[First night of group therapy for survivors of child sexual abuse. Circa 2003.]
I'm not a fan of this circle. Too late to run, introductions are underway. One by one, we confess the nightmare of our childhoods. I liken it to watching a televised documentary on child abuse with no option to change the channel. My profile is up. I bow my head in shame and fight to hold back the tears my eyes are spilling. Am I crying? It feels more like bleeding. I look up to reach for a tissue and see these women for the first time. The hollowness in their eyes validates the hole in my heart deep as betrayal and wide as indifference. Intellectually, I know I'm not the only one. But I've yet to embrace this truth until I see the familiar pain in their faces. I am not alone. And I am right where I need to be.
[Six months later.]
Her name is Gracie. He father read the Bible to her at night before molesting her. She has associative identify disorder. She is a recovering cutter. And she has no desire to attend church (imagine that). She is twisted and honest and funny and I love her. She inspires me to reach for the Jesus who understands what I've been through, and He's mad as hell about it, too.
Gracie shares about a time she babysits at age thirteen.
She is broken.
We all know why.
And when she tearfully confesses a day she behaved inappropriately, our circle of broken embraces her. Not her broken behavior, rather, the fragmented being who now slumps before us in shameful regret. The group assures her. God forgives.
I am me.
The only me I can be in any moment--ever, and I have a peculiar way of peering into pain. It's one of the perks of surviving a senseless childhood with a steely determination to assign meaning to it all. Here's how I see it: For all we know, the toddler (now grown) of whom Gracie speaks, is sitting in therapy professing what a monster his babysitter is and how she's ruined his life forever. And for the first time in my own broken life, I half-wonder what broke the man who broke me.
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23: 34 NKJV).
The take away for me is that what Christ accomplished on the cross is for all of mankind. We all fall short of His glory. We all need forgiveness--whether we've sinned or fallen victim to the cruel and careless sin of another. When I'm honest with the woman I see in the mirror, I can concede that in this world I reside on both sides of the fence of sinning and being sinned against.
The only true "other side of the fence" is perfection--where the shed blood of Christ makes all things new. Grace has the power to redeem me when I trespass against you, and you, when you trespass against me.
If what I'm proposing prompts a single digit of disapproval, hold off if you can. If not, no worries. I've been there, besides, I'll be none the wiser. You gotta know, I did not invite you on this journey only to minimize your pain and your circumstances. I know how it feels when the pastor insists, "You must forgive,"--but you can't. I know the longing for validation, comfort, and justice. The rage of being discounted and the despair of feeling misunderstood. But I'm also familiar with the danger in thinking: I'm not perfect, but I've never sunk to the level "they" have.
We became the new them when the first drop of Christ's blood was shed on behalf of mankind. And Pumpkin, that includes me, you, Gracie, and a man clearly in bondage to evil. Darkness knows an us and them mentality obscures spiritual insight and hinders healing. Your healing is for you, rather than the person who harmed you. Forgiveness is for mankind; collectively and individually.
Jesus "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
us (abused) | them (abusers)
To those who've suffered abuse,
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Look up, not to the side. The Greek translation for forgive is aphie'mi. It means to lay aside, leave, let go. From apo and hiemi, which is to send forth, in various applications (as follow): cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, suffer, remit, yield up.
The earliest stage of forgiveness is when you choose to suffer and cry and yield up to Christ what has happened to you. You're gonna have to feel it, Pumpkin. Fix your eyes on Jesus and enter into your own suffering. You will heal. You will. And you will go in the strength of His unfailing love. And one day He'll ask you to give away the forgiveness that's been growing in your heart all this time. And you will have it go give. Forgiveness . . . the fruit of time spent yielding your broken heart to Jesus.
You are not alone,
Published on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 @ 1:48 PM CDT
"Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (Ephesians 4: 26--27 NKJV). Other Bible translations caution: do not give the enemy a foothold.
It's easy enough to rattle off this Bible verse to young married couples pouting over dirty dishes and overflowing waste bins, but how does it shake down for the woman in crisis due to betrayal/abuse?
In 2013, in the thick of divorce proceedings, I embarked on a path of forgiveness. A path requiring a treacherous trek through the five stages of grief, God willing, to be celebrated beneath a rainbow of acceptance overarching journey's end.
The 5 stages of grief, according to The Kubler-Ross model, are:
Here's an honest look at the anger I experienced in every stage:
- Denial: Anger expressed over trivial things due to my devastation over the minimization of the major things I could no longer deny.
- Anger: The outward expression (aka meltdowns) of inward pain caused by the blatant disrespect of a broken man, for me and the female gender.
- Bargaining: This was my "anger management" phase where like Esau (Genesis 27), I consoled myself with the thought of killing.
- Depression: In this stage I conceded to just how vulnerable a position I allowed myself to remain in for years, which included a parallel phase replete with rhetorical questions such as: Why did I eat, drink, smoke (nothing illegal), or text that? Followed with the tearful prayer: Jesus, please forgive me.
- Acceptance: In this stage I resolved to be angry, but I refused to allow the enemy's version of anger to define me. I took an intense feeling I could not redeem and placed it in the care and counsel of One who can. Turns out, Jesus was angry, too.
Anger was a staple emotion in every stage of grief for this bohemian bible-study girl gone wild with emotion. In The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships, Patrick Carnes, PH. D., writes, "Healthy anger expresses limitations--i.e., what is acceptable and what is not. Blaming anger recycles the history of betrayal and all the intense feelings that are part of a trauma bond."
We were created in the image of a loving God. A God with the capacity for anger. By design, it cannot go unfulfilled. The bohemian break-down in "don't let the sun go down on your anger" is simply: Be angry in the care of Light, where anger is put to good use. Don't be angry in the dark, where the enemy has his own ideas of it's full expression.
When I stopped trying to let go of the anger and allowed Light to hold me--angry me, I was empowered to believe that one day the sun would set on my personal anger (which often felt like a curse), and give way to a bright and shiny cause.
That cause is risen in me.
Be angry in the Light. What will rise in you?
You are not alone,
Published on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 @ 3:16 PM CDT