This evening I heard that an elderly man in our church died last week. I have shed actual tears, not something I do that much.

It’s partly because I have had a really hard week. Meeting two of my sisters for drinks on Wednesday was an exhausting and demoralising process. So I’m pretty vulnerable right now. But actually, it’s down to the man himself too.

When I was nearly 18 my parents started taking us to a large church in our nearest city. Mostly because the American organisation ‘in authority ‘ over my parents said we needed to go, though forewarned against assimilating into ‘the church’. They picked this one because it was least likely to have anyone in it who used to go to their Jewish church thing.

I was a lonely, hurting, questioning, awkward teenage girl who wanted so desperately to find friends and fit in, but was torn with doubts about God, church, family and … well, everything.

One Sunday evening at the youth group I doggedly persisted in attending, even though I often felt like the outsider, they had in a guest speaker – a gentleman who must have been in his 80s, Don Maxwell. He was asked questions about his life, his faith and why he had kept on believing all these years.

After the official session, the youth leader brought Don over and introduced us. Ever since I had started going to the youth group my name had been on a list of young people to be prayed for. Don Maxwell had been praying for me Every. Single. Day. He’d never met me, didn’t know a thing about me except my name, but had been praying for me every day, and now he wanted to meet me.

My mind was completely blown. I was overwhelmed that someone had been so faithfully remembering me, even though they’d never met me!

Maybe you can appreciate how, coming from a large family, with high standards, strict rules and conditional love, this was revolutionary.

And now I hear he died. My heart is feeling broken.

When your Past is in your Present

So today I saw one of my sisters… by choice, so my fault, right? Despite the mega distance I moved away from my family of origin spiritually and emotionally, I only live about 40 minutes from them and my older sister works in the city I live on the outskirts of. I ended up right by her work place and long story short I went and said hi …

It was about 7-8 months since I last saw her and wow! I nearly didn’t recognise her! Big thing – she cut her hair!!! She’s always had hair down to her hips or beyond and it was a big thing in our family (hair being the glory, blah blah). And she just got her ears pierced too!! AND she just got her first ever smart phone!! All significant changes people! Oh yeah, and she went on holiday with another of our sisters- wtf?!

I am on one hand beyond pleased to see such big (yeah, I know, insignificant to ‘normal’ people) changes but the other part of me? The other part of me wanted to ask, ‘but why didn’t you do them with me?’ She is 34 and still living with the parents (all 3 of my siblings are) and one of my biggest hopes when I left 10 years ago was that I could show them it could be done and so I could be here on the outside for them when they needed it … I’ve never been needed.

A wise lady has suggested in the past that changes they’ve made might not have been made without what I did, but there is still a part of me that asks why they couldn’t have done that before I left. Does that make sense?

I now feel like a stranger looking in. I’m not a part of my sister’s changes, I’m just an occasional observer.

There is no way I still want to be there, but can you get how a part of my heart yearns for what possibly never was? Because we were so isolated, my sisters were absolutely everything to me – sisters, playmates, school friends, enemies, best friends. And now they’re nothing more than casual acquaintances with a painful history that they try to pretend isn’t there. And there are times when that still makes my heart physically throb with loss.

And what’s maybe worse? It makes me question if it was really as bad as I thought it was – and that, after all I’ve been through, brings me to my knees.

When Your Heart Is Just Too Heavy

TRIGGER WARNING: This post talks about some issues that might be triggering, please consider before reading.

My heart is so very, very heavy and I have that aching tightness in my throat from needing to cry, but not being able to get out one tear.

I have read too many stories today of CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) and ChurchToo survivors. I have to read them – my heart demands I bare witness to their stories and hear their truth. But it brings pain – not just the pain that flows from their words and must be a daily part of their lives – but it stirs up my own pain, reminds me that the lid is still open on the well of my own experiences.

I also printed out almost an entire journal to read, that was recommended through the GRACE organisation – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. The journal was titled ‘Child Absue and the Chrusch – Prevention, Pastoral Care and Healing. I didn’t really read it as I printed, but my heart broke again that it is even needed in the first place.

Why am I putting myself through such tough reading, such constant exposure to horrible issues? Because I can’t just sit and do nothing. There are too many hurting people out there, hurting people that all too often don’t find the comfort they need within churches, and if in my battles to make people talk about these things more and have a gentle, loving response to survivors, I can help at least one person to feel listened to, valued and loved, through one of the most horrific life-experiences, then it is more than worth my pain, my heavy heart, my sore throat, my nightmares.

For now, my heart is too heavy and it has exhausted me. Sometimes seeing hope is nearly impossible and the mountain seems overwhelmingly steep.

So for now, I’m going to seek hopeful-oblivion in an afternoon nap.