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"Many times they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me" (Ps 129:2).
[Group Therapy for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Circa 2003]
I did it. I made the call. I scheduled the interview. And then I chain-smoked all the way to the first meeting. I didn't want to be there. But more than that I didn't want my horrific past to be my past. I wanted a new and improved past. After seven years of child abuse I didn't think it was too much to ask.
We met with our counselor once a week. Every Monday I begrudgingly showed up with my seriously crappy past. There were ten of us. That's a lot of crappy past in one room. At times our stories bled together and the shared pain (as much as I hated to feel it) left me feeling not so alone. That was something new. But I didn't understand how to navigate through anything new. New is unpredictable and therefore, frightening to survivors.
Could I truly embrace a healing process that threatened how I managed to get from one day to the next? Coping skills may be nothing more than artificial light, but I'd come to depend on that light to navigate around the shadows of something I'd spent most of my life avoiding.
But it was time. It was as if God had placed an alarm clock inside my heart and programmed it to alert me the previous year. Of course I did what most people do when alarm clocks go off. I hit the snooze button. I continued to hit the snooze button until He allowed my circumstances to supersede my outward ability to cope. God out-managed me.
I had a deep sensing that the future I'd prayed for would leave me behind if I didn't get up and get going. So, I got up and got going. I kept going even when it got really tough. I complied with the counselor's instruction. I learned. I worked hard. I did everything I was asked to do, but I wasn't free. Something was missing. That something was the word of God AND words with God.
Without realizing it, I'd resorted to the management of my own healing. Yes, the steps I'd taken were positive steps, but apart from the word of God AND words with God, the mere counsel of man (or in this case, woman) could not heal me.
I searched my Bible and held fast to Psalm 32:8: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. And then I got busy telling God everything. I told Him what I'd learned in therapy. I told Him I still hated the way I felt most of the time. I told Him it wasn't fair and I didn't understand why healing was such a long and difficult process. Didn't He think I'd suffered enough?
I talked. He listened. I prayed. He listened. I confessed. He comforted. I cried and He offered his sleeve in place of a tissue. Through it all He taught me to listen. One day a new alarm went off inside my heart: I cared. I cared about me. I cared about Him. The healing I'd sought was not nearly as important as the time spent with my Healer. Christ was and is the prize. I remember thinking, if I don't heal, I have Him.
No attack from the enemy can eclipse the Love and light in my heart. He rescued me from "coping." My heart was under new management, where victims become survivors and eventually, thrive.
I continued to seek healing from the effects of sexual abuse. I read Scripture daily. I memorized it; spoke it aloud throughout the day. When I couldn't sleep, I meditated on specific bible verses. There were nights when I slept with an open Bible across my chest. I struggle to explain how this works. I only know that somewhere along the way professional counsel coupled with His Divine counsel pierced the deepest pain in my heart and darkness scattered. The time it took was a blessing, not a curse. Bonus: Today I have peace in my heart. He didn't give me a new past, rather, He made me new.
Has an alarm gone off in your heart? Is it time to be made new? How many times have you hit the snooze button? Perhaps it's time to face a painful past or walk through a circumstance you purposely avoid. You can do it. You will not walk alone.
I encourage you today to pray for the grace needed to get up and get moving. Do one thing different that challenges your "life management" skills. Choose a scripture that speaks to the deepest need in your life today. It'll either "jump off the page" when you're reading the Bible or resonate in your heart when you hear it.
You cannot go wrong talking to God. He's a great listener.
Prayer: God in heaven, thank You for internal alarms. It's time to heal. I invite You to instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. Help me to take refuge in Your counsel as You faithfully watch over me. And prompt me to be receptive to those you place in my path to help me along the way. In Jesus' name, Amen.
What do you feel prompted to face today?
You are not alone,
Published on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 @ 11:33 AM CDT
He was my mother's new love interest after my parents divorced. I didn't like it when he slept over. I peered into the livingroom one morning and saw him lying on the floor in the make-shift bed he'd made the night before.
I crept in the way children do when they've been warned not to get out of bed again at night. He pulled back the blankets and invited me to join him. I clenched my sweet gown with one tiny hand, shook my head "no," and took refuge in my room.
I wore a pink dress to the wedding. In pictures, I grasp the lightweight chiffon with the same clenched fist--powerless over the heaviness of unwanted touch. Leaving the room was no longer an option, and what followed over the years to come forged a humiliating template for adulthood relationships.
Fast forward: April 2013
Me: I've just spent eighteen years in a relationship that shouldn't have lasted eight days. I am not unintelligent. And I'm always in a ten-week Bible study. How did this happen?
Psychologist: When you were a child, leaving was not an option. You learned to survive. But now the very skill-set that preserved you as a child works against you in your adult relationships.
Have you heard of a book called The Betrayal Bond?
What I learned that year:
I absolutely hated how my husband treated me most of the time but not once did I look in a mirror and think I don't deserve this. My brain was as bound to him as it was to the man who sexually abused me when I was a child.
That's how it happened.
The success of #MeToo is not solely contingent on public cries for recognition and demands for social justice. (Though necessary components.) It must include tangible steps to reconciliation and restoration. A re-forging of skewed relationship templates, beginning with how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to God.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself" (NAS).
I had no idea my mind played tricks on me--that "Mr. Right" was all wrong. After all, I'd prayed about our relationship before we married. But truth is, I'd yet to learn to love myself. Love for self came AFTER I conceded that God's thoughts are higher than my own.
There are two words, in my opinion, that every survivor should become well-acquainted with in the care of God:
If your "love" for a man extends beyond the capacity of your love for God and self, you will lack discernment in your decision making. (Trust me. I learned this the hard way.)
We get better together,
Published on Thursday, June 7, 2018 @ 7:58 AM CDT