Father’s Day-A Reflection

Father’s Day was difficult for me this year. I experienced emotions that I have not experienced for years. I was angry, sad, and confused for most of the day. As I viewed the myriad of Father’s Day posts on my newsfeed, I wanted to scream, “I don’t miss my Dad!” I don’t have anything good to say about him!” Perhaps others who experienced abuse have similar thoughts on the day that honors fathers. The intensity of the emotion surprised me this year. I forgave my father years ago, but this year some of the old anger resurfaced. Most likely the feelings reared their ugly head because I am writing about the abuse I experienced. Whatever the reason, I wanted to share some of the thoughts that came throughout the day.

Forgiveness not Acceptance

My father stole my childhood and my innocence from me at a very young age. The abuse continued until I left home at age 18 to go to college. My father cared about only one thing-making certain I knew he was the only person who would “love me.” I was his property and his toy.

In his later years, my father was broken, disabled and senile. He never asked me to forgive him, but I did forgive him. I turned him over to God and let go of my need for revenge or retribution. The act of forgiveness came after I allowed myself to experience the anger, sadness, and loss of my childhood. Forgiving him did not mean I welcomed him back into my life. I did not.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, “I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you’re turning a central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before… slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”[1] As the years passed by, I saw my father turn into a shriveled, broken hellish creature who lost his grip on reality. I think there came a point when he relinquished his humanity for the pleasures of the flesh and he was lost for eternity. He died alone in a West Texas nursing home.

God was the consistent thread.

How do I celebrate Father’s Day with such a father? I always knew God was present in my life, but that may not be true for others. I am thankful for the prayers of many that kept me safe from death on more than one occasion. My father could not take away my faith. My heavenly father somehow always showed up when I needed Him most. I did not always understand God’s methods in my trials but looking back He was always there to save my life, direct my path or provide a comforting word. God’s actions modeled what my father should have done. He knew what I needed, and did His best to provide for me, not always in the way that I wanted or thought He should, but as a faithful parent. My journey was long and difficult, but the consistent element was the presence of God and Christ.

I believe I can celebrate Father’s Day because I do have a Heavenly Father who cares for me and loves me unconditionally. However, for some, celebrating this Hallmark holiday feels forced and uncomfortable. For others, the day triggers feelings of anger, fear, and resentment. For those individuals, I want you to know that it is okay not to celebrate a day that honors fathers. However, I invite you to consider the idea that there is a heavenly father who loves his children.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 86.

Hello Beautiful

The second letter tells the story of a young woman who wanted to change, lost her way, and turned to married men to meet unmet needs. By using the voice of an older adult speaking to a younger person, I hope the words will bring peace, comfort, and reassurance to another young woman who experienced similar distortions and exhibited similar behavior as a result.

After a few weeks of struggling, I decided to write the second letter in this series to my 30-40-year-old self. The letter only addresses one aspect of my journey. As I navigated the path through the darkness of recovering from childhood sexual abuse toward peace and joy, I encountered many twists and turns. At each turn, I chose which way to walk. While the choices were mine, I often based my choices on negative experiences which distorted my view of myself, my circumstances and God. As I considered the second letter in my series, I wondered where to begin the next letter. While I wrote the first letter in this series to my young adult self, the second letter tells the story of a young woman who wanted to change, lost her way, and turned to married men to meet unmet needs. By using the voice of an older adult speaking to a younger person, I hope the words will bring peace, comfort, and reassurance to another young woman who experienced similar distortions and exhibited similar behavior as a result.

Hello, again beautiful,

A lot has happened since I wrote you last. You married someone who you thought would fill your empty heart. Instead, the hole grew larger as love proved no match for the anger your husband expressed. Eventually, you left him, but not before you had a beautiful daughter. While you were married, you never strayed to other men. In fact, the thought never crossed your mind. You believed that your husband’s anger and lack of desire was God’s punishment.  Yes, God saved your life, but at a cost that confused you. Why did God allow your apartment manager to rape you? Why did God lead you to an angry man who did not understand the struggle you faced? God must not love you at all. He must want to torment you. At least that is what you thought.

Life had shown you that love equaled pain.

