This may be very triggering for some, but I beg you to challenge yourself just a bit to get through it. I believe you will find a great sense of accomplishment when you do!!!
Yesterday morning I finally faced something that I never thought possible. Please allow me to share in hope it can give you a breath of courage; a sparkle of what can change.
The Violence Prevention center of South Western Illinois, (VPCSWI.org) asked if I would like to speak at a training seminar they held at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, in Belleville, Illinois.
If you are familiar with any of my history, there is this huge block between me and ANY CHURCH BUILDING!! Religion itself is fine, but going into an actual church can cause instant panic; it rips at my emotions and holds me captive in fear of judgement. The valley of shame from my past and all the horrible truths that lie there-in still causes the tears to flow.
Sadly this is so much a part of me, when I attended a funeral this past spring I broke into little pieces, shedding tears as I looked at the beautiful stone carved angels. Simply being in the building I could hear them screaming “NO”.
“You shouldn’t be here!!! How dare you stand there as if accepted.”
Of all things the line into the church at the funeral landed me in the end seat of the first pew, just left of the pulpit. I begged them to forgive me. As we kneeled in prayer, I listened intently; however, I couldn’t stop the sense of begging for their acceptance of me. To look past all of my faults and all that had been done and not strike me down at that very moment.
When the service ended I exited quickly, gave my hugs to the family, and found my car. Shaking with the tears streaming down my face, I immediately lit up a cigarette and inhaled deeply. (I’m extremely emotionally addicted to them.) Then putting my car into gear I took off in search of our local Baptist church.
I’d seen signs around town for the church, Faith Baptist Church of Breese, but had no clue where it was located. I actually came home to search it down, but not until I had driven around in a panicked state for an hour trying to find it. I don’t have GPS in my car or phone, so thank you internet & the creation of Google!!!
Sadly when I found it and drove out there the doors were locked and I stood there crying for someone to let me in. I had to speak to a minister at that moment or for sure I would just break into pieces and never be able to return. NOo one was there to let me in and I didn’t write the number for the location I needed to call.
“There was no solace and I came home to lay on my bed and cry like a child!!”
The only connections I had with any church throughout the past 30 years was my first wedding, my children’s Christening; then once a forced attendance during a weekend visit with my children, which was nothing more than a control game by their father. There has been maybe two weddings and this funeral. Somehow, I had always managed to stay out of a church because of this heavy sense of judgement.
“It wasn’t always this way of course!!”
As a young child I did everything to go to church, I loved church!! My babysitter or one of our neighbors who attended would always take me to our Baptist church. May dear Grandma McKnight, had taken me to her very Southern Baptist church during my last visit with her at five.
“Just two years after the monster came into my life, all of that was gone!!!”
First he used God’s allowance of what he did to me. Then after age twelve he said God would no longer forgive me for the bad things that happened between us. God would start passing judgement and I would never be accepted into His heaven.
“To this day I have been afraid of this judgment and would shake in fear with each service I ever attended.”
It’s not that I didn’t or don’t pray. It’s not that I haven’t always tried to live the best life possible or that I didn’t or don’t believe in religion. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’ve got an antique picture of Jesus and it is a beautiful sense of my connection with Him. This picture has been carried with me for these past 25 years, through the divorces and instant escapes. It was one of those most valuable possession I ever carried. Not valuable in dollars, but in a personal relationship with God. I have always gotten on the floor and prayed to this picture for a better way; for a way out of the fear, violence, submission. I have broken down repeatedly and begged for His forgiveness to shine into my path.
This brings me back to yesterday’s event……
The event was a Faith Leadership Training Seminar and I was asked to speak. I was honored and amazed they’d asked me; gladly I accepted and took on the challenge.
“Was it finally possible that I could stand in front of those who served various entities of their church and not feel that heavy weight of their judgment and my fear?”
