A Service of Celebration

What does one do when facing the fact that such a painful part of her life story will be posted in a major magazine? As stated in the previous post, as a seminary student, I talked with my friend Christopher. He and I discussed having a service to acknowledge where I had been and where I was now. I began to work through scripture and song and write it. I picked seven friends, Robin LaBolt, Miriam Prichard, Lora Whitten, Patrick Poole, John Morton, Christopher Grundy, and Michael Kinnamon. These, of course, are busy, active people. Coordinating schedules was almost a nightmare.

I wrote and talked and wrote some more. I reworked some Bible passages for the service and had to keep asking Christopher if it was ok. It wasn’t that I needed his permission, really, but I needed the support that what I was doing would be alright and that I wouldn’t get to this very important moment and have God strike me down in the chapel for not being good enough to rework a sacred text. As so many victims know, I could never seem to get enough reassurance that I was worthy of what I was doing. I wasn’t feeling broken anymore, but I was a long way from feeling secure and worthy.

I went on writing, going to class, watching the newsstands for the newest version of O Magazine. I think I looked together on the outside, but inside, as I said about the magazine article, I was just a blur of frantic energy. There were so many things I wanted to do and feel and be all in those moments of waiting.

We had set the date for the Celebration Service and hoped that the magazine would be out in time. We were going to hold the service in the Eden Theological Seminary Chapel, a place that is quite warm even in mid-October. Would it be too hot? Should we use candles? How would the chairs be arranged? All these questions rolled around in my head. I also spent a fair amount of time in my therapist’s office and on the phone with her throughout this period. I wanted to invite her to the service, but did not know how to ask.

The release of the magazine timed perfectly with the service. We held the service on October 18, 2006. I spent much of the morning getting ready, setting things up, trying not to freak out from excitement and emotional overload. My life long friends, Keran Olm-Stoelting, and Rosa Lee Osterbur sent flowers to show their continued support.

It was so beautiful. Some of the details have escaped me, but I cannot imagine how it could have been better. The part I remember most was getting to the end when we were singing “Holding Up the Light.” We sang it as we processed down the staircase to the main bulletin board at Eden. Singing in a stairwell will always get you some attention! Professors were coming out of their offices, students stopped to stare, and everyone was trying to figure out what in the world was going on. Most of them just silently watched. Others tried to question what was going on, but people in the group that accompanied me somehow managed to stop them from causing a raucous.

Lora carried the candle and we followed her down the stairs, then the crowd parted so I could walk to the bulletin board and hang up the article. I walked to the bulletin board, but the whole time, a little voice in my head was saying, “You aren’t going to do that. That is just too far. You aren’t going to do that.” But I did. I placed the article on the bulletin board, then practically collapsed from overwhelming relief and gratitude into my friends’ arms.

We stood there for a few minutes, then went back to the chapel. Everyone, including me, had things to do that afternoon. I had to get myself back together and go to class! I wanted to give everyone a small reminder of the day and had ordered an Isabel Bloom statue for each person. I wanted to give them a candle, but had to give them a butterfly instead.  The butterfly seemed almost as appropriate as the candle would have been.  I had come out of my chrysalis at last!

I wasn’t totally healed, but for the first time, in longer than I could remember, I felt like healing was coming. It was working within me, and I was no longer silenced by everything that had been done to me. I had seen through the glass darkly for so long and was finally beginning to see the light.

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