Spotlight

Grace is our 28-year-old daughter. She is beautiful, dynamic, fun – spirited, a rich blessing! She and I scheduled a night out to a movie and after a great walk through Portland together we arrived at the cinema. We’d arrived just in time to see “Spotlight” — a movie on our list. 
  Spotlight is the true story of the Boston Globe Spotlight team to expose the efforts of the Catholic Church to hide, minimize, sideline the sexual abuse by priests of mostly boys in the Boston area over the past decades. The denomination had systematically paid off families and moved priests.  
As the movie began, I was not connecting to the fact that it dealt with sexual abuse. And even if it did I didn’t believe this would be a challenge for me. But then, about an hour in, there was this scene when a character passionately describes the horror he went through being groomed and abused by someone who was powerful, who was like God. As he spoke his story it was my story — although my abuser was Presbyterian clergy person. He even used the same words that I’ve used. And in a similar way the abuser was moved to another parish, rather than punished.
Sobs came from this deep place inside me, as I watched this scene. I just felt so pressed into a place. I quaked within. Even having dealt with this season of devastation yet it’s never done in some ways. It was so powerful. Grace clued in. She was present. She looked at me and asked with that look “Are you ok?” Had I needed a hand to hold she would have offered it.  
I just was so struck with the fact at how at 57 I can suddenly feel the stripping pain of abuse. I can feel 7 again.  
The power of that riveted me to the story. Then another man described how he was abused, and began to weep about the sense of confusion over same sex attraction. I have felt this as well. I found my story in the movie.  
Mark Ruffalo’s character has this great, great speech pushing for the story to be run. It was powerful for he displays the anger of those who have not experienced abuse on behalf of those of us who have. So impactful. I whispered to my heart– “You see? People are fighting for those of us hurt.”  
By this movie, as God put the spotlight on me, I was struck with the power of shame, the long term pain of abuse, and that the pathways we walk, although those paths may take 50 years, or more, are gifts. And although what was done to me was wrong, that God still is using those actions to make me grow into the man I’ve become and will become. 
Grace and I left that theater at nearly midnight and walked away discussion the power of a use, the need for authentic places to heal, and the hope given as people fight. 
I left realizing that Jesus by putting the spotlight on pain had illuminated hope. Hope in all this and that I got to experience in the healing company of Grace.  

About Camino Way 2016 Shimer

On August 22, 1981 I married this wonderful woman, Karen, who has consistently blessed and changed my life and days. We are still in love, all the more with the years. We have four daughters, two sons by marriage, and three delightful, wonderful grandchildren. So, that makes me a husband, father, and grandfather all in those sentences. But mostly just a guy who loves my family. Today Karen and I planted beautiful plants in numerous pots. She had come home with the plants and that experience reminded me how much I enjoy simple things and simple pleasures -- like digging in dirt to plant a flower, like sunlight through glass on a spring day, like clean windows -- just washed ours today -- like a melody that won't escape from my heart. I've been a local church pastor for 30 years as of this June, a number that staggers me for I feel about that age on the inside, but clearly that's not the case. Back in 1988 I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with an Mdiv-- a time of schooling that has been a foundation for years of ministry. But it is mostly in the building upon that foundation, that has most changed my life. I love people, love seeing Jesus work in people's lives. One of my favorite joys is to pray with someone through some horrible place of memory and see Jesus walk right into their memory world, and turn on the lights in a way that sets their soul free and brings healing. There's nothing like this privilege and I have been there to watch it happen more times than I can count. Between 4 and 7 the associate pastor of my family's congregation sexually abused me, first grooming me, then repeatedly violating my young self. This marked my life. It changed my bearings. It ripped at my faith. It wounded my image of what it meant to be a little boy, and later a man. It has been a point from which I have been in the process of healing for many years now. I'm a survivor, but more than that, I am one who lives beyond what was done. For in the middle of all that stuff, Jesus was calling me, speaking to me, bidding me to follow him to bring change to people's lives within the realm of the very office that was used to harm me. Only Jesus can make light from darkness, hope from despair, and healing from brokenness. I love Jesus. He really is alive, no matter what others may believe. And his life, his presence, his words into my world, his healing power have continued to be the foundation point of what it means to experience life to the fullest. I love writing. I don't really know why on that score for really writing has never been a central tool in my world, nor has it come easily. But I love seeing how words released heal. And I love the way words can connect me to other people's worlds. So, that's why I started blogging. It began because I was planning to blog on a weekly basis when I went to walk the Camino de Santiago last fall. And in order to be able to blog while walking, I knew I had to begin to practice blogging before I was in another country. A friend told me that. Friends are good to help us find ways to live more authentically into our daily lives! So, I started. But what I have discovered is there is something powerful about sharing the story of life with others. So, I have continued. And I love the connections being built through those words. In 2011 I experienced my first seminar in Simply the Story, a bible story telling method that involves those listening in discussion and I decided then -- "this is what I plan to do when I retire." But really-- "why wait until then?" -- so I use this method while I continue pastoring. It sets people free and allows the Word to take root in ways that preaching never has. So again and again I am practicing asking questions and that is good practice for me, because I am frequently better at "telling" than "asking." This has been such a freeing gift. I love training others in this skill. So, a storyteller would certainly be true of me too. Years ago I discovered my mission in life is "the joyful transformation of people's lives through the person of Jesus Christ." And that continues to be where I find my home base, in joy. Where there is joy, I find, there is Jesus, and there is the possibility of transformation. Of course Jesus is in places where there is no joy as well, and once He is there, the place kind of changes because of Him. I love that.
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