Can You Hear Me, Now?

Can You Hear Me Now?

Several years ago, the phrase “Can you hear me now?” became a popular slogan for a major cell phone company. Paul, the spokesperson, was shown walking around with his cell phone to his ear, asking the question, “can you hear me now?” He said the phrase repeatedly in the 30-60 second commercials to get across the idea that Verizon had the most reliable service. As you may know, Paul currently appears in a commercial for Sprint, one of Verizon’s biggest competitors. He found a new venue for his message. He is the same person and he still sells cell phones, but the message is slightly different. He doesn’t claim that Sprint has the best coverage, but that it is within 2% of the best. The most recent commercials include robots who confirm Paul’s claims. Paul’s basic message is the same, but his delivery changed to accommodate a new audience and new technology. Similarly, when I started this blog ten months ago, I mentally asked the question, “Will they hear me?” I knew my writing would include multiple forms including poetry, essays, blogs, journals, and letters. Now, thirty-plus posts later, I realize that like, Paul, the cell phone spokesperson, parts of my story can be shared in ways I never imagined. Asking the question, “Can you hear me now?” means allowing my voice to be heard in unexpected places. It means taking risks by posting in groups on social media and being prepared for the challenges that follow each post.

An Unexpected Voice

My blog followers are as varied as the style and content of the posts. They include psychologists, apologists, survivors, those struggling with mental illness, family and friends.  Each post reaches a different audience and results in a unique response. My recent post, The Problem of Evil was shared with a largely academic audience via social media. One response surprised me but also illustrates how a story brings unexpected outreach. My classmate, Richard Eng, asked if he could use the vignette at the beginning of The Problem of Evil in a sermon.  His sermon tackles the Problem of Evil through the story of Joseph. Richard ends his sermon by explaining that Christ doesn’t always rescue us from the pain or the evil, but rather is there to get us through the trial or temptation. He told my story to illustrate that even amid a horrible situation, my faith in Christ sustained me. After watching the video, I understand even more clearly that my story can be heard in ways and in places I never expected. For years, I wondered if anyone would hear me. Richard demonstrates yet another way I can say, “They hear me, now.”

To most survivors being heard is a vital piece of healing from childhood trauma. If you are a survivor, please do not be afraid to write, sing, draw, or shout your story of healing. Now is the time for you to know that “yes, they can hear you now.”

To watch Richard’s sermon, click here.

Related Posts:

The Problem of Evil

Angel in the Cellar

Sonnet I -Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie?

It is Well with My Soul

Although my tormentors inflicted unspeakable acts of violence, sexual and emotional abuse upon me as a child, they could not destroy my soul. Each time that I cried out to Jesus, I felt His presence. Sometimes I did not completely understand that it was Him, but I felt Him. I “knew” He was there.

Over the past few weeks, I have struggled to find a way to convey the power and peace that God’s presence provided throughout my life. Understandably, many survivors of child sexual abuse feel abandoned by and angry at God for not intervening. My last two posts reminded me that even in the darkest moments, I was not alone. Sometimes I did not realize that God was watching and caring for me because His protection came in the form of allowing me to dissociate and run to Christ or an angel when the abuse became unbearable. Sometimes I experienced courage and calmness that allowed me to resist the demands of my tormentors. As I look back, I recall feeling angry, depressed and on a few occasions suicidal as I navigated remembering and re-experiencing the trauma. Admittedly, I sometimes felt that God hated me because of my sinful behavior and wondered why he did not intervene. However, as I explain in The Problem of Evil, “Though it took years, I finally understood and accepted that God did not ignore my pleas for rescue, but he followed the rules of providential guidance. He could not interfere with the free will of those who abused me. However, he did protect me from death and eventually turned what seemed like pointless evil into a powerful testimony of redemption.” As I considered how to convey the emotional and spiritual connection that kept me sane and alive, I found this video on YouTube of one of my favorite hymns, “It is Well with My Soul.” As I watched the video and read the words, tears filled my eyes. The song perfectly conveys my message to those who struggle with the existence of seemingly pointless evil.

 Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say; It is well, it is well with my soul.

The song describes the importance of pausing to consider how we find peace even when we do not understand why events happen in our lives. “It is Well with My Soul” was written in 1873 by Horatio G. Spafford, a successful Chicago businessman. Mr. Spafford experienced a series of tragedies of the course of two years including the death of four children in a shipwreck. He penned the words to “It is Well with my Soul” while traveling by ship to meet his wife, Anna, who survived the tragedy.[1]

When darkness surrounded me, God was the light

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His blood for my soul.

