Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Than A Conquerer


I can not remember a time when I didn't know Jesus.  I grew up in a Christian home, my parents were active members in our church and small town community.  I was the fourth child and only girl and I adored my three older brothers.  I craved their attention, so if there was an occasion when I got to spend time with them I jumped at it, especially if they weren't treating me like I was annoying to be around or a pain in the butt or - in general - an inconvenience.

Then it all changed.

I always remembered, there wasn't a time when I forgot, but I did not understand until I was much older.  I knew what had happened was wrong but I didn't know why.  I knew it was wrong because we stacked up books behind the door and the vacuum cleaner too.  

I remember those books because they were a set and when they were all lined up there was a picture on the spine that ran the length of the set.  There were lots of them and they were heavy and I remember helping to pile them up behind the door.  Its as if by that very act of helping to place the books behind the door I was complicit in the abuse - that's how I genuinely felt for so long.

So here was an occasion where, at last, I wasn't an inconvenience, in fact I was part of the game and I got to spend time by myself with my big brother.  I remember actively seeking him out to play this game again.  I know that that memory caused me to believe for a long time that I had been the one to instigate the abuse and that I must hold myself accountable for the consequences.  That was a lie!

My life didn't change from the outside.  From the outside we were a close knit family.  We moved to the city, Dad went to Bible College and I got a new baby brother, although I had specifically requested that God give me a baby sister.  I adored my family.
 
I never forgot what had happened but I clung to denial with a tight fist. 
I began stealing food and sneaking snacks.  I felt the same thrill sneaking food as I had piling those books behind the door.  I felt the same mixed desire to get away with it and be caught at the same time.  I have used food as a comfort and a cover and as a slow form of suicide.  
I developed a sense of humor to shield my heart. A well timed joke or pointed sarcasm have become my weapons of choice to keep people at arms length.  The ready smile and hearty laugh covered over my pain.
Denying the truth to myself I refused God entry into my pain.  I refused to allow healing.  After all if I was to heal, I was going to have to acknowledge and accept the truth.  And if I acknowledged the truth to myself I may risk losing the people I loved the most - my family.
But God broke me.  I got sick.  I stopped sleeping and if I did sleep I had to sleep with the light on. I suffered from chronic back pain and nightmares.  Depression set in and I was in a dark hole I couldn't get out of. "O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?" 

I was at an emotional breaking point and I felt I had only two choices left: tell my parents and confront my brother or die.

7 years ago I began my journey of healing - timidly stepping into the light.  God does not break his promises.  "I have made you and I WILL carry you.  I WILL sustain you and I WILL rescue you." Isaiah 46:4   

Clinging to that promise I told my parents, I confronted my brother and I finally let go of the burden of responsibility I had been carrying for 15 years.  It was not my fault, and it is not my shame to hide.  

I adored my family and when I spoke the truth they showed no grace or compassion.  My father was my hero and he broke my heart by calling me a sick liar and a disappointment.  I can understand why he said those things but it doesn't make the pain go away.

Jesus knows what I've been through, what has happened to me.  He knows and he understands.  He is no stranger to pain, no stranger to being rejected by his family, of having friends disappoint him, of being abandoned and suffering great physical, emotional and spiritual abuse.  Of being called a liar and crazy.  Of being humiliated, hung naked on a cross and enduring extreme pain.  We are not alone in our pain and hurt and brokenness because Jesus has walked the path before us.

Isaiah 51:3
The LORD will surely comfort Zion
       and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
       he will make her deserts like Eden,
       her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
       Joy and gladness will be found in her,
       thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

I am not my abuse.  I am not dirty and unloved.  I am not alone. I still struggle with fear, I still push people away, some nights I still sleep with the light on, I still struggle with using created things to comfort me rather than the Creator.  But slowly, day by day, I hold firm to the promises of my heavenly Father.  Joy and gladness WILL be found in me, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

I am a redeemed child of Jesus who was chosen before the world was created and I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I am my heavenly Father's precious daughter, clothed in Jesus' love and being transformed by the Wonderful Counselor.  He is feeling my hurt, pain and rejection and having compassion.  He is rebuilding me one precious jewel at a time.  And because of Christ's love for me I can stand up and sing: I am not a victim any longer, I am not just a survivor.  I am more than a conqueror through Jesus who loves me.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

The healing process is messy, hard work, there will be tears, sometimes its excruciatingly painful but its totally worth it. We are not alone.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Precious Gems

Isaiah 54

9-10"This exile is just like the days of Noah for me:
   I promised then that the waters of Noah
   would never again flood the earth.
I'm promising now no more anger,
   no more dressing you down.
For even if the mountains walk away
   and the hills fall to pieces,
My love won't walk away from you,
   my covenant commitment of peace won't fall apart."
   The God who has compassion on you says so.

11-17"Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied:
   I'm about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
Lay your foundations with sapphires,
   construct your towers with rubies,
Your gates with jewels,
   and all your walls with precious stones.
All your children will have God for their teacher—
   what a mentor for your children!
You'll be built solid, grounded in righteousness,
   far from any trouble—nothing to fear!
   far from terror—it won't even come close!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Listening to the Liar

"You don't deserve to be loved. You are detestable, ugly.  Even your own parents rejected you, how could you possibly think that any one would ever love you.  You aren't good enough.  You'll never amount to anything."

