Monday, April 30, 2007


"You will see the truth and the truth will set you free."
But, it ain't that easy, especially when the truth is about me! You will see the truth .......and cry and hurt and fear and be sad and feel hopeless and run and ........well, you get it. Seeing truth is one of the hardest most challenging issues in our lives. But, if we have the courage to slowly but surely face it, we will find freedom.
One of the most challenging truths I have had to face about myself is the fact that I am not healed and may never be completely whole emotionally. When I entered therapy years ago, I calculated to myself that it would probably take a year and a half of weekly visits to cure what ailed me. Instead I began a road that crumbled into a million pieces, took me through deep sand pits, bumped me along washboard clay, covered me in dust, and often coursed close to the edge of the cliff.
When I struggled to make some reasonable distance in the self-allotted time, the drive was nothing but frustration and a sense of failure. But if I take that same road and view it as one of my favorite drives in the mountains, dust and bumps slow me down so I can see the great views on the sides of the cliffs. Life is no longer about arriving but about the journey.
Freedom isn't in finishing the journey, but in the acceptance of one's limitations.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

To Err Is Human And To Admit It Is ........

What do you think? Why is it so hard to admit our mistakes? Why is it even harder to let ourselves be imperfect?

I arrived here on this planet as one who wanted perfection and expected it out of myself. My first grade teacher told my parents not to put pressure on me because I put enough on myself. I have always tended in that direction, but after the abuse, it got much worse. An "A" in school wasn't good enough. I had to be top of the class. I had to be perfect to fix the mistakes I had made. Even now when a significant mistake first surfaces, my heart often skips beats and the blood rushes to my face.

When I have been able to admit the mistake instead of defending myself, I feel much better and it often throws my criticizer off kilter. Their heart softens, and they hear my humanness and suddenly it is OK for them to be human with me as well. I have had parents melt and give me big hugs. I have seen students in shock because never before has a teacher apologized.

Let me share a couple of stories:

My great aunt Bertha was the middle child of 3 sisters. I loved her. It wasn't until my grandmother and other aunt died, that I came to spend more time with her, and to discover in the midst of her own uniqueness, she had a good lesson to teach me. I visited her one Christmas when she told me she had burned the turkey the weekend before when family were coming to visit. I think my reply went something like this, "That must have been frustrating. I get so angry with myself when I do things like that." Bertha just laughed and said, "No, I just said, well there goes that stupid Bertha again and laughed." I decided then and there that she was my hero. She was my first lesson in "it is ok to make a mistake."

Yesterday, I received a call from my principal over the intercom. "Mrs. D, I need that progress report we discussed earlier!" The angst in her voice was louder than decibels of her voice. Now, lately with hormone changes, I am a lot like my Aunt Bertha when it comes to forgetting things, and for a moment I pulled a complete blank. I remembered printing it off and I remembered thinking, "OK, I got that done," but I couldn't remember actually giving it to her. I hesitated and replied, ".....Didn't.....I....already give that to you?" "No maam you did not!" returned crisply through the speaker. "I thought I did.....?" I replied with some hesitancy as I tried desperately to pull up the memory. All this time my students were quietly and intently listening to this verbal exchange. "I need it before the parent arrives!" "OK, I will...." Click and off went the intercom. My students were all looking at me with some pity as they understand the concept of being in trouble with the principal. One student responded with, "Mrs. D, they always cut you off." I just shrugged and smiled and pointed to the kids giving their presentation and nodded for them to finish, as suddenly the memory surfaced. I had not only given her the print out, but we had discussed a make-up assignment that I would either send home with the kid or send to her office. I was waiting for the students to finish with their presentation when the intercom clicked on again. This time it was the secretary, "Mrs. D, Mrs. J found the report." I smiled, nodded and said, "I remembered...." Click! "....that I had ......." Oh well, I intended to tell her that I had already given the kid the make up work, but I learned long ago that Mrs. J can't handle being wrong.

Now as I compare these two human beings, I can say that I fall somewhere between them. I have not surrendered to the fate of my aging brain so readily as Bertha had and can't always laugh at my forgetfulness, but I have worked to learn that it is OK to make mistakes. I learned this lesson by asking myself how I would respond to someone else who made the same mistake. Why, I would probably be quite compassionate and have a lot more grace for them than I usually do for myself. Then I apply the same response to myself. I use this any time I panic once a mistake is unearthed. It works. And then there is the....

