Publishing for a Change, LLC presents Gail Dickert, author of #RecoveryInRealTime as shares more about the writing process behind her "Anti-Workbook" for surviving multiple traumas.
Toxic religion is a touchy subject, but I have tried to advocate for stronger dialogue around it since my first book, Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams. While that book was written by an over-eager young Christian and I haven't identified as a Christian since 2012, I look back on that book as the first step in reconciling myself to toxic religion.
For me, the religious umbrella over my life hindered the light of recovery.
It kept away the healing rain of diversity.
It kept out the light that would warm my lonely skin.
It kept my face hidden from the world around me.
For others, a religious umbrella over their lives has the opposite result.
It insulates their sense of safety.
It protects them from their greatest fears.
It provides shelter from the elements that do not align with their beliefs.
I understand because for the longest time, that was how I felt underneath religious oppression - I believed it kept me "safe," when in truth...
The emotional abuse that went on, underneath that umbrella led to the deterioration of my mental health, sexual health, and ultimately, spiritual health.
Growing up in toxic religion, then pursuing a Youth Ministry degree is something that I cannot change about myself - participating in conversion therapy was always orchestrated at the hands of those who held authority over me. Youth ministers, teachers, camp counselors, group leaders, pastors, professors, bosses, and eventually even an EMDR therapist - they were all in a position of power over someone whose implanted belief was that being a lesbian was "wrong" in the eyes of "god."
Often it was the same people who looked at my history of sexual trauma and declared that it was God's design that I be molested, attacked, or bullied. "Everything happens for a reason," they said.
I asked God, when I believed in him, why he allowed my neighbor to molest me.
I asked God, when I believed in her, why she allowed me to witness a suicide.
I asked God, when I believed in god, how I could align with the Higher Self and become One with all so I could "heal" from trauma.
I asked god...
And at each moment when I sought "God," God's answer never changed.
Silence was the answer from God.
It took me decades to understand this silence as god.
If there is a god, he would not make up a story to minimize my suffering.
If there is a god, she would not try to justify her lack of involvement in my safety.
If there is a god, it would not minimize the human experience into trite discussions about soul contracts or free will.
It is in the silence of god, that I may actually believe there is such a presence - I have the most respect for a god who would hear my experiences of trauma and be speechless.
"Nothing to say for yourself and your creation, God?"
Silence is appropriate.
"How could you let this happen to someone so innocent?
Silence is appropriate.
"Could you even watch while this happened to me? Do you think I am the prophet Job? What is your ego-based response, dear Lord of all that fails the least of these? Are you so easy to offend that you cannot handle my necessary Anger or Sadness?"
Silence is appropriate.
That silence, from god, is as I wrote in Recovery in Real Time - it is depressing. It is lonely and isolating. It is a moment of deep void and utter ALONE-ness.
And if a survivor of trauma needs anything, it is that safety of knowing that nothing can be explained away -
No one to defend the human condition.
No one to orchestrate an umbrella of purpose.
No one to collaborate a will with a lesson.
Unspeakable, what happened to us.
Thus, if we take our case to the highest known presence to man's mind - the very altar of God -
What is more appropriate than silence?
I look back at the people involved in my religious oppression and I wonder if they would have something to say for themselves now.
But there's was something about the way the toxic religion works:
It wasn't the way they told me I was going to hell... it wasn't the way they told me the abuse was my own fault... it wasn't the way they quoted the Bible like they wrote it themselves...
It was the way they enjoyed it.
Emotional abuse in the name of God left me with a tangled view of myself and others, but what it did to my sense of pleasure is what really needs a voice, especially when #GodIsSilent...
So instead of looking for reason or even excuse, I choose often, in cycles, to sit with the god who is silent.
I find pleasure in this silence.
I find it refreshing.
The trees still sway in the breeze.
The flies and insects still dance around the ground and grass.
The birds still fly overhead and their song is still heard.
The river still flows and the rocks fail to cry out.
I feel seen and heard in those moments of silence.
I can almost smile.
A god may be present - I cannot confirm or deny its existence and anyone who claims to do either is just living under their umbrella. (Umbrella of choice or umbrella of oppression - hard to say).
But what I can do is find something holy in a profane world.
The emotional and spiritual abuse from religious leaders will probably always be an echo in my life, but when I really focus... really, truly focus... the silence comes.
... and the sacred shows up in that moment.
Brave readers, keep sharing. I’m here with you. #RecoveryInRealTime happens today.