After eleven years, you were strong enough to leave the marriage. You thought that you could do what you wanted without fear. Still, you didn’t want to be involved with anyone again. Life had shown you that love equaled pain. Love and sex were the same things, but sex was power, not affection. You vowed that you would be in control and never again would you give your heart away. You would be the one in charge. No one would hurt you or deceive you again.

You believed the lie that you were unlovable and only good for one thing- bringing pleasure to men. You were confused, hurt and sometimes you wondered if life was worth living. You got professional help, but your soul remained empty. You were angry, very angry and wanted to prove you were strong. You wanted to show that men were your pawns. You returned to your old ways, but now there was a new twist. You discovered the anonymity of internet chat. You felt in control, but, you were out of control. At the click of a button, you could end an encounter. You got great satisfaction in leaving someone in the middle of an intense chat. However, you were leading a double life. You hated yourself because you sometimes gave in and met the men in person.

Going out with married men was the norm for you because, in a distorted way, they were safe.

You could imagine that you were important to them. You could enjoy the company, but leave anytime you chose. You could pretend they were not married to assuage your guilt. You created a fantasy life when you were with them. However, when they left, you were once again alone. They went home to their family, but you were alone. The emptiness remained after each encounter. You desperately wanted to feel whole but did not know how to achieve that goal.

Enter King George II (AKA David)

Then you met David. David advertised on an adult dating site that he wanted a companion for motorcycle trips. You were hooked! Although you did not realize it at the time, David reminded you of George. After a few weeks of chatting an emailing, you met David. He was perfect! He was funny, mature, and treated you like a queen!  He was 20 years older than you, but you did not care. In fact, David’s age was part of the appeal. Over the next several months you lived a fantasy. You believed that David loved you. You believed that his wife must be horrible to deny him physical intimacy. Sometimes you pretended that he was not married. You believed the fantasy would never end. Then, just as suddenly as it began, the relationship ended. You were devastated! You let down your guard and once again, your heart was broken! Once again, you vowed no one would hurt you like that again. You vowed never to love anyone again.

The internal conflict between anger and loneliness led you to seek God for answers. You wanted something different. You wanted to behave differently, but you did not understand how that was possible. You prayed, read scripture, and begged God to help you change. Deep within your soul, you cried out, “Why do you hate me, God?”  You answered the question, “You hate me because Daddy was right, I am damaged goods that no one will ever love.”

God had other ideas though, beautiful one.

He gently guided you, showed you how to capture your thoughts, and helped you understand that Daddy’s definition of love was wrong. Slowly, you practiced taking your thoughts captive. You were not always good at doing so, but you tried. God helped you realize that you could only get better through practicing a new way of thinking. The first step was accepting that your worth was not defined by what Daddy did to you nor by what he told you. Your worth came from God before you were born. You struggled with this first step. In your mind, you knew God loved you, after all, He saved you from death more than once. However, believing you were loved was difficult for your heart to accept.

Beautiful one, I still occasionally struggle with how God could love me. The struggle is less intense, but writing to you reminds me that our mind is a powerful thing. You worked very hard to understand and believe that you are “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139) I am the woman I am because of your courage. For that, I am eternally grateful. The tools that you allowed God to show you not only saved your life but have helped countless others understand and believe that they too are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I no longer believe that sex and love are the same. I no longer feel compelled to fill the void with physical pleasure.

The journey continues beautiful one; I try to capture my thoughts daily. I try to recognize the lies in my mind before they become my truth. When a new trigger occurs, I try to remember to understand the source of the trigger and replace a negative thought with truth from scripture.

Beautiful one, this letter is not the end of the story. In fact, the letter is not even most of the story. I hope you understand that you acted how you were taught by those who should have loved and protected you. I know the truth, and hopefully, you also see the truth. God loves you.

Related Posts:

Letters of Hope- Part One

Sonnet III. How Can I Make It Right?

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

A Different Kind of Love

The most challenging experiences for me as I share my story are the times that I was “the other woman.”  Each time, I was seeking something that alluded me.  The letters that follow will hopefully speak to the young woman who finds herself in a similar position. Each letter in the 3 part series is written for a unique audience.  The first letter speaks to the young girl who was lost and confused and did not understand her environment. 