Although my tormentors inflicted unspeakable acts of violence, sexual and emotional abuse upon me as a child, they could not destroy my soul. Each time that I cried out to Jesus, I felt His presence. Sometimes I did not completely understand that it was Him, but I felt Him. I “knew” He was there. Whether it was The Angel in the Cellar, Jesus holding me at the foot of the bed, my pastor unexpectedly showing up just as I was about to take my life or a vision of Jesus in a dark, lonely cell where I almost gave up, I knew God was the source of my strength. I knew Jesus died for my sins and that God loved me. Without the knowledge of God’s love, I doubt I would be alive today. My experience is perhaps best described by the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The Matthew Henry Commentary explains that

“Faith and hope go together…It is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all that he has promised to us in Christ; and this persuasion is so strong that it gives the soul a kind of possession and present fruition of those things, gives them subsistence in the soul… 2. It is the evidence of things not seen. Faith demonstrates to the eye of the mind the reality of those things that cannot be discerned by the eye of the body. Faith is the firm assent of the soul to the divine revelation and every part of it…and so it is designed to serve the believer instead of sight, and to be to the soul all that the senses are to the body.”[2]

Anna Spafford expressed similar thinking when she told another survivor, “God gave me four daughters. Now they have been taken from me. Someday I will understand why.”[3] The fourth verse of ‘It is Well with My Soul” contains the hope that

For me, be it, Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

As a child, I knew Christ was real because I saw Him on more than one occasion. I knew His promises were also real and true. I heard His whisper, and that whisper brought peace to my soul. As an adult, the knowledge(faith) sustained me during the worst parts of my healing journey. One of the lessons I teach to those I counsel recognizes God’s presence may not change your circumstance, but it will change you in the circumstance. I cannot explain all my internal experience because the experience is indescribable other than to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

 

[1] https://www.staugustine.com/living/religion/2014-10-16/story-behind-song-it-well-my-soul

 

[2] https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/hebrews/11.html

 

[3] https://www.staugustine.com/living/religion/2014-10-16/story-behind-song-it-well-my-soul

Related Posts

Angel in the Cellar

The Problem of Evil

The View from the Foot of the Bed

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Angel in the Cellar

My last post, The Problem of Evil, began with a description of an event that I experienced at age 9. Since writing the essay, the introductory vignette has haunted me. As those who experience Post-traumatic stress reactions will understand, managing such occurrences are part of the healing process. However, I had not experienced such a flood of physical and emotional reactions to memory in years. So the experience was unsettling, to say the least. As I processed my emotions and physical reactions, I recalled another aspect of the experience that I briefly mentioned in the essay.  Throughout my life, I always felt God’s presence. Sometimes I did not understand it, but as I look back on my life, God always showed up. I have said that before, but the experience in the cellar was such an experience. Each night an angel came to the cellar and held me until I fell asleep in her arms. The constant presence of God, Christ and angels gave me glimmers of hope that kept me alive throughout my childhood.

What is a Cellar?

For you to fully understand the setting of the Sonnet that follows, I want to describe the cellar. Basically, a root cellar is a hole in the ground used to store fruits and vegetables. The temperature is a constant 57 degrees F. The room is small, damp and smells of rotting food. There are shelves for storing the fruit and vegetables, but the walls and floor is packed dirt.  In my case, there was no light except when my uncle came back to get me because the light hung from the ceiling and I could not reach the cord to turn it on.

The Game

The game I talk about in the essay and in the sonnet is the term my father and my uncle used to describe the sexual abuse. The rules of the game changed, but for most of my childhood the dominant rule was, I had to pretend to enjoy the abuse. I was a fighter from day one and rarely acquiesced to the rules. As the result, I endured days in the cellar or other absurd punishments for failing to play the game. I think my determination to fight and resist kept me alive, but it also led to substantial pain. The Sonnet describes “The Game” and my thoughts about my situation as well as the comfort of angels in the darkness.

 

Angel in the Cellar

As the door slams above the earthen cell,

Walls of dirt surround my shivering frame.

What must I do to escape from this hell?

To be free, must I always play “the game?”

“The game” that my Daddy says is my lot.

“The game” that now my uncle seeks to win.

“The game” my soul and body always fought.

“The game” that always ends when I give in.

But every time I cry and scream in pain.

