Stories Are Sacred Things

Stories Are Sacred Things

Stories are sacred things. They hold life and death in their lens, beholding and becoming, lessons and legacy. They are fragile and forceful all at the same time. And the bravest journey of all is to fully claim ownership of our own story… unredacted, unapologetic, unashamed.

If you’ve ever known trauma, grief, loss, abuse, heartache… often our family systems and our faith communities are not equipped to handle these kinds of stories with the care they deserve. Especially if the trauma happened in the same settings in which we are searching for support.

We can even be made to feel like our stories don’t belong to us at all.

Rather they belong to the leaders who tell us how not to be broken— go to this seminar, read these books, follow this inner healing protocol, get deliverance prayer, fast longer, pray harder, believe better, do more.

And our stories, of course, belong to God more than they ever belong to us. If they don’t, we should give them over immediately. If we fail to hand over our unprocessed pain on command, we risk being labeled as less spiritual, bitter, or defiant, and being pitied in our brokenness.

Here’s the rub friends:

If we just “give it to God”, the trauma our stories contain never has a chance to be processed in a healthy way, so that it can become a place of healing, growth, and wholeness. Trauma is not just a spiritual condition. It is an emotional, physical, mental, relational, neurobiological, incredibly complex dynamic that needs to be cared for on all the levels it touches.

Because it’s the unprocessed trauma held in our stories that leaves the deepest scars on our souls.

So beloved, the invitation isn’t to “just give it Jesus (or God or the Universe)” and then keep running as quickly as possible to our next act of spiritual performance.

Rather, we are invited to step fully into the moments that changed us. To let Love meet us in the sacred space of our pain to honor our story and transform it. And this may mean seeking out the right support system (including professional help) outside of our existing circles to help facilitate that journey.

We don’t ever have to apologize for telling the things we experienced. Not ever. Our experience is our own and no one can take that away from us.

I used to feel like my story belonged to the people and systems involved in its narrative. That I needed to frame anything I did tell with all the things I probably should have done differently or might be misperceiving or might be wrong about or reasons why things might have happened as they did— just to soften the jagged edges of the wrongs that impacted my journey.

But I’m learning friends that the things I have experienced belong to no one but me.

They are written on my flesh and seared into my soul.

My stories are my own. No one else’s. The mystery is that God in God’s love invites me on a shared journey to unravel and detangle these narratives so they can be rewoven into something more holy and powerful than I can comprehend.

But even then my story is fully my own. And it is sacred. As is yours.

—DMP


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What Brave Looks Like

What Brave Looks Like

Hi, I’m Michele & I used to think I knew what brave looked like.

Brave looked like moving across the planet and living in one of the most dangerous places on earth at the time.  Facing down violence and war, disease and despair.  A city girl living without running water or electricity out in the bush-bush.

Bravery was measured by the wild things I said yes to in the name of following Jesus.

But I’m beginning to think that filling these pages might be far braver than anything I faced off-map a world away.

Deconstruction. Not as an intellectual exercise, but as an untangling and decoding of my own story.  And how the journey I’ve been on I pray holds space for you to embrace your own detangling.

Greater love has no person than this: the laying down of one’s life for his or her friends.

And beloved, there are many ways to lay down one’s life.

We lay down our lives when we stand up against the broken, unjust, and abusive systems & rhetoric that hurt others in the name of correct religious dogma and pseudo-righteousness.

We lay down when we choose to own our own stories and places within them, learning how to love ourselves right there in the middle of our messiest becoming.  

We lay down when we stand in the face of power plays and politics and say, not today.  Not ever. Just NO. I am no longer going to be part of a narrative in Christ’s name that is antithetical to his character.

My unraveling.  Saying yes to living it, and now writing from it might just be the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

I am writing as a woman who was in senior leadership in relatively conservative ministry settings for over 20 years before walking away.  I am writing as someone who lived outside her home culture for much of her young adult life and found out there’s no such thing as coming home again (at least to the home you knew before you left).  I am writing as a trauma & spiritual abuse survivor who is no longer staying silent about systemic injustice or the harm she’s witnessed or experienced.

Many who followed my journey in Africa have written me over the years asking if I have lost my faith, largely because it has not been a topic I’ve written about much if at all over the last few years.

The simplest way to explain that silence is to say sometimes you have to let go of old words to find new ones.  And the words and faith-rhetoric I once had no longer effectively or authentically represented my current experience.

Jesus was the beginning of my faith.  Not the organized church. Not a sermon or salvation message.  Not an altar call.  Not evangelical theology.  Not biblical dogma and debate or apologetics.  Not conservative politics or nationalistic agendas. Not revival subculture.  Not famous leaders, mega-conferences or best-selling books.

Just Jesus. And an endless Love I could not comprehend.

These last few years have stripped everything back to the place where I began.   And I could not be more grateful.

Some topics here might be uncomfortable, especially for friends who are heavily invested in the US conservative political-religious system or evangelical subcultures.  Heads up, I might be poking at some sacred cows.

I am also aware that some things I write here might feel “too Christian” for friends who have been abused by Christian leaders.  If that’s you, I am more concerned with your well-being than you reading the latest post.  Please be free to skip over anything that makes you feel unsafe for any reason.

My allegiances are with the person of Jesus, not an institution. As I expect will be clear as things unfold here. But I only want you to engage to the level you feel it helpful to do so.  Take what helps, toss or shelve the rest.

Regardless of what you believe or where your story has taken you, I want you to know you are welcome here.  You are wanted.  And you are loved.

—DMP