It is OK to make mistakes. It is OK to make mistakes. It is OK to make mistakes..... I practice it a lot and I almost believe it. :-)

Being able to admit our mistakes opens doors with others, that slam shut when we can only become defensive. I used to try to bridge the gap between administration and faculty but I gave up a year ago due to similar instances. I can't change my principal. I wish she was capable of learning from me. If she was, I would teach her the lesson I have learned. People do not like others who are perfect. Perfect people intimidate us. People open to and give their best to those who, like themselves, make mistakes.

In the classroom, I mess up all the time, and when I do, I use it as an example to my students. I often laugh at the little mistakes and shake my head and shrug if it is something minor and I do not hesitate to apologize when I hurt them in some way or correct them when they are not guilty. It develops a wonderful report that leads my kids to say, Mrs. D is cool. I wish I had that relationship with my principal. I wish for her that she could find the peace in knowing, "It is ok to make mistakes."

Confronting My Abuser

This post is a work in progress. It isn't something finished or refined. As a matter of fact, I will probably come back and edit it each day until I get it right. Or it feels right. This is hard. This is my healing in progress. It has taken 20 years to get here so if you aren't here or never get here, it is ok. My healing isn't your healing and I honestly wouldn't suggest that anyone do this as no one has suggested it to me.
I am planning on contacting my abuser, Bob. My therapist gave me an assignment - to write my script. So I am going to take a swing at it. I keep having to tell myself there is no right or wrong in this. God will take the truth and use it, if he lets Him. So here we go:

"Bob, you damaged me to the extent that 34 years later, not a day passes that I am not affected. Every morning and every evening I take medication to manage my anxiety. Every relationship I have is or has been impacted by the abuse - including my relationship with God.

The greatest damage, as a result of your behavior, was the shame I took away from the defilement. I was convinced something was wrong with me. After all you didn't molest all the girls, I don't think, just me. I knew nothing about power relationships or control issues. I only knew for some reason I attracted the abuse like a magnet. On the second day I saw you, our first time alone, the abuse began. That is predation. Four days after I met you, you shamelessly sodomized me. Three weeks after we met, you took my virginity. What did I do to deserve that? I loved God and was president of the youth group and went by your house to welcome you to town. I showed you kindness and you responded by using me and taking from me my self respect and emotional health.

I was a child. I thought like a child. You were the adult and you used me.

For the next 15 years I hated the part of myself that let you hurt me, in hopes that I could keep it from every happening again. Then I spent another 18 years trying to undo all the self hatred.

During the 5 years after I reported you, I questioned God to the point of His existence. Six months ago I returned to church, a Disciple's Church, still unsure of His existence and very unsure of his goodness. I was healed enough to go to church and take my mom, only I wasn't healed enough to hang around long without some painful consequences. It took about a month and panic and pain found me. I made the mistake of sitting and talking with 3 youth - all 17.

My insides fractured open. I cried. I shook. I took xanex. And this was after 6 years of good therapy and hard work. Bob, it angered me that what you did to me still had that power over me. I determined at that point that the abuse would not control me and that is at least part of why I am facing you today. In choosing to contact you and confront you, I am taking control.

I had two choices as far as church went, I could run or I could fight. I chose to fight - not you, but the hell inside of me. If I was going to panic then I was going to have a pastor that knew why. I emailed Tom and via email and multiple meetings I shared with him my 34 year journey. His response was admirable and holy. He apologized for what you did to me, he said it disgusted him, he hurt for me and with me, and he prayed for me and did not prey upon me. He has been Christ's vessel for me.
I have told so many people now that it is not really difficult to talk about it and little shame is still attached. As a matter of fact, if you knew where to go, you could read about it all on my blog. Perhaps it is my way of breaking free of the promises you forced out of me to never tell anyone. I have now told the world - though, I have spared you of the pain of using your last name or your families names or my name or told anyone where you live. You see, as much as I need to speak the truth, I can't find it within me to hurt you.

