The Forever Place

sunset over field of red flowers

Today’s post is from Alicia Wu, the winner of my “Everbloom” contest, which encouraged readers to submit their own story of living a deeply rooted and transformed life. In addition to having her work featured here, Alicia will also receive a free copy of “Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives.” Purchase yours today from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Paraclete Press!

Alicia Wu is a licensed mental health counselor and crisis counselor and has an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Alliance Graduate School of Counseling, NYC campus. She is currently pursuing an MDiv with a concentration in Urban Ministry at Alliance Theological Seminary’s NYC campus. Alicia loves to eat and is a self-proclaimed foodie. Follow Alicia online at her blog, Alicia’s Place and on social media: Facebook (Alicia Wu), Instagram (coffeeandsong).

I would just like to say up front that this piece may trigger things in folks because I will be writing about sexual abuse, rape, suicide, depression, anxiety, gender identity, etc. So, read on at your own risk. You have been warned.

I attended a Christian college for my undergraduate and graduate studies, and that is the context of some of the experiences that have impacted my life in a significant way. It was in this Christian context that I experienced things such as sexual abuse, chronic depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and desires to succumb and give into suicide. In the midst of all of this, I was still singing my heart out at church and being a dutiful student.

I was sexually abused by two different guys in college. Years later, I was raped while in grad school. Experiencing this in a Christian context initially muffled my voice and eventually just straight up silenced me. As if growing up Chinese and a girl, wasn’t suppressive enough. It magnified my already existing struggles with my identity because I struggled with how to respond. I didn’t want to be the angry Chinese woman. I didn’t want to be the “submissive and complacent” Chinese woman. I didn’t want to be “the sexual abuse victim” or “rape survivor.” I didn’t want to be the “bigger person,” the “godly woman,” the “godly girlfriend” or “godly wife.” I didn’t want to be “the psalmist” or “the worshipper.” I didn’t want to be anything. I just wanted to vanish.

Those experiences really messed me up. They directly impacted my on-again-off-again relationships with other humans in general as well as relationships – or pseudo-relationships – with men. Many times, I would just pray to God and wish that I wasn’t either gender. I wanted to be NO GENDER so nobody could stick me in any box. What began to help me to find my voice underneath all the rubble? Reading everything I could on LGBT Theology and Third World Feminist Theology. It was in that space where I started to believe that I could have a voice, whatever voice I wanted to have, I could. And for that, to the community of LGBT theologians, I will always be grateful. I didn’t stay in that place though, because, for me, I just wanted more.

I wanted my experiences to be redeemed. Where I felt violated, where I felt that my soul and my spirit had been murdered, where I felt like someone just pulled my breathing tube out and unplugged all the machines that had been keeping me “alive”, I wanted all of that to be redeemed. I wanted them to be transformed – in such a way where I would internally know and experience that nothing – absolutely nothing – is wasted. I wanted to know that God – Christ – was bigger and greater than the grave, the same grave that had been dug for my abusers, for my rapist and that they had dug for me. I wanted the grave to be defeated. Because I believed and still believe deeply in the resurrection, I wanted the process of resurrection to happen in my own life. I wanted to rise. I wanted to come out, but not in the way the LGBT community did it. That was not enough for me, and that process was just not for me.

It took me a long time of working through it, asking myself the questions, considering the fallout and the backlash, and what that would mean and look like in terms of me ever getting married or having children and raising a family. I concluded that, no matter which team I would be batting for, the same issues and problematic tendencies would come up and ruin any chance of my ever being in a healthy relationship. I concluded that the thing for me was that I did not know how to connect or relate my fellow human beings in healthy ways, from a place where I was more whole.

So, I continued working through questions, feelings, emotions and spiritual and psychological ups, downs, and all arounds. I went to psychotherapy and attempted to make space for church in my life, although I was just so bruised and battered from it. I did this despite the fact that my suicidal thoughts were the strongest almost every time I walked into a church. When I could muster up the will to go, there was something about being in church that I hoped would give me space to breathe. Unfortunately, many times, the people within the church did not offer that. Often, the churches I attended were places where there was just so much noise – excessive noise from the pulpit and the pews. In that sense, the church was just like the world, so full of noise. What would it look like if the Church made space for people to hear, see, encounter and experience God? I decided that I wanted to be the change that I want to see.

The struggle has been so real and so intense for so many years. Most of life has been an internal struggle for me. It’s been dark, hopeless and like a heavy burden that I have carried around for years. Yet, I continue to smile. There are some beautiful people out there. Every time I have taken the risk to walk in and park my butt in a seat at church or in a seminary class room, God has offered me the gift of divine appointments with beautiful friends and deeply rooted and transformative moments.

Because the grave was not Christ’s forever place, I know that my struggles with darkness, hopelessness, and death are not my forever place. My ongoing prayer is that others would be able to encounter, experience, and be in relationship with Christ, so that they too could be brought up and out and know that their struggles are not their forever place. I pray that others will come to know that, like me, their forever place is in the arms of Christ and within His Church. This is my story, my journey towards living a deeply rooted and transformed life. I’m just a gal with her flaws and her gifts, learning to walk with Christ and alongside others, in community. Some days are less of a struggle than others. So, grace upon grace for every moment of every day.

#32NeverLookedSoGood #OhHappyDay #WhereTheSpiritOfTheLordIsThereIsFreedom

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