I cannot pretend his touch brings me joy.

I cannot let him know that fear remains.

I cry out, “I am more than just your toy!”

The darkness fades and once again I see

An angel comes to hold and comfort me.

 

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Sonnet I -Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie?

The Problem of Evil

The Child Left Behind

 

The Problem of Evil

A 9-year old girl lay sobbing on soiled sheets trying desperately to escape her fate. “You failed again; you are worthless! Get back down there! Maybe you’ll get it right after a few days in the cellar!” Uncle Ray shouted as the child covered her face to avoid his fist.

A 9-year old girl lay sobbing on soiled sheets trying desperately to escape her fate. “You failed again; you are worthless! Get back down there! Maybe you’ll get it right after a few days in the cellar!” Uncle Ray shouted as the child covered her face to avoid his fist. She begged him to give her another chance. Slowly, she navigated the steps as the door to cellar slammed shut above her. “Next time I’ll do it right,” she promised, “next time I will pretend I like the game.”

I am the child

The child in the story is not a random child whose story is chronicled to illustrate the problem of evil by pointing out that a good God would not allow pointless evil towards children. The above story is about me. I am the child in the story who endured abuse perpetrated by multiple people from age 5-18. When I watched a video of Christopher Hitchens, a 20th-century atheist, describe a child who experienced horrible neglect and abuse for most of her life, l recalled my own experience. Similarly, when Hitchens commented that the child “must have pleaded, must have prayed. She must have felt if heaven did watch it, it watched with indifference,”[1]  I recalled how I did plead. I did pray. While the prayers did not stop the abuse at the hands of my father, uncle, or others, I never felt that heaven watched with indifference.[2] My belief in Christ sustained me. In the same video, Jerry Walls, a Christian apologist and scholar, responds to Hitchens challenge by saying, “God is furious…Yes, God hated that, but God gave us freedom, and we can do atrocious things with that freedom, but I’m not writing you off…God has the power to redeem the worst atrocities that have been laid out.”[3] Not all philosophers and theologians agree with Walls response, but as Evans and Manis argue in The Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith, “Of all the objections to theism presented by atheists, the most celebrated and oft-rehearsed…is the problem of evil.”[4] For centuries, philosophers and theologians have attempted to formulate and respond to the problem of evil. Several formulations remain common topics of discussion and debate including, the logical form, the evidential form, and the emotional form. While the logical form and the evidential form address the problem of evil from a logical perspective, the emotional problem of evil resonates most strongly with me because the form addresses the problem as a question for concern which creates a stronger foundation for discussion with believers and non-believers regarding the problem of evil.

Does Pointless Evil exist?

The emotional problem of evil approaches the problem as a question for concern by focusing on the struggle to reconcile what we believe and understand about God with the anguish we experience when we encounter the evidence of pointless evil. The emotional formulation is perhaps best articulated in ‘Rebellion,’ a chapter from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. In the chapter, Ivan Karamazov protests that though he comprehends theodicy, and accepts that God is real, he cannot accept God because of the burden of his heart for human suffering and pain.[5] Ivan supports his objection by describing multiple atrocities involving children. Ivan argues, “I took the case of children only to make my case clearer…If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it…It is beyond comprehension why they should suffer, and why they would pay for the harmony.”[6] In The Doors of the Sea, David Hart explains that Ivan believed, “every heart will be satisfied, all anger soothed, the debt of every crime discharged, and everyone made capable of forgiving every offense and even finding a justification for every offense that has ever happened to mankind; and still he rejects the world that God has made and that final harmony with it.”[7]

At the core of the emotional problem of evil is Ivan’s concern that “terms of  the final happiness God intends for his creations are greater than [Ivan’s] conscience can bear.”[8] When I cowered alone in the cellar or a locked room with no window, wondering when my tormentor would return, I wondered “why is this happening?” I pleaded to God, “Is there a reason you do not stop them?” I cried until I could cry no more. I saw no purpose to my suffering, yet I consistently held to my belief in God and Christ. Years later as a social worker, I anguished at the atrocities  I witnessed daily. I watched a mother sit emotionless as her infant drew his last breath because she forgot to feed him or the two-year-old child covered in third-degree burns because his stepfather forced him to hold hot pipes as part of toilet training or a twelve-year-old girl whose father molested her daily.  As an adult caught up in behaviors that resulted from years of abuse, I often asked God, “why didn’t you stop the abuse?” For years I struggled to reconcile what I considered pointless evil. Pointless evil haunts many believers and non-believers as they express the question posed by Evans and Manis, “How could a perfectly loving God employ a means of creation that proceeds by way of the systematic destruction of the weakest and most vulnerable creatures?”[9]  The emotional problem of evil questions salvation, and expresses anger at the pointless evil, but does not attempt to disprove God.

