So far I've been speaking primarily in the past tense, and that's a comfortable way to speak. It implies that these things are long ago and far away. It creates a big wide expanse between the events I'm telling you about and who I am today. Even as I passed over some terrible memories, the lullaby of the past tense language kept me snug and cozy at a safe distance. Even when sadness and anger passed through me like old ghosts, I was comforted by the "once upon a time" quality of my words. But my story has caught up to me now, and something very current has emerged. This makes it much more delicate to tell.
In the two year transition between my first question and my decision to leave that church, I lost most of my friends. I'm not talking about casual friends. I'm talking about the kinds of relationships that felt as stable and solid as the earth. One of the few benefits of those holiness standards is that they created a deep sense of belonging. But the moment I challenged them, I became a stranger. I stayed there a long time in this half-life of ghost friends because I could not really come to grips with the loss. It's something you just can't take in all at once.
I am speaking in past tense.
This happened twenty years ago.
It was long ago and far away.
So why are my hands shaking? Why am I holding my breath? Why are my thoughts racing around like they're trying to distract me from something terrible?
Why am I speaking in the present tense?
I am realizing that something happened to me back then that is still happening now. The ice-water shock of those losses changed me somehow. I am noticing how I hold myself at a distance from even my closest friends. I am noticing a cold chill of fear always hovering, like I am bracing myself for the moment when everything vanishes. I am noticing a space between me and the rest of the world that I wear like armour.
This is where my story folds over from past to present. These are the old wounds that never really healed. These are the ghosts still haunting me. I wasn't aware of this until the story found its way here into this light. I am aware now as I write these words that this will require something new of me. I am speaking in the present tense. There is solid earth holding me up and trustworthy friends surrounding me. I am reaching out now in spite of my fear. I'm looking to the God who led me here to this land of blessing and abundance for the courage to speak in the present tense.