Even when I reported you to the regional office and discovered your daughter was about to be married, I insisted that you not be confronted until after the wedding. I think the regional minister did some pretty fancy footwork to assure all were safe and well at your local church without alerting you to what you were about to face. I didn't know if your family knew of any of your sexual addiction, but I could not bear the thought of hurting you or them at a time that should be filled with joy.

It is not my desire to hurt you now, but it is my desire that you face the truth of what you cost me. And, there are questions I have that I hope you will answer honestly.

What in the world were you thinking when you approached me at my brother's funeral and told me the two of you had become close friends? I felt raped. There I stood with my own 17 year old son. My son who was the same age as I was when you exploited me. I had not seen you for years and without any remorse you walk up with seeming unawarness of the impact you had carved in my life. You even invited me to come visit you and your family. That was not reality Bob. You were either in serious denial or choosing to prey upon me again. I knew at that point that the degree of repentance that you had experienced was lacking of any depth if it existed at all.

I believe healing requires truth as does repentance. I hope my reporting you caused you to face the truth, and I hope it led to brokeness and healing. I hope today brings more.

Why? Why did you become a sexual addict and predator? Who abused you?

What did you feel and draw from the abuse? Why the need to control me?

What do you remember? What have you wiped out of your memory?

Why did you tell me when I tried to stop it all, that I could not have the attention or a friendship without the sex because we had already crossed that line?

How could you try to pimp me off on your best friend, Charlie?

Does your family know? (And no I won't tell them.)

I heard you got help. Why didn't you ever make sure I got help?

How could you face my brother and build a friendship knowing what you did to me?

Did you deny to the regional minister, the relationship you had with Barbara? Why? What else did you lie about?

How much shame do you carry now? Brokeness is good but shame isn't. It will only lead you to abuse more.

Do you have support when you leave here? While I want you to face truth, I want it wrapped in the cross and His love for you. There is healing. I encourage you to seek more of it."

Alright my friends in the blogging world, be gentle, but I am open to your thoughts. This is real life, this is vulnerable. This is not made up. This is the cost of pastoral sexual abuse.


Confronting My Abuser: The Phone Call

I have reread the original post and so far I am good with it. I realized though that the phone call came first. I don't want to scare him away and I don't want to panic when he answers. So I will post my thoughts on what I will say.

"Hello Bob, this is *********"

(Sorry about the need to be anonymous. If you need me not to be, leave me your email address and I will email you.) I expect a moment of silence and shock on his end.

"I don't want to hurt you. I am sitting in the office at (name of church). Tom (last name) is sitting here with me. It has been a long time and I am ready to talk. Can you? Are you ready?"

Obviously where the conversation goes will depend on what he says after this but I am going to list some things I might say in the phone conversation.

"I need to face you. Would you be willing to drive over and meet me here at the church?"
"There are things I need to say, but my heart is that you will take away as much healing as I do."
"Tom will be here, but at some point I will need for you and I to talk by ourselves. Tom knows everything I can remember so there is nothing to hide and no reason to hide it."
"How have you been since the regional minister confronted you."
"Does you family know?"
"What are you feeling right now?"

I realized in the middle of writing this how important it is for me to picture those who are supporting me to be standing there with me.

I am feeling more ready. I am also feeling more scared.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pastoral Sexual Abuse

I have waited for years for this moment when I would take my journey out and share it with the world. My journey..........a romantic way of describing the pain of pastoral sexual abuse and the healing from its damage.

At 17, I was a senior in high school, president of my youth group, an A/B student, and a Christian hungering and looking for something more of God. In November of that year our church hired a youth minister, so as youth president I drove over to his house to welcome him to town.

I am 51 now and 34 years have passed since that fateful day. I still remember at that first meeting how I felt so adult in the way I was treated and welcomed. I left feeling both wanted and accepted and with plans to show Bob around the youth center the following day and to babysit for their daughter on Thursday afternoon while his wife attended a new decoupage class.

After classes on Tuesday, I sped out to meet Bob at the church, totally unsuspecting that the afternoon would change my life. My childhood ended in Bob’s office, but my adulthood hung stuck in the claws of abuse, only to disentangle itself many years down the road.