While both the logical and evidential problem of evil address the issue from a logical standpoint, they are not existentially sufficient for me.*

The emotional problem of evil resonates most strongly with me because the form addresses the problem as a question for concern rather than an objection to belief in the existence of God. David Hart’s account of Ivan’s lament about the tortured child “weeping her supplications to ‘gentle Jesus,’ begging God to release her from misery,” evokes intense emotions for me because I uttered that prayer so many times during my childhood. However, each time, God sent comfort to me, sometimes in the form of an angel, sometimes through the loving touch of a friend. Where the emotional problem of evil fails is in the assumption that atrocities against the innocent are pointless evil. My life is one example of how seemingly pointless evil can lead to a life of service to others who suffer at the hands of tormentors. Perhaps the most significant example in my life occurred when I was eleven. After giving birth to my father’s child, I hemorrhaged on the bedroom floor. I found out later that EMS declared me dead, but later revived. During the moments I was legally dead, I experienced what I believe was the outer court of heaven. Jesus told me that I had to return because I had more to do. I remember begging Jesus to let me stay with him, but he refused.

I did not fully understand why I had to come back, and I was angry, but I obeyed. Years later as I began my healing journey, I realized what Jesus meant when he said I had more to do. As David Hart points out, “for the Christian, Ivan’s argument…provides a kind of spiritual hygiene; …a solvent as well of the obdurate fatalism of the theistic determinist, and of the confidence of rational theodicy, and…of the habitual and unthinking retreat of most Christians to a kind of indeterminate deism.”[19] He concludes that the argument is, therefore, a Christian argument. Through ‘Rebellion,’ Dostoyevsky sees how far more terrible the world would be if the history of suffering and death made sense.[20] ‘Rebellion’ calls Christians to review their approach to the problem of evil and consider whether we need some emotional and spiritual hygiene before addressing the issue with non-believers or hurting believers.

God Can Turn Tragedy into Triumph

While the question of why evil occurs remains unanswered, the emotional problem of evil provides an opportunity for apologists to explore the issue without challenging God’s existence. The emotional problem of evil fails to prove why or if there is pointless evil, but it does provide more comfort than logical explanations. Though it took years, I finally understood and accepted that God did not ignore my pleas for rescue, but he followed the rules of providential guidance. He could not interfere with the free will of those who abused me. However, he did protect me from death and eventually turned what seemed like pointless evil into a powerful testimony of redemption.  The emotional problem of evil can be a useful tool for the apologist if we accept that it is perfectly acceptable not to know all the answers. In other words, accepting God’s providential governance. Perhaps then we can understand Jerry Walls declaration, “Thank God for the problem of evil!”[21]

 * Recommend -Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith by Evans and Manis (listed in footnotes) to learn more about the Logical and evidential form of the problem of evil.

[1]Jerry Walls – Problem of Evil – 2013, https://vimeo.com/112109182 , 2:23.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 10:12.

[4] C. Stephen. Evans and R. Zachary. Manis, Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 156.

[5] Mary Jo Sharp, email response to Charlotte Thomason, December 10, 2018.

[6] Michael Peterson, ed. The Problem of Evil: Selected Readings (South Bend, IN: Notre Dame UP, 1992), 65.

[7] David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?(Grand Rapids, MI: William B.  Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 38-39.

[8] Ibid, 39.

[9] C. Stephen. Evans and R. Zachary. Manis, Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 156.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid, 160.

[12] Mary Jo Sharp, “Post to Weekly Course Outline, Week 7,” Houston Baptist University, Fall, 2018, PDF, Philosophy of Religion Course, accessed December 10, 2018.

[13] Evans et al, 168.

[14] Evans et al, 168.

[15] Ibid, 169.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Hart, 44.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Walls

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Is God a Good Parent?-Why Did He Let this Happen?

The View from the Foot of the Bed

Sonnet V-At Last I Stand Approved

Believing the Lie

Between my Junior and Senior year of college, George, my childhood mentor, and father figure became my lover. I still had no idea how I understood how to react and how to please but being with him felt familiar and, in a distorted way, safe.

