over it.” that is nothing new. for years and years pastors and ministry leaders have been telling hurting people that it’s time to get over it. and that timetable always seems to be written by others who somehow have the bead on how long it should take. i heard a story a few weeks ago about someone who was struggling a few months after losing their spouse, and a ministry leader said “is she still having such a hard time?” unbelievable but true. we always presume to know that we understand what is going on inside of a person; and we base that on whether or not they are saying things the way that we feel comfortable with. if we hear words that include “prayer,” “the Lord”, and “oh yes, i have forgiven” then we feel better but if we hear rawness, honesty we start to get uncomfortable, fidgety. i know Jesus wants me to get over it, i am quite certain of it. He and i are working hard on this but it is not coming cheap or easy. i might not ever be able to give some people the exact response, use the right language that will make them feel comfortable that my “heart must be in the right place.” no one knows what it’s like exactly to be me and i don’t know what it’s like exactly to be anyone else. you see, that is my problem with trite spiritual answers like that—they presume. no questions were asked: how is your healing process going? where are you now compared to last year? what do you think God has really been teaching you about His heart through all of this? how can you use some of these things you are learning to build a healthy ministry? what is Jesus really busting you on right now? that’s why i so desperately cling to the glorious people in my life who can do that for me, who don’t expect me to “get over it” but keep calling me towards Jesus, who believe it’s possible to lead and also be wounded, who aren’t waiting for me to say the exact right words so that they know “i’m healed”. they accept that i am getting over it and will stick with me as long as it takes. i think that’s what real spiritual transformation is all about—the long haul, not the quick, right answers that make the outside of our cup look clean.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

5 Comments

  • Kathy, I think you are *so* right on with this. I am honored that you provide a place for us to be broken and heal. I don’t think that the leader of the group has to be healed in order to make a tremendous impact in the life of others. I believe we’ll never all be truly healed, at least not on this side of eternity. I sometimes wonder what it’s going to look like on the other side. What will God challenge us with over there? Is God challenged by us?

    I liked your questions and thought I’d take the time to answer them:
    how is your healing process going? I feel like I take two steps forward and one step back all the time. Sometimes I probably take 4 or 5 steps back. I think I’m really ready to get over “it” though. For a long time, I really wasn’t.

    where are you now compared to last year? I have come so far. I want to start tackling the tougher questions that will help me heal and look within. Last year, all I was capable of was getting by, which was okay. That’s where I needed to be then.

    what do you think God has really been teaching you about His heart through all of this? That he’s not a punishing God. I used to think that dominant men who yelled at me were teaching me how to fear God.

    how can you use some of these things you are learning to build a healthy ministry? This is probably for you ministry types. I think the things I am learning though have helped me to relate better to others. I am real and I am learning to accept the “realness” of others. I think some people are shocked by that. They feel like they should wear a mask until a certain point in a relationship.

    what is Jesus really busting you on right now? Being honest, learning to deal with my anger appropriately, seek out equal relationships, learn to love myself, forgive myself, forgive my “ex”.

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  • Hmm… I grew up in a home and a church where not being over it within a few minutes (no matter what it was) was not acceptable. I remember when my grandmother died when I was eight. It had been maybe a month (at the most) and I was laying in bed one night and started thinking of her – wishing I knew how to get Jesus to raise her – and I started missing her and I started crying – softly. My mother came in and asked me what was wrong with me. I told her I missed grandma. She said, “Well, just get over it.” I did my best to not let anyone see me cry for the next 20 years… To survive, you stuff it. And now, the church say, “That was so long ago. Just let it go and get over it.”

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  • it is kind of fun, these old posts i forgot about that were not ever really originally part of the carnival blog. i remember this moment so clear the “just get over it” words from someone who had absolutely no idea what it felt or feels like. thank you both for sharing & for reading.

    lisa – i love all the things you are learning & your willingness to keep pursuing change…we’ll keep hacking at it!

    katherine – those words, so painful. i can feel that moment. then, all the pain stuffed down for 20 more years needs a place to come out. the church should should be a refuge for healing so that we truly can move forward. i have heard people say “why do we need to look at the past, let’s just look forward..” and i am always like “the best way to move forward is to look at the past so it actually become the past. stuffed down and hidden it just can’t go into its proper place” i am sorry the church has sucked in this area for so many.

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  • I think I mentioned this before, but now is a good time to do so again. You give me hope that I may be able to trust a church again someday. Thank you.

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  • In my healing/growth process, right now the main concept that I am focusing on is learning to listen to and trust myself. I have said before that the abuse that I experienced was intimately connected with Christianity, and God has always looked an awful lot like my abuser to me. Of course, I thought that was normal, and thankfully I am now realizing that it’s not. But in my upbringing and discipleship, I learned the exact opposite of trusting myself. I learned that it is never ok to be a real person. I learned that we “die to ourselves,” that only God’s will is important, and “my will ” is bad. I learned that God was unsafe, but that I’d be rejected by him if I even acknowledged that sense that I had. I learned to be a shell of a person, putting all that I had sincerely into that shell because I so wanted God to accept me, and I knew that was the only way he would. I had to completely reject and condemn who I really was inside, to make that person nothing, in order to be accepted by God.

    Turns out that’s not the best recipe for the fruit of the Spirit. But this post of yours is another perfect example of how our communities perpetuate that awful shame about being real people. Only “spiritual” answers to problems or reasons for decisions allowed. Little patience for process. Discomfort with painful emotions. No room for following the unique wisdom that God has placed in individual hearts about the path that is needed for each precious person’s healing. That is too frightening. I really wonder what are the fears involved in needing to have a formula or a clear-cut path with specific “correct” language to describe it. What would happen if we let go of those things?

    Our need to fix each other and ourselves produces so much shame. I’ve been going to God my whole life asking for him to fix me, and he let me down. Not permanently…I mean, I felt like I had lost faith because I was so disappointed with him. But I think I’m seeing that going to him to fix me wasn’t really the heart of what he wanted out of the relationship. He wanted me to stop using him like a drug for my pain. I still don’t quite know what he does want out of the relationship, but I think part of it has to do with letting go of demand on both my part and his part (my perception) that I be different than I am. (And maybe my demand that he be different than he is??) And I think somehow our community is supposed to reflect that too, as frightening as it is to let go of the illusion of control.

    Like you, I do see that on the small scale, in personal relationships, and I am so, so grateful for that. I’m wondering about myself and about larger expressions of community, how we can get rid of more fear and relate to each other more out of a still place that allows things to be as they are and doesn’t have to force a particular path.

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