After meeting Bob in his office we walked over to the youth center. Bob was an amazing communicator and unlike anyone I had ever met he could talk about sex without being in the least bit awkward sounding. On the way back to his office he began to ask me if I had a boyfriend. “No, we broke up a few weeks ago.”

Before I knew it he was asking me about our sexual relationship and how far we had gone together. Right then and there I should have been shooting up flares and setting off warning beacons but I was totally naïve. The extent of my sexual relationship with Brian had been some light petting but once he had ejaculated. Bob asked me if he had also met my needs and when I replied in the negative, he responded that he should have.

After reentering Bob’s office we talked a few more moments and then Bob lifted my chin and kissed me. It was an amazing feeling kissing a mustached grown man. As I drowned in his kiss his hand dropped to my breast and then as quickly as it had started it ended. It is odd that I have no memory of any sense of sin or wrongness. I felt guilt over what I did in the back seat of my boyfriend’s Volkswagen but no sense of wrong over this kiss.

Two days passed with me constantly thinking of the kiss. After school on Thursday I showed up to babysit for Bob's wife to attend her craft class. That was a day filled with firsts. I changed my first diaper and later had sex with my pastor.

Bob came home early as I am sure he planned. Their daughter was down for her nap. I have no memory of how we got there but I remember receiving an education on the male anatomy and what felt good and how to do it and that it’s ok, it is sterile, people just swallow it.

It was two weeks – the 4th time I was alone with him, before I finally had intercourse with Bob. Afterwards, I sat down on the floor next to the bed, getting dressed, and bled on the carpet. Bob was pretty upset trying to get it cleaned up before Georgia got home. While he was anxiously trying to get the blood stain out, I was sitting in the den reveling in the momentousness of the afternoon. I was an adult. I was no longer a virgin. Wow!

I was totally oblivious to the truth.

As the year progressed, guilt began to eat at me. I had to stop. Tendrils of shame began to creep into my soul. I had to find some peace within myself. “Sure, I understand,” was Bob’s response. “It is ok. We can stop.” That is what he said.
What he did was ignore me. I was no longer special. I no longer had the attention that had fed me.

I couldn’t handle it. So, being the adult I was, I went and talked to him. Being the predator he was, he replied, “Once you have crossed that line, you can’t go back and have one without the other. It doesn’t work that way.”

He won.

It happened another time. He won then too.

The sexual and emotional abuse continued until I went off to college the next fall.

The church fired Bob about the time Spring quarter started. The story was that they just couldn’t afford to keep him but I think the truth is that he got caught with one of the ladies that helped him out with the youth. For whatever reason, he disappeared from my life for 30 years to reappear at another painful time in my life – my brother’s funeral. His appearance and seeming obliviousness to the pain he had caused, finally led me to report him to the denomination’s regional office.

But for many years I did not report him. At first I told no one and 34 years ago the power dynamic of abuse was not understood by many. The first time I did share my secret I did so to a pastor while off at college. I told the pastor that I had had an “affair” with my youth minister. I did not tell him that he was 32 and I was 17, nor did I tell him the predatory details of the relationship. He didn't ask. He was too shocked to say much of anything. The pastor withdrew from me completely. Perhaps it scared him or perhaps he had no idea how to handle it, but I FELT as if I had the plague and deep shame grew inside of me.

The second pastor I shared with was the leader of a small house church that was birthed in the charismatic movement of the 70's. After sharing with him and his wife, he began to pursue me. I fought off his advances until people began to pick up on something being wrong and threw ME out of the church. They never asked me what was going on. They only asked me to leave. That was probably the most painful experience of my life. Painful due to the intense shame involved.

At that point in the relationship I no longer had the strength to even try to stand against the pastor’s advances so I quit trying and gave in. The relationship lasted about a year before God extricated me from it in a rather painful way. I swallowed a yellow jacket that had flown down into my straw while we sat outside at a park. It stung me in the throat, my throat swole, and I thought I was going to die and I didn't care if I did, just please God don't let me die with this pastor and everyone find out what I have been doing.

I broke off the relationship and I’m still here.