It really first hit me as I pulled into the front entrance of Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Instantly I felt the grip of standing on hallowed ground. The panic hit and my heart started pounding. I parked as far away from the front door of this exquisitely decorated conference building, mainly because I felt the fear of;
“What would they think if they saw ME getting out of the car, pacing quickly into the building, searching for a familiar face to cling to for acceptance?” Luckily I soon found the beautiful friendly smile of Debra Mize, the one who originally invited me to attend and speak. She is such a bright face or perhaps it’s knowing the connection we have from our paths.
I watched as those attending walked into the conference room. with each eye contact I questioned my worthiness to be amongst them. As I listened to the awesome presentation from the staff at VPCSWI and the opening given by U.S. States Attorney, Mr. Stephen Wigginton; I absorbed all of their knowledge and enjoyed getting involved in the discussions.
Then came my turn at the end, that’s right; last speaker!! My stomach turned as I started walking up to the stand. My heart was beating so fast I feared a heart attack would strike me down right there. My knees shook so badly I felt myself stumble a bit as I walked. Then I stood there and looked out at the 25 faces in attendance, maybe not that many you say, but these were all mainly connected to their church!!! Different levels of leadership within their perspective areas. This was terrifying; their judgement of my being involved at all with this seminar was all I could think about.
First I questioned my worthiness then I questioned my ability to make an impact on their hearts!!!
“How could I leave them with something to carry away from that seminar besides the very useful information in the training?”
I took a deep breath and fairly explained who I was. Then as I began to open with the carefully written out and then outlined on notecards speech I had intende; 20 seconds in I had to stop the tears. Then I thought about the importance of their understanding of how what they had just heard about in this wonderfully presented seminar, effected the person who lived inside the mess.
There were a few other topics I shared, but most importantly was to explain that those living in this violence and abuse, would most likely not be sitting in the front pew of their churches. The fear of judgement and the shame is too heavy for much success at this. Instead, I hope that I left an impact on them concerning the need of us, as a society, to remove the masks; to put no one in our society above suspicion of these crimes. Instead ask them to really see the people around them, in their neighborhoods, grocery stores, (yes, even bingo) and take 5 or 10 seconds to really look at who they are and what they might be dealing with or trying to survive.
Remember; 1 in 4 homes are struggling with some type of violence, bullying or abuse. We must care enough to guide them to resources and do all we can to support the continued provision of TRUE HELP!!!
We must remember also that people, like Jerry Sandusky; who was not just a famous coach, but also a father, husband, neighbor, friend and church parishioner. We must care enough about our friends, family, neighbors to ask when we suspect that something might be going on.
“Are you alright? Are you safe? Please can I direct you to some help?”
I pleaded with them as I do with each who reads this,
“Please be the extended arm of help?” Remove the blinders of acceptance and do not turn away from the screams, tears, and fear of those who are being harmed.
To let you know what the greatest accomplishment for me; they all welcomed me!!!….. I did not feel the heavy weight of judgement when I left the conference. Instead I felt peaceful with a wonderful blessing of accomplishment, finally I know that it is alright!!!
Thank you VPCSWI for inviting me to attend and close out your very wonderful seminar.
Thank you U.S. Attorney Wigginton for a great opening to an early Saturday morning share.
Thank you Ms. Debra Mize; Art Therapist, Ms. Cathy Daesch; Educator Ms. Teva Shirley.
VPCSWI.org – http://www.vpcswi.org/
Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows – http://www.snows.org/default.aspx
United States Attorney, Stephen Wigginton – http://www.justice.gov/usao/ils/index.html
Faith Baptist Church of Breese, Illinois – http://www.faithbaptistbreese.com/
Belleville Counciling Services; Art Therapist Ms. Cathy Daesch – http://www.stage-ps.info/Therapist-Directory.aspx
Illinois Visiting Nurses Association, Educator, Ms. Teva Shirley – http://sivna.com/
(c) Patricia A. McKnight
Author: “My Justice”
Authorhouse.com, Amazon, BN.com, Lulu.com
Available in Paperback, E-book, Kindle & Nook!!!
Dreams Media Promotions – Ms. Donna Kshir http://dreams-media.weebly.com/