“Don’t drop me, Granny!” Max said. “I won’t drop you! I gotcha!” I said. I assured him, while he laughed. And in that memory, the Holy Spirit spoke into my soul. Max was learning to “trust” that I have him. I was remembering how I learned to trust my own coaches. It was very hard for me to let them help because I never learned to trust the adults around me. This has been a pattern in my life to do things myself, and work hard. Max and all the kids were safe in my arms. I would lift them high in the air, faces looking at each other, cheek to cheek, smiling.
This is what God does through Jesus. He has lifted us up, in His arms, and brought us, face to face with Himself. Through Jesus, He brings us into the closest place of intimacy, the place where His voice is still and small, because He is not just close. He’s one with us in Jesus! In Jesus is where we hear our Father’s voice, whispering into the depths of our souls. “I won’t drop you. I have you!” “I’m committed to you, and I’m committed to this relationship!” It has occurred to me that we need people in our lives that we can trust to point us to our Father. It’s through community that we learn to trust. One of the most frightening feelings is that “falling” feeling, when we feel like the ground beneath our feet is giving way, or like we’re falling off our bed in mid-sleep.
I have been working with Fr. Tom Ackerman at the request of my doctor to work on my PTSD issues and stress reduction. He is a Roman Catholic priest, and the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi University parish in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In the ten or so sessions we have had, I have managed to share a good amount of my childhood trauma, and a good bit of my adult trauma. His nature is to be very reserved and he listens with compassion. He has said many things that have been very profound to me.
The first thing I realized when starting this process is that I have a strong need to know what to expect. Living without being aware that my body is always ready for the attack; this makes sense. Fr. Tom’s soft-spoken demeanor has made me very comfortable with him, and trusting him has not been difficult. His intelligence and ability to express truth without making you feel stupid is helpful. For example, yesterday, during my attempt to figure things out, and share, he told me to stop and sit still, and relax my arms and just “be.” It was almost impossible at first. Then, it hit me. I’m not just afraid because we don’t know what to expect from people. Ultimately, we are afraid because we don’t know what to expect from God! We don’t know his character and nature, and even when we do, we filter it through what we learned of trust in our early years or through the misuse of the free-will of others. And not knowing the character and nature of God deep within our souls is what leaves us trapped in the roller coaster of our fears and suspicions. When we can’t trust that God is going to take care of us, we’re forced to take care of ourselves. And then, in a sense, we become the god of our own world, carrying on our shoulders burdens that don’t belong to us. “Those kids needed a savior and it was not you! You were not meant to be their savior. You are not responsible for saving them.”
Relationship requires trust, and trust is terrifying for the wounded heart because it means loss of control. We are not in control of so many things. The image that comes to my mind is clinging to anything and holding on tight as you can so you can’t be taken against your will. Like jumping from a plane to parachute down and having your fingers pried from the plane to let go. And for a heart that doesn’t learn what to expect from God, this is difficult, especially when people present Him only as accuser, a God anxious to see us in hell, a God that lets you be sick because you have unconfessed sin, a God who is cruel. People blame God for the actions of people. I understand this. I teach this. Bug, my childish heart suspects I’m not worth much. It is a lonely place to be. To feel alone is the worst place to be. To feel completely detached from other humans is horrible and to be invisible is the worst feeling in the world. No one can live there. It’s the leading cause of suicide. Feeling disconnected, yet it’s the very ability to disconnect that helps you survive the worst abuses.
It occurred to me watching the crucifixion of Christ and reading about it, horrible as it was, that He was spared two things. One, He was cut in the side and water and blood drained out. This would have given him a breath. His legs were not broken because they thought He was already dead. The relief of the piercing would have relaxed Him, so He was able to give up His earthly body for our sake. We did not kill Christ; He gave up his life for us. Even His crucifixion was God planned. This comforts me.
All you can do in the lonely place is exist. But, here is no life. Because life is found only in Jesus, and Jesus lives in a relationship of trust with His Father, in the Holy Spirit. Trust, I’m learning, is the result of a relationship in which you know that you’re loved. To the degree that we don’t know God loves us, we won’t trust Him. Some days, I’m completely aware of how safe and sound I am. One day, I was invited to a ball game with Fr. Tom and Fr. Rick, our campus minister. I love being with my brothers. It’s amazing the power of words. When we took our seats, I sat between these two priests, and Fr. Rick said, “You’re in a priest sandwich.” I thought it was funny, and I thought Iater what an expression of God’s love to be flanked by two men who have dedicated all that they are to God, and His Church, and to just “be” with them in that moment, enjoying the game and companionship. God gave me that sense of belonging and love through these little moments. This is healing!
Some days all I can feel is pain. My journey, with hearing the Lord, is louder as a result of my time of sharing, but difficult. My time is short.
I’m learning to hear God’s voice through Fr. Tom in brand new ways to me, and not just what I share with others.
“16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” John 14:16-17
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18
“19 n a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me because I live and you will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” John 14:19-20
Because through Fr. Tom, when you feel the voice of the Holy Spirit personally echoing the very words of Jesus, the thoughts of His Father for you, breathing them into your soul, dissolving your pain into peace and your agony into joy because you know the messenger loves you, too! You’re pointed to the source of healing. He, “Jesus,” through my priest, counselor, brother, and friend, saves me from the lies that I believe about myself daily. He saves me from pain moment by moment, by pointing me to the Divine Physician. I’m learning to love God by exploring love and relationship through my relationship with God’s Son.
I won’t drop you. I have you!
The Father has us all in Jesus. And the Holy Spirit ever dwells in our souls to speak Truth to us, to preach the Gospel to us in a language that our souls understand, and to disintegrate shame, as the sound of His Spirit whispers and ripples through our being.
Just close your eyes right now, uncross your legs and arms, and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the Truth about you. Aks the Holy Spirit to show you how, in Jesus, you and your Father’s face have been smashed together in the ecstasy of love held high in the air, and caught in the eternal rays of the Son’s fiery love, and wrapped in His loving arms, forever! This is the goal. Do this twice a day. See you next week!