Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lessons from Spirit Lake

Lessons from Spirit Lake
Jul 26th, 2010 by admin

The May, 2010 National Geographic magazine has an article about Spirit Lake, in Washington. The caption reads, “Beer cans used to rest at the bottom of Spirit Lake.’ The article mentions how 30 years ago, pre-eruption, trout were 10 inches long; now trout are 20 inches long.

There are many parallels with the devastation of Religious Authority Sexual Abuse and the physical history of Mt. St. Helens. There are certainly parallels in my life experience.

When I backpacked for a week at Spirit Lake the summer before the eruption, my life was that of a carefree college student; I didn’t think of what was under the surface as played in water and forest and hiked around Mt. St. Helen. That was before my own trauma erupted in 2002.

For many years, my life was somewhat orderly as I did whatever I could to raise a family and build a career as an educator. I got advanced degrees and worked through education to stand up for the voiceless and vulnerable. After my past abuse exploded in 2002, I went through my own rebuilding process from the devastation (i.e., PTSD).

Spirit Lake is now littered with thousands of trees, and under water, is richer than ever. It is one of the most studied and protected ecosystems in U.S. history. My own deconstruction and rehabilitation has led me to new spiritual life that is richer than ever before— as a result, I am now committed to life of healing and ending abuse everywhere. And that happened as a result of intensive therapy work and building a new spiritual practice.

It may be that the Catholic experience of Religious Authority Sexual Abuse is the most studied in world history. So far, the responses of many may be like the response by the muralist in Cascade, WA, who depicts pre-eruption Mt. St. Helens. When asked why he didn’t depict the present reality, he answered, ‘People don’t want to see what it looks like today.’

The National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children estimates that in the United States alone $24.3 billion and indirect costs at $69.7 billion are lost or tied up in abuse related cases, and that includes churches and schools and other values driven organizations. But the cost is much more than money. There is an immeasurable cost to human potential, social stability, and profound damage to the credibility of churches, schools, and other values-driven organizations.

I think people still want to imagine what it was like before in churches and temples and mosques, when everything looked beautiful, at least in our minds. At the same time, by looking closely and spending time with the disaster, we can find a richness we could have never seen before.

I’m going to Chicago later this week to meet with survivors and supporters of religious authority sexual abuse and gather lessons from our experiences and our individual and collective efforts to promote healing and end abuse everywhere. No doubt, there are other gatherings within churches or temples. It all feels too soon to tell what new life has come to these groups, too close to the survivor experience, too early to celebrate the deep or surprising changes in the environment. And I remain hopeful, despite my impatience. It took Spirit Lake 30 years to come back to life. And it came back.

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