A Letter to my Younger Self

The most challenging experiences for me as I share my story are the times that I was “the other woman.”  Each time, I was seeking something that alluded me.  The letters that follow will hopefully speak to the young woman who finds herself in a similar position. Each letter in the 3 part series is written for a unique audience.  The first letter speaks to the young girl who was lost and confused and did not understand her environment.

Dear Beautiful One,

Yes, you are beautiful. You may not recognize your beauty, but it is there. I remember you very well, but now that I am all grown up, I think I need to let you know what I remember about you. Your life was hard and cruel. When you should have been playing with dolls, you were Daddy’s plaything. When you should have been full of laughter and joy, you cried in pain.

You were taught that you were only good at one thing and that was giving pleasure to Daddy and his friends. The friends laughed at you when you cried and called you weak and ugly when you screamed in pain. You learned to pretend that it didn’t hurt. You learned to expect them to come and secretly plotted that someday you would make them pay. Daddy told you that your worth was only in doing what he wanted you to do. He convinced you that no one would love you because he marked you as his. You believed him.

Then You Met George

Finally, one man, George, treated you like you mattered. He laughed with you, not at you. He taught you how to drive and helped you when you needed help. He smiled at you and told you were smart. He made you feel likable. You wondered why he didn’t want to have sex with you. He was 25 years older than you, so it did not make sense to you. Still, you felt safe with him.

Then one day when you were no longer a child, he told you how much he wanted you. He gave you books to read that made what he wanted sound right. He said his wife didn’t want to be with him and all he could think about was you. You felt something for him, but you didn’t understand what it was.

The interaction was a catalyst for you that led to disaster. You became desperate to be with George and sacrificed friendships to make it happen. You rejected a young man who truly cared for you because he was unwilling to have sex. It felt like a dam was broken in your soul that only sex could fix. You knew your behavior was wrong, but you couldn’t stop. Guilt and shame were your daily companions, but you couldn’t live without George. So the affair continued.

You Learned You were Not the Only One

George was kind, but he manipulated you. You learned that you were not the only one he”loved” the way he loved you. You learned that his world did not revolve around you. You were devastated, but you found ways to fill the void in your heart. It was surprisingly easy to find men who would be with you. I don’t remember how you found most of them. I do remember feeling horrible after each encounter. In your mind, no one could ease your pain the way George did.

Finally, you made the decision to end the relationship with George. You couldn’t live with the guilt and shame any longer. After you ended the relationship, you got down on your knees and made a promise to God. You promised Him that your days of promiscuity were over. You begged God for forgiveness. The problem was you couldn’t forgive yourself.

A Way Out

The next day the apartment manager approached you about your overdue rent. He said he could work something out and would come by later. When he arrived, you let him in, and he told you his plan. He wanted to have sex with you for the rent. You said “no,” trying to keep your promise, but he didn’t take no for an answer. He raped you, then left without a word. In your mind, the rape felt like God saying, “I don’t care about you, and I can’t forgive you.”

You cried and yelled at God for most of the night. You felt abandoned and hopeless. At the moment, you decided to take your life. You were alone in a city of strangers.  No one would care or even miss you. You bought two bottles of sleeping pills, called in sick to work, and sat on the edge of your bed with tears streaming down your cheeks. Just as you reached for the bottle of pills, the phone rang. You almost didn’t answer it, but something inside you told you to pick up the phone. Stifling the tears, you whispered, “hello.”

The next words saved your life. Your pastor was in town. He and his wife stopped in town on the way to see their son. They stopped at a hotel on the north side of the city. He said, “I was ready to call it a day, but I felt I needed to call you. We’ve been praying for you. Can we come by and pray with you and serve you communion?” You could barely speak through your tears, but you said yes.

A New Start, Maybe…

You see, beautiful one, God, did care, He sent someone to tell you that He had not forgotten you. Yes, I know you still doubted that, but you lived. You didn’t change entirely and continued to struggle with understanding what love meant.

You left George’s city to work in Iowa. You wanted someone to like you for you and not for your body, but you didn’t know how to do that. You knew how to please men. You took risks that could have killed you, but nothing filled the empty space in your soul.

