The Return

With the words “There’s no place like home” still ringing in her ears, Dorothy slowly opens her eyes to discover she is home. It’s still the same old home. She is still surrounded by the same sepia drabness of the Kansas farm. She is still looking at the same family and friends she has always faced. And those family and friends are treating her much like they always did. It’s as if she never really left.

But even though everything around her may look the same, Dorothy knows that something is different. She knows that she is different. She has learned she can overcome the obstacles before her and rise above the status quo. She has learned she can face difficult things without running from them. She has learned how to thrive in less than desirable situations.

She has taken the road out of Oz.

The music swells, the screen fades to black, and the credits roll.

At the end of your journey – after all of the strange things you have seen and experienced, and after all the new things you have heard and learned – you still have to go back to the real world. You may not be going back to the exact people and places of your abuse, but you still have to go back to the people and places that were a part of your life when you started your journey. In many ways, things will look the same and people will act the same. In some ways, it will be as if you never took the journey.

But you will know that something is different. You will know that you are different. You have overcome obstacles, risen above the status quo, learned to face difficulties without running away, and discovered how to make the best of a bad situation.

You have taken the road out of Oz, and it has changed you for the better.

There will be no music swell. No fade to black. No rolling of the credits. Because this will not be the end of a movie. It will be the start of a larger and more cinematic life. The beginning of a much better story!

The Realization

Having vanquished the Wicked Witch, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion return to the Wizard to receive what they have longed for.

Emboldened by their victory, they proudly present the Witch’s broom stick to the Wizard and anticipate their reward. But instead of rewarding them, the Wizard tells them to, “Come back tomorrow.”

Shocked, heart broken, and incensed, they press the Wizard to keep his promise, but they quickly realize he’s not going to. Then Toto pulls back a curtain, to reveal the Wizard is just a man. Discouragement sets in. They have traveled so far and worked so hard. It is not the ending they had expected. It is not the ending they wanted.

Then the Wizard points out to Dorothy and her traveling companions that they already have what they’re seeking. Without realizing it, they have always had these things.

  • The Scarecrow believed he needed a brain, but all along the way he was thinking through situations and coming up with plans to help them succeed. So the Wizard gives him something to symbolize the brain he already has…a diploma.
  • The Tin Man believed he needed a heart, but all along he was was feeling all kinds of emotions…empathy, joy, fear, loyalty, and everything in between. So the Wizard gives him a token of appreciation and a reminder that the measure of a heart is not how much you love, but how much you are loved.
  • The Cowardly Lion believed he needed courage, but all along the way he acted in courageous ways…even though he was afraid. So the Wizard gives him a medal marking his acts of courage and reminding him that courage is not the absence of fear, but the act of facing of your fear.

Finally, it comes down to Dorothy. She has put all her hopes in the Wizard and his ability to show her the road out of Oz and return her home. But in the end, she realizes he can’t do that.

Then, just as she is about to lose all hope of getting home, Glenda the Good Witch of the East arrives and explains that Dorothy has always had the ability to get out of Oz and go home. How? The ruby slippers. They had been on her feet the whole time, but she was so busy with the journey she hadn’t paid attention to what she had. In an act of faith, she clicks her heels together three times and repeats, ”There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” And the strange world of Oz begins to fade.

There will come a time when you feel you have fought and conquered that which was most frightening to you. You will think to yourself, “Surely, when I bring this victory to my counselor, my support group, or my trusted friend, they will bring closure to this ordeal and I can put it behind me.”

Many look to their guide to give them the final piece of the puzzle, so they can step back and see the completed picture then quickly put all the pieces back in the box. But even the most skilled of counselors cannot give you the absolute closure you desire. They are just a person…not a wizard. What they can do is help you realize that despite your circumstances, you have had the brains, the heart, and the courage to make the journey all along.