I was ready to do whatever it took to end these nightmares in my life. I was convinced something was terribly wrong with me for this to have happened twice. I started attending a new church. The next pastor, after listening to the previous one's rendition of the story, asked me if I understood the seriousness of what I had done. I didn't, though I told him I did. I had no idea of the depth of the damage in my soul. I had forfeited all my self respect and filled my heart with wads of self hatred. I followed his advice and spent the next 10 years rising daily and reminding myself of the seriousness of what I had done. I erroneously believed this was the only way to prevent myself from ever doing such a thing again.

In the meantime I married a wonderful man who has supported and loved me since then. I never again entered any type of power abusive relationship but I was full of pain and shame and self hatred and fear of what resided inside of me.

The next time I shared, it was much better. The world was changing. The church was learning about emotional healing. This time the pastor of the church cried FOR me and the release from the shame began. That was about 20 years ago. His wife remains one of my best friends.

I went to several Christian healing conferences and got better but I could not stop the shame or self hatred. I read several Christian inner healing books. I knew God loved me and accepted me and I understood, in my head, the story of the prodigal son but I could not get past the self hatred and shame.

About 6 years ago I returned to college and discovered therapy was free. It was just in time because the plug was ready to blow and when it did a lot spewed out. There were many, many weeks that I spent at least 3 hours in Cheryl's office. Some weeks in the beginning I was in there every day. My life was an emotional hurricane.

I worked through a lot and learned how to stop the negative and constant self hatred. "What are you telling yourself, Diane?" was probably the most life changing question I have heard -right up there with "Are you satisfied with your relationship with God?" and “Will you marry me?”. I continue in therapy today.

This fall my elderly mom moved in to live with us and I began taking her to the local church in the same denomination in which I had been abused. This was a big step and I was excited that after a lot of work I could do it. My intent was to get her settled and then sneak out the back door. But, that first Sunday, I knew - as in I KNEW - God had healing for me in that place and that the pastor was safe and had a part to play in that healing.

Shortly thereafter some of the pain and ways of coping began to surface and along with them a wad of panic. I felt I had two choices, leave or face it and tear down this thing that held me captive. I was tired of Bob's abuse reeking havoc in me. I stayed and made an appointment with Tom the pastor. I told him via email what I had gone through. When we met he apologized for the damage the church, denomination, and pastors had done to me. It was quite a moment.

As I have continued in this newer level of healing, I have tackled new layers of shame and found newer deeper freedom. Amazing how one thinks there could be no more, only to discover there is yet another battle to win. In the midst of the new freedom I discovered forgiveness toward the abuser I did not think I could achieve. Not just a decision but a release from deep inside of me.

My journey will continue for a lifetime – as all of ours do. I no longer expect to wake up one day completely free of the past. Instead I expect the healing to continue and for opportunities to open that will allow me to share His Grace.

Why didnt' I learn this in church? (Contains gruesome mental images.)

For decades shame had a powerful hold over my life. Still, if I find myself struggling I immediately look for the shame and usually I discover another pocket of the foul stuff eating away at me in some undealt with area. I hated the part of myself that allowed me to be abused. I didn’t realize how much I hated until one evening I sat at my desk visualizing a scenario my therapist had suggested. I was working on loving the infant within me and visualizing the adult me giving the infant the nurture she needed. This is my account:

I was sitting where I am sitting now, in a small bedroom in our small house with
a computer and desk. I was practicing. In my mind I picked up the infant that was starving for nurture, ready to hold her and give her what she needed. Only this time, I felt anger and revulsion. Grabbing her by her feet, I swung her flaccid body against the concrete wall of my mind. In that waking foggy moment, I mutilated her, watching her blood run down the wall, witnessing it splatter across the room, seeing her skin shred and stick, hearing the crack of her skull. Over and over I beat her until she was unrecognizable.

The infant, unable to offer any care of itself is the perfect picture of need. I hated my neediness. Yet, I was full of it. I hated it because this vast yearning for specialness and care had driven me to more and more dependency on people. It was the reason I had been such easy prey for abuse. Most of the time I could hide it, but inside I wanted affirmation and approval with such intensity that only one thing stopped me from selling my soul - selling my soul had only made me worse.

