Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Photo taken by: BrianMKA
Note: Giving testimony to my personal beliefs about God, religion and spirituality is not something I do easily. I worry about offending others. I’m no theologian. I struggle to hold on to a faith that I often question. So, in writing this and publishing it here, I take a leap of faith. This wrote itself. Much of it lies beyond my powers of logical and rational thought. It is what it is. I feel compelled to share it by something deep within. It might be God or the complicated mental gymnastics of a part-time narcissist. In desperation, I lash my soul to a mast I call, God. It’s what gets me through the day, through a life. It is all I have.
Lately, I’ve given a lot of thought to being a victim. . . more accurately the experience or feeling of being a victim. As fate would have it, I also started a new book last night. It’s called Insurrection and it’s by Peter Rollins. The basic premise of the book is summed up on the cover with the words:
To believe is human to doubt, divine.
At first glance this book and the experience of being a victim aren’t obviously linked. Yet, some how in the deeper regions of my being the two ideas have merged into a shocking epiphany. When I got up this morning and in between a bowl of cereal and my coffee, I pick up the book and read one paragraph.
“It is easy for us to take the experience of God’s absence as a rejection of God’s presence and either celebrate it or bemoan it, depending upon one’s position. But a properly Christological reflection should lead us to see the felt experience of God’s absence as the fundamental way of entering into the presence of God. For if being a Christian involves participating in the Crucifixion then it means undergoing this earth-shattering loss. While various religious systems provide a place for this painful experience of unknowing (as a test, as something to endure, or something to overcome), in Christianity when one is crushed by a deep existential loss of certainty, one finds oneself in Christ.”
This was as far as I got before coffee and family took my attention elsewhere but this was enough. The words haunted me. I couldn’t escape them. I’ve been wrestling with two divergent realities. On one hand, I’m striving to integrate my life, to pull together the opposing pieces and create a cohesive whole. I’ve wanted to rise above all feelings of victimology and oppression. I’ve wanted to redeem myself, to put all the past, all my shortcoming and those of others in a positive framework. I want to rise above.
And yet, when I try to rise above, I realize where I am. Things aren’t perfect. There are a lot of negatives both within and without and no amount of positive reframing is going to make them disappear. The more I try to deny them, the more I try to avoid diving in this dark pool that reflects nothing, the harder it is to rise above and to look into a pool that reflects a new me. This is the me I want to be. It’s so far removed from the one I am.
It is in that space between the ideal and the real that I suffer. I mourn losses both real and imagined. I am less than I am meant to be. I am in desperate need of a redeemer.
I have not wanted to acknowledge that I feel like a victim. But, I often do. I’ve been working very hard to surround my life with more positives, people and circumstances. I have achieved a degree of success here and do not regret the effort. It just hasn’t been enough to banish the victim from my soul.
The victim embarrasses me. She is not powerful. She is not self-directed, or strong, or confident. She limits her possibilities by remaining firmly attached to her identity as victim. She holds me back. She is my shame both secret and public. I see the victim everywhere, in myself and in others. We are the walking wounded. I am the walking wounded. We trod together bound fast by a sense of all that we are not. We are victims in fact and fiction. It is who we are. I had no idea that this victimology might also be the path way out. I had no real understanding that through the victim, the door to the divine opens.
My hatred of the victim with in me swells within the shadow self, the self I try to keep hidden, the self that shuns the light. Today’s epiphany brought a blinding light into the darkness. I’ve wanted a quick and neat redemption. I wanted a Santa Claus deity, some one to answer my prayers. I wasn’t prepared for a God that manifests redemption through the victim of Christ and who demands that I accept the reality of being a victim in order to partake in this self-same redemption.
I remember something from Catholic grade school. “Through our suffering we join in the suffering of Christ.” I never really understood what that meant. I thought it was an excuse to validate oppression, a justification by those in positions of authority, or some mindless platitude that oft repeated had lost any real meaning. I didn’t want to suffer and was too young to realize that I really didn’t have a choice.
I didn’t understand that by our limited humanity, and through an acceptance of our powerlessness, our fallibility, the faults that plague us and plague others, our need for redemption is known. Only a God made victim can lift us from where we are,to where we are meant to be. Despising the feeling of being a victim is not only counterproductive, it stands in the way of walking through the door that a God as victim opened.
All my life, I have been drawn toward the idea of a God that provides a safety net. This is a God that by His very existence holds me up, comforts me, is always there when I need Him. A God that stands waiting at the end of life so that I can take comfort in the idea of heaven. A God that waits for me to present a neat list of what I want from Him. None of these things are bad hopes or beliefs but they don’t take it far enough. When life is hard, when I don’t feel positive, when I feel like a victim, I bellyache like Job. I feel God’s absence. I feel abandoned and sometimes angry. After all didn’t I do all the “right” things? Is this my reward for trying? In these moments, I am closer to God than I realize. It is in God’s perceived absence, that God is most Himself.
When life brings me to my knees and I plead for God’s help, my own profound need of rescue brings me closest to God’s essence. Only God can be found in the heart of where God is not. God is both victim and vindicator. When I boldly accept my own humanity with open arms, when I accept the feeling of victimization and allow it to carry me through that door that opens into God, I can use all that is broken and human for something greater. My humanity is what warranted a Savior. It is through that same humanity that I experience my need for God. It is through this humanity that God saves us. When my need for God is most acute, when God’s absence seems most certain, He is there. This is the crucible of faith. It is the nexus where my sense of self as victim meets my vindication.
“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam which has gained for us so great a Redeemer”!
This is the heart of redemption. This is where God touches me, where he merges with my life and with all life. It is a happy fault. Some where the God within me laughs and says “At last, at last. . .”