How to Forgive the Unforgiveable

Monday, June 1, 2020

Many of us have had seemingly unforgivable acts perpetuated against us. People who took advantage of our vulnerabilities, who exploited their power over us, who violated or abused us. Often, it is the very people who promised to protect and care for us that harm us.

When I became a Christian, the churches I attended gave me plenty of instruction on the importance of forgiveness, but almost zero practical advice on what that looked like or how to get there. Forgiveness became this pie-in-the-sky ideal that I was constantly falling short of. I felt like a shitty Christian because I couldn't stop being angry at the people who had hurt me. I felt so stuck. 

Then I hit bottom. I nearly died from the pain I was carrying and was forced to begin healing. Through 12-step programs, therapy, wise friends and good books, I began to piece together what forgiveness could look like, and how to get there.

The World Has Heard Enough Opinions, It Needs Our Stories

Monday, May 25, 2020

I sat across from an old friend in his basement office, with my clothes unwashed and my hair dreading into clumps. I was homeless, addicted, and desperate. I felt alone and unlovable, depressed and disgraceful. My friend told me about a dark time in his own life, when he couldn't will himself to leave home. He told me about how he grew so depressed and anxious and despairing that he couldn't go out to buy toilet paper and began using dirty articles of clothing to wipe himself. And in this story I found a friend who, although the circumstances where different from my own, could relate to my pain.

This friend asked me that day not to become a tragedy, and those words have followed me for over 15 years.

I Was The Girl Asking to Be Raped

Saturday, May 23, 2020
TRIGGER WARNING. This story is about sexual assault and self harm.  If this story is going to put you in a rough spot right now, please protect your own well being and don’t read it.

I spent most of high school trying to get raped. 

Not the first time, obviously.  That first time I just wanted to feel grown-up and cool.  It was the summer before grade 9.  I wore a black silk nightie as a dress, with fishnet stockings and a retro orange leather jacket that once belonged to my favourite aunt.  I wore too much eyeliner and knee-high Doc Marten boots that I had saved for months to buy.  I looked the part of a girl asking to be raped.  But I wasn’t.  Not yet, anyways.

He had a tall green mohawk, ripped jeans, a chain on his wallet.  He was the lead singer and guitarist for one of the crappy teenage garage bands that was competing in the battle of the bands.  We were at a rambling old concert venue down a dirt country road. His set wasn't until later in the night so we hung out in the back of the van he'd borrowed from his mother and drank peach schnapps in big red plastic cups.

We went for a walk down the country road, away from the concert hall, away from the pulsing music and the safety of crowds and street lights.   My tummy was warm with schnapps and my legs were cold in the fresh almost-autumn air.  He began to lead me over a split rail fence into the woods.  I stopped.

For When it Feels Like God Doesn't Care

Thursday, May 14, 2020

I wrote this during a season of great struggle and pain.  I hope it will carry someone through a difficult season today. 

I know God hears me.  I'm not convinced that He cares.  

I struggle with the notion of a God who will allow so much suffering.  Who hears our cries and doesn't seem to move.

If I were God I would move.  

I would step in and stop abuse. I would heal disease.  I would bind the hands of predators and the tongues of those who hurt and condemn.  I would quiet the pangs of mental illness and break the chains of addiction.   But I'm not God.

Why the Church Needs the Poor More than the Poor Need the Church

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Man sitting in large grey church

Once, when I was asked to speak at a local church about poverty and homelessness, I asked one of the greeters before the service began where the bathroom was located. A local man, talkative and uncomfortably open about his struggles with mental health was lingering in the foyer. He began to point me towards the bathroom.

"No no no," snapped the greeter. "I will show you."  She took my arm and ushered me towards the bathrooms. "I wish he'd just go away" she said.

This church was happy to welcome me in to talk about God's call to serve the broken, hurting, poor and lonely. But when faced with someone who identified as all those things, they just wished he'd go away. Perhaps this is an extreme example, but it exposes our hearts, doesn't it?

How often do we want to give lip service to the importance of charity, but keep our hands clean from the work involved? How tempting is it to esteem the value of reaching out to those on the margins, while avoiding the messiness and the difficulty of stepping outside of our comfort zone?  Like the rich young ruler, we want to follow God, but we don't want it to actually discomfort us.  I'm guilty of this.  Are you?

To the Christian Contemplating Suicide

Friday, May 8, 2020
Woman crying alone in bathtub

In the summer of 2016 I locked myself in a run-down hotel room and attempted to take my own life.  I tried again in April 2017.  So I know what it's like to traipse despairingly through life, to long for an end. At the time, I couldn’t see anything but the pain I was in and I sincerely believed that I was doing everyone around me a favour.  If it had not been for the police and paramedics that intervened, I wouldn’t be alive today. And I am so glad that I’m alive today.

This experience didn’t play well with the narrative I had constructed for myself.  I had become a Christian 16 years earlier, during a less sincere suicide attempt.  The Lord had saved me from this sort of thing.  Hadn’t he?

I remember feeling alone and desperate.  Googling “Suicidal Christian” at 3am, searching the internet for something that would speak into where I was at that moment.  My hope is that this letter will be that for somebody today.

Dear Church: My Mental Illness is NOT a Spiritual Condition

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

I probably started experiencing bipolar episodes in adolescence, although they may have looked a lot like regular pre-teen hormones. Friends often described two versions of me: the bubbly, loud, won’t-shut-up, risk-taking version of me, and the deeply depressed, barely functioning, often suicidal version.

In fact, my first real prayer was in the midst of a botched suicide attempt at age 16.
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