The more I hated this neediness of mine, the more neediness rose up in me, and the more needy I felt the more I hated it. I had become a basket of emotional chaos and pain.

The scripture doesn’t talk a lot about self love and that bothers me, and yet without it how can we love our neighbors as ourselves?

Why is it that a principle that seems so important is so missing in scripture? Or is it there and am I just not familiar with it? Why is it that I had to learn this in a secular therapist's office rather than in church? Why are so many churches afraid of this concept and consider it humanism?

I tried to heal within the walls of the church but I found my healing in the office of an agnostic therapist? Why? Why couldn't I learn this in church?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Your Stuff, My Stuff

Have you ever felt like you were damned if you do and damned if you don't?
I think one of the worst situations I experienced occured five years ago when I was student teaching. The teacher I was working with seemed very kind and gentle at first but ended up being rather passive aggressive. When it was time for her to send in my first evaluation, she brought it to me in the middle of third period, interrupted me in front of the kids, to get me to sign it. I looked down, read my scores and was shocked! I was doing what I know now to be a great job, but I wasn't teaching her way. She had a bone to pick with the education department at the local university, and she put a lot of pressure on me to conform to her ways and not the ways I was being evaluated by the college. I was basically in a no win scenario. If I pleased her I displeased the university and vice versa. The approval seeker inside of me was in total turmoil the whole 8 weeks.
That lukewarm evaluation shook me. I was used to being the top of the class and making straight A's. It was all I could do to not cry right there in front of the 8th graders, but I had to teach on and that is what I did.
One of the ridiculous things she criticized me for was my physical management of the classroom area - where you position yourself, where the desks are , etc. Now, I found that rather confusing since I had changed nothing when I took over. I figured it worked fine and the kids resent too much change, so what I could leave alone, I did. After the evaluation I decided I had better change some things around, so I split some tables apart and combined some others. Two weeks later she returned to join me in the classroom. As I traveled down the hall that morning, I heard this loud "bam, bam, scrape, bam." There she was slamming the tables right back where they had been when she let me have the classroom, right in the exact same places which had merited me a less than average mark!
How I wish I knew then what I know now. I so worried about pleasing everyone and had no possible way of accomplishing it.
Now, I know to categorize such situations into "my stuff" and "their stuff." When people respond or react to me in what seems irrational or undeserved ways, I tended/tend to take it very personally and believe what I have believed in the past with abuse issues: "Something is wrong with me."
Now when someone treats me in a way that feels painful, embarrassing, or just flat wrong, I accept what is mine but leave them with what is theirs.
Take me for example: As a teacher, I have good days and bad days. The kids are usually pretty even, and most days I can handle 105 middle school kids pretty well without losing my cool. However, occasionally, I get irritable and grumpy. I may snap at the kids or jump on the whole class, but it has little if anything to do with the kids and everything to do with me.
So now when someone handles me poorly, I first think about what is mine and own it. Then I take the rest of it and mentally give it back to them. Their anger or rudeness or passive aggressive behavior is about them - not me.
This has proven an amazing way to free myself from that driving need of approval I have carried. It is seldom what others do that determines our behavior but what is inside of us. When you can turn that around and realize someone's tone of voice or attitude toward you is about them and not you, it decreases their power over you and allows you to move on to the rest of your day.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

What Are You Telling Yourself, Di?

This one is for you, Cheryl! Or shall I introduce you to the world as Dr. Y? Either way you were a great therapist and I miss seeing you regularly.

So blogging friends, let me tell you about the greatest lesson I learned while seeing the dear Dr. Y. She actually taught it to me the first or second session but it seemed to take me about 2 years to really internalize it and make it a valued part of my normal everyday thinking.

Do you know we have paths in our brains and to think differently we have to reform them? There are physical reasons, called neurons and synapses and dendrites, that make it hard re-learning and changing beliefs. Educators are taught that it is important to discover what a child knows and then to plug the added info into their knowledge. If the knowledge is eroneous then the work will be harder. Unlearning is not easy and most of us resist it naturally.

