Susan (my wife) and I decided to tag team leading a Journey group in our church. Seven strong women (Judy, Jayme, Carla, Hannah, Rebekah, Andrea, Susan) as well as Seth and myself (we felt much less strong at times) made up our group. Everyone who leads a VP3 group believes they have the best one, and that would be true in my case. We quickly became a trusted community, learning more fully who we were as persons in the good company of each other.
Something shifts during the narrative sharing time. And it shifted for us. A level of honesty surfaced from the fathoms of our lives…an honesty that brought with it stories of visions and broken dreams, accomplishments and failures, cozy places and harsh desserts, influential heroes and painful abusers. All of it somehow used as tailored curriculum by the Spirit of God to etch out who we really are, and to prepare us for what is yet to come.
What caught my attention when Hannah shared her story was her written prayer–a prayer that reflected her courage to question and to confess. Hannah agreed to share a part of her story and her prayer. May both be a reminder of the One who draws near in those vulnerable moments of honesty.
I don’t want to write my story. For weeks now I have sat down to write, and find a million other things to do (like scrub my tub). I like stories, I like hearing the memories of others, but I am feeling blocked writing my own.
After my dad finished seminary, the expanded Price family (I now had a brother and a sister—with another sister on the way!) moved to Faith, SD. Faith is a cowboy town near one of the northern reservations. My dad got cowboy boots and a Stetson to adapt to his parish. I got a second hand bicycle with a banana seat and those crazy big handle bars. I also got baptized. Matters of faith in a pastor’s family are sort of strange, I don’t remember direct conversations about what we believed, although I remember my mom teaching me and my brother the Lord’s prayer. I knew I wanted to be baptized; it was sincere and simple desire. I loved mom and dad, and so I loved what I saw of God in them.
My mom has struggled with depression as long as I can remember, and one of the ways that she would “medicate” herself was with praise music. She would turn on KSLT (the Christian radio station out of Spearfish) as soon as she woke up and it was always playing through the day. In fact when we moved from Faith to Murdo, my dad put an antenna on the roof so my mom could still get KSLT.
Murdo—a Gaelic word for the sea—a town named after a pioneer trying to carve the prairie into a little dream. Sometimes around Murdo there were vast patches of prairie grasses, that would bend and sway that would remind you of waves — of the vastness of the ocean.
But Murdo did not feel like a day at the beach. It felt like a hurricane that my family barely survived. Our hospitable gesture as a family of inviting someone into our home became a source of deep scaring for years to come, leaving a pain that still lingers. The chaos is like bits of memories flying around my brain. My dad plunged himself into his career. My mom tried to make do. The next ten plus years are colored by the aftermath.
Jesus, you once went out into a boat. A boat with all the friends that you had—those that you called brothers. You fell asleep; I guess I felt like you must have been sleeping then, too. Because I know in my head that you were there, but my heart feels like you let that storm rage. You let these brothers and sisters get hurt by that storm. I know you must have been there, that your heart must have broke, that you were violated, victimized, and full of shame. You must have sensed the loss of connection, and felt desperate to cling to your childhood innocence. You were a mother who felt like she had failed, you were a father that saw his only son drift away, you were scared, you were hurt, you felt alone. Rise up from your nap, call these winds to cease, calm my heart, repair my family. In the name of the One who knows the Sea and the Storm. Amen.
In all honesty my story is still hard for me to connect with; it felt like looking back I just came up against walls of pain. Where I can’t see the faithfulness of God, it is not that I don’t believe it. I feel like I am in a place that I should be, that I am living a called life. I am grateful for my communities (Trinity, work and friends), I am close to my family and I think that speaks to God’s presence even in the midst of great sorrow. I am someone that has felt and feels very deeply, and I am prone to melancholy. I think this is why community comes up so much, because I am not hardwired to carry heaviness well. When I cannot spot Christ in the storms I need others to point the way—and they do.
Hannah Price is an artist who cares deeply about cultivating a sense of community within particular neighborhoods. She is also a beautician and works for Good Samaritan Society in Sioux Falls, SD.