Over Thanksgiving break during my junior year of college, George, my childhood mentor, and father figure became my lover. I still had no idea how I understood how to react and how to please but being with him felt familiar and, in a distorted way, safe. However, I also felt extreme guilt because George was my best friend’s uncle and I sometimes babysat his children. George lived in Texas and I attended school in Iowa, so our encounters were infrequent. Between visits, I sought companionship with boys on campus and continued to reject anyone who refused my sexual advances.  As the year progressed, I sunk deeper and deeper into depression. I was unable to focus on my classes, hated who I was and was obsessed with George. He made me feel important and beautiful. I believed he loved me. I realize now that he groomed me for our affair by paying special attention to me when I was a child. I describe more about my relationship with George in “Letters of Hope- Part One.”

While I still believed in God, I wondered whether He loved me. I questioned whether God could forgive me.

“Believing the Lie” reveals the inner torment that I experienced as I navigated the confusion, guilt and a distorted view of love that were exacerbated by my relationship with George. Nothing in my life made sense. Believing that I was an evil person who was condemned by God seemed the most likely answer to my downward spiral.

Tell me, Lord, how can the child be set free?

Why are you silent when I call your name?

Am I condemned for all eternity?

Am I doomed? Must I live a life of shame?

Oh Lord, I tried to stop what seemed so wrong.

I ran to one I thought would understand.

He told me that my actions made me strong.

Then we played the game in the desert sand.

Thoughts of him consume me with no relief.

He has a wife. This is so wrong. With him

I both live and die. How can I believe

His love for me is more than just a whim?

Lord, tell me how can you forgive my sin?

How can I change? Tell me how to begin.

Related Posts:

The Hidden Child

The Child Left Behind

The Forgotten Fire

Letters of Hope- Part One

The Hidden Child

Between my Sophomore and Junior year of college, my anxiety and depression grew more profound as did my compulsion to act out sexually. If I dated someone who was not interested in a sexual relationship, I broke up with them. I felt trapped and believed I must be evil.

Between my Sophomore and Junior year of college, my anxiety and depression grew more profound as did my compulsion to act out sexually. If I dated someone who was not interested in a sexual relationship, I broke up with them. I realize now, that my unconscious mind recalled my father’s threats and declarations that my purpose was pleasing him and anyone he brought to me. The problem was, I did not remember anything about the interactions with my father. I did not remember that he was the one who first ignited the flame that I could not extinguish. I felt trapped and believed I must be evil. I continued to feel the tug of the child in my dreams. I wondered whether the child held the answers to my questions. She remained hidden, but I believed that she might hold the key to my freedom.

The sonnet, “The Hidden Child,” describes the continuing battle between my conscious thoughts and the child who wanted me to listen. After the first quatrain, the sonnet is a list of questions that demonstrate the anguish I felt as hidden memories struggle to be set free. In the sonnet, I tentatively accept the existence of the child but am not certain what to do with her.

Why can’t I stop this all-consuming flame?

Oh Lord, I do not like who I’ve become.

I can’t contain what lurks within my brain.

Fire that won’t quit once it has begun.

Will I someday know who first struck the match?

Who ignited the flame that will not die?

Who’s words told me that love comes with a catch?

Does the child know why love must be a lie?

Who is the hidden child that screams for peace?

Who is the hidden child that haunts my dreams?

Who is the hidden child whose cries won’t cease?

Does the child hold the key to what love means?

Will she reveal what I don’t want to see?

Tell me, Lord, how can the child be set free?

Related Posts:

The Forgotten Fire

The Child Left Behind

The Child Left Behind

Childhood trauma often causes the child to retreat emotionally and mentally into a safe place. Sometimes such mental retreats become a new reality for the individual. The child creates a new persona that is happy, playful and safe from harm. In cases of extreme abuse, the created safe place replaces the memory of the trauma for the child, particularly if the child leaves the abusive environment. However, as I pointed out in “The Forgotten Fire,” remnants of reality remain tucked away in the brain. Once ignited by a touch, a smell or sound, the remnants often surface with a vengeance. When that happens, sometimes years later, emotional chaos often ensues. The actual memory may remain hidden, which may lead to confusion, self-loathing and doubt. 

