It is kind of amazing if I think about it, after all this time I have never written down my story of what happened. Sure, I have talked about it and told my story to trusted friends and family, but in reality, that group is quite small. Why have I not dared to give voice to my experience?
Three years ago my mom was driving me home from my last Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) conference, the evangelical organization that I worked for. Including my time as a college student with them, I had been with this organization for 15 years, about half of my life. Conferences were a big thing with this group. We attended at least 6 per year. I hated them. They were a nightmare for an introvert, and they consumed so much time and energy, yet they were mandatory. These conferences were, now looking back, a huge instrument for keeping momentum and unity within the organization. They revved everyone up, communicated stories of great faith from up front, touted the party line, and threw you into close quarters while telling you that you were a family.
There I was, attending my last one.
I stood up on stage and told a room full of 200 people who I had worked with for over 10 years, people who took steps of faith with me, people who invested in me, who I shared my life with, that I was leaving. I felt this tension in that moment, how much of my story can I really share? There was a pressure to protect the organization, to not make them look bad, while at the same time remain honest and true to what really happened. It was an incredibly difficult moment to withstand. I was told by my friends later that I spoke with courage, grace, and still honored the organization. Perfect. I toted the party line.
My mom had come with me because I was such a broken mess that I could barely function. I was alone in this nightmare, and she told me that she could not bear to send me to this conference without any support. So while I sat in work meetings day after day that weekend, she sat in our hotel room willing me strength and love and support through the walls. And as soon as it ended on Sunday morning, we sprinted out of there as fast as we could. It took everything in us not to scream and shout and tell everyone off. We just got in our car and drove away.
For nine hours I sat in the passenger seat while my mom drove us home and I couldn’t speak. I just cried, and my mom kept asking me if I wanted to talk. I will never forget what it was like, because it was such a unique feeling and experience. I had no words. I could not find words to describe the depths of pain and loss and anger I was experiencing in that moment. I could not speak, even though I wanted to, nothing would come out but tears.
Three years later, I am realizing that what I felt in that car for those nine hours, I have still felt all this time. I have tried to communicate bits and pieces of that experience here and there, but upon reflecting this morning, I realize that I still have not put words to that experience. I learned through years of therapy at other points in my life, that words have so much power. Words, especially the written word, bring healing.
I need healing, so I am going to start to put words to what happened and maybe, just maybe the awful wake of waves and ripples left behind in my life from this organization will start to diminish. I am realizing that by keeping silent, those waves have not been given a chance to dissipate. I am going to paddle my little kayak out of the wake of dysfunction and silence and tell my story.