by Melissa J. Ledbetter
I think often about the gaps that need bridging around me, outside me. Over the past several months, I've been able to address some of the biggest gaps affecting my life and the lives of those closest to me: my own blind spots, my own gaps. They may not be seen, but I know they have been felt. At the beginning of 2019, I knew some shifts were coming, changes that would mean me doing some rebuilding from the inside out. I also knew that the changes to come would all have a common purpose: looking not to what I and my family have come through, but to what God has brought us through. The generosity of a friend sent me to a 3-day intensive life coaching session. It took place in a group setting and became a quickly-formed community which one member described, after the 3 days, as, "kind of a weird, tight-knit family where everybody knows just a little bit too much about each other." That's exactly how it felt.
I believe God uses whatever He chooses to help us move forward toward who He wants us to become, and this coaching was pivotal for me. I believe all the support and counseling I've received over the past few years have been cumulative to this point; and, I also experienced that in 3 days, a measure of work was accomplished that I'd sought through months of weekly counseling.
Two-and-a-half years have passed since my family experienced a deeply traumatic experience. In that same amount of time, a baby has two birthdays, becomes a toddler and develops an effective vocabulary. A Master's Degree or two can be completed in less time. A minimum felony prison sentence can occasionally be served in fewer months. Still, I'd find myself leaving conversations frequently with people I didn't know well, having unnecessarily shared a story from our life at that time in Chicago. And, to be fair to myself, there are many stories, great ones and hard ones, and it was a significantly shaping time for me and for our family. But, I realized that a lot of trauma - both first-hand and secondary - had heaped itself in my mind until the rest of my life felt buried. Whenever I felt pushed in a corner of any kind, I had a story to share that let me come out fighting. Crazy story - boom - I'm strong, and no one can make me feel small. And, therein lies a big gap: I have felt small. Too small to navigate all the trauma. Too small to be capable of truly moving forward and leaving it behind. What I've realized is that I didn't want to just leave it behind; it's too integral to who I am now. I'm not the same person I was before. But, I do want the power of the experiences and story to push me toward God's larger, engaged good - not just an end-goal of me trying to be ok by feeling tougher than everyone around me. I realized that all the levels of trauma were playing like a record in my head. Inside, I was grasping for someone to help me figure out how to change the record, but the only way I knew to tell people was to speak the story currently on auto-play. And the cycle repeated: pushed in corner (real or imagined), tell crazy story, no one can relate, I stand alone, I guess I'm tough since I'm alone...except, after awhile, you're just alone, and "tough" doesn't make any kind of impact when you're the only one left in the room. Over the course of those 3 days, I was able to figuratively see the "record" for what it was, take it off the player, and set it on the shelf of my life experience. It's still there, but the sound of it is no longer louder than everything else. I'm able to see and hear much more of my life, and, most importantly, the people around me.
I am seeking intently to know where God wants me to focus my energy, my abilities, and the resources He's given me; and, I'm experiencing, day by day, that a freed, renewed mind is the starting point of God's transforming, powerful work.