Sunday, March 10, 2013

In reading back over the last 4 of my posts I realize how much healing has come in this past year. We have settled into the church I mentioned 4 posts back and not a bit of anxiety remains as I dive into the ministry opportunities available. I visited the person I was considering talking to in the post before last. He is my new pastor. He does not see me with judgement but with honor for my journey. I am not driven for attention and my identity is not found in my past. The theme in the messages shared for this year at church is finding wholeness in the 5 works of Christ: incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and His return. So far the truths I have learned through my journey have unfolded week after week. Today, a miracle occurred! I shared my journey in front of 100's of people. Maybe, to say that I shared part of my journey would be the more accurate statement. My pastor interviewed me for about 15 minutes in which I shared the basics of the abuse, the foundation of grace in my life that brought me through, the story of forgiveness of both myself and those that so hurt me, and finally the recent episode of my forgiving my betrayer. What is extra amazing is that all the prayer that covered me as I prepared completely defeated the anxiety I expected to feel. I experienced that anxiety for part of one day, contacted those who loved me asking them to pray, and even this morning woke to perfect peace. To stand up there on stage and see how far I have come - from horrible shame, anger, and pain to HEALING - what a celebration!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

As time passes, healing comes. I recently wrestled again with forgiveness. I just could not let go of the betrayal. To tell someone of your abuse in hopes of receiving help only to have that pastor re-abuse you..... Though I wanted to forgive and hated the fact that what I felt was hurting no one but myself, I could not move on. Holding it all before God, I waited. One day, sitting in bed reading, God spoke in that undefinable way. It was nothing like I expected. "Diane, what he did was horrendous." and suddenly I saw it clearer than ever. Clearer than I see it now. God seemed to part the fog my normal brain and I saw it as I think he sees it. Not judgmentally. Just in truth as if it was in His light. I realized then that He saw the sin committed against me much clearer than I did. That, all those years I didn't see it at all, God had seen it. Suddenly, I could trust God's justice because I knew nothing was hidden from him. How much clearer he sees everything....every heart, every action, every thought. For the first time, it was ok to just let it go. God is just. His grace and truth walk together and work together.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gregor's Scars

I recently finished a series of books written for the middle grades audience by Suzanne Collins, the author of the Hunger Games. In this series Gregor falls beneath New York City into a world few know exist. Over the course of the 6 book series, Gregor is brought into this underworld to fulfill prophesies written hundreds of years before. As fate carries him through the story, he fights battles he does not want to fight. He finds himself caught up in warfare that changes him from the 12 year old boy to the warrior. Finally a precarious balance of peace is reached in the underworld and Gregor returns to his former life above. He wonders how he will fit in with his scar covered body and heart. Like Gregor, I, too, am wondering how I fit in. The scars of the past are real. My choice to not let the past define who I am is also real. I find myself in an odd precarious balance between moving on with my life but carrying the scars with me. I do not know how to keep the balance. In science classes, I teach a concept called homeostasis. Our bodies work very hard to maintain this state of balance in our bodies. Our brain and liver and kidneys communicate non-stop via hormones to keep every molecule we need within the proper boundaries. If homeostasis is lost, we cannot survive. I do not want to be labeled with my past, yet it is a part of who I am. Any time I have shared it, my story has tainted my environment. On the other hand, I believe in transparency and its power to bring God's grace into others lives. Is there a spiritual homeostasis that exists between these two truths. There is someone I want to talk with. Do I? Or, don't I? Is it my need to receive from a person empty acceptance or is it the Holy Spirit?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Temptation

Before Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, he spent 40 days in the wilderness. Before those 40 days he was baptized in the Jordan River. Water dripping off of Him, God the father spoke providing Christ with his true identity. "This is my son. I love him. I am pleased with Him." (Di's version) Then boom, the Holy Spirit lead him into the desert and he suffered temptation from Satan. Those temptations were for stuff (bread), fame (cast yourself off the building and let the angels save you), and power (rule the earth).

This is what I heard in church this morning. What follows is what I thought.

At 9 I was baptized. I didn't really understand, try as I did, what grace really meant but I knew it was important. A few months later, bam, I found the pornography that caused me to pull away from my human father. This left a huge painfully confused gap in my soul. I no longer had someone to speak my identity as a child's father should.

At 14, a college student shared his recent encounter with Jesus and this time I understood. I gave Him my heart and experienced the love of Christ within. A few months later, my cousin told me of her abuse at the hands of her brother in law but instead of running the other way, I ran to him, hungering for the attention.

At 17, I was engulfed by the Holy Spirit after crying for weeks to God that there must be more to this Christian walk. Within the month, Bob arrived on the scene as my new youth pastor and I chose his affirmation of my feminine self over what the Lord had to give me. For the next 4 years, hell reigned on and off in my life. And, for all these years since, I have battled against shame and the hunger for attention and affirmation from those in authority - whether it be church or school or work.

