Abuse says a lot about a person. In some cases the abuser is crying out for help. In others, the abuser is attempting to make someone else cry in order to project the pain in their hearts onto someone else.
I went to school for a ton of different things (veterinary technician, English teacher, pre-med., film production, and theater acting, just to name a few) but I never went to school for psychology, so I can’t give you the exact explanation of what abuse says about an abuser.
I can however, tell you some of the things that abuse says to the abused.
Abuse says you’re worthless.
Abuse says you’re weak.
Abuse says you should be filled with shame for the part you have played within a certain situation.
Abuse says you deserve everything that has come your way.
Abuse says you are flawed.
Abuse says you are unlovable.
Abuse says you should keep your mouth shut.
Abuse says that the abuse will only get worse if you speak up.
Abuse says you’re the only one that feels this way.
For years I have foolishly listened to the things that my abuser(s) and abuse have spoken into my life.
But recently things have begun to change. Roughly a month ago, I felt God open the door for restoration and healing of some of the worst abuse in my past; abuse so dark and deep seeded that I had never told anyone about it. So when the opportunity for healing first came, my answer was a no brainer.
I said, “Oh hell no.” and slammed the door to healing shut, right in God’s face.
But true to His loving nature, the door swung back open less than a week later– A door which I promptly slammed shut once again… Only to have it swing back open yet again a few days after that…
Annoyed, it became fairly obvious to me that I was going to have to deal with my past.
For the first time in my life, I confided in a good friend about the abuse that riddled my past. For weeks I sobbed and screamed and was absolutely miserable as I worked to lay my pain and brokenness at the feet of Jesus.
Why are you making me walk back into this?! Why now?! Can’t we do this at a less stressful or more opportune time when I’m not trying to balance grad school, teaching, and having a social life? What the heck God!
What. The. Heck!
For the first time in years I was hit by wave after wave of depression and anxiety attacks, sometimes so vicious that I literally had to give myself a pep-talk just to get my tush out of bed in the morning or get out of my car and walk into work. Part of me was dying to talk about everything, but another part of me continued to listen to the voice lingering in the back of my head:
“Don’t say anything. No one will understand.”
And this is the state that I found myself in at the beginning of my students’ spring break leadership retreat– a trip that I was chaperoning.
In the days before the retreat, I began to second guess whether or not I should even go on the trip. After all, how was I supposed to lead a group of teenagers closer to God when I couldn’t even talk to God without spontaneously combusting? But against my better judgement, last Friday one of my co-workers and I packed two vehicles full of students and snow gear, and headed to Yampa, Colorado for a weekend away.
On our first evening of the retreat, our students were all given the opportunities to tell their stories– the good, the bad, and the ugly of what had landed them at the Street School and how their lives had changed since becoming a Bulldog. After hours and hours of listening, laughing, and crying together, we called it a night and retired to our respective rooms.
As I was sitting on my bed reading, one of my girls came in, plopped down on my bed, and asked if we could talk. There, in a room 150 miles away from our homes and comfort zones, we exchanged pieces of our stories that had been shared with only a select few– stories of hope, pain, and the beautiful redemption of God. And in a way that only God can do, a piece of my heart was healed that night– the piece that had long been kept isolated by the fear of my past.
The next evening after dinner and group Bible Study, I felt a pull on my heart to share my story– the very same story that I have kept under wraps for over a decade. As all of my students were going to bed, I called an “emergency girly meeting” and all of my girls congregated in my room. In possibly the most clumsy and panicked way, everything I had been holding in for weeks came pouring out. At the end of my bizarre spew of words and tears, I looked up to see all of my girls staring at me with wide eyes.
Terrified, I tried to adjourn our meeting. Telling them that I didn’t know why I felt like God was telling me to say all that, but I was just trying to be obedient… and yeah… that they could all go back to their rooms if they wanted… or that they could stay and talk… or hangout… or whatever…
As I sat there and rambled, I expected them all to hop up and walk out, but no one moved. I tried yet again to adjourn the meeting, stumbling over even more awkward words.
Slowly, after a few more moments of awkward silence that made me want to crawl out of my own uncomfortable skin, variations of the phrase “me too” were echoed throughout the room and the stories that had been shared the night before were expanded upon. Stories that we had all held in for years, out of fear of judgement or misunderstanding, became common ground and “No one will understand” became “I understand and I promise to walk beside you through this.”
And there, in the basement of the Fish and Cross Ranch, through tears, laughter, and stories God began to heal the hearts of five of His beautiful, beloved daughters.
Abuse tells us to keep our mouths shut– that our stories aren’t important, that no one will understand. But this weekend through the grace of God I learned that is the exact opposite of the truth.
How beautiful is it that He has blessed us with community, so that we never have to walk through life silent or alone?
Through Him, all things are made whole.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”