You thought what you felt for George was love, but love doesn’t require performance. You didn’t know that. You didn’t understand how to be loved. You made choices based on what your perception of love. Unfortunately, you often made unhealthy choices.
What I want you to hear, Charlotte is you always knew that something was not right. You knew there had to be something different. You never forgot that God was there. He honored that. He didn’t take your pain away, but he intervened so you could live.

There’s another letter to write, but it is for an older Charlotte. So for now, I want to thank you for not giving up and for believing that there was hope for your future. Most of all, I want you to know you are beautiful and I want you to forgive yourself.

Love you,
Your older self

Related Posts

What Kind of Love is This? Part I

How do I Change?

I wanted to change, but I felt powerless. How could I change and stop the pattern of behavior that was destroying me?

Part 3 of Addiction Series-Surrender

“Tonight will be different.” I thought as I turned the key to unlock the door to my apartment.  “I can do this.”  As I entered the living room, I deliberately avoided looking at the computer, thinking If I don’t look at it, I won’t be tempted.”   I walked past the computer once, twice, three times without stopping.  Each time my heart beat so hard that I thought it might come out of my chest.

“It won’t hurt to just check my email,” I thought.  “There is no harm in that.”  My next thought, “I’ll just look at this to see if anyone has responded,” was my downfall.

I didn’t stop with one action. My night ended like all the nights before.  When I finally went to bed at 2 AM, I thought, “Tomorrow will be different.” Tomorrow was not different. With each day, the shame increased exponentially.  I was a Christian, a leader and yet I could not stop the struggle with sex and pornography.

 I thought I was in control

In the late 90’s, the internet was still in its infancy.  However, virtual sex and pornography exploded on this new technology.  The public shame of adult bookstores was replaced with the private shame of internet chat rooms, pornography sites and “adult” dating sites.

For me, this was a “safe” haven.  I felt in control of every encounter because I could leave the chat with the simple click of the mouse. The chat rooms gave me a false sense of power over the person on the other end of the chat. However, I always felt the same at the end of the chat. Shame, guilt, anger, and disgust filled me every time. Yet, I could not stop.  My struggle controlled me.

Surrender

I cried out to God, “What is wrong with me?”  “Why can’t I change?” “I am doing everything I know to stop this!”  His answer was simple.  Surrender!  Surrendering to God frightened me, but what I was doing on my own was not working.  I needed to surrender my will to what I knew was right. I needed to let go of the lies about who I thought I was and allow God to help me believe I was more. Capturing my thoughts changed the way I viewed myself, but sometimes I deliberately failed to capture my thoughts.  I knew the truth, I practiced the tools, but I had not yet surrendered to God.

I began searching the Bible for some justification to not surrender. Instead, I found the following passages:

But Lord I also know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13.

 Because of this, I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is my spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

I knew how to stop my thoughts from taking over so I did not give in to the temptation. In truth, each time I chose not to take my thoughts captive, I conformed to the temptations of the world.   After some serious struggling, surrender became a daily activity.  Sometimes by just saying, “I surrender.”  Sometimes when the computer seemed to demand my attention, I simply said, “Lord, I can’t do this, but you can.”

Freedom

Sounds simple enough, right?  However, knowing the truth and living a transformed life is not the same thing.

You have been set free by Christ’s sacrifice, but your mind may tell you that is not true.  You may not feel free because you continue to struggle with negative thoughts and behavior’s, but the truth is you are free.  You cannot conquer your struggles on your own strength, but you can do all things through Christ.  Most of all, remember recovery is a process.  You are retraining your mind and your heart to believe something completely different than when you conformed to the world’s standard.  It takes time for the heart and mind to believe transformation has occurred.

How can you practice surrendering? Comment with your answer.

Related Posts:

Sonnet III. How Can I Make It Right?

What Kind of Love is This? Part I

Know the Truth

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made is the second blog of a three-part series. In this blog, I describe how I come face to face with my distorted self-image. I knew the truth, but still felt unlovable. One simple change altered who I saw when I looked in the mirror.  

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.

