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I Will Survive!

Healing from intense and pervasive trauma — whether from cancer or rape or earthquake or war — comes as you learn to call yourself a “survivor.” It’s a rhetorical move away from “victim.” When a victim can describe herself as a “survivor,” she:

no longer feels possessed by her traumatic past; she is in possession of herself. She has some understanding of the person she used to be and of the damage done to that person by the traumatic event. Her task now is to become the person she used to be and of the damage done to that person she wants to be. In the process she draws upon those aspects of herself that she most values from the time before the trauma, from the experience of the trauma itself, and from the period of recovery. Integrating all of those elements, she creates a new self, both ideally and in actuality (202).

Judith Herman

“Survivor” identifies autonomy. Personhood. It fully acknowledges the past trauma as trauma. It highlights strength. Rather than things happening to you (scene/victim), you are an agent. You act. You have power. You do stuff.

And fundamentalists hate it. They would say that using “survivor” is a petulant, ungrateful response to the lousy things God has done to/for you. They would say that you shouldn’t just “survive” but “rejoice.” Which means, as usual, “shut up and get back to work.” In fundamentalism, you should only “move” in deference to the whole. You can only “be” in the group. That’s how the ideology becomes god.

Fundamentalists don’t like autonomy. When they say we must “deny the self,” they mean it. But not like Jesus meant it. They mean that we must erase the individual in lieu of the whole. There are no boundaries between persons, just recalcitrant boundaries between sects. We must deny that the self even exists. We can never put ourselves as the agent. “I” should never be the subject of the sentence.

Don’t get mixed up and think that’s the appropriate “grammar” of all Calvinism. I think that’s where this new breed of “Young, Restless, and Reformed” are just finding new duds for an old, mean fundamentalism. A hipster Kesiedispiecostalism. Even Jonathan Edwards in his “Resolutions” talks about what he does. How he acts. How we join God’s ongoing work. We work because He works.

I work because He works. 😉

How does Steve Brown put it? “I’m a Calvinist, so I know it’s all about God. But it’s about me too.”

That’s salvation. God doesn’t save us to be nothing. We weren’t once alive and now we’re dead. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, and He lifted us up and made us His children. The Church Universal isn’t a Borg ship. It’s a city! A Kingdom. A bustling, colorful, dappled, productive, noisy community.

And for now, until the Bridegroom arrives, we persevere. We “keep on keeping on.” It’s a race. We’re running!

I’m running. So let me try this. . . . I have earned a Ph.D. from a Research 1 university with two unaccredited degrees putting a permanent black smudge on my record. I have buried four children — one I carried past term — and have birthed two screamers. I have breastfed those two children — one until he was nearly four and one until he was well past two — and yes, that means I did tandem-nursing. I co-slept, nursed, and wore my babies right through their toddlerhood. Despite ongoing disciplinary action from my employer, I chose gentle discipline for my sons. I am a published author and scholar. I have endured shunning, betrayal, threats, job loss, and emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse from people I considered my dearest friends. And I persevered. God has begun this work in me, and He will perform it until He calls me home. And I join Him.

And if you want to take out your cyber-red-pen and correct the “grammar” on the above paragraph, you’re probably a fundamentalist.

I bought myself that necklace several months ago — right around the time I took my blog “sabbath.” I am wearing it until I believe it. Until I believe that I’m a survivor.

6 thoughts on “I Will Survive!

  1. I appreciate you. That sounds so inadequate, given the insights you’ve provided on this journey, but I do.

  2. I appreciate you and your vocalness, too. I think God has used you in my life, let me “find” you just as I began to realize I was a victim (of sorts) . . . and I’ve been thinking of this post all morning, the difference between victim and survivor. thank you.

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