I hate pain. God, I hate pain. Physical pain is awful, and especially frightening when the source hasn’t been diagnosed and I don’t know how long it will last. But emotional/psychic and spiritual pain bring a whole new level to the game. I’ve been in some pain lately. It was triggered by the recent news stories about Penn State officials being charged for covering up the sexual abuse that was happening there. Abuse that they were informed about, but did nothing to stop. News of these callous and cowardly acts drive me nuts with pain for a few days. I feel it when I read about Catholic and other Church cover-ups too. Those stories connect me to pain from my own abuse story. I told several people in positions of authority who failed me, I was abused by a minister who was already in trouble with his behavior in the church, but who was moved by the bishop to have a fresh start, and I was even abused later by pastoral counselors from whom I sought help. It’s always painful for me at first going to a new church, or living through a change in ministers at my church. I feel very unsafe until I can get to know new male clergy and feel confident that they are not going to hurt me. The pain I have felt during some of these transitions has made me want to stop going to church altogether at times. I once asked Marie Fortune if I would ever get to a place where I would not feel this pain every time I go to a new church, or get a new pastor, and she responded very honestly, “Probably not, Jennifer, because you know things other people don’t know, or refuse to know.” And then she added, “but you can use that knowledge, which gives you pain, to be an advocate and to help make churches safer places.” Those were inspiring words, and I have tried ever since to live up to that. In Jackie, I have found another person who is choosing to use her pain to make the world a safer place as well. If you are in pain, if you have been sexually or otherwise abused, first know that you are not alone and that it is not your fault. But also know that your pain has the power to inform you and to transform you. Your pain, your abuse, your story is uniquely yours…and if you look the pain right in the eye, you will see a way that you can help others. Healing is not really about erasing the pain. Healing is gaining the capacity to deal with it. Sharing your story does not erase the pain, but allowing others the blessing of hearing it lightens the load and makes it easier to bear.