Psalm 139:13-16

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.

 

Related Posts:

Know the Truth

How do I Change?

What Kind of Love is This? Part III Sonnets

Sonnet III. How Can I Make It Right?

Know the Truth

“Over the next few weeks at The Meadows, a treatment center in Arizona, I learned that confession is only one step in the process of letting go of sin.”

Addiction is a common by-product of childhood trauma. In Fact, according to a study conducted by the NCBI, “This study reveals an extraordinarily high frequency of physical and sexual abuse among both women and men admitted for detoxification in an urban inpatient facility: 72% experienced interpersonal trauma and 75% of them first experienced it as children. The frequency of physical and sexual abuse is similar to that found in other studies of clients at methadone and detoxification programs” (Clark et al., 2001Gil-Rivas et al., 1997Hien & Scheier, 1996). Understanding the reason for my behavior helped me take the steps needed to change how I viewed myself, my relationships, and God. I decided to address three core issues of addiction: confession,  by sharing my experience with confession, identity, and surrender. The first blog, Know the Truth describes the importance of confession to the healing process but also describes what might follow confession.

I sat nervously in the waiting area for my appointment with the Chaplin.  I shook with fear at the thought of revealing the secrets listed on the tear-stained paper I held in my hand.  My thoughts raced as I waited my turn. “I can’t tell him this.  I’ll cross this one off. Nobody will know.” Before I could do that, the door opened and the Chaplin welcomed me into the “room of doom” at least that is what it felt like in that moment.

One hour later I emerged from the Chaplin’s office relieved that the ordeal was over.  My heart was a little lighter, but I was not convinced that my confessions freed me from condemnation.  After all, the Chaplin barely knew me.  I would never see him again.  I wasn’t sure I could trust him.  In fact, my primary thought was, “this is great, but if ___- knew all of this they would not be so gracious.”

Over the next few weeks at The Meadows, a treatment center in Arizona, I learned that confession is only one step in the process of letting go of sin.

 

Examine, confess, forgive

After 6 weeks, I returned home.  My heart was at peace, my mind calm and I believed I was healed to the very depths of my soul.  However, within a few days, I was an emotional and spiritual mess.  One month after my return home, I was admitted to the local psychiatric hospital. Once I was discharged from the inpatient program, I was admitted to the day program where I remained for 1 year.  During that year, I healed emotionally and was eventually able to return to work.  There was still something missing in my healing process, the final step would come slowly as I began to pray this prayer daily.

I will daily examine my ways and test them, and return to the Lord. (Lamentations 3:40) confessing that I have sinned and asking for prayer and I will pray for my sisters and brothers so that I too may be healed. (James 5:16).  I rejoice that I am a new creation in Christ Jesus and that nothing can separate me from the love of God! (Romans 8:38-39)  I humble myself before the Lord so that He may lift me up. (James 4:10)

This prayer, composed of several paraphrased scriptures, sums up what was missing.  The truth is true freedom and total healing comes:

  1. Through a daily examination of my behaviors.
  2. Confessing those behaviors to someone
  3. Asking for forgiveness when needed
  4. Forgiving myself
  5. Accepting the forgiveness of Christ

More than Words

The prayer alone does not heal nor does it set you free.  Rather it is a call to action.  We are active participants in our healing.  We must take responsibility for our part, which is to ask, to examine and to seek help from others (professional counseling if needed), and to believe that we are forgiven and to forgive others.  (I will address forgiveness in more detail in another blog).  The Truth that will set you free is realizing we are in a spiritual battle.  Although the war is already won, the enemy will do all he can to convince us that we are not free.  I do not fear the battle, but I do not take it for granted either.  I know that I must connect with God daily and fill my mind with His truth daily, so that I am ready for the “fiery darts” the enemy may send my way.

