This is the first Holy Week in fifteen years that has snuck up on me. I have not been participating in the church calendar–I haven’t even been going to services at a Christian church–and all of a sudden someone said it was Palm Sunday and I thought, “Really? Weird,” and finished getting my kids ready for services at our new church.
At church that morning, the pastor spoke in general, but not prescriptive or literal, terms about the Holy Week saga. It was general, it was light, I didn’t have to fall on my knees and show my devotion to Jesus in order to prove I was worthy. To me, it diffused a lot of tension from the rest of the week, when I was triggered at spin class, of all places.
I had walked into the 5:30 am class on Tuesday morning upbeat. I will be competing in my first triathlon in a few weeks, and was I excited to get back into my training plan after taking some time off. I adjusted the seat, laughing with my friend about the puppy she was planning to get with her tax return. I hopped on the bike and started to warm up as the instructor finished setting up the sound. Sometimes this instructor will intersperse Christian pop with classic rock, just a song or two here and there. Nothing I can’t handle. But Tuesday was different.
She played Christian pop the whole hour.
Now, you might think I’m bringing this up because everyone with discerning taste knows that Christian pop is simply terrible music, and listening to it for an hour is a miserable experience. But you’d be wrong, because not only is it sonically infuriating, it is immensely triggering to me.
Christian pop is the soundtrack of all my spiritual trauma, all my baggage. It is in the background of all the memories of my least favorite version of myself–the teenaged girl who made stupid, people pleasing decisions in her earnest quest to be righteous and make God happy. Christian pop is what was playing in the office of the pastor who repeatedly manipulated me, belittled me, and coerced me into giving up all my power over my own life.
When I realized, the third song into the playlist, that the entire hour would be filled with Shane & Shane and the Newsboys and Hillsong and Chris Tomlin, etc., I told myself that I could leave, if I wanted. It probably would have been a better choice in the long run. But I didn’t want my trauma to define me anymore, to have all that power. I didn’t want the most important thing about me to be that I’m a Former Evangelical. It infuriated me to think that I might be forced to stop doing something I truly enjoyed just because the Newsboys, of all weak-ass bands, gives me panic attacks.
So I stayed, for better or (probably) for worse. Memories of the past and awareness of the present fought back and forth over my mind for an hour, and it was the least satisfying workout ever. The rest of the week, I was “off”. No other workouts brought me the joy they usually do. I didn’t want to listen to ANY music, always turned the radio off in the car. My moods were a mess. I was terrified of nothing in one moment, angry the next, upbeat the one after that, then back to being inexplicably afraid. I still can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m about to be caught, kidnapped, found out, cast out. I’m on high alert. I am traumatized.
I keep asking my husband, out of the blue, “Is it all gonna be ok? We’re ok right?”
The pastor’s non-Christian Easter sermon (my life makes no sense) talked about betrayal, and mentioned Jesus crying “Why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.
It occurred to me that I might have more in common with Jesus outside the church than I ever did inside the church. The public shaming, the loss of friends who should have known better than to believe everything that was said about me, and the complete abandonment of my church community after I ended my marriage…it felt like crucifixion. Being cast out. Sealed in a tomb.
But recently, after everything has been dormant (I had thought dead) for two years, my spirituality is alive again. I am reconnecting with the divine–the Presence I always felt when I prayed the prayers of evangelicalism. The Source I felt when I first read Julian of Norwich’s writings about the Divine Mother. I am having dreams and visions again, and whisperings that I have a future with and in God. There is new life, just beginning to creep out.
The pastor said, “They thought they put Jesus in a tomb, but it was actually a womb–the place where new life came into being.”
And I thought, “Me, too.”