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Families can be hard. Families of people coming together in order to flesh out the abuses in their past, reconcile those experiences, figure out who they are outside their old religious-cult like identities, and setting about finding their way in the sunlight of a true understanding of Grace can be much harder. We often hear from those who contributed to our abuse, and from those outside our journeys, that we need to just get it together and move on. Sometimes, we even get frustrated amongst ourselves when we don’t see others making the same pace we perceive ourselves to be in our personal stories of recovery. To hear such from a fellow recovering friend can be especially damaging. When journeying out of a dogmatic, black and white (or, ahem, navy and white) world where uniformity is demanded in all things, the expectation from a recovering brother or sister that your path to recovery look like theirs can wound deeply.
This picture displays the many routes taken to reach the western states and territories in the 1800s. If you’ll notice, they each provide very different and unique journeys for those that used them. Some travel almost entirely through flat plains, but also deserts. Others traverse the summits of imposing mountains with glorious views, but also several deep valleys. Still others minimize the width of the mountain ranges that must be crossed, yet force those traveling upon them to encounter a great number of blizzards, native tribes hostile to their journey, and river rapids that threaten to carry them away. Some routes even split into alternate paths as they go along, some to greener valleys, some to more deserts, some shorter, some longer. But each trail leads to the ultimate destination desired by those early pioneers.
We have all found Recovering Grace in the midst of our journeys. We share a fairly common place of origin from which we have set out, but the degree to which our families were involved in ATI and IBLP [the Advanced Training Institute and the Institute in Basic Life Principles] differs. If you simply supplemented your years with trips to Knoxville for the camaraderie, your journey out of legalism, spiritual performance, patriarchal structure and abuse may be much shorter, filled with more euphoric vistas and easily attained summits, but you may also encounter deep valleys that confound even you. To those for whom ATI was their one breath-of-life experience outside the confines of patriarchy-espousing and abusive homes, the route may be much longer and filled with deserts that leave you feeling as if you’d rather pass out and become numb rather than take another step; yet you still discover oases along the way that leave you deeply refreshed and grateful. Some of us may be journeying quite parallel to each other, but reach points in our deeply personal and unique journeys where we must split up and take divergent routes. For all of us, the desired place of rest, the end result, is the same.
Perhaps you are just starting out, just recognizing the gnarled, legalistic, and abusive vines that have grown up around the beautiful branches of your life. Branches that have been waiting to begin bursting with beautiful fruit brought forth through the understanding of real grace, and are now stretching forth in the discovery of who you are, and who you are meant to be, apart from the bounds of your youth. Perhaps you’re lost in a ‘Wyoming’ or ‘Arizona,’ breathing and exulting in the days of mountain summits and beautiful vistas, while confounded and broken during the days in valleys and deserts. Perhaps you’ve encountered ‘dysentery’ somewhere in a ‘Montana’ and you’ll be holed up in one step of recovery before continuing onward at a later time. And perhaps you’ve reached your ‘California’ or your ‘Oregon’, rested and fed and mostly here to cheer the brothers and sisters you’ve found on this website onward with the promise that it does get better, that there is rest ahead, that there are adventures and life discoveries to be had even when this journey in particular is at an end.
And we are all now brothers and sisters, awkwardly conjoined through the wondrous connection found on the internet. Many of us are close, and while that means we have each others’ backs, we may also have our squabbles. It happens, and will more than likely have its moments on our roads ahead. We will misunderstand, misconstrue, inaccurately perceive and incorrectly assess comments. When this happens, I’m sure the Recovering Grace leadership will do its best to rightly divide and correct, but we owe it to one another and to ourselves to take corrective, grace-oriented action upon ourselves. For many, this is their one safe place to share their hurts and struggles, a thing so many of us are even still getting comfortable with feeling like we are allowed to do. For others, this is their one place where they can exclaim in their breakthroughs and victories. Whichever they are for you, please, by all means, share them with us. If you’re suffering from the cold shadows of a long narrow valley, let us walk with you. If you’re dancing upon a peak and viewing the world from your vantage point with new-found wonder, give us the opportunity to dance with you. Is this not better than coming across as dismissive in telling others to ‘move on’ or ‘pick up the pace,’ or lashing out at those who perceive themselves to be ahead of you? We may be ahead of you, or we may not be quite to the landmark you are, but we can all aspire to be better brothers and sisters in the many journeys we are all on.