A Survivor’s Scream

Do you really understand?
You say you do,
but I can see in your eyes
that you cannot read
between the lines,
so if you really understood,
I wouldn’t have to spell it out

Besides, when I stood
before you as a youth
telling you my truth,
you rejected me

Where I’ve been,
what I’ve experienced –
the sights, sounds, smells,
pain, brokenness –
the colors of the institutions
isn’t something you understand

You think words like
fuck and shit are offensive
So when I enter a room
and instantly connect
with those you can’t
I see the condemnation in your eyes
the same looks
those like you
gave me when I was a youth –
daggers of self-righteous condemnation
emitting moral vomit,
puking your credentials, expertise,
and religious verses on us survivors
that we’ve heard so many times before,
but you’re not even strong enough
to listen to the truth we’ve lived
because that would interrupt
the delicate images in your mind
of how we’re supposed to be,
and cause you to miss our beauty –
the truth of our perfection
forged in fires of hell

We talk because we need to
not because we think you understand,
not because we think you’re listening
because you’re too busy
trying to protect yourself
from the realities
of a survivor’s scream –
a scream you cannot recognize
when you hear it,
and so you’re also blind
to
those
Sacred
moments
when
healing
is
happening

Your Road to Damascus

Acts 9:3-9 New International Version (NIV)

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

 So there Saul was living his life, mercilessly persecuting those who believed differently than he did. Along the road to Damascus he was struck blind and heard God say, “Why do you persecute me?” He didn’t ignore this, or try to write with some type of scientific explanation. He understood the importance of that moment, and began an intimate relationship with the Creator. In this intimate transformation, he became Paul, and a disciple of Jesus Christ. His sight was brought back to him but with a renewed vision, this time living from his heart and following the intimate and personal voice we all hear from deep within our hearts. 

What was your road to Damascus? If you haven’t had a road to Damascus experience thus far, it can be challenging to appreciate those who’ve had this type of experience.  

The lives of every person we encounter are never as simple as presented. In a facade-filled society where protecting perceived prestige and titles is a norm, it becomes challenging to appreciate those who are willing to reveal their past mistakes and challenges.

Those who are willing to share their testimonies are sometimes labeled in negative ways. The very urge to label someone who has the courage to share their testimony with others demonstrates how sharing our personal testimony stirs a remembrance within others about the roads to Damascus some hold secret. Thoughts or statements in response to someone sharing their struggles such as “I would never”, “I can’t believe she did that”, or “Why would he share that?” come from many who claim various forms of religiosity as bedrock for their lives. It’s interesting how those who claim Christianity as their religion will quote various individuals, who, before their moment of transformation had bad reputations from less than honorable lifestyles. If it isn’t obvious, the irony is simple: people will quote scripture from those they themselves would have labeled as “undesirables” and “criminals” but who are now considered spiritual leaders, yet will reject people who have come from the depths of prostitution, gang life, drug dealing, alcoholism, and incarceration among us right here, right now as living, breathing miracles, and in-your-face testimonies of the true healing power of our Creator regardless of religion, but exclusively dependent upon Spiritual Relationship. 

It’s in the complete and honest dialogues of our challenges and shortcomings that true teaching-learning experiences blossom. I am not advocating indiscriminate & complete personal disclosure; we have to be careful with that. I am advocating that our personal road to Damascus experience can be the greatest foundation of compassion we have with ourselves and each other. To a greater or lesser extent we all have our own personal road to Damascus. A moment we saw beyond our physical sight and beyond ourselves with great perception in order to glimpse the impact our thoughts, words, and actions are having upon our family, community and world. Never underestimate the power of your personal road to Damascus, and never demean someone else’s personal road to Damascus.  

For anyone reading this that views others in our communities who are currently or were previously afflicted with alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, gang affiliation, drug dealing or any other forms of negative lifestyles as “less than” perhaps this writing is a personal road to Damascus of sorts for you. A moment for you to reflect upon any self-righteous indignation you may carry towards or about those you would consider “less than,” “beneath you,” “unreachable,” or “beyond help.” Carrying this type of view about anyone is a poison that blinds us to the reality that the Creator has placed within all of us. A reality we must see in one another so that we can remind one another of the greatness placed gently within everyone by the hands of The Great One.  As disturbing as it may be to your ego, your labels, judgments, and opinions cannot hold the translation of anyone’s life, including your own. The Creator alone holds the final translation about everyone and everything.

Perhaps if you take a moment to go beyond your physical sight and look deep within your heart you’ll see nobody sets out to become a prostitute, addict, and place more value on money than human lives. Perhaps within your heart you’ll hear a still, small voice saying, “They are my children and deeply wounded. You might have wound up exactly like them if you went through exactly what they did. If you’re so perfect then shouldn’t you have more than just labels and judgments to place upon the altars of my hurting children’s minds and hearts? Don’t you see them as a part of Me? Don’t you see them as part of you? Why do you persecute yourself? Why do you persecute Me?”

Hurt, pain, loss, tragedy, condemnation, and persecution in various forms is what moves our youth into negative lifestyles; offering the exact opposite is what’s required of us to bring them back.

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On Earth as it is in Heaven

When people become as passionate, outspoken, and supportive about ending sex trafficking, homelessness, hunger, and domestic violence as they are about money, political elections and professional sports, we will have heaven on earth.

Every youth emergency shelter and domestic violence shelter is almost always full. There are millions of homeless, runaway, sex trafficked youth, and victims of domestic violence. Yes, it’s a pandemic. I am fortunate to work side by side, day and night with others whose mission it is to serve, yet the laborers are so few. And as programs that tirelessly work to serve others struggle to keep their doors open from year to year, I watch the news and see that politicians generate millions of dollars in one evening just to campaign. People will pay $50,000 for a plate of food and to listen to a candidate they support talk for an hour and take a photo with them, while we have children who are homeless, hungry, and being bought and sold; while we have women being beaten and murdered; while the masses turn a blind eye to the abuse, exploitation, and murder of women, children, and elders and say, “That’s not my business,” or more common is people saying and doing nothing.

One of my favorite artists, KRS-One, in one of his songs, speaking about why his music isn’t mainstream and isn’t played often on mainstream radio said,

You know why they’re shutting down KRS-One?

Because I’m not sexy, thuggin, or dumb.”

What came first, the marketing and branding or the consciousness of the masses? I mean, either society has been overtaken by marketing and branding to the extent that money, sports and politics is now what resonates with a ferocious passion within the masses, overriding common sense, compassion and the needs of those who are abused, exploited and marginalized, or the masses within society have always been shallow and the marketers and branders simply followed suit. Why is there is a media frenzy about missing sports jerseys, political ideologies, “get rich quick schemes,” religious differences, yet not a peep about the pandemic of missing, homeless, hungry, sex trafficked youth and victims of domestic violence? Is there any challenge that we as a humanity face that is more important than missing, homeless, hungry, sex trafficked youth and victims of domestic violence? I don’t think there is.

Protest, march, do what you want, just take an extra look around you and make sure in your efforts to make a stand you don’t march right past the most marginalized and traumatized people in our society. One day, I hope soon, there will be as much passion about homeless, hungry, sex trafficked youth, and victims of domestic violence as there are about so many other things.

Why is it that flyers of missing children barely get any shares on social media but a quote from a politician or professional athlete gets millions?

When will we, as humanity, campaign together to end the suffering? Whenever that day comes is the day we will see, not just say, On Earth as it is in Heaven.

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