Moving On

In Life Reflections by Paula Stone Williams

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Paula Stone Williams

Paula Stone Williams

The soul lives contented by listening
If it wants to change into the beauty
Of terrifying shapes it tries to speak
That is why you will not sing
Afraid as you are of who might join with you
The voice hesitant and her hand
Trembling in the dark for yours
She touches your face and says
Your name in the same instant
The one you refused to say
Over and over
The one you refused to say

The Soul Lives Contented
—David Whyte

The illusion of control was my comfortable companion. I kept it in my hip pocket, near my wallet. I unfolded it whenever I smelled panic. The future was mine to create. I controlled the variables.

Since I kept my pocketed illusion all the way through my 50s, I suppose it was working pretty well for me. If I didn’t like something thrown my way, I ducked. As a successful white male, my ability to dodge bullets appeared to be a divine right. I was comfortable. Then came the traumatic occasion in which I joined the human race and was forced to relinquish my illusion of control. I became angry with the people who took it from me. I ranted and raved and called down fire from the heavens. I was royally pissed.

Now that a fair amount of time has passed, I am reminded of how easy it is to hold onto hurt and blame and how hard it is to hold onto joy. Anger is a strong emotion, worthy of consideration now and again, but never worthy of an extended stay. After a certain point it is you being devoured at the feast of anger, made bite-by-bite a little less human, more a caricature than an embodied soul.

Richard Rohr says we suffer when we are not in control. He also reminds us that if you happen to be human, suffering is the norm. The question is not if we suffer, but if we suffer well. For all the distortions it bears on account of its adherents, I think Christianity still stands a notch above. It is the only religion in which God comes to earth and suffers with us, an acknowledgement of the random and capricious nature of things. God saying, “I’m so sorry, but this is a dark and dangerous ride. Proceed with caution.”

On this frightening ride most of us carry at least two iterations of our selves. Rohr calls one the false self. This lesser self is convinced we are unworthy of love. Since that self is sure our flaws will find us out and cause us to be banned from the garden, we are especially vulnerable when someone wounds the false self. Rohr suggests when we are offended and hurt by others it is virtually always the false self that suffers the wound. The true self is already one with God, loved and accepted for simply existing. It cannot be destroyed by the insensitivity of others. It is grounded in love. When we are able to abide in the true self we can say with Dag Hammarskjold, “For all that has been, thanks. For all that shall be, yes!”

My decision to transition to life as a female came from within, from my true self. But great unkindness came my way and found its target in my false self. I was wounded, angry and hurt. Much of my anger was appropriate, even necessary. But anger too long nursed becomes bitterness, an emotion with no redemptive arc. There comes a time when you must move beyond anger and leave bitterness to fend for itself.

It is time to move on. I have been gnawing on my own bones long enough. For those who read the anger I chose to express on the written page, I am grateful for your graciousness. For those afraid I am giving up on a worthy cause, there is nothing to fear. My righteous anger is alive and well. Injustice toward humans is never okay. It is always wrong, and we all share the responsibility to be a part of the solution. I will not back down from the fight.

But I am ready to let go of the personal anger that only wants to nurse old wounds. I have dealt with the reality of what has been done. This is no cheap superficial moving on. I have wrestled with God and God did not decline the fight. We wrestled till morning, and the new dawn showed no open wounds, only scars.

It is not about me. It is about all who suffer—for me it is especially those close to me—Cathy—my children—their spouses—and those distant, the countless souls wounded by the capriciousness of nature, the arrogance of man, the silence of God. It is time to make crooked ways straight. It is time to speak with great confidence and paradoxically, great humility. It is time to trust my true self and speak the name I have been refusing to say, over and over.

That name is not Paula. I have no difficulty calling myself Paula. The name I have been refusing to say is Beloved.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Jeff Kubina

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Paula Stone Williams

Paula Stone Williams

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For 35 years I worked with the Orchard Group, a church planting ministry in New York. For most of that time I was Chairman and CEO. For 12 years I served as a weekly columnist and Editor-At-Large for Christian Standard, a leadership magazine. I was also a teaching pastor for two megachurches. Those responsibilities ended when I transitioned to live as Paula. I currently serve as a pastoral counselor, church and non-profit consultant, writer and speaker. You can read my weekly blogs at Rebel Storytellers, and at paulastonewilliams.com. I am a runner, hiker, and avid mountain biker. The first two are relatively safe. The third, not so much. Still, I pedal. Cathy and I have been together for 42 years. She is a retired public school teacher and practicing psychotherapist. We have three children and five grandchildren.
Paula Stone Williams

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