Giving thanks for messy family relationships
Probably one of the most commonly asked questions I get is: "How is your relationship with your parents?" Blog readers ask me this. People who knew my family when I was a kid often ask me this. Even Michael Pearl asked me this after I confronted him on Anderson Cooper's TV show. And I'm sure this is a question I'll receive repeatedly after my book is published this coming March.
Here is the short answer: It's messy.
Unlike many people who left my childhood church never to see its leaders again, I didn't have that option. My parents WERE church leadership. I could leave the church but how exactly does one leave family?
All I can say is that for the past ten years, it's been an imperfect process. We've had our ups and downs. We've had our times of silence, we've had to cobble together a kind of uneasy truce, we've had to draw and redraw boundaries. Sometimes we agree not to discuss Certain Topics. Other times we dive in headfirst. Mistakes have been made on both sides.
But here's the thing: we keep trying.
To be quite honest, I've had enough of schism, division, fighting and theological wars. I've discovered that if we can meet on neutral ground, we find common ground.
I'm not worried about my parents reading my book. They already know everything that happened--ha ha. There aren't going to be any surprises. The only surprise, perhaps, will be for them to see the experiences through my eyes.
I've already given them permission not to read it. I've said: "If you think reading my book will cause you unnecessary suffering, by all means, don't read it."
It really no longer matters to me whether my parents ever truly understand or DON'T understand what my life was like inside fundamentalism. Because I've dealt with my sh*t, ya know? I've hashed it out in years of therapy, journaling and twenty jars of Cookie Butter. Give or take.
I didn't write the book so other people would understand me, I wrote the book so others would understand they are not alone. I wrote the book for you. I wrote the book because if I know one thing it's that many, many people undergo harmful church experiences and even if their stories are not the same as mine, those who read my book will find themselves. Or someone they know. Or maybe--perhaps--see the ways they unwittingly perpetuated harm.
I believe in reconciliation begins with mutual respect and understanding. My parents have changed so much over the past ten years. I have, too. Over the past ten years, we've been involved in the sometimes difficult, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes triggering work of reconciliation. I have to take lots of breaks. Lots of naps. But ultimately, I keep coming back and this is what I've learned:
I accept the things I cannot change. I cannot change my past.
But I can be serene. I can be kind. I can be courageous enough to change the things within my power--mainly, myself.
This is why I keep doing the work of reconciliation. Because when both parties are willing to come to the table peacefully, leaving space for God--that is when the healing begins.
I guess that would be my answer: "My relationship with my parents is healing."
And for that, I'm thankful. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.