When I was 19 years old, at Nyack Missionary College in Nyack, NY, the chaplain tried to cast demons out of me. True story. We sat in a small upper room and he tried to talk them out of me. It was the most intrusive, molesting, filthy, and demeaning experience of my life and I have had things done to me that I will not mention here. Please believe that I am not being dramatic. I considered ending my life and, without the support of a dear friend in that moment, I might have.
Everything in my life shifted from that dark moment on. Anyone who knows me can attest to this. It was immediate. I was a completely different person from that day forward. The old me was dead. The young man who had set out to me a minister like his father and his grandfathers (uncles, cousins, brothers, etc.) was gone. He didn't exist anymore. Nothing would ever be the same. My entire foundation was ripped out from under me in an instant and, as I left that building, the only word that I could say (and I screamed it) was "bullshit!". The entire world became bullshit from that moment on and I knew that I would never be fooled again no matter the cost.
I told people but nothing was done. He continued in his position and was even responsible for having me kicked out for smoking a cigarette on a day I was actually playing a show upstate and nowhere near campus. I had begun smoking, drinking, doing drugs, and having sex within a week of the failed exorcism after having never experienced any of these things. No one cared and I took that message to heart. No one cared. He did it to others and I would see the change in them as well. It didn't matter. We didn't matter. We were discarded. Swept under the rug.
Over the years, I have known many people who had similar experiences at that institution and others like it. I have friends who were raped repeatedly as minors and nothing was ever reported. Those predators are probably still doing it of they haven't died. There was a gay couple, one of whom was a missionary kid who'd grown up overseas and was not fully aware of his sexuality until he met the other. They were thrown out mercilessly into the street with nothing and no possible way to face their parents. They lived in my basement for a while after I found them sleeping in a car. Many friends were kicked out for having sex or getting pregnant. Many more were given a slap on the wrist because their fathers were important men in the denomination.
Not too long after my experience, I got my first good job as a shot boy in a gay bar. My job was to walk around in almost nothing offering shoes and doing shots with the customers. I parlayed that into my first bartending gig. That community rallied around me and loved me when no one else would. In that time, I met people who didn't have all the answers- just questions like mine. I met the broken people of this world and I fell in love again and again and again. I never forgot any of these things and they have shaped the human that I am today. I was made for the broken people like me. They are my home.
It took me 24 years to undo what that man did to me in a matter of hours. That is five years more than my age at the time. And you know what? I am grateful! Grateful that I survived. Grateful that it caused me to step outside of a toxic religion and see a bigger world. Grateful that it allowed me to meet authentic people who took me in and raised me right and taught me how to love people and all their wonderful scars.
Unfortunately, broken people often hurt each other and I also hurt many people over the years. My relationship to sex was broken from my earliest memories and my walls of protection were impenetrable at times. If I thought you had the potential to hurt me I would hurt you first. If you're one of these people that I hurt you can let me know if you would like. I will accept my role with no argument and offer amends if I can. You can also stay away if it feels safer. I don't need anything from you and I don't need to be the hero of your story. Only my own.
I am grateful that I refused to fall for the bullshit because when the Truth finally arrived in all its glory I was fully there for it and it was enormous. It was total freedom. I hadn't let any of the false prophets fool me and it was worth it. A decade long journey of healing that started with a trip to the jungles of Peru came to a glorious crescendo in my living room a few days after being retraumatized by a sexual predator. Thank you, Divine Mother, for being so firm yet so gentle with me. Thank you for leading me Home.
There was a bottom to my trauma after all. Something I feared I might never find. At that bottom, I met a small child named Soren who was trapped in a tiny room. When they told me their name I believed them. When they told me who had trapped them there I believed them. I tried to help them but they didn't trust me because I was an adult and adults hurt people. It was then that I showed them my scars and they recognized those scars as their own. I promised to stay with them and they are with me now. I am one.
In another amazing moment shortly after this, an alien looking creature held my face and looked deep into my eyes. I saw then that this was the perfected version of me- of us all. I Am. They showed me their scars and the beautiful art that they had created with them and I recognized them as my own. They showed me their wings and then they showed me my own. They had been bound but they were there. I cannot properly express the beauty of that moment.
My wings are out now for good and no one can make me put them back. I was born with them and I was made to feel ashamed of them. Never again. Those who delight in hatred and live to sow dissension cannot hurt me ever again as long as I remain in the Truth. I am learning to be a better version of myself every single day and every single day I fail, I get back up, and I do it a little better. I know that we are all One and that perfection is simply a direction. I am heading there and I always have been. We all are. Everyone gets to come to the party because that is what a true Love story looks like. In my story, no one gets left behind. In my story, the Devil forgives God and they all live happily ever after.
Here's another story:
When I was a child in Sunday school the teacher sent a young girl and I out into the hall. Later, we were asked to come back in and we weren't told why. Further along in the lesson the teacher drew two lines on the board and asked everyone which line was longer. Everyone chose the first one but I could see it wasn't true. It was the second. I was sure of it and so I said so.
Everyone else turned on me. They said I was wrong and that it was clearly the first line. I said it wasn't. The little girl seemed unsure at first but she quickly joined in with the rest. I didn't care. I knew which line was longer and I held my ground. It didn't matter how much they argued. I was right and the Truth- a thing so often hidden from me- was right there in front of my face. I could not be swayed.
Eventually the teacher had enough. He explained that it had all been a lesson in peer pressure and I suppose I had ruined it. He didn't even think to apologize and we moved on but I never forgot. That story became a metaphor for my life. I would not be fooled when I could see with my own two eyes what was clearly the truth. I stood my ground and held to my truth when the lines were drawn.
Sometimes it has taken me years- even decades- but I have always discarded the lies as soon as I could name them. There was American Christianity. Then there was America. White supremacy. The patriarchy. Homophobia. Republicanism. My broken sex. My relationship to food. My relationship to illicit substances. My hatred of my body. Only Being deserving of poverty. All of these things caused me to hurt myself and others and to react from a place of trauma until I was able to recognize each one for the lie that it was. As soon as I named them they disappeared and a beautiful gift was left in their place. I was given a new name and a new purpose. I understood my service work and believed that I could finally do it without hurting people.
What lies are you holding on to? Can I help you tell a better story about yourself? Can you be the hero in your own story? If my story from then sounds anything like your story now please reach out. If I can help, I will. If I can't, I will be honest with you. I will try to be gentle and I will always try to lead with Love. I will listen and I will believe. There is nothing you can tell me that will shock me. I promise. I have done unspeakable things in this life to survive. I have also spoken them and been heard. You are worthy and you are worthy of your deepest desires. I promise that as well. I Love you. Please, Love you too.
Love, Love, Love, Soren Inanna Song