I recently took a quick trip to Dallas for a baseball game and to attend The Potter’s House church. After a flight, and a hotel check-in, I made my way to the ball game. As I stepped off the complimentary trolley onto the massively crowded sidewalks and streets, I heard a sound that made me feel as if I had stepped back in time.
It was a voice standing on a street corner with a small PA system and a microphone so proudly clutched as the voice yelled into the crowds. As I stood on the street corner within proximity to him I could feel myself wanting to run from the voice. I could feel anxiety and anger in my body. It was a trigger. The trigger of religious trauma.
I fought the feeling and patiently waited for the Arlington police officer to allow me to cross the street as the voice became more intense. He yelled, “You’re a sinner, come to Christ now before you die and go to hell.” He continued screaming scriptures and pouring out any message that could potentially produce guilt and shame.
I finally crossed the street only to find his rival on the next corner. I quickly walked by him and felt a little compassion for him because he did not have one audience member or one soul saved. I felt his words fell on deaf ears.
Hours later after the ball game, the same two guys were there. This time I was more prepared and as I walked by with several hundred people, I heard a voice from my left scrutinizing, and criticizing harshly the guys on the corner. This 8th generation Texan was saying out loud exactly what I was thinking. As he glided up to me and walked with me, I noticed his young daughter on his shoulders. I looked up at her and could tell she was intently listening to every word her father and I said. She was taking in our religious trauma conversation.
I saw myself in that little girl. I was paying attention at her age too. I was giving attention to the voices that yelled and screamed fear, fire, and brimstone, hell is hot and I’m going if I don’t walk the straight and narrow. I spent the first twelve years of my life listening to that. Listening and believing it. Twelve years is a long time to listen to anything but do you know the impact it has on a child? Building a foundation of fear in children will never unlock their potential. It will only breed trauma and build walls to protect themselves.
They say journaling our gratitude will help you overcome, then let me write it and let me say it, I’m thankful I’ve overcome that fear. I’m thankful that I know that God is not a big scary white guy in the sky. I’m thankful to know that he is not a God of unjust, but a God of love and mercy. A God that never leaves us or forsakes us. A God that loves us so big that it’s hard to imagine the depth of love. I’m thankful I know that I’m not what the man on the street corner said I am. I may still have triggers from my trauma but I know God triumphs every trigger and every trauma.