I've been listening to these statements for over a decade.  Psychologists will tell you its negative self-talk the product of low self-esteem.  I'm not convinced.  I believe its Satan trying to mess with me.  If its me beating myself up its never in the third-person its in the first-person, "I shouldn't have done that, I don't think I'm enough."  Third person its an attack. 

Satan wants nothing more then to destroy life and for so many years he has been hassling me.  I didn't realise it at first but most 13 year olds don't dream of growing up to be a prostitute or being absolutely convinced that they would be dead by 26.  I'm not sure that I thought that this was normal, obviously I didn't voice some of this until many years later but it was my 'normal'.

When you're abused at such a young age you develop coping mechanism to survive.  I'm still discovering what some of mine are but God is revealing them to me one at a time.  Some of these coping mechanisms can become sinful and are ungodly.  I know that, for me, having believed the lie that I was going to die when I was 26 (which sounds ludicrous - but was a very real fear) has led to certain patterns of behaviour and certain lifestyle choices which are sinful and destructive.  I am so grateful that Jesus has broken death and that for the first time in years I don't feel as though I'm living with a time bomb about to explode.

I was talking to one of my closest friends today about honesty and integrity in relationships.  So often we try to cover up our sin or dress it up and justify, we try to manage it rather then repenting of it.  Well on my way to 28 now I am having to repent of my sinful behaviour.  This is an incredibly humbling experience.

For years I've spent money and ate myself into obesity.  I have spent money that wasn't mine and racked up large debts partly because I didn't know how to manage the resources I did have, partly because I was going to be dead when I was 26 and I didn't care that my parents may be left with a large debt to pay off.    Now I'm working this out with God and with people I trust to give me wise and prudent advice, I don't resent the debt because it represents my own sin, nor do I expect someone to come riding out of the sunset to save me from the hard work of paying it off.  God has blessed me with a well paid job and I have absolutely no choice but to rest in him to get me through this next stage in my life because I've tried to do it my way and it hasn't really worked out well.

Food has always been a problem for me.  I've seen mum go on diet after diet her weight yo-yoing as regularly as her mood.  Mum definitely modelled emotional eating well for me but I don't hold her responsible for my poor decisions. 

I think my eating has a number of key motivators - listening to Satan's lies I believed I deserved to die.  Some people choose to slit their wrists or swallow a cocktail of drugs.  I chose eating.  For me it was a more socially acceptable way of killing myself, and the best part about it was that it was a long slow shameful death. 

I didn't want anyone to get close to me, in both a literal and a metaphorical sense.  I've begun referring to my fat as 'scar tissue'.  I think its the best way to describe what it is.  The hurt, pain, soul deep pain of my history of abuse has made me fear people getting too close to me.  Of guys finding me attractive or beautiful, of anyone thinking I'm desirable.  Although I long for someone to fold me in their arms and tell me they love me - I fear it just as much. 

Sometimes I look in the mirror and see glimpses of beauty but they are fleeting.  Most of the time I see a fat ugly women who has eaten her feelings and needs to get off her lazy arse and do some exercise.  I know that I am overly harsh and critical of myself and I do have to remember that God has shown me grace I should show myself some.  If I ask the God who created me from scratch to forgive me for not being a good steward of the body he gave me and he forgives me what does it say about me if I refuse to forgive myself?  Effectively it is pride, its okay for God to forgive but I have to work it off for myself. Under all the 'scar tissue' there is a little four year old girl who is scarred and lonely. 

God is transforming me and as I become more confident in His love for me through Jesus I know I will blossom...I already feel like I am so much more alive now that I know that a lot of the thoughts that run through my head are lies.  Get behind me Satan in the name of Jesus, Get behind me!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Changing

I've often felt as though I needed to have my stuff all figured out and neatly packaged before I could be of any help to God.  So I've discovered that's a load of crap.  It is at my weakest when I'm holding tenaciously to the Cross of Christ that he has used me the most.  Perseverance in the face of suffering, I am learning, is one of the greatest witnesses to those around you.  Standing firm in your faith though your knees are quaking and basking in God's light has taught me to never question how useful you can be simply by being obedient and honest despite how you may be feeling.  And so God is using me...and its petrifying and exciting and humbling and scary all mixed into one jumbled emotional package, cleverly disguised behind a sense of humour.

Piece by piece God is turning my heart around, bringing me to an understanding that I am loved abundantly by him and that his love for me and for all mankind brought him to pay a ransom with the high cost of his son's life.  Jesus, brought me life and I am precious to him.  He has clothed me in white and I am pure and blameless in his sight.  How incredibly amazing is this gift. 

I've lived so much of my life up to this point feeling unworthy, unlovable, grotesque, ugly, small, insignificant and dirty.  The truth is...apart from Jesus, I am all these things.  BUT by God's amazing indescribable grace I have a new identity in Christ.  One marked by love, beauty, greatness, significance and holiness.  There is no shame.  As my confidence in Christ grows and I come to a greater understanding of his love for me and what it means to be renewed I am being changed.

I notice that I'm looking people in the eye more.  Feeling more beautiful and lovely.  Standing confidently taller.  Hiding myself less and making myself more vulnerable to those I trust.  Opening up my heart to hurt and disappointment but also to love and hope and infinite possibilities. 

I still have a long way to go and know that I need to pray and meditate on the Word to guard myself against Satan, sin and his effects.  But, with the Holy Spirit's help I am becoming the lady that Jesus desires for me to be.