The Sonnet, “The Child Left Behind,” describes how I struggled to make sense out of my sexual acting out and desire that consumed me once the flame was ignited. I still had no memory of the abuse. Even as I felt the tug of a little girl who was frightened and angry as I yielded to old patterns, I rejected that child. I longed for control but lived in emotional chaos. I wanted answers, but none came.  The sonnet conveys the doubt, fear and questions that tortured me as I tried to make sense out of my life. The last quatrain sets the stage for the third sonnet in the series, “The Hidden Child.” 

 

Lord, who am I? Why do I act this way?

Can you douse the fire within my brain?

How do I know the tricks and how to play

The game that stifles fear yet causes pain?

I should not know what brings the boy delight.

I should not know what things ignite the flames.

I do not know how to can make this right.

I don’t know who I am or who to blame.

What’s wrong with me? What don’t I want to see?

Who is the frightened child that cries in pain?

This can’t be all I am. This can’t be me.

What child? What pain? No part of her remains.

Tell me, Jesus, am I the one to blame?

Why can’t I stop this all-consuming flame?

Related Posts:

The Forgotten Fire

How do I Change?

 

The Forgotten Fire

My first two years of college seemed magical, but I didn’t feel completely safe or comfortable. My thoughts sometimes drifted to desires and behaviors that I did not understand.

When I left home to go to college, I forgot everything that my family did to me.  I knew that my family was a bit quirky but had no idea about the abuse I endured. I laughed, played, and made friends in ways I never had before. I didn’t want to be around my family, but I didn’t know why. I felt free for the first time in my life, but the freedom scared me. I became afraid that I would make someone angry and I could not bear the thought of that. I had no idea how to make healthy friendships, so I clung to people often overwhelming them and pushing them away. I wanted so desperately to be loved, but I had no clue how to make that happen. For that matter, I did not know what love was.

My first two years of college seemed magical, but I didn’t feel completely safe or comfortable. My thoughts sometimes drifted to desires and behaviors that I did not understand. In my mind, I was a virgin, because the memories of the abuse I experienced were gone. However, the emotions, desires and physical components created by the years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse remained. 

A major component of Post Traumatic Stress is how our body responds to triggering events. Even without a conscious memory of the physical intimacy that my family forced on me, my body remembered exactly what to do when a boy touched me. The body remembers what the mind does not. My response to physical intimacy was automatic, much like muscle memory that allows me to complete repetitive motor tasks without conscious thought. 

The Sonnet, “The Forgotten Fire” describes my experience as I navigate between the incomplete conscious memories of my childhood and the unconscious emotional and physical memories of the abuse I endured, which were triggered when I met a boy who wanted physical intimacy.  The sonnet provides a glimpse into my struggle to understand the emotions and my reaction to something I thought was a totally new experience.

I thought I had to play the game or die.

At eighteen I could not recall what made

Me think that men would only make me cry.

I forgot the lies and the price I paid.

No more in his grasp, can my heart take flight?

Free to be a new and beautiful me.

No longer the child made for his delight,

I laughed and played for all the world to see.

Then I met a boy that made my heart burn.

His touch ignites a forgotten fire.

I fear the flame but don’t know where to turn.

When have I felt such fear and such desire?

I wonder how do I know what to say?

Lord, who am I? Why do I act this way?

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Sonnet I -Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie?

God is a Good Parent-Even In Our Darkest Hour

God guides us but does not demand or actively direct us. Rather, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “God keeps the faith, and he will not allow you to be tested about your powers, but when a test comes he will at the same time provide a way out, by enabling you to sustain it.”[1]  Using perfect parental guidance, God provides a way out but does not remove the freedom to choose. 

We Always Have a Choice

After reading the first three posts about God’s parenting, some may still ask, “Why didn’t God stop my abuser?” “Isn’t abusing a child behavior that is ‘completely out of line?” While child abuse is completely contrary to God’s desire for humanity, He does not always step in and prevent the abuse. As I wrote in the last post, there are consequences for the choices that we make. The key, however, is even in this, freedom remains. God guides us but does not demand or actively direct us. Rather, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “God keeps the faith, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your powers, but when a test comes he will at the same time provide a way out, by enabling you to sustain it.”[1]  Using perfect parental guidance, God provides a way out but does not remove the freedom to choose.  He allows us to make the choice to accept the way out or remain where we are, just like the person caught in a flood who cried out to God, “Save me, Lord.” A boat came, but the person refused, saying, “God will save me.” He climbed to the roof where a helicopter came, but the person refused, saying, “God will save me.” Finally, when the person drowned, he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?”  God replied, “I sent a boat and a helicopter.” Often we want God to act as the Helicopter Parent, swooping in dramatically to save the day. Instead, He provides the tools we need to escape. He behaves like a good parent to direct us, rather than forcing His will upon us. When we are aware of God’s providential care, our confidence, and faith increase because we know that “in everything, he cooperates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”[2]

