I listened to the parable again. This parable that has been read, written about, memorized, translated, and analyzed; the lost sheep and the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 in the flock to find The One.
This time I heard it different. This time it was the whisper during the sermon that spun me on a different trail.
I have held many stories of abuse survivors. Details are different. Perpetrators are from different relationships. Life stages and victims are all different from one another. Every experience profoundly their own, my own.
But we hold something in common. A deep mourning for what we endured. A lament for how prolifically this soul disease called abuse rampages in us, in families, churches, communities, governments and yes, even our history. Family history. Religious history. Our nation’s history. World History.
But it is the personal story, the individual experience that echoes loudest and gets muffled the strongest within ourselves. This journey of healing from abuse is long and hard and brave. Because part of the journey is letting go of denial. We coped, while in abuse, by denying how bad it was. Denial was survival.
But when we are finally safe all we want to do is move on. Forget the past. Don’t remember the pain. We want to live without, unshackled by the experiences of false, manipulated, coercive love and so denial serves a second purpose.
But the truth is we lost a lot because of abuse. We lost the gut level of knowing what love is. We lost the ability to trust others and even more devastating – trust ourselves. We lost our innocence, our hope. We lost exploring our own gifts and talents. We lost what might have been. We lost our very selves.
Survival required a denial of self-awareness and the absorption of the perpetrator’s awareness. We didn’t feel for ourselves, we felt what they felt so we could strategize to survive another build up, another rage, another release of violence – whether that violence was words, emotions, actions, or maybe even scripture used to manipulate our compliance.
It is this knowledge of my own healing journey that allowed a new interpretation of the lost sheep and the good shepherd who left the 99 for this One. The whisper I heard was this:
“There are so many good parts of you! We have found so many lost parts. And I am so happy with the 99. But there is another part of you still lost.” He seemingly extended his hand. A gentle invitation to join him in the search. I took his hand. I recognized this journey. I’d done this before with him by my side.
I was deeply touched, emotionally moved by the compassion and gentleness of the invitation. There isn’t one part of me that is disposable to the Shepherd. He is not content that 99% is enough for me. He is determined to heal the whole.
And I wonder for others; have you had someone that offered their hand and said – “Let’s go find all your lost parts! They are so important, you simply can’t be you without them.”
In the years between my last post and this one, I began a nonprofit located in Arvada, CO called Living Aspen. We are a community of people, healing from abuse, by addressing the needs of our bodies, souls and spirits in a self-directed and integrated process. Like Aspen trees, we look like one tree but we are a colony, connected at the roots. We experience abuse in community and can only find healing in healthy community. And like the bark of the aspen trees, what we feel is beautiful is the white bark contrasted with the black scars of life. You can read more about us at wwww.LivingAspen.org.
This blog post is the hand that Living Aspen offers to survivors. Let’s journey together. Let’s go find all your lost parts and bring them home. Let’s celebrate every one of the 99 but not stop until that last One is found.
Let’s find all your lost parts and bring them home…