In a few weeks I have the opportunity to speak to an adult Sunday School class. A woman from a local church has been following this blog and has reached out, asking if I would share some of my story with them. I am excited and honored, and truth be told, a little hesitant.
As I’ve begun preparations to have a meaningful conversation with this group, I reflected on the things that have brought me to this point in my journey—still healing from a tumultuous past while progressing towards a trauma-informed life. My musings in the context of speaking to a Christian group reminds me of how similar this journey is to the well-known allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Written in 1677 by Paul Bunyan while imprisoned for holding religious meetings outside of the sanctioned Church of England, this heavy-handed tale has been touted as the first book published in English. For me, it was one of the few books allowed in my conservative Christian home while growing up. I would read this book and look at the illustrations dozens of times a year. Eventually the binding broke, the pages began to yellow and fall out, and the book needed to be discarded.
When I think back to those days and specifically to that story, a deep loneliness rises within me. I went to live with my father when I was 8 years old and in 2nd grade. It would mark the beginning of a time I now consider a prison sentence, placed in a dungeon deep beneath the monstrous citadel of the fundamentalists who held an unending list of everchanging rules and punishments for atrocious little boys like me. It was a time when even my imaginary friends that had helped me endure my abusive stepfather were not allowed because:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” – 1st Corinthians 13:11 KJV
Now, 40 years later, I have a chance to tell my story in order to help those who may feel lost and forgotten in their own shackles of relentless rules and unbending rulers. I vowed I would try to share with anyone who asked, as long as it was in a safe environment. And so, I will.
One thing that has been on my mind as I prepare to share with this group though is the question, “why?” or maybe the question is more “who?” Who are these people and why do they want to know more about me? Knowing a little bit of the story of the woman who invited me and knowing several other people who have shared their story with their Sunday School class, I feel safe and assured the conversation will be a positive experience for all. They are allies, wanting to be better at empowering, supporting, and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. So, how do they do that? What do I tell them?
This question led me into several good conversations with some of my friends and allies this week. In my bumbling, awkward way I basically just blurted out my questions through text, at the dinner table, or introjecting it weirdly when no one was expecting it. It looked something like this:
Me: So, now that the 50th anniversary celebration of the Stonewall riots is over, how do you continue to advocate, empower, and well, be the awesome ally that you are for the LGBTQ+ community? I mean it felt great to pass out free mom hugs, wear our pride apparel, carry banners and signs down the street, paint the crosswalks and hang flags in every other window, but I wonder, what are we doing for those in need of the hugs, visibility, celebration, and support now that the rainbows have all faded?
So far, despite my awkwardness, everyone has taken the dive and entertained the question. Over the next few weeks, as I continue to prepare for sharing with the adult Sunday School class, I hope to continue asking these questions. I hope to share the discussion with them and here with you all as well.
If you’d like to share part of your journey with me, you can connect with me at: WillKoehlerLCSW@aTraumaInformedLife.com or find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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