 

Each day Lord I will put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, I will be able to stand my ground, and after I have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13) Keeping this in mind, I will be alert and always keep praying. (Ephesians 6:18b)

 

Relationship

 

Sounds intense? Perhaps a simpler way to view this process is to think about the struggles you currently have. (Drugs, porn, food, sex, alcohol, working too much).  For each of these struggles take a moment to honestly think how much time do you spend every day thinking about these struggles? You may not act on the thought, but the thought is there.  What would happen if you spent that time getting to know God through Christ?  There are so many ways to do that.  Just sitting quietly, listening to music, walking, prayer, reading about Him and so many more. Recently, my daughter posed this question to a group of women in attendance at a women’s conference.  “How much time do you invest in building your relationship with your spouse or your family?”  She went on to ask, “What would happen if you only spent 10 ten minutes a day or 2 hours on Sunday with them?”   How much richer will your relationship with God be if you spend the time you currently spend with your struggle with God?

 

Granted this is not easy, but it is simple.  Like any new habit, we must practice, practice, and practice until the new behavior becomes the norm.  Christ is there to walk beside you. Seek Him and you will find Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Related Posts:

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

How do I Change?

What Kind of Love is This? Part I

What Kind of Love is This?- Part II

What Kind of Love is This? Part III Sonnets

Distorted Love

Sometimes poetry allows expression of emotion that prose does not allow. Writing these Sonnets helped me connect the thread of how my early experiences affected how I defined love and my relationships with others, with myself and how I interpreted everyday experiences.

Modern culture often distorts the love through carelessness, but sometimes “deliberately… by those who find it in their interests to render” the term love “empty of meaning.”[1] Child sexual abuse, for example, distorts love at a vulnerable age. The abuser deliberately manipulates the child by implying that love and sex are the same act. For me, love distorted by my father and others from a very young age.

There are many ways to convey the hurt, anger and confusion created by such a distortion. Poetry provides an avenue for creative expression that helped me reveal my inner turmoil and eventual relief in a simple form. I chose a specific form of poetry, the sonnet.  In the four-sonnet sequence, I describe how my early experience of sexual abuse from my father created a distorted understanding of love in my mind. The distortion continued for most of my life. My sonnet sequence describes the paradox created by language distortion through sharing my experience at five stages of my life: age eight, age twenty-six, age forty-five, age fifty-five and age sixty-five.

In Sonnet I-Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie? I describe the confusion created by sexual abuse. In ‘Sonnet II-Does Love Reside Where I Cannot See?’ I describe how the distorted link between love and sexual performance led me to marry my first husband. In ‘Sonnet III-How Can I Make It Right?’ I describe my battle with pornography and promiscuity, a common outcome for an adult who experiences sexual abuse as children.

In “Sonnet IV-The Truth Revealed,” I describe the pivotal event that redefined love for me.  I describe my inner transformation and tentative acceptance of a different meaning of love.  The first two quatrains describe meeting John, my second husband. In the second quatrain, I describe our wedding, emphasizing the kiss. While I do not say this directly, I imply that the wedding kiss was our first kiss. I begin the sonnet questioning love but move quickly toward acceptance of John’s love which did not include sexual intimacy prior to our marriage.

Sonnet V-At Last I Stand Approved” describes how my relationship with John transformed my distorted view of love. The last six lines describe my current understanding of love. I begin with the disclosure that I am a widow, but the loss does not change the truth. Line ten answers the question asked at the end of Sonnet I.  The declarations found in the remaining two lines of the provide the transition from earthly love to Divine Love. The final couplet confirms that the language distortion no longer controls my thinking and I know the true meaning of love.

Sometimes poetry allows expression of emotion that prose does not allow. Writing these Sonnets helped me connect the thread of how my early experiences affected how I defined love and my relationships with others, with myself and how I interpreted everyday experiences. I hope they provide comfort, hope and encouragement to you or someone you love.

Each Sonnet tells part of my story. Please contact me if you have any questions or comments. Sonnet I -Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie?  What Kind of Love is This? Part I   What Kind of Love is This?- Part II

[1]Holly Ordway, Apologetics and the Christian imagination: an integrated approach to defending the faith (Steubenville: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), 59.

 

 

 

Because We are Good

As I struggled to comprehend how God could love me, I struggled with an equally troubling question, “How could God love the family members who hurt me?” 

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“How could God love the family members who hurt me?”

As I struggled to comprehend how God could love me, I struggled with an equally troubling question, “How could God love the family members who hurt me?”  Such questions are common among women who experienced abuse as children.  Part I answered the question, “How could God love me?” In Part II, I will respond to the question listed above.