However, as Cline and Fay point out, parents should step in, “When our children know they are in a situation, they can’t handle by themselves…it is not a destructive message because everyone is aware of the child’s inability to handle the situation.”[3] Oden reminds us that God is capable of “transcending the very order that God has created.”[4]  Just as a parent takes control when a child finds himself in a situation outside their ability to comprehend, God can intervene when our choices place us in circumstances we do not have the capacity to understand. When faced with the insurmountable, God’s absolute power can override his ordered power to perform miracles and pull us out of the fire.[5]

God Gets the Blame

While people may blame God for everything that is wrong with the world and fail to grasp how a loving God would allow hurt, death and chaos among his creation, accepted styles of sound parental guidance demonstrate that God’s interaction with humanity fits the good parenting model very well.  Throughout history, humanity has struggled, rebelled, been tempted and revolted with and against God, much like a child interacts with their parents.  Through all of these actions, God consistently models proper parental guidance. In His perfect goodness, He does what He instructs human parents to do. Anything less would not follow God’s perfect goodness. If a parent who allows their child to face the consequences of poor choices is not a bad parent, why would we believe God is unloving because He makes it possible to cope with the consequences of our poor choices rather than swooping in to save us?  How could a truly loving God, permit his creation to run wildly without guidance?  He would not.  Through his perfect goodness, God guides us toward His plan for us just as a human parent desires to guide their child toward adulthood. God demonstrates all the characteristics of good parental guidance through His providential care of humanity. In contrast, he exhibits no features of the Helicopter Parent, the Drill Sergeant Parent or the Laissez-Faire Parent.  He makes us face the consequences of our choices. He attempts to protect us by putting obstacles in our way.  He guides our steps when we are out of line. Finally, He directs us toward the plan he has for us by opening doors and closing others.

How does God’s parental guidance apply to the parent who abuses or neglects their child? The child does not make a bad choice, but still endures the consequences of their parents’ bad choice. I think God anguishes when a parent’s choice harms a child. Even though God did not sweep in and stop my family from abusing me, He was a constant presence in my life. Sometimes I was unaware of the presence but I know He was present. He kept me sane. He protected my soul and He guided me toward the promise of freedom. I did not understand why He did not just stand between me and my family. For years I was angry and afraid because I did not trust Him to protect me, but as I learned more about God’s character, I realized that He will not break His own laws. My parents will face the consequences or their choices. I do not have to worry about their fate. I am not responsible for their actions. I realize God is a good parent and He loves all of His creation.

Related Posts:

Is God a Good Parent?-Why Did He Let this Happen?

Is God a Good Parent-Part 2 What Makes Someone a Good Parent?

Is God a Good Parent? Part 3-What Does the Bible Tell Us About Parenting?

Is God a Good Parent Part 4-Does God follow the guidelines of good parental guidance?

[1] Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity, A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperCollins, 1992),159.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Foster Cline; Jim Fay, Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility (NavPress Publishing. Kindle Edition: 2014-02-01), Kindle Locations 856-860.

[4] Oden., 53.

[5] Ibid.

God follows the guidelines of good parenting.

There are Consequences

We have looked at what experts and the Bible say about effective parenting, but the question remains, does God’s parental guidance follow the guidelines of good parental guidance. There are several attributes of God’s guidance that parallel what we learned about effective parenting. First, God permits our freedom to result in consequences. He guides us by allowing our choices to play out in consequences.  Oden argues that “Freedom has no meaning if there is no risk of going astray.”[1]  As Cline and Fay point out, “If there had been no forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, humanity would have had no opportunity to make responsible or irresponsible choices.”[2] While God could easily take control like the Helicopter Parent who swoops in to remove any chance of consequence, doing so would prevent us from learning the essential lessons of our mistakes.  Instead, God permits us to choose whether to yield to temptation or not. Just like the parent providing proper parental guidance, God informs us of the consequences of our choice. Adam and Eve, for example, knew they were forbidden to eat the fruit of the tree and why.  God told them they would die. He allowed them to choose between the known consequence and the promises voiced by the Serpent.  He did not swoop down like the Helicopter Parent, stand in front of Satan and shout, “Remember what I said about this?” Nor did He send angels to destroy Satan or rip the fruit from Eve’s hand.  He allowed his creation to choose. Then like a good parent, He followed through with the consequence and banished them from Paradise.  However, He still loved them and ultimately provided a way back to Him through Jesus Christ.