Three major steps in my life followed by three major temptations - all that I failed to conquer. Thank goodness Jesus did not fail, for in my failing, there is now the mercy and grace of God to hold on to.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Radical Love


I have been reading Philip Yancey's book, What Good Is God? For several years prior to my beginning this blog, as well as the first year or so of writing it, I questioned God's existence. Reading anything faith based caused such enormous anxiety that I avoided it in order to survive each day. Then my sister-in-law mentioned, in passing, her love of Philip Yancey's writings. I bought her a book she asked for and simultaneously purchased The Jesus I Never Knew for myself. Later I bought What is So Amazing About Grace.

These two books were the only faith based writings I could read without experiencing panic. Yancey asks the hard questions honestly and without wincing. In reading his books I found company. I was not alone in my questions.

During this season, my faith was literally reduced to the cross. I discarded much, questioned all, but when faced with the gift of Himself for me I knew I still believed. The cross was too radical to be fiction.

An agnostic I worked with once mentioned the ridiculousness of a God who would sacrifice himself. In response, and to my own shock, I responded: "That is exactly why I believe. No one would EVER make up something so ridiculously illogical." In all the other religions, god's are demanding not giving. This one element, grace, became the only sure truth for me.

During this season I sought the answer to why? "Why did this happen to ME? Why, TWICE in my life, did a pastor sexually exploit me?" From this question came terrible conflict. I saw only two possible answers - either something was wrong with me or something was wrong with God. Either I deserved the abuse or God did not love me. I vascillated between my anger at myself and my anger at God. Shame was the ultimate result.

Through the struggle, I found a third option - free will. God granted the human race free will. God is love. Love means relationship. Relationship can only occur in the presence of free will. I got to choose. Bob got to choose. Minton got to choose. The church got to choose. Sin resulted in pain. Pain I have lived with for 40 years.

However, not only have I experienced the pain but Jesus has felt every ounce of it - at least this is my belief. He feels my pain. What sacrifice.... Jesus gave up the distance between the throne and the world's pain. He knows within his consciousness our pain. This leads to a different "Why?" with the only logical answer being relationship. God so desires relationship with us that He is willing to give us choice and accept our sin and pain.

Without free will there is no love. Without the freedom to choose, my husband's love for me is empty. If I do not have the freedom to leave, then my love for him is robotic. Only in free will can we love each other.

In the end, the question as to "Why did this happen to me?" is no different from why did 9/11 occur or why did the holocaust happen? The answer is in relationship. God so longs to relate with me, his creation, that He cried as abuse occured but by letting go, something all parents must do, He gave me Himself.

In that gift of Himself there is no place for blame. Abuse did not happen because He did not love me enough. Abuse did not happen because I deserved it. Abuse happened because God and Jesus love me so much they would not take free will from me or the rest of their creation. In that reality, I suffered but I did not suffer alone.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Growth

That last post sounds really good and I hate to ruin it with a new post that isn't so up. Yet, such is life.

Over the past two years my heart has longed for a church that allows the lay people the opportunity to pray for others and to minister healing through that prayer. Two months ago, my husband and I began visiting around for the place God wants us during this season of our lives. The day we walked into CCC we both knew this was it. The Spirit was sweet and the people loving. More importantly, the church was being the church. Sure you could spot one of the pastors because he had the microphone on, but without that you would be hard pressed to figure out who were paid ministers and who weren't. I had given up hope of finding such a place where lay people are being equipped to express their gifts.

The excitement has given way to fear. The gifts of God bubble up inside of me only to be snuffed out by what seems an irrational and unfounded fear of being rejected and unwanted.

I attended a crisis recovery group last week sponsored and staffed by the church. I was so nervous my heart started palpitating. Here is the opportunity to share. Here is the chance to give instead of take - though I fully expect to receive plenty. Here is what I have longed for.

Instead of running into the Lord's calling, I could not go tonight. To share with someone else, my addictions and shame (it too surfaced again) is too frightening. Just when I thought I had my identity firmly outside of the past, the past rears itself to cover me once again in the shame. Will I ever break free of this monster?

One scripture has helped. "Jesus endured the cross, despising (refusing, rejecting, ignoring) the shame...... Jesus refused to embrace the shame of being crucified. He endured the most shameful experience of his day, but he did not allow it to define him. I may feel like the one thrown out of the church, the one shunned, the one forgotten, but by HIS mercy I can turn my eyes to the truth. Not once has God forgotten me. Not for one nanosecond has Jesus discarded me. Never has He shunned me.

Jesus, son of God, savior, have mercy on me, a sinner! Help me not to turn to men's approval again but to yours. Set me free, Lord.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Comment


A comment from a reader brought me back to blog a new post. So much has happened since I began this blog - the most exciting is my freedom. I think we only know of our freedom as time passes and it holds true. The most telling change is my new identity. When I think of who I am, I no longer think of the abuse. I was able to let it go as a major part of who I am.

All the folks at my church who knew of my abuse are gone. The pastor moved on to new pastures. The associate has returned to school for a degree in counseling. The only other member with knowledge of my past is taking a sabbatical. For the first time, I am content to tell no one. At one time I had to have the continued reinforcement that I was ok in order to function. I do not need for anyone to know. Neither, do I feel a need to hide the past if it will serve the needs of someone else.

