As we enter into the Advent Season, I thought this post from April 2018 might be a good introduction to the season. Christ came to redeem a fallen world. For survivors of childhood abuse, that concept is often difficult to accept. The aftermath of childhood trauma is severe and takes hard work to overcome. In this post I share what I consider the most important aspect of healing, recognizing that I am not defined by the trauma, but by my identity in Christ and the fact that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I have struggled with a variety of habits, hurts, and behaviors for most of my life. My drugs of choice have included overeating to fill the emptiness in my soul, sex to avoid true intimacy and to punish myself, prescription drugs to numb physical and emotional pain. I also pushed people out of my life by being unpredictable and mean. I spent years searching for a way to change who I was because I did not like the person I saw in the mirror. I could not understand how anyone could possibly love the person I saw.
From powerless to empowered
For years I worked on the emotional issues created by an abusive childhood. Although I got better, my soul remained empty. I turned to deliverance and found relief, but the habits returned. I felt worse because I thought surely God had given up on me. Why else would everything come back? I was hopeless, powerless and empty.
Finally, I found a scripture that changed how I saw myself.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
I read the words: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” over and over. God did not create Charlotte Thomason, the overeater, the sex addict, the emotional disaster that I saw when I looked in the mirror. I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I was formed by Him for a specific purpose. My identity was not my bad habits, my behaviors, my thoughts. I was wonderfully made!
The first step toward changing my thought pattern was to change the way I talked about my struggles.
Although it felt strange at first, I no longer said I am a sex addict, or I am an overeater. Instead, I made one small change and began saying, “I struggle with sex and overeating, but I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I admitted the struggle but removed it as my identity. Each time I made this statement, the power of the struggle decreased.
I realized that changing my thoughts made all the difference in my actions. Stopping the negative thoughts before they took control and replacing those thoughts with a scripture about who I am allowed me to heal. I replaced the power of the struggle with the power of the Word. I stopped acting like an addict and began acting like someone who struggled. This did not happen overnight, but over time, the old behaviors occurred less frequently. Eventually disappearing from my everyday existence. The thoughts would creep back, but I knew how to stop them.
Knowing the truth puts things in perspective
Paul writes “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature, for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) He is not saying he cannot change, but rather his inner man cannot do what is right. He declares the need for something more. That something more includes changing just one thought at a time. Changing the thought that, “I will always be this way. It is just who I am.” To “I am a child of God who struggles with alcohol.” Just this one simple act can stop you one time from acting on the old belief of who you are.
One thought, one minute, one hour, one day is enough to make a change in your soul. You don’t have to climb the mountain in one day. You can climb it one thought at a time. You were not created as an ……(fill in the blank for yourself.) You were fearfully and wonderfully made.
I still struggle with overeating in times of stress, but I always return to the truth of who I am. I have never returned to the darkness of despair of 20 years ago. I know I cannot overcome the struggles in my life alone. I can only control my thoughts. I can replace negative thinking with what the Word says about me. I can stand on the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
You can do the same. Take the first step. Realize the truth of who you are. Allow God to walk by your side down the road of recovery.