Fencing us in

Secondly, God guides us by hindering our freedom by putting obstacles in our way to protect us from “ill-motivated actions.”[3]  Like the parent who puts the fence around the yard to keep the child from entering the street, God places obstacles in our path to keep us from harm.  The obstacles only hinder us.  Like the child who discovers how to climb over the fence and enter the street, we may find a “workaround” for the obstacle, but not without encountering some difficulty.  Satan challenged God to remove His protection from Job saying, “Have you not hedged him round on every side with your protection?”[4]  By such actions, God demonstrates that He is not the Laissez-Faire Parent, who allows the child to roam freely without guidance. However, if we discover how to overcome the obstacle, God does not become the Drill Sergeant or Helicopter Parent when we get into trouble. Instead, He allows us to grow from the SLO of our decision to climb the fence He placed around the yard to protect us. However, God will keep us from harm at times when we ask for his intervention or when the situation is beyond our ability to comprehend. God’s protection is not overprotection, but He does intervene for our safety by hedging us in or holding us back, “from committing a sin against” Him.  The psalmist prayed for such protection and hindrance of his freedom to harm himself[5], much like prayers of those struggling with addiction who pray for the hindrance of their choice to use drugs.

Overruling our freedom when we are completely out of line

Thirdly, God guides us by overruling our freedom when we are completely out of line.[6] Most parents accept that good parental guidance includes discipline such as removal of privileges, grounding and parental control of online activity. Some of these activities protect a child from predators, but most are put in place when a child’s behavior is “out of line.”  Similarly, as a good parent, God overrules our freedom when we act outside of God’s plan for us.  When the result is harm to ourselves or others, God guides us toward an outcome that turns the evil around for good, just as Joseph, whose brother sold him into slavery, became the means of redemption for them.[7] When a child hurts another person, the parent can intervene by expecting the child to learn about bullying, guiding them toward a better outcome for the child and others.  Community service for first offenders serves a similar purpose, especially when the person serves the community they offended.  God puts us into “community service” to guide us toward the plan He has for us. God’s community service may not be apparent to us because as Oden reflects, He guides us through “hidden routes” to “turn our misdeeds into potentially redeemed relationships.”[8]  Again, God acts as a responsible parent instituting logical consequences to teach us something and direct us toward His ultimate plan for us. He does not shout at us like a Drill Sergeant Parent nor does He hover over us ready to attack anyone who tries to impose consequences for our misdeed like a Helicopter Parent. Instead, He guides us toward activities which ultimately lead to restoration and growth if we listen to His guidance.

He goes before us and prepares the way

Finally, of all God’s providential governance, perhaps the idea that He goes before us and prepares the way is the most difficult for some to accept. To some, going before us may mean that God makes everything perfect, and therefore we should never struggle or suffer.   What if God acted as the Drill Sergeant Parent, barking orders to us about what direction we should go? While we may reach the goal, would we grow? Would we learn how to make difficult choices under pressure? Most likely, our reaction would resemble the response of children raised by any of the ineffective parenting styles, anger, rebellion, and inability to choose the correct path for fear of failing.  If God acted as the Laissez-Faire Parent, how would we know the options available? We would not know; we would wander aimlessly, making choices based on our limited knowledge with potentially disastrous consequences.   By guiding us instead of actively directing or demanding that we behave in a particular manner, God demonstrates the ultimate goal of good parenting which is encouraging growth, and maturity. By guiding our path, God directs us by opening some doors and closing others, thus guiding us away from disaster or inordinate temptation.[9]

Next: God is a Good Parent-Even In Our Darkest Hour

Related Posts:

Is God a Good Parent?-Why Did He Let this Happen?

Is God a Good Parent-Part 2 What Makes Someone a Good Parent?

Is God a Good Parent? Part 3-What Does the Bible Tell Us About Parenting?

The View from the Foot of the Bed

[1] Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity, A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperCollins, 1992),159.

[2] Foster Cline; Jim Fay, Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility (NavPress Publishing. Kindle Edition: 2014-02-01), Kindle Locations 392-393.

[3] Oden, 158.

[4] Oden, 158.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 159.

[9] Ibid.

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