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