Ugh: Aftermath of an Exorcism(ish)

PART 1

It was supposed to be an early morning. A day of trying to be productive. But the crushing wave of depression would keep me bedridden for the better part of the day. I had awoken from sleep with an emotion I could not put into words:

And I began to wonder if the events of the night before weren’t responsible for my nameless emotion—this feeling of having been spiritually violated.

I had gone to a monthly gathering of young pastors, most of us in our 30s.

During our free worship/prayer time I heard the Spirit say to me for the first time, “I made you, Sophia.” God made me trans and has plans for me. Then all through the prayer time the Spirit kept saying, “Do not be afraid.” Pertaining to my fears of losing friends and family when I come out; my fears of how to come out at work when I’m once again gainfully employed. And all the other processes of transitioning and facing life as a trans woman. “Do not be afraid.” God made me trans and God has a plan for me. God will be with me through the process of coming out and transitioning.

Afterwards, we took time praying for one another. We partnered up with the person closest to us. Steve (not his real name) went first. He started out praying for me quietly then became more passionate and started praying louder. I was afraid the other people near us might hear. Remember—I am not out to anyone in my life (excluding those who already know me as Sophia from conferences).

Steve prayed that God would re-wire me; that the confusion in my mind would leave by the power of Jesus; that any darkness would leave (his momentary hesitation to find the right words seemed to me, his fishing for a euphemism for “demon”). He prayed that I would reclaim my authority as a son of God.

I felt nothing leave me. But I was alarmed. As if I had somehow been outed by God.

Which makes no sense. Yet, I was left scratching my head asking, Which voice was God’s? The one allaying my fears and confirming that I was created as a trans woman? Or the one that echoed non-affirming theology that attributes being trans or gay or queer to something demonic?

After being in a state of panic, when things settled down in myself, I reached out to a dear friend who had the open ears and heart to hear me out. And together we worked out over the phone, a plausible theory as to what the hell may have happened that night (thank you, friend!)

For starters, it was Steve who was “praying for me” through the lens of his non-affirming theology. Second, it was improbable that the Spirit would betray my secret by giving a “word of knowledge” to him like that.

We arrived at the conclusion, that instead, Steve was probably picking up on some of the subtle cues of my gender expression and drawing them up to guess at the state of my eternal soul.

I knew his impromptu exorcism was an insult to the painful five-year journey that it took me to accept myself, the steady voice of the Spirit constant in my heart.

And yet, because it was a prayer, it had sway over me to cause anxiety and most of all, alarm. I remember sitting there with my eyes closed and my palms up in a gesture of openness to the Spirit, thinking, “Okay, God, this makes no sense whatsoever, but thy will be done. This goes against the entire trajectory of our incredible journey of discovery thus far, God… but, okay?”

And perhaps, my friend said to me over the phone, the Spirit telling you, “I made you, Sophia,” and, “Do not be afraid,” was God’s way of protecting you from what was to happen in that prayer.

Therein lies the abuse. Steve had guessed at something about me and turned it into his personal crusade to exorcise out of me the demons of his imagining. A genuine prayer should build up, not tear down. Instead, this prayer was only making me question the very voice of the Spirit who had guided me thus far.

That night I went home and finally picked up Austen Hartke’s book about what it means to be a Christian who is transgender.

(CONTINUE TO PART 2)

PART 2 

Ever since I first began experiencing gender dysphoria in earnest, a lot of my emotions shut down, especially when it comes to church. Though as a teen, it was often worship music that spoke deeply the love of God into me, in the past five years now, I haven’t picked up my guitar. It lies in its case under my bed, stripped of all its strings.

Earlier today, Sunday, five days after that uncomfortable experience, the Spirit snuck up on me with God’s goodness as the congregation began to sing this chorus:

I will worship you
I will praise your Name
You alone be Ruler of my heart
I will worship you
I will praise your Name
You alone be exalted, O Lord

The words and music broke my heart and surfaced my aching love for Jesus. As the words rushed over me, “You alone be Ruler of my heart,” I asked God if my being trans was either getting in the way of my surrendering my heart to God or if it really was a sign that I was somehow damned as Steve’s prayer had insinuated. And even before that line of song could be finished the Spirit said, “I Am.”

I Am indeed the Ruler of your heart. Nothing is in the way of my loving you. And I know deeply, how much you love me.

With a single phrase, the Lord reaffirmed our five-year journey of suffering and of liberation; of aloneness and of profound intimacy. With a single phrase, the Lord destroyed for me the “curse” of a wannabe exorcism that had only resulted in spiritual abuse and trauma.

What remains in my heart at the end of a traumatic week is a sense of permission from God to be who I was made to be. A permission that rushed into my heart full of awe contained in a single phrase, “I Am.”


Featured Image, “Ugh” by @MegDraws

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