We did however have to use a fire extinguisher and that created a huge mess. One that has taken several days of intense clean up, an early unscheduled spring cleaning. The chemicals in the extinguisher can hurt electronics and damage other surfaces, so everything has to be wiped down, dusted, vacuumed, and scrubbed. Not how we expected to start our week.
It made me think about how our faith changes. Sometimes unexpectedly and drastically. Like an oven coil deciding to turn into a flaming ball of metal, faith can go up in flames too.
I was recently at the book discussion by our own Teresa Pasquale on Sacred Wounds. During our time together she talked about the pain that comes at the hands of the church during our journeys of faith. We are wounded, hurt, and damaged. The church often doesn’t notice what happens, but we are left to clean up the mess. A mess with no solution…
When my oven eats itself and I use a fire extinguisher, I’m left with a mess. One that’s a pain. It takes a lot of elbow grease to clean up. It might delay other projects or mess up my week. I have to go find a new stove. Wait for delivery. Call a few people. Deal with insurance (ugh). But there are clear steps to clean things up and get life moving in the same direction again.
It may be a week or two before my kitchen is back in tip top shape, but I know that it will happen soon. It’s not an endless pursuit. Things will be restored and make sense again.
So far in my faith journey, I can’t say that. While my faith may not have melted down quite as fast as an oven coil, I have definitely experienced a significant change in my faith (like described by Kathy Escobar in Faith Shift). It has left me having to rebuild and try to make sense of things again.
Whereas cleaning up the house is a fairly straightforward miserable task; re-narrating and rebuilding faith isn’t. There isn’t an easy manual to look at. There isn’t a recipe that fits all people and all situations. There isn’t one path to take.
Sacred wounds are received in many ways and in many circumstances. While a good batch of them come when we encounter radical fundamentalism, often in conservative evangelical circles, it can come in other forms too.
As we all know, the church is made of people, and none of us are fully redeemed – even if our theology might want us to believe it. Narcissism, passive aggressive behavior, limited perspective, unconscious bias, and politics can all leave 3rd degree burns not only on our faith experience but on our very souls. Sacred wounds run deep and often lead to periods of disenfranchisement and disconnection.
Finding your way through the collapse of earlier understandings of faith is the first part of the journey. Reconnecting with others, is a completely different step. The journey is filled with landmines – songs, phrases, questions, and specific passages that can trigger what feels like an anxiety attack. Or, for some of us, they can trigger migraines, attacks of autoimmune diseases, or other physical symptoms. Separating things into cause and effect can be almost impossible.
I am thankful for the work that is being done in this area. I am excited for the development of counselors that will be trained to work specifically with those that have experienced traumatic sacred wounds.
I hope that someday we might live in a world where we learn to be healthy as a body and not leave each other with a mess to clean up when we least expect it.
May your own journey of faith have moments of spring cleaning that bring joy, peace, and calm back into your experience of life and God. May you have moments where your faith makes sense to you.