And as the dendrites thin with menopause.....well, learning is tougher as anyone like me who returned to college at middle age can tell you. The hardest lesson was the one that retaught me to relate positively to myself. I really had to work at it to make it my own and without Cheryl's frequent reminder I might have given up. I didn't think it would ever become second nature to me to cut myself slack but often it now is.

What did I constantly tell myself? "There is something wrong with me," was a pretty consistent recording sometimes worded as "What is wrong with me?" "I should not be needy." "Having need is bad" "If only this person would approve of me then I would be ok." "I have to be the best because then I will be special." "I am so stupid." All of these lies I believed and told myself along with a myriad of others.

Cheryl had this uncanny way of reading my thoughts and when I switched to judge myself mode she would ask THE question. "What are you telling yourself?"

At first she had to ask the question for me to remember to be careful with where my mind was taking me, but pretty soon I was asking it when I felt the panic inside begin to rise. For a long time, any time the anxiety or emotional pain started, I asked, found the lie, replaced it with the truth and walked around mentally saying the truth over and over in my head. Then slowly but surely I noticed I flipped into switching to the truth without consciously having to go through finding what I was telling myself. It became me. And then finally the truth rose up first as soon as the difficulty faced me and I never even flinched.

Most of the time now it works like a well oiled machine. The gears turn and I tell myself mistakes are ok, I dont' have to be perfect, I am allowed to be human like everyone else and have human needs, and what others say or think doesn't define me. I can take most blows that come at me and move on, but occasionally I get that call into the principals office and the heart pounds and I have to ask myself once again "Di, what are you telling yourself?" Disapproval by authority can really kick me hard but some time alone and "Di, what are you telling yourself" usually fixes me up pretty quickly.

I encourage you to try it, but remember it will take time to reprogram that computer in your head and lots of practice. Maybe tape THE question up around the house, or get a friend to remind you when you sink into the old ways of thinking. And always, try sitting in God's presence and hear his words to you. I guarantee you he is not telling you that you are stupid or have to be perfect or that abuse was your fault. He knew that shame and condemnation didn't work or he wouldn't have bothered to die and release us from the law that brought shame.

Forgive Him?

Forgiveness is a scary topic for me to share about. Two reasons: one, I do not want someone to EVER feel pressure to forgive; and two, I may open a can of worms here as far as my beliefs. Nevertheless beliefs change and iron sharpens iron; so, I am listening if you disagree and hope you will consider my thoughts.

If you are in the process of healing and do not think you can ever forgive then tell God. He will honor your honesty. He is a God of grace and the last thing He wants is for you to carry more shame over this issue.

The scripture has some interesting things to say about forgiveness and so do many books. The Lord's prayer refers to forgiveness; Jesus spoke of forgiving your brother 70 times 7. Rather than repeat things already said, I would like to share my heart and the fruit of my personal journey. These are some of my views that I will expound up0n:

  • Forgiveness is a process, it doesn't happen overnight.

  • Forgiveness comes in levels.

  • Forgiveness requires seeing the truth and fully facing the pain and shame.

  • Forgiveness finds us as we heal.

Forgiveness has taken me 34 years. Now, that doesn't mean that it took me 34 years to decide I should forgive Bob and Minton and the church that hurt me, or that it took me that long to choose to forgive. I decided that soon after breaking free of all the dynamics of those relationships. I was so very aware of my own shortcomings that to hold someone else's feet to the fire was impossible. Besides, I really believed I was equally at fault. It was the 1970's and 80's and not much was out there talking about power dynamics in sexual abuse. No one was even talking about sexual abuse at all. But now I realize that forgiveness has a lot of levels.

At first I chose to forgive and didn't find it very hard because I saw myself as extremely flawed and hated those flaws within me. Note that I did not see truth very clearly. I was full of shame and all those things that counter the work of the cross and grace.

After about 10 years the inner healing movements began to spring up around the country and through church I learned new principles of God's love and grace and mercy. It was at this time that I had a sense that God was not pressuring me to complete something quickly. As I slowly faced truths about the abuse and its damage to my life, I continued to "work at" the forgiveness. I felt that being honest with myself and God was far more important than demanding something of myself that I couldn't do. It became obvious to me during this time, that forgiveness was not sweeping things under the carpet and pretending they didn't happen. Neither was healing.