This may feel anti-climactic and leave you let-down and despondent at first. But a sense of power will show up. You’ll be reminded that what you need is already within you and it will take you wherever you need to go. Is it hope? Is it motivation? Is it God? Whatever it is, you will begin to trust yourself more, and the strange world you have been traveling through will begin to fade.

Facing the Witch

Dorothy and her companions reluctantly leave the safety of the Emerald City to do the unthinkable…face the Wicked Witch of the West. They try to be confident, but are far from it. They travel through a dark and ominous woods, weak in the knees and constantly looking over their shoulders for a much feared attack.

The attack comes as fearsome images begin to darken the sky and swarm around Dorothy and her friends. Dorothy is caught in the clutches of flying monkeys that carry her away to the witch’s castle. There she finds herself alone with the one she has feared and tried to avoid since the beginning her journey…the Wicked Witch of the West.

She fearfully stands face-to-face with the witch. Dorothy wants her freedom and the witch wants what is left of Dorothy’s power and independence…her ruby slippers. Knowing there can only be one winner, the witch threatens Dorothy’s life then leaves her alone to sink into the depths of fear and desperation.

But her friends are loyal and loving, and they will not abandon her. Covering rough terrain and difficult circumstances, they march into the heart of Dorothy’s darkness and break down the door that holds her captive.

Reunited, Dorothy and her friends make a break for it. They try one escape route and then another, but they can’t escape the witch. Cornered by the witch, this innocent little girl unexpectedly discovers the power to destroy the witch. In an attempt to save the scarecrow from flames, Dorothy throws a bucket of water. The liquid redemption drenches the witch, melting her into a puddle of goo on the grimy castle floor.

And with that, the war is over. Dorothy is stunned that something as simple and pure as water could bring the witch’s reign of terror to an end.

With the witch’s broom stick in hand, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion head back to the Emerald City to see the Wizard and finally claim what they’ve longed for. Dorothy will finally take the road out of Oz.

As a survivor, it can feel like a punch in the gut to have come so far and gotten so much better only to find out you still must face the witch. Your witch may be the insult of unfairness and injustice. Your witch may be the failure of others to protect you. Your witch may be the abuser(s) who have seemingly escaped justice and consequences. Your witch is whatever is large, looming, and seemingly unredeemable about your abuse.

Some survivors resist and even refuse the idea they must face their witch, deciding they would rather stay where they are…out of the woods but never really home. Others reluctantly accept it and start down the road to a final show down.

The road to your witch is a dark and frightening path. It can cause your heart and mind to race with dreadful possibilities. That’s why it’s good to travel this road with others you trust. Never underestimate the power and importance of traveling with others. You need their strength and encouragement when the “flying monkeys” threaten to swarm you and sweep you away.

But in the end, if you want to be free, you and you alone must face your witch. And make no mistake, there will be a winner and a loser. Either your witch will own your life or you will.

So what is the bucket of water that will bring an end to your witch’s fearful reign over your life?

It is the water of forgiveness. I know the mere mention of forgiveness may repel you in disgust, but hear me out. I am not talking about a quick and easy forgiveness that cheapens the offense and the damage done to you. I am talking about a hard fought forgiveness that comes at the end of a long hard journey. I am talking about a forgiveness that is undeserved by the offender, but freeing to the offended. I am talking about a forgiveness that covers the offense and frees you from waiting for a restitution that may never come and will never be enough. When you finally apply the water of forgiveness to the evil that has ruled you for so long, you will finally be free from your witch. (I’ll write more about forgiveness in a future post.)

When you walk away from this final showdown, you will still carry mementoes of your experiences. Instead of a broom stick, there will be memories, triggers, and feelings from the past. But like the broom stick Dorothy carried back to the Emerald City, your mementoes will no longer have power over you.

At that point, you are ready for home.

What Do You Mean There’s One More Thing?

After their brief respite in the poppy field, Dorothy and her friends finally arrive at the gleaming Emerald City. It is a happy, carefree place where they can relax, refresh, and refuel. It is a place where they can get some final brush-ups and touch-ups after their long journey.

