Healing From Abuse in Church
When I started this blog in spring 2012 - despite 20+ years of a combination of therapy and prayers, not to mention occasional...ok, maybe frequent...self-medication (ha!) - I was very, very, incredibly angry...again. I had just experienced yet another major disagreement in a lifetime of major disagreements with my dad about the same freakin' thing(s) that we are always disagreeing about. You would think that we both would have learned by now, but no.
One of the major disagreements - ongoing for the past 20+ years (which should explain the combination of therapy, prayers, and medication) - is that I say I was molested by a well-respected leader in the church my dad pastored in southwest Kansas from the time I was 13 until I was 16, and he says I was not. Additionally, my dad beat me on my face until I was black and blue, which prompted local authorities to file a CINC (Child In Need of Care) case, after being contacted by officials at my school who were concerned with my appearance. My dad claims the beating never happened, and that I made it all up.
However, in the days, and perhaps hours, after creating this blog, I was captivated by a facebook status that leaped out of my newsfeed and demanded my thoughtful reflection. That day, I was compelled to copy and share it on my own status. Today, I'm going to share it here with you:
"One of the most difficult times in my life has been trying to learn how God wants me to see and deal with loss, disappointments,hurts and betrayals. Everyone faces these challenges in life. I wish I could help all my friends and fix everything for those that are hurting. Don't you just hurt too, when your family and friends are hurting? I feel so badly for them. I think I've missed a lot of happy days and happy times while I was dwelling on the losses, and not on my blessings. Then I feel troubled in my soul, and peace and contentment escapes me. So my thought for today is: Philippians 4:9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me--everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. I'm going to work on this one today! Have a blessed day all my FB friends."
Trust and Betrayal
Immediately, my heart was smitten. The bulk of the hurt, loss, and disappointment that has consumed me from within for over 20 years comes from what I perceive to be heart-wrenching betrayal. Not only was I molested by a church member and long time family friend and beaten by my dad - who was the pastor of the church - but about a year after this all happened, I was raped by another "man of God" who is the pastor of a church today. All of these men being self-proclaimed men of God, all of them finding a way to justify that what they did to a young, teenage girl was okay, all of them prospering financially to this day, while I struggle with the pain they have inflicted, and none of them appear to be one bit sorry about.
But of course, I am going to be betrayed. Right? We all will be. Or have been. Or have betrayed. Or all of the above. Believers understand that even God Himself was betrayed and denied by men whom He loved very, very much. As sure as we live and breathe, someone, somewhere, someday will undoubtedly betray us. As if to add insult to injury, we are then expected to forgive, which I'm pretty sure means that we aren't supposed to lash out in anger, although I have plenty of times before...never with a great result. I think it is during those days and times, the days and times I wrestle with forgiveness and anger, forgiveness of myself and of others, anger at myself and at others, those are the days and the times that my attention is distracted from my many, many blessings and the peace of God eludes me.
During this time of self-reflection, I was reminded of a book that I have been studying...The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by late author, Dr. Steven Covey (RIP). In this book, Dr. Covey speaks about our circles of influence and concern as shown in the illustration. Over the course of studying this book, I had finally come to terms (after 20+ years mind you) with the fact that I had experienced sexual abuse as a teenager from a long time family friend and church member, and there was nothing I could do to change that. I also understood that nobody believed that the abuse had even happened to me, and there was nothing I could do to change that, either. While still inside my circle of concern, I realized that this situation was outside of my circle of influence...it was beyond my control. After 20+ years, I finally decided it was time to let it go.
Then, in January 2012 (approximately 6 or so months after "I finally decided it was time to let it go"), the unthinkable happened. My dad called a family meeting and requested only he, I, my brother, and my mother be there. No spouses. No kids. I spent an excruciating weekend wondering WTFishbait was going on. Me and my brother played "guess what we are gonna talk about," and I can't even remember what all we guessed, but I don't think either one of us were prepared for what happened next. Long story short, my dad told us "and I know (name) molested you and I'm sorry I didn't do anything about it."
Coming to Terms
How in the world is one to respond to a bombshell like that? Immediately, thoughts began racing through my mind so quickly that it was absolutely impossible to keep up with them. I remember feeling disbelief. I mean, why now? Why after I had JUST come to terms with the fact that the thing that was currently happening was actually never going to happen? And then I just kinda went numb...I think I have gone back and forth between actually dealing with this "stuff" again and just letting myself be numb.
Unfortunately, after so long, it wasn't...isn't...just a matter of "me letting it (the hurt, anger, bitterness, hate, etc.) all go" because now it has ahold of me, too. Not only that. It is a part of me. It is a part of who I am. Letting it go...ripping it out...cleaning it up...is not only it messy, but the work leaves scars. Not that that is a bad thing. It just, matter of factly, is. I'm sure that everyone has their scars...but only if the work has been done to clean up the mess. Otherwise, it is still just an open, festering, painful wound that grows worse over time and slowly, steadily, drains life's energy right out of you.
Some days, I find myself getting lost in the "what coulda been" - preacher's wife? financial stability? gospel recording artist? evangelist? esteemed reputation that comes with all of the above? I mean, I was on the track for that - pastor's daughter...piano/organ player...singer...sunday school teacher. I even had my "first date" at the age of 16 with a young man who is now the pastor of an apostolic church in Hutchinson, KS. But, then I go to therapy, say my prayers, and take my medication, and I realize that I don't have "what coulda been"...I only have what is. And, I must say, for now, it is more than enough.