It is easier to sweep things under the carpet but I believe you can only forgive as you look at the horrendousness of the sin and looking at it requires one step after another in the healing process. Anger is one of the steps in grieving and facing the truth. An important step that no one should be rushed through.

I recently read a book by John Patton entitled Is Human Forgiveness Possible? What he proposes is that unforgiveness and blame and anger and finger pointing are ways we protect ourselves from the shame we feel. As the shame is defeated there is nothing for the unforgiveness to hang itself upon and it dissipates.

This is exactly what happened to me. I recently returned to the denomination in which the first abuse occurred and to a season of truth hitting me hard. I remembered forgotten and repressed horrors. I began to see things in ways I had not been able to see them in the past. I faced the degree the abuse had damaged me as I fell completely apart after 6 years of therapy. I felt more anger at Bob than I had ever felt. I hated him for hurting me in a way that was affecting me 34 years later. And I once again faced shame. Shame for having no control over my emotional state. Shame for the driving dependency inside. As I dismantled the shame and discussed the questions on forgiveness with my pastor, who I think agrees with me on at least the first 3 principles I shared, I chose once again to forgive the church only to find my heart toward Bob had completely changed. I have forgiven by facing truth, finding God's grace and mercy, and fighting the shame.

Forgiveness found me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Who Am I?

This is one of my favorite pictures, taken late in the fall on the Russell Scenic Parkway in the mountains of north Georgia. Like me, it is beautiful but damaged, living, surviving, creating, and renewing of life.

Like the insect torn petals, my soul was torn at the age of 17 when as a senior in high school, I was sexually abused by the new youth pastor of my church. Thirty-four years later I still bear the scars of this abuse.

Pastoral sexual abuse references and websites can now be found on the web and in a few books; but when I was desperately looking for others to identify with, others to tell me that my life could improve, others who had already cut through the ice of the Arctic waters for me to follow, there was little if any support. When I believed I was the only one, no one talked of such issues. As I broke the ice to barge forward in my healing, so I choose now to break the ice of silence and share my journey in the hope that others will benefit.

I am a learner. I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist or someone with all the answers, but I do know Someone who has the answers, Someone who has been faithful to lead me through the jagged ice and warm my soul along the way. I also know several faithful professionals who sat with me on the freezing ice bergs or encouraged me to keep my head above the chilling water for one more moment. Both have believed in me when I could not believe in myself - or them.

What I share in later posts will be my journey - past and present. It isn't and can't be someone else's journey but I hope others will find comfort in knowing they are not alone.

My own healing has taken 20 years and is not finished yet. The damage began at 17 and ended when I learned to stop blaming myself and believing that self despite could keep me safe from what raged inside. What others did TO me was defiling and very wrong, but the deepest damage I did to my own soul as self hatred grew inside of me. The deepest healing came as I learned to break free of the words of shame and substitute the words of truth.

So if you would care to join me, whether in the role of a fellow survivor, an encourager, or just someone curious; you are welcome to come along.

Blessings out there to the blogging world - I can't wait to meet you.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Why am I remaining anonymous?

This has been a hard decision, whether to publish my full name or remain anonymous. It seems imperative that such a blog maintain a level of integrity and honesty and safety. Anonymity seems to challenge that idea of honesty and adds a secretiveness to a place in which light should shine into all the cracks and corners. For this reason I would choose openness.

However, by profession I teach kids, kids who are ever curious and ever searching. Kids who know that Google has access to everything and everyone. Kids who in the past have typed in my name to find my school website. Kids who I care about.

Can you imagine the difficulty of explaining all this to a 12 year old? Do you know how quickly the rumor mill runs? Can you imagine having to discuss this in a principal's office with parents concerned about their child being taught by someone once abused? If you are a teacher, I am sure you can imagine it.

In the end, for now, this has been the deciding factor. I will remain anonymous. But let me reassure the reader that in this anonymity is no shame or desire to hide from truth or you. I stand fully in the light of truth and of the God of my beliefs. I remain anonymous to protect my students and myself. If you need past this anonymity, just leave me your email and I will email you. In time this may necessarily change and if God thus leads then I will trust to his protection. In the meantime.......blessings,