For many years I simply could not understand why God did not stop my family’s abuse.  I was angry at God, yet never lost hope that someday I would understand.  I wish someone would have pointed me to St. Thomas when I was overwhelmed with anger and guilt.  Now, do not misunderstand, I eventually forgave and moved on. However, I think St. Thomas’ argument about the basic concepts of ‘being’, ‘good’ and how He views sin may shed new light to help women who struggle with how God’s love extends to their abusers.

We are beings created in God’s image and hold a place higher than every other creature.

The initial question is: Does God love all things equally?  The answer is no. When you consider all the things God created, He definitely has a hierarchy.  He loves humanity more than animals or rocks or trees.  Why, you may ask, because humanity is rational and created in His image.  We are second only to the love God has for Christ.  We are beings created in God’s image and hold a place higher than every other creature. God came to earth as a man, not a rock or a tree. He did not come as a dog or a cat but as a man.[3]

How does this affect a survivor that questions God’s love for their abuser? First, as we determined in Part I, God loves all things. Secondly, He loves humanity more than other things because we are beings, not things. As I stated in Part I, we know that every being that God creates is good just because God creates it out of His perfect goodness. Based on the definition of ‘being’ in the glossary of St. Thomas’Shorter Summa, being means “that which is, whether actual or potential and whether in the mind (a ‘being of reason’) or in objective reality (a ‘being in nature’).”[4] In other words, a being exists as an entity that has qualities and potential.

What changes is God’s love of our actions and choices, which affects our relationship with Him.

What happens after creation does not change the fact that God created beings that are good beings.  Even a being who makes choices that lead to evil are still beings, which exist no matter what choices they make. God’s love for that being that He wills good to does not change. What changes is God’s love of our actions and choices, which affects our relationship with Him.  No matter what, the good being still exists.  God still considers the creation good.  He still loves the being (person) that He created.

However, as C.S. Lewis describes it in Mere Christianity with each choice we make, we either become more a heavenly creature or a more hellish creature.[5]   If we think of it as two aspects, the person, and the choices that change the relationship, we might understand the concept better.  The person(being) is always loved because God created us.  However, the choices we make either bring us closer to God or move us farther away.

God knows the potential of each person and wants us to receive the fullness of the good that He desires for us.[6]  He desires this for all His creation including abusers.  He loves them because He created them and they exist, but He does not love what they do.  The more they sin, the more they lose the humanity God created in them. Sin decreases their ability to experience the fullness of life and removes their desire to know God.

In all of this, God loves them as the being that He created. When they yield to evil, He cannot interact with them because evil does not come from God.[7]  While this explanation may seem too rational for some survivors, for me, it clarifies how God could love those who abused me.  Knowing that God loves all His creation, but not their sin makes sense to me.  When I combine that knowledge with faith, I understand that even when I feel ill-equipped to show love to those, I care about, I can ask Him to help me love them.  He will empower me with His strength.  He will be there. Perhaps understanding that God loves all things and that we are second only to Christ in His hierarchy will help you accept God’s love and the fullness that He desires for you. Perhaps you can fully comprehend John’s statement, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.”[8]

[3] Peter Kreeft, A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica ; Edited and Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993),  86.

[4] Ibid, 28.

[5] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 86.

[6] Kreeft, 85.

[7] Ibid.

[8] I John 3:1-3.

What Kind of Love is This?

newborn-baby-feet-basket-161709.jpegAs tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought, “How can I ever give her the love she needs?”

As I held my beautiful newborn daughter for the first time an unfamiliar feeling flowed over me. As tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought, “How can I ever give her the love she needs?  I don’t know what it feels like to be loved as I love her.”   As Korine opened her eyes, I prayed, “Lord what kind of love is this?”  How do I show her this kind of love?”  My greatest wish was to show my daughter the love I never received.  I wanted her to feel the depth of love that I felt at that moment.

To me, love meant abuse. Love meant pain, betrayal, and isolation.

