truth & love

painted by Yongsung Kim

Quid est veritas? What is truth?” Pilate asked this first, when Jesus told him in perfect Latin, “Omnes qui veritatem audiunt, vocem meam audiunt. All who hear the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37-38)

Pilate has always gotten a lot of flack, but I think most of modern society can relate with him and his question. He was a very educated man. He was well-versed in many subjects such as language, history, philosophy, and politics. He also soon saw what, and with Whom, he was dealing with. His words and actions following that aforementioned conversation reveal this; even as he handed Jesus over to be crucified, he made sure His cross had that sign that read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic. The Pharisees were angry at the sign, telling him to change it to something like “Jesus of Nazareth, who said he was ‘King of the Jews,'” to which Pilate said, “What I have written, I have written.” (John 19:22)

I’d say it’s safe to say many people today challenge the existence of truth. Instead, it seems more widely believed truth is just what is perceived to be true, or even what we would prefer to be true.

My sister, as I tried to tell her about the reality of my being abused, said that was “my truth”, and “her truth” was that it didn’t happen and I’m just being a bad daughter, sister, and Catholic for ending my relationship with my abusive parents until such a time that they make reparation for the wrong they did and are still doing (we didn’t talk again after that).

But even if someone was born blind and thus can’t see the blue sky, this does not change the reality that the sky is blue, does it? Like it or not, seen or not, blue it is.

Where am I going with all this, though? Well, my doctor told me some things today that I wanted to share. They might trigger feelings of invalidation, so read with caution to those it applies.

I was in his office, still feeling bothered from last night. I was soon in tears again. He talked about forgiveness and giving my problems to God, but I closed off. I didn’t want to hear that, and today, I told him so. He respected that boundary, and changed the topic.

He talked instead about another familiar topic, of how God is always with me, that I’m not alone. One of my concerns, as you know, was feeling alone as a Grown-Up, compounded by my own isolating. He expanded on this topic today by saying God is with me now, in the present, and that’s where reality is.

I made a puzzled face, but I let him continue: all emotion comes from the past, in that we react to what’s happened even as it’s happening. It’s hard to see what he’s saying here as true, since it’s seen in real time, but emotions are reactions; for there to be a reaction, there must first be an action to react to, and therefore it’s in the past. He went from here to say the fear and anger that comes from my past trauma keeps me in the past, and even in the future, from my trauma-driven worries. Therefore, he said, I’m not in the present where reality is, where God is, where even the good things like my new job, having my own home, or having friends are.

This is the point where I usually close off again. It sounds invalidating, right? How many times have you heard, “It’s in the past, get over it. Live in the now instead, and be grateful.” I heard all that from my abusers and revictimizing family members, and even from more well-meaning people; my confessor would say, “Those bad things that were done to you, that depression, that’s not you. That’s not who you are,” or “Those feelings that you’re not worthy, no one loves you, those aren’t real. Those are from the past.” He’d often tell me to leave the trauma in the past, and so realize that the person I am now is “amazing.” Those words, though they did make me a little happy, confused me. I thought he just didn’t understand, and while that lessened the hurt, I still felt invalidated…

All this is what makes the next thing he, my doctor, told me so crucial: “Those emotions are from real memories of real wrong that happened, and they’re really painful.”

It puts into perspective what he said earlier about how the emotions from the past were not applicable to the present: just because the emotions are no longer applicable, and the beliefs that I’m rotten and stuff are not applicable (really, were never applicable), does not erase or invalidate that there was a real wrong, a real hurt done to me that caused them.

I just have to see the fruits of being lost in the past to see what he’s saying is true: isolation, avoidance, and depression aside, I’ve been increasingly thinking “why bother caring about today when it’ll be gone tomorrow?” I used to love plants, and would be known for my green thumb at my parents’ home. I always made the flowers bloom, and plants stay green. Now, I just let one of my plants die. I didn’t care. Another is hidden in a dark corner, withering for the first time in the 3-4 years I’ve had it. I didn’t care. I’m down here at the bottom of the deep end. No one can touch me down here. Nothing can reach this far to hurt me, not even light.

Yet there’s Someone up there, reaching down to me in my dark corner.

There was this quote from a Facebook Christian group with the image for Jesus reaching into the water he’s standing on that goes, “When you feel like you’re drowning in life, don’t worry; your lifeguard can walk on water.” I can’t find who said it first, but it reaches me deep down, like one of those warm pool lights I’d snuggle up to. It makes me want to go up there, where it’s warmer and brighter.

My doctor presented me with this choice: I can either live in the past and the future and be miserable, or live in the present and enjoy what good that does come my way. He wasn’t calling me ungrateful like the abusers did, nor is he invalidating me. Same with my confessor, same with some others in my life. The one reaching down to me from this deep place isn’t saying that either. He’s saying, “Come up, come be with me.

What is truth?” What is the truth that doesn’t go away? Is there such a thing? Could there ever be such a thing in this world where everything changes?

Maybe there is. And maybe I don’t have to deny or isolate from the reality of the past to do it, because He was there then, too:

One time, when I was crying, feeling suicidal, my confessor suggested over text that I should hug God. He established trust, saying that he personally wanted me to live because “You’ve always been nice to me. You’re gentle and kind.” Following that, I prayed, and God told me just where He was when those bad things were happening.

I heard it, as I hear these words as I write them, but that voice wasn’t mine, and was louder than even my own thoughts. He once showed me through a flashback that He experienced the abuse from my point of view, as if it were happening to Him. That evening though, He expanded on that, to share He saw from my abuser’s point of view as well, begging them not to hurt me, though “they didn’t listen to Me.”

He was there with you, too, being hurt, and with your abusers, also begging that they not hurt you. He begged because God, though omnipotent and could easily force them to change their minds, didn’t because He gave us Free Will; without choice, there cannot be Love. However, without truth, the love isn’t true, and vice versa.

Many of our abusers presented their evil acts as love, and there are a lot of things today being called love that isn’t love either.

I don’t like that. I hate that.

Maybe, I can use these lessons as what the books would call “anchors”, something that keeps you in the present (or maybe in my case, a “life vest” to keep me from sinking). I kept a collection of the nice things people told me in the past for that very purpose, to remember that I’m lovable. I haven’t read them for a long time, until today. I wish I did; in there is the quote, “Love drives out fear.” If I read that, maybe I didn’t have to learn this lesson and suffer all of that, but then, if I didn’t suffer all that, I wouldn’t have appreciated those words like I can now.

I think truth is a hard thing to grasp, and that the idea of an unchanging truth is even harder. But it’s not impossible.

I’m probably going to forget about all this again, and sink into the past. Maybe that’s even okay; my lifeguard can remind me He’s up there at the surface, and pull me up again.

Love with truth, and truth with love…sounds pretty good.

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