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[Scroll down for Part 2: Here Comes Your Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown]
I Can't Believe I Acted That Way
Heartbreak can bring out the worst in the most unlikely people.
I couldn't imagine Hannah losing control. Her gentle countenance was an inspiration to all. I was accustomed to seeing her every few weeks when she quietly vanished from my life. I thought of her often, left messages, but still no contact for the better part of a year.
And then one day she called.
In the midst of inquiring what the other had been up to she revealed the reason for her disappearance. A long season of high-maintenance-parenting. Sleepless nights followed by stress-filled days and conversations that leave a mother too heartbroken and exhausted to remember her own name--much less keep up good appearances. And if there's one thing I've noticed about about many Christian women, it's when a smile is too difficult to maintain, we often withdrawal for fear that someone will discover our families are not perfect after all.
Hannah and her husband provided a loving home for their children. But they were not immune to teenage rebellion--even as responsible Christian parents. She told me of the night her son was arrested and of his return home. In spite of everything, rock bottom had not yet arrived. His verbal attacks on her resumed, and a gentle woman snapped. She slapped him.
"How did this happen?" She sobbed. "We aren't violent people. Things like this don't happen in our home."
Tears of confusion, shame, and regret accompanied her fragile confession. I empathized with her and felt compelled to tell her about a time I lost my temper with my oldest son; the most challenging of three. When he was in high school I did everything I could to prevent him from smoking pot, to no avail. And he never denied smoking. When I inquired, he'd say, "Yep, I'm high."
He didn't care when I grounded him. It didn't phase him to lose privileges. When I took his bedroom door off the hinges he shrugged his shoulders without a care.
The severity of cystic acne had robbed him of a social life. (Kids can be cruel.) He spent most of his time alone in his room playing an acoustic guitar. And I often wondered how something so beautiful could flow out of someone so angry.
By senior year, he'd mastered the art of "pushing buttons." By then he demanded the freedom of adulthood--minus adult responsibility. A combination that would momentarily lead to my emotional demise. I can't fully recall the sarcastic remark he made in response to the pipe I'd found in HIS room. I do however, remember that it invoked a this-is-my-house meltdown.
I charged into his room, stepped onto his bed, and with a great deal of passion, ripped his posters off the wall. In no time, we stood toe to toe on his bed. After a few verbal exchanges that don't bear repeating, I grabbed the collar of his shirt. I won't sugarcoat it. I fully intended to remove his head from his shoulders and then ask God to heal him and forgive me later.
In the nick of time his step-father seperated us. Hours later when we'd all calmed down. I whispered, "You didn't have to intervene. My son would never physically harm me." To which he replied, "I wasn't afraid he was going to hurt you--I was afraid you were going to hurt him."
By the end of my story, Hannah's tears were transformed into the type of inappropriate laughter that often surfaces when pain is coupled with pure exhaustion. Grace swept her feet off the dusty road of condemnation and gently returned them to His merciful path of unfailing love.
"The Lord's acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; They are renewed each morning--great is your faithfulness!" (Lamentations 3: 22-23 NAB)
Moving on. We've covered the "fight" in "fight or flight," now lets look at the ways we "fly away." As a survivor, "flying away" (detaching) served a vital purpose--until I learned to trust God. I've since learned that clinging to destructive behavior is not only to my detriment, but to the demise of the very relationships I hold dear.
If you were sexually abused as a child, you know there are days when it's okay to be touched and days when it's not. You have no control over those days, and frankly, the rules of self-protection trump your intentions to give affection as much as they override your famiy's expectations to receive it. Everything from cuddling with your children to physical intimacy with your spouse. My loved ones had no way of understanding why some days I rejected their affection and other days it was welcomed.
So what's the solution? For me, the solution didn't come when I focused on why I was abused, although I certainly started with that question. Somewhere along the journey, in the midst of ranting and raving and flying away, God revealed a tiny-big question that smoldered in my heart the way personal belongings do when a house burns to the ground:
Jesus, who are you? And who was I supposed to be before thousands of unwanted touches?
That's when Love's answers began to unfold. The answers didn't come in an instant. I didn't heal or forgive overnight, rather, Grace gave me the resolve to walk it out--mountains, valleys, and everything in between. Over time and under no condemnation, I awakened to how beautifully my hand fits in my Savior's. And I've never let go. Mostly we walk together nowadays. Sometimes I ride high on his shouders. Other times He carries me.
It's the very presence of God in our journey's that transform us. How we feel from one day to the next has little to do with the healing He offers if we resolve to turn to Him with our broken, abused, and abandoned hearts.
All that to be said. I still encourage you to find a good therapist who specializes in abuse. They are gifts from above. But please consider that if you refuse to spend time alone with Him, authentic healing and forgiveness will evade you no matter how active you are in church or how many Bible studies you complete.
"Now therefore," says the Lord, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm." (Joel 2: 12-13.)
- Do you have a tendency to rant and rave (attack) or do you quietly detach with no explanation (fly away/abandon)?
- Who feels abandoned when you detach? Spouse? Children? Friends?
- Are you willing to ask Jesus: Who was I created to be before________?
Intimate time and conversations with God are a necessary part of healing. Will you commit to spend time alone with Him each day?
If you're uncomfortable confessing your deepest feelings/emotions, consider writing Him letters. Too long? Try three sentences. Freestyle it. Don't over-think it.
You got this. And God's got you...
God, please be gentle with me. I'm fragile. Please reassure me that I'm safe in your hands.
Published on Monday, November 5, 2018 @ 7:08 PM CDT
More today on the manifestation of "fight" in "fight or flight" previously introduced in Part 1. (Scroll down if you missed it.) Here's a personal story shared with sincere hope that rays of mercy illuminate God's unfailing love in human frailty.
Here Comes Your Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown
For a longer period of time than I'd like to confess, it didn't take much to "ruffle my feathers." I saw conflict as an open invitation to verbal combat.
All forms of combat must eventually come to an end. The warring parties agree to cease fire, and then they must face the emotional wounds of those who are innocently affected by war--children. Children were not created to lie in bed at night with pillows wrapped around their sweet heads in an attempt to quiet the sounds of the war down the hallway. Sadly, my own children (now adults) have done just that.
Today, it's no longer my nature to shout at the top of my lungs. Today, I understand that disagreements are not a call to war. I'm aware that my destructive reactions to conflict stemmed from the depravity of my childhood. And I am reconciled in Christ. Forgiven. By God's grace and merciful love, I am the mother He created me to be. The parent I longed for as a child.
If you've recently lost your temper with a loved one, don't beat yourself up over it. No condemnation in Christ, remember? (Romans 8:1) Take responsibility for your actions. Confess, receive forgiveness, make amends where you can. Ask God to reveal what motivated you to behave this way in the first place. And remain open to His answer. He will answer. The real mystery is, how will you respond to the insight imparts?
"Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found in the upright" (Proverbs 14:9).
1. Do you have a tendency to rant and rave when you feel threatened?
2. What does this look like behind closed doors?
3. What would you like to do differently?
Eternal Father, I am not myself today. I haven't been myself in a long while. Have mercy on me and my loved ones. Sometimes I trust You, other times I struggle. I want to trust You with my pain, but I'm afraid. Grant me the grace to continue to seek You and believe that one day my past will truly be behind me. Forgive me for the destructive reactions I have behind closed doors. Redeem me. Teach me to let You love me. Teach me to love myself and others. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Published on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 @ 8:47 AM CDT