I wrote this on the night of the Second day of my Walk to Emmaus. I thought I would share it here. It’s not grammatically correct, well structured or even coherent in places, but it’s what happened.
It started this morning. They asked me to die. I was to take a piece of bread and call upon a part of myself. They said a sin and I was supposed to give it up to God and it would die. But it was a part of me, so I died too.
My table leader died first. He gave up something big, but I was afraid. I had a lot of things that I could give up – lustful thoughts, past black transgressions that haunted me, perversions – but I chose one I thought was harmless.
I was bullied in high school. There was one person in particular. I don’t even remember his name, but that wasn’t important. I remembered him. He was in my chemistry class. He was messing with me on one day and I just blurted out loud for him to leave me alone. I meant for him to get in trouble with the teacher. That was a mistake. The teacher told him to stop it and, I guess, figured that solved the problem. After class, of course, he found me, threw me against a locker and threatened me. That was the pinnacle of his actions against me. Yes, he did other things – he tried to sabotage my grade in class in subtle ways and in general made a nuisance of himself, but that one time was the only physical aggression he showed me. I did feel hatred for him thereafter – for years, and it was completely out of proportion to the events I experienced, but he made me feel helpless and small and weak and I really did hate him for it.
I used to fantasize about hurting him – throwing him down stairs, then jumping down those same stairs and landing with both feet on him or causing him pain in other ways – for years. He was in my head through college, the Army, any time I felt hurt, picket on or helpless. I saw him when Bad things happened to people on T.V. He was the face of the oppressor in a thousand ways.
I guess his face had faded with time. I was sixteen when I took chemistry – a sophomore – and I’m thirty six now, so he has been with me for twenty years. He was just a high school bully and it had been twenty years, so I thought he would be safe. I thought I could safely let my sin against him die. I was wrong.
I think I realized it when I started. I broke the bread and I started clouding up. I started giving him up and the words caught. My eyes started tearing up and I felt a tremor. I then put the bread down – or tried to. I couldn’t let it go. I realized all of a sudden I still hated him as much at that moment as I ever had. I forced myself to put the crumb in the plate. I had to sit down, but I couldn’t take that thing with me. I think I felt something rip.
I sat down.
We finished the ceremony – we had communion with those torn (and transformed) crumbs of bread. Later someone asked me if I wanted to talk to the clergy about what I had experienced. I thought that was pretty close to the stupidest suggestion I had heard wince I got here. It was their fault I was hurting in the first place! I gave up a twenty year grudge without the benefit of ANY preparation and it was ALL THEIR FAULT! I don’t remember who I was speaking to, but I do remember that I told them that I had left it at the chapel. It was a convenient excuse not to talk. It sounded reasonable or at least left no room for continuation for the questioner. In retrospect, it wasn’t fair to him.
Later, my table leader approached me. We were being entertained and he asked me to sit with him. He mentioned that he saw my reaction at the communion. I simply stated that I saw his as well. I think he knew I was pushing him away, but I was nice about it at least.
I played my part through the rest of the day. We presented our posters and were waiting for what was next. I wasn’t expecting it.
They put us on a bus. Unbidden, a memory of getting on a bus to Basic training came up. They took us to a church. We lined up and walked in.
Hundreds of people were on either side as we walked to the sanctuary, lighting our way with little lights reminiscent of candles. It was nice at first. All these people were singing and waving their lights and smiling. I felt they loved us and were supporting us. We walked on.
The way grew narrow. Something me felt a sudden deep foreboding. I walked on, but a growing part of me wanted to bolt. We got to the sanctuary, then walked up the steps to the front area. My foreboding eased some. The singing went on. Then we were told they were leaving and we returned their song. While I was singing, I remembered the morning incident. I don’t know why. I was blindsided. I couldn’t sing any more. I felt physical pain and illness. I might have gotten past it, but the leaders – right at the time I was most vulnerable – called for an examination of conscience.
They wanted me to examine my soul while it was naked, lacerated and ripped apart. People had their hands on me. I was surrounded and I didn’t know where the exits were. I remember trying to back up. I remember saying I couldn’t do it. I remember falling apart.
I remember it was messy and painful.
I was surrounded by caring, loving friends, which really was what finished me off. Every time I tried to find something to grab onto – to curl up inside and protect what was left of me – I was hit with another volley, which tore everything apart again. I couldn’t find my barriers. I had nowhere to hide my vulnerabilities. I had no masks to disguise them. Each hug took my old supports away. I couldn’t run away (actually I literally couldn’t stand, but I don’t know if that is relevant). Dave was there. After some time I was helped to the bus. Someone sat next to me briefly to offer his support. Then he kindly left me to die.
I remember asking God if this was where he wanted me to be. He said no.
I remember opening my mouth and screaming over and over – only nothing came out. I remember feeling my body sliding over and down the back of my seat until I felt the cold metal of the side of the bus.
It all left – or at least everything I could sense. Everything in me was gone.
When everything in you is gone, you’re dead. That’s where God wanted me to be.
I think He intends to fill me with something now. I don’t know what to expect, but that’s okay.
That’s where I am now.>
I wrote this the night we got back. We were supposed to have a late meal. They brought in pizza, but I couldn’t eat. I needed to write this down. I found paper and pen, went into the local chapel on the grounds and, lying on the floor in the middle of the aisle, wrote the majority of what I put up there. I was barely lucid at the time, writing in haste late into the night. I could have cleaned it up, but what you have above is what I took from inside me and put on paper.