On Trauma and Vocation (Mars' Hill Article)
- Micah Bron
February 12, 2020
“What’s your major?” This is often one of the first questions asked when we meet a new classmate or peer at Trinity Western University (TWU). This has been a turbulent question for me, since my major has changed quite a few times over the years. But now, I am studying to be a teacher.
For many TWU education students, the path to becoming a teacher is fairly linear. Mine has been hindered by a lot of obstacles, and I often think of this analogy: rocks in a river breaking the surface of a chaotic river, with me in a white-water raft hurtling towards them. I have had to maneuver around these dangerous obstacles without a guide, and sometimes with my fair share of injury.
As a child in daycare, I became aware my preferred choice of future husband was, well, a husband. In the safety of childhood play, I made realizations about myself that were unfiltered and unhindered by other social scripts for a time.
Unfortunately, only a few years later, I went through experiences that shook the foundation of my self-perception. I experienced sexual abuse. I defended the abusers and put the weight of shame, disgust, and brokenness on to the shoulders of a five, six, seven, and then eight-year-old boy. And I only realized as an emerging adult that this was horrific, and that I didn’t deserve the framework of shame constructed by in family, church, society, and even, at times, myself.
Growing up, I often heard stereotypes about gay men as abusers and pedophiles. My family was horrifically unsafe, and everywhere I went, social scripts placed gay men as criminals who preyed on the vulnerable. They were referred to as butt-pirates, pedophiles, and diseased. Indeed, they were the reason that God was going to come back and wipe the Earth.
As someone who was hiding both his queerness and experience of abuse, I continued to add weight onto my already heavy shoulders. I lived a splintered and confused life. My desire for working in human services and teaching was sidelined by the identity that was constructed for me. That is, the false identity of the perfect Christian boy who had overcome his past and was unashamed of sharing how Jesus meant to save everyone from eternal doom.
I sometimes “blame” the Holy Spirit for bringing me out of that darkness and revealing the love of God to my desiccated spirit. As the Spirit challenged me to dig into what I believed and would constantly pry at my “safe” notions, I became aware that my frameworks were slowly killing me. So, in my second year at TWU, I surrendered. I said, “God, I give you my whole identity. Every part of my being, to guide and form and challenge and revive and make new.”
From there, I made some big changes. I switched into the education program––the program for which I initially applied. I started reading my Bible daily and without shame, and I found Jesus illuminated in a new light. God really did renew, revive, and reform my framework, and eventually I accepted myself as someone who was gay or queer. But I still struggled to accept my abuse. It took me another few years. And finally, when I did, it broke me.
But like my queerness, and like my ADHD, and like my Christian identity, my abuse is but a small part in the story of my life. It sucks that it has impacted me so much. It sucks that the smallest triggers leave me unable to sleep at night for weeks. It sucks that I accidentally step on my cats’ tail and spiral into a panic attack dwelling on how evil of a person I am. But then a voice brings me a glass of water and tells me I am loved. The Spirit does not offer advice or condemnation, but puts a gentle hand on my shoulder and offers soothing.
So here I am now, fully aware of the truth that the intersecting parts that I hid and have felt ashamed of, are actually going to be things that make me the best educator I can be. They are things that help me to pursue my professional goals and create positive change in my workplaces or spheres of influence. Even at TWU, these aspects of my identity have allowed me to support others and be Christ-like in a way that is much more genuine than the “good Christian boy” persona I carried for years. I am excited that as a teacher, I can be a positive force to protect and nurture the precious spirits and minds of those I work with. I know now I do not need to fear myself, but that my experiences have uniquely and beautifully equipped me.