Triggered at the Border

Maybe my expectations were off. They were dated for sure. I remembered the family trips up to Montreal in the late 1990s. The Canadian border guards were friendly and welcoming as we drove into Quebec. Since that time, we’ve had 9-11 and COVID and January 6th. I don’t know what I expected.

I did not expect to be triggered and interrogated.

Close up from street art in Orillia, Ontario. Photo by Tim Graves.

I spent much of yesterday replaying the experience, interspersed with my therapist’s voice in my head. “Just notice the emotion” and ask yourself, “what is it telling you?” Factually, this mountie was taking a serious approach to the many Americans talking about fleeing to Canada. He asked, “If I let you into Canada, how do I know you’ll leave?” He was confused by my pilgrimage across the continent and back to reset my spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. “Tell me more about this trip.” He simply did not understand the flexibility of traveling without lodging reservations for every night. He probably was just doing his job. (However, for the record, his line was the slowest.)

Regardless, I was triggered. I was primarily triggered by two things:

  • The questioning of my motives. I experienced suspicion and questioning of my motives in my last pastorate. No, not by most people, but by enough to be a significant factor in my resignation and need for this current pilgrimage. The mountie pulled off the initial scabbing over of my wounded being.
  • The calm hostility. There is nothing quite like hostility cloaked behind a calm demeanor to have me questioning my sense of reality. At least the border guard was doing his job. Yet, he triggered feelings of uncertainty about reality: Is flexibility bad? Am I doing something wrong? A small but tenacious group at a previous church questioned my spiritual leadership throughout my tenure. Another pecked at me daily, much like the mountie as he did his job.

My response was calm and honest with the border guard, but I realize I pulled into myself. I suspect I could have been clearer. Being triggered, however, I felt beaten down and resigned – burned out? – as I did at the end of my last pastorate. It was easier just to let the mountie do his thing than help him out more proactively. I was not my warm and authentic self.

And, so, here I am. Raw, a day shy of forty days in the wilderness. My only choice is to keep going, learning, trusting the process, the divine, and resisting the temptation to cut my pilgrimage short.

YHWH guided them with a pillar of cloud in the day, and with a pillar of fire to give them light after dark. They were able to travel by day and by night (Exodus 13:21, Inclusive Bible)

Recommended Reading

Clergy Burn-Out: The Current Crisis, PeaceBang

One comment

  1. […] Finally, through border security, I found myself entirely without cellular capabilities. No navigation, no internet, no phone. (I knew this would happen and the solution.) My first stop was the visitor center. Still stressed after getting across the border, I didn’t ask enough questions. I did get a map. What I didn’t count on was the difficulty of finding a phone carrier or electronics store. I got turned around and remembered the first rule of paper maps. You have to know your current location. […]

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