Then, just when they are ready to see the Wizard and complete their journey, they are reminded that their enemy is still alive and well. The Wicked Witch of the West, the biggest enemy of them all, invades their merriment, writing her demand for surrender across a darkened sky.

With fear and intimidation literally hanging over their heads, they run to the Wizard, hoping he will protect them from the witch and make everything right. But the Wizard is not as benevolent as they had hoped. Instead of protecting them from the Wicked Witch of the West, the Wizard tells them they can’t get what they want until they face her. They are heart broken and frustrated. They thought they had escaped the witch, and now they are told they must face her and bring back her broom stick. In other words, they must defeat her.

You have already journeyed long and hard. You have faced the frightening memories that you have avoided for years. You have not only gained an understanding of how your abuse has affected you, but you have gained some control of the thoughts and reactions that have mystified you for years. You are learning to trust others, and you are getting more comfortable with intimacy…both emotionally and physically. Looking back, you feel you have accomplished a feat comparable to climbing Mt. Everest. You have gotten better.

And though you almost settled for “better,” others encouraged you to push on and complete the journey. Now you feel like you have reached your goal. You finally feel you have arrived.

So the thought that there is one more thing to face can be a frustrating belly-drop…but you still have to face the witch.

The witch is different for different people. It the may be the underlying unfairness of what happened and how the perpetrator has gone unpunished. It could be the abuser(s) and the place they currently have in your heart, head, and life. Maybe the witch you need to face is those who should have known what was going on and protected you. Or it could be the difficult questions about God and His seeming lack of attention and intervention.

Whatever it is, there is no getting around it. You must face your witch once and for all. Otherwise, your witch will still be out there writing threatening messages over your head.

I Can See It From Here. Why Not Take a Break?

Finally, Dorothy and her traveling companions come out of the dark forest. The sun is shining, the air is clear, and the field before them is filled with colorful flowers swaying in the wind. When they come over the hill, they see it! The Emerald City! Gleaming on the hill against the bright blue sky. Dorothy has dreamed about this place and she has pushed hard to get there. The end is finally in sight!

Eager to complete their journey, the travelers joyously pick up the pace. Then something happens. The Wicked Witch of the West casts a spell and they begin to tire. Their long journey catches up with them, and all they want to do is to stop and take a nap. They feel they can afford to take a break, because they’re so close.

They’re so close…yet so far.

The Scarecrow, unaffected by the witch’s spell, knows they are in danger. He instinctively knows if they stop now they will never reach their destination. So he tries to keep them awake and urge them on, but one by one his companions begin to fall asleep.

Then, when all seems lost, Glenda the Good Witch of the East, initiates something very unexpected. In the middle of a spring-like day, snow begins to fall on Dorothy and her friends. This out-of-the-blue event revives the travelers and they rise to finish their journey.

After facing your “lion,” things can seem a little lighter and brighter, as if the dark perils of the journey are now behind you. After all, you have made some good progress and gained some great traveling companions. With the end in sight, you are ready to finish this thing up.

Then, the long and difficult trip starts to catch up with you. You start to feel fatigued and you begin to think, “Why not take a little break? After all, I’m closer than I’ve ever been. I can see the destination from here. Why not rest a little?”

When this happens, you are in danger of being lulled to sleep. The thought of settling for “close enough” will anesthetize you. Yes, you are closer than you have ever been, but you are not there yet. You are stuck between where you have been and where you could be, and if you stop you could stay stuck for a very long time.

Don’t get me wrong. It is important to pace yourself, but pacing yourself does not mean stop.

This is where you need encouragement to keep moving forward. This may come from those further down the road than you. It may come when something completely unexpected (like cold snow on a warm spring day) hits you and reminds you that all is still not well. Whatever it is, don’t let the desire for a temporary respite keep you from reaching your goal. You’re not there until you’re there.