I have restored relationships with those who knew me during those years of turmoil. We have not discussed the past. Perhaps one day it will come up but I have chosen to not reach for their acceptance of me or to defend myself in hopes they will finally "see" the truth. The good times are defining our relationship and it is moving forward. Perhaps one day I will direct them to this blog - but only if I am sure it is needed.

I have been away from therapy for months now. I dropped back in for a session a couple of months ago to work out one issue. I did just that. I didn't reawaken a fear of leaving. Being there didn't cause me to grab hold and hang on for dear life. My craving for approval is so much less that I have managed to lay low and work and stay out of people's hair. I actually managed to stay out of the principal's office for a whole year!

My life now centers on my husband, my family, my job, and my hobbies. My relationship with God is integrated into all areas of my life. I once again truly believe in a righteous Father and a merciful and grace filled savior.

I still think of writing a book. I knew I had to reach a healthy level of freedom before I tried to do that.

Blessings out there in the blogging world. Yes, there is freedom and healing from abuse.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Victory


Each little victory over shame deserves a trumpet blare.

A few months ago, a very old friend who became entangled in my abuse story contacted me through facebook. My heart raced.

For years I had traveled back to my home town, always fearing who I would meet. The shame I carried was so encompassing that I was nauseas at the thought of running into those who knew my "secret". But this time, contact came easier. I reached out to a few others who I found on her friend list. Some seemed glad to hear from me, others not. One had forgotten I existed.

These reconnections have given me the opportunity to find my identity in the present and not in the past. And, I have done it!

I have fought so hard for this freedom. I never really believed I could get here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Leaving It Behind


"Leaving It Behind" was a constant nudging from Stephen during my year + of therapy. I saw myself through the abuse. It was a large part of my identity. Being unfinished business, I was driven to tell others about it in order to receive the acceptance I could not give myself. Years ago I hid it, out of shame, but the wound finally burst open and it became something I HAD to talk about to those closest to me. As 10 years of therapy progressed the need to receive other's acceptance decreased.

This blog was started out of a need to be heard. At first I emptied my soul. Over time, the drivenness decreased and writing became an obligation. My posts have become less because my need is less. Thus I have written little of my time with Stephen.

The reason I worked with Stephen was his "pastoral" label. I needed to finish up with a pastor and Stephen was the one - though I had a hard time at first convincing him of that. My fiasco with Paul, my persistence, and my belief God had sent me to him finally convinced Stephen to make the time to see me on an extended basis. The very fact that I could persist and not crumble at his reticence to extend himself further in an already busy schedule, signaled an inner strength I had gained through years of work.

Stephen's nudging to "leave it behind" directed my thoughts toward a life in which my identity was found in the present. That is how God sees us. Like taking off a thick and heavy coat, allowing it to fall to the ground, and walking forward lightly clad in the warmth of God's present day; I have left behind my old identity.

New wine. New wine skins.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Staying Present


I ended my therapy with Stephen - both a time for celebration and grief. Trusting my gut, I feel finished for now. Not having written a lot during this year of working with him, I thought it would be good to jot down a few of the important things I learned. Some of these are "staying present", "it is all about relationship", "living life to it fullest honors God," "calling on mercy" and "leaving it behind".

Perhaps, the most impacting lesson was "staying present". Focusing on the actual moment I am living reduces my stress when anxiety hits. Staying present also allows me to avoid mental journeys to places I do not want to go. At first this was a very difficult idea to practice. My mind chose to do anything but to stay in the immediate.

Growing up, I used my imagination to meet many of my emotional needs. I continued to do so in my adult life, if not to the same extent. These journeys into the worlds I created became an escape from the present and a place that soothed me inside. They always involved authority figures and my interactions with them. Many times it involved sexual dynamics of acceptance and desire. These journeys became an addiction.

With abuse came another expression of this addiction. A longing seemed to explode up and out of me whenever I related to anyone in an authority position. This longing for attention.......approval........acceptance......recognition ruled my internal life. The hunger was intense. It was tormenting. I feared I would do something, anything to satiate my hunger.

In my early years of therapy, the addiction to this authority approval, governed my thoughts 90% of my free time. Since I was back in college, studying took over a hunk of my thoughts and was my one place of relief. No wonder I made A's. The rest of my mental energy involved relating to my therapist, Cheryl. I was enamored with her. I fell in love with her. I thought constantly about her. I was the child in love with the mother. Years passed and with therapy the addiction decreased. I grew up - more slowly than I wished - and little by little thoughts tended to stick less on authority figures. But, it wasn't gone.

Stephen called it an addiction. I had called it that with previous therapists but no one else had. Stephen named it but didn't judge it. It was a fact and we talked about it as such - always with God's grace and love surrounding it. Naming it was the first step towards freedom.

Staying present fights the addiction when it begins to rumble inside. Having found that safe place inside of me, focusing on the present and "going home" to that safe place breaks the urge to run to imaginings. When I feel drawn to authority and my thoughts long to go there, I focus on the present - what I have, who I am, where I am, what I am doing.

Learning to stay present was the first strategy Stephen offered me. Interestingly, staying present is not something he was taught, but something he stumbled on in his own struggles in life. A pearl he learned and offered me. A pearl that has helped set me free.