As I look back on the experience, I understand why I felt so lost when it came to showing love to anyone, even my child.  To me, love meant abuse. Love meant pain, betrayal, and isolation.  For much of Korine’s childhood, I was a mess of depression and anxiety.  As I journeyed through the darkness created by the abuse I endured as a child; I often could barely put one foot in front of another.  I made mistakes. I felt helpless. Worry plagued me that I was a horrible mother. But in the midst of the chaos, somehow, Korine felt loved.

For some, associating the term love to God brings up fear and anger rather than peace and joy.

As the years passed, I constantly wondered: How could I love my daughter when I felt so unloved?  How did I know about unconditional love?  Sure, I considered the idea that the source was God, but I never completely believed He could love me or show me how to love someone else.  I knew God loved my daughter, but could not comprehend His love for me. I experienced intense emotions associated with what I thought was God’s love, but seeds of doubt kept me from fully embracing the idea that God loved me. I had faith, but rationally, God’s unconditional love eluded me.

Eventually, I realized my story was common among survivors of childhood abuse. For many, scripture and faith may provide a level of healing. However, the idea that God could love them simply does not make sense, which makes accepting His love nearly impossible.  While they can accept Christ and love God, many women need to understand how God could love them.  Like me, they may believe that God loves others but struggle with being loved by Him. For some, associating the term love to God brings up fear and anger rather than peace and joy.

St. Thomas Aquinas provides answers to the question, “How can God love me and How can God love the person who hurt me?”

Fortunately, a medieval philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas provides much needed and reasonable answers to the survivor’s questions. “How can God love me and How can God love the person who hurt me?”  St. Thomas answers the questions by skillfully marrying reason and faith in concise arguments that may help survivors understand the extent of God’s love.

St. Thomas begins by explaining what he means by God’s love, which helps eliminate the distorted view of love that survivors of sexual abuse often have of the term.  According to St. Thomas, “God loves all existing things.”[1] St. Thomas continues by explaining that because God’s will is the cause of all things, any existing thing exists because God willed that it should exist.  From Genesis, we know that at the end of every day of creation, God looked out on what He had created and said, “It is good.”  It is reasonable then to say that we are good just because we exist. Since according to St. Thomas, love means to will good, God loves all things, no matter what happens to you.  God created you. Therefore He loves you.[2]

Such a description may take some of the mystery out of the nature of God’s love. For a survivor who often views love as power, control or pain, considering the alternative that God’s love means that He wants only good for you may help you see God differently.  He is not the father, uncle, cousin or brother that abused you. His expression of love means He wants the best for you, with nothing expected in return.  He does not want to control you but wants you to experience unconditional love.  Just as I experienced incredible love for Korine the day I held her for the first time, God loves me simply because I exist. The knowledge helps me understand that the kind of love the Father has for me is the love of a Creator for His creation.

Other relevant posts: What Kind of Love is This?- Part II  What Kind of Love is This? Part III Sonnets

 

[1] Peter Kreeft, A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica ; Edited and Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 85.

[2] Ibid.

 

 

The Journey Begins

My journey toward healing began at age 34.  At the time I could not fathom the thought that one day I would tell my story so others might find hope in the midst of darkness. My journey was long, hard and at times seemed hopeless. Healing did not come quickly or easily but required every ounce of emotional, spiritual and physical strength I could muster.

Thanks for joining me! My journey toward healing began at age 34.  At the time I could not fathom the thought that one day I would tell my story so others might find hope in the midst of darkness. My journey was long, hard and at times seemed hopeless. Healing did not come quickly or easily but required every ounce of emotional, spiritual and physical strength I could muster. Sometimes, my strength was gone. At those times, I believe God stepped in and held me close, lifted me out of the darkness and gave me hope.

Now a new journey begins. A journey that I hope will bring even a small glimpse of hope to my readers.  My message is for those who experienced childhood trauma at the hands of those who should have cared for them. The message is also for those who love those individuals. I hope that you will believe you are not defined by what happened to you. Your identity was distorted by those who should have known better. You can change that, and you can find new ways to connect to God, to others, and to your circumstances.

First series: What Kind of Love is This? Part I , What Kind of Love is This?- Part II , What Kind of Love is This? Part III Sonnets

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