By Wendy Westerfield
Three hundred pages of an independent investigation.
It didn’t work.
I dug out nightmares, memories, and pain of abuse experienced and spent years mentally rehashing them. Many people agonized over their parts. The independent investigation conducted by GRACE of my Christian university had ended. And it didn’t work.
That was my shock at the university’s apathetic response to the GRACE Report.
I’m a professional organizer. I think God gave me this talent so that I could endure childhood traumas. Organizing stuff met my craving for order, predictability, and neatness. It was therapeutic. It’s now my profession to make closets, garages, and physical transitions workable. My goal is never to make a house look like a museum, but to make the space functional and the objects usable. This involves time to strategize and create new habits. Organizing isn’t about the stuff; it’s about the people behind the stuff.
GRACE’s intents appealed to my sense of order. I reasonably expected logical outcomes to follow carefully planned strategies and a structured reporting of truth. I forgot that life is never about the tangible things—but the people behind the things.
They didn’t lecture me. They didn’t brush aside my concerns in favor of a “nicer” truth, a “kinder” focus or a “more loving” outlook. No one lobbed Christian “truth” at me as I talked. I felt respected and heard, honored and grateful.
This investigation hugged me close and, instead of its spotlight healing the university, it brought new light, warmth and change to me. It wasn’t necessarily about the people reading the final copy but those who contributed to it.
GRACE was "holding space” for me.
The phrase seems to originate with Heather Plett, who wrote:
“When we hold space, we walk alongside without judging, fixing, directing, or controlling the outcome. We create containers of safety and support where deconstruction, gestation, and rebirth can unfold organically.”
YES! YES! YES!
This is exactly why the GRACE investigation did work. As the team listened to my experience and reactions, they didn’t fix my assessment. They didn’t lecture me. They didn’t brush aside my concerns in favor of a “nicer” truth, a “kinder” focus or a “more loving” outlook. No one lobbed Christian “truth” at me as I talked. I felt respected and heard, honored and grateful. I felt my soul become unsmothered.
This simple, beautiful, moment was space held.
Just for me!
For the “as is” me!
Thanks to the patient and loving interactions with GRACE, I have discovered a new level of healing. After a decade of being single, I have married a man whose acceptance both softens me and welcomes me to explore new strengths. My son has a father for the first time. Together, we are experiencing each other’s joys and melt downs, how to disagree and make mistakes and love each other safely. We are messy and imperfect and often don’t look very religious. We safely let down our guard. We grow together.
That’s what it is to hold space.
Wendy Westerfield is a survivor whose story is featured in GRACE’s November 2018 Newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive our quarterly newsletter and updates, sign up in the form at the bottom of our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.