I had an experience yesterday that caught me off guard. I was sharing a positive experience about my time in seminary; how my journey over the past 5 years has led me to a place where my identity is well rooted and from that The Butterfly Project has emerged. What was meant to be a time of encouragement among peers felt more like a critique in the negative sense. It really left me wondering what the heck just happened.
I had recorded my presentation so I reached out to a few friends who have journeyed with me and asked them for their feedback. I received from them what I expected, honest encouragement and each person was equally perplexed at why someone would respond with skepticism. But after talking it through with a friend of mine, I thought it might be a good idea to respond to some of the comments I heard after my presentation. The point isn’t to ‘defend myself’ (although I did feel a bit defensive at times) but rather to recognize I am on a different kind of journey that doesn’t have the kind of framework that some people might expect or depend on to make sense of things.
1. I know when talking about sexual abuse and trauma, I will on occasion bump up against some opposition. Sexual abuse is an insidious evil and the impact is oftentimes misunderstood, in other cases too painful to face. I get it. For a long time talking about sexual abuse was a source of shame for me. I no longer feel that way, but I understand we are each on our own journey and I am very sensitive to that. On this note, this is why the first post on my blog is “A Note of Caution”. I know how important it is to have a choice, and I know many of the people who read my blog or check out my website do so because they have some personal connection to the hope that The Butterfly Project represents.
2. You might have noticed I have started talking more about crisis and trauma in a broader sense. Child sexual abuse will always be something I fight against and the desire to support families who have experienced this type of crisis will always be a first concern, however, as I have settled into our new home and already, surprisingly, in the midst of Covid, had some opportunity to come alongside people who are struggling simply by taking them for a walk in my backyard. Not to mention the peace and tranquility I have experienced myself in this place, which has enabled me to respond well to my teenage daughters who once more, have been forced into online learning, away from the social circles that are so important at their stage of development. A ‘stay at home’ order is a crisis. How well people who are in crisis are supported determines whether it will resolve or escalate to trauma. It took me a long time to see it, but I have been walking with people who have experienced all types of crises, since I was a teenager. This is probably a very good reason why I was able to walk myself and my family through our own crisis 12 years ago and am here to tell the tale. It would be extremely insensitive and narrow-minded to not help someone because they don’t have the right kind of problem or don’t fit the description. I could, and have, made the case that a lot of adverse circumstances are rooted in trauma from childhood sexual abuse but that’s not really the point. If someone shows up on my radar who is alone and hurting, I’m going to help them.
3. This point I think is particularly important to emphasize at this stage. The Butterfly Project is a platform for advocacy and education. It is the means through which I am sharing my journey as I follow Jesus in His ministry to families in crisis. It’s a process of daily and ongoing discernment, as I learn psychological theory and concepts, work through spiritual disciplines, and respond as the Spirit leads. The Butterfly Project is not an ‘organization’ or even what some might call a ‘ministry’. If I had to qualify it as something I would say it is closest to a work of art. As an artist, I have been fascinated with the process of making art. Some of my pieces might seem to some to be incomplete, but those who know me, know the finished image is rarely the point. Deliberately Incomplete is a phrase that the curator of one of my shows used to describe my work. My process is what people find most interesting. We live in a culture obsessed with the end result, labels, definitions and categories. That’s one reason I love sharing paintings that aren’t done, or first and second proofs when printmaking. In our instant messaging, high pixel photocopying society, we have forgotten the intrinsic value of how we do things.
4. I have hinted at it already, The Butterfly Project belongs to Jesus. I know that sounds really churchy but I don’t know how else to say it. I have some ideas, you’ve likely read through or seen the pictures of what I’m imagining. I’ve even researched a lot of it and proven that respite, art and nature are all helpful methods that are backed up by psychology, theology and science. The thing about being humble is understanding that God doesn’t need me, I need Him. With or without me, He will find a way. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have a crystal ball, I honestly don’t really know what I’m doing. I am completely comfortable in the reality that some of the dreams I have shared through The Butterfly Project might not materialize here in this place or even have anything to do with me. There is no copyright on what I have shared - it’s entirely possible that someone out there will pick up on what I’ve pointed out and run with it in a way that I didn’t think of or would ever imagine. Good!! Please do! I am intentionally keeping a very light grip on this, hands and arms wide open. I think if the process was being forced or pushed in any other way, it would become disingenuous. For those who have suffered abuse, we can smell that stink a mile away (it's one of our super powers).
Maybe for some this is disappointing, that's ok, Jesus disappointed a lot of people too.
In the same way I respond to paint on a canvas, I am responding to THE Artist. Only He can see what the end result will be, I’m just glad to be part of the process and an instrument in what He is creating.