As I return from an intense week of study that focused on the book, Counseling Women; A Narrative, Pastoral Approach by Christie Cozad Neuger, I bring with me the heart of the matter, the question, how will this book inform development of spiritual care and weaving with women within the context of violence, betrayal, incest, rape, domestic abuse?
Mary Pellauer says…if there is anything worth calling theology, it is listening to people's stories—listening to them and honoring them and cherishing them and asking them to become even more brightly beautiful than they already are. (71)
What if seeking spiritual care with Chaplain Julia was not about 'something being wrong' but rather, something being very right that needs embracing and nourishing? What if it is a time for conversation and prayer about the aspects of an individual woman's life that are positive, in spite of incarceration? And what if there is a sense of celebration in our time of spiritual care, even if we have to cry together first?
…the counselee has the resources she needs within her own narrative… (89) …it is important in the healing process to focus on women's strengths and resources rather than deficits and pathology. (120)
The theme that the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem runs through this book. So often women, and I am certain that this applies to men as well, have 'mal-adapted'. They have found ways of surviving by adapting to dangerous family and community systems.
…in order for women to find themselves and develop authentic voice and narrative, they must separate from the definitions of and beliefs about themselves that have been developed as part of the process of harmful adaptation…at a personal level, this kind of change is difficult and frightening. (131)
But not impossible. As I write the faces of women come to me. Women I know who have found their voices, clarified their challenges, learned to make new choices and stay connected to their Creator and the people that love them into new life.
In the chapter, Coming to Voice in the Context of Intimate Violence, Lenore E. A. Walker states that African American women are the most at risk for rape at some point in their lives. (106) The same day I read this chapter, the lead story of the Cap Times is Silent Survivors; In assault cases, women of color struggle to be heard. This important article challenges us to consider the resources we are providing specifically for women of color. In the Dane County Jail, women and men of color are incarcerated at a rate that does not reflect their membership in our community. A piece of healing this unbalance is providing safe places of care and prevention. For those of us who have benefited from 'white' privilege it is essential to consider how our community spends our money. How do we provide care for the most vulnerable in our community?
Where did these beliefs come from? When were things different? ...it is within the woman's own life experience that the hopeful future resides—not in changing her but in helping her find the creative possibilities that have always been part of her… (133) Narrative theory insists that the counselor operate from a position of not-knowing. (189)
I am considering how to create the individual time necessary for women to connect with spiritual care through the gift we have been given in weaving, Perhaps it is time to make appointments with women as they leave incarceration and return to their families and communities. I would need to carve out the time to meet with women at that crucial time of transition. I connect with them in worship and through answering the many yellow request slips for journasl, Bibles, stamped envelopes or individual spiritual care. The next step is the connection in the community. I would appreciate the prayers of this Jail Ministry community around this intention.
The well-boundaried, wholistic, woman-centered and competent pastoral counselor can make a connection that serves to re-member the community of support for a counselee who has found herself withdrawn from it…(175)
This book began its preface by identifying confidence as a key to spiritual care with women. It ends with that hope.
When counselees begin to realize that they do have choices and at least some power to make meaning out of their life experiences, they begin to have confidence in a future story that has meaning for them. (188)
Peace & gratitude, Chaplain Julia