can i get real with you? i mean raw, unfiltered, and pure vulnerability. i’ve been thinking about redemption and grace lately. in my line of work this isn’t spoken of often. many people are fueled by anger, ‘justified’ anger. the kind of anger that is backed up by experiences of being violated. the type of anger that should force the people who’ve never experienced that level of violation to be quiet and listen. yet, i can’t help but see the hypocrisy in this. you see, we long for grace and redemption but are unwilling to give it back.
i’ve garnered a lot of self-esteem from helping people for as long as i can remember. the idea of standing up to the big kids on the school playground when they made fun of a friend didn’t seem foolish to me, it seemed like the right thing to do. without question, i stood up when standing up needed to happen. i’ve always liked this aspect of myself.
this was one of my coping strategies. i felt no one protected me from being abused as a child and i was desperate to make sure no one else would feel the way i felt. of course, looking back on this as an adult i’ve got a better insight into why i was abused. i wasn’t abused because my parents didn’t protect me. i was abused because someone who was entrusted to care for me violated that trust. my parents didn’t not care about what happened to me, my parents didn’t understand it, neither did i.
my spirit did. that little girl, who hid somewhere deep inside my body while my body was used as a vessel of pleasure for someone else, wasn’t capable of understanding the messages she was receiving were lies. lies that had dug themselves so deep into her that she’s completely forgotten where she begins and the lies end. i operated out of the belief that i was unworthy of love, protection and real relationships. i believed no one would love me if they knew the truth. sex was mind boggling to me.
faith and religion were synonymous with unforgiveness and a hateful God while i was growing up. while others around me worshiped the Lord, i worshiped the lies the enemy told me. i took it upon myself to save myself, and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.
throughout all this, i had a couple friendships. through all the chaos in my life, these were the stable points of focus. this would not change, i’d tell myself. though i hear adults say we rarely keep our childhood friends, i’d smirk knowing this wouldn’t happen to us.
but things changed. i changed. i struggled to see myself outside of the lies i had been believing. i struggled to be seen. i clung to my past while my future pulled me towards her like gravity pulls me down to earth. in the process, i found myself.
it’s important for people to know that child sexual abuse doesn’t just impact the child for a couple years but has the potential to impact the child for a very long time, in ways you’d never imagine. not only will it impact the child who was abused but every person that child has a relationship will be impacted by the abuse they endured.
i’m the first to admit that growing up was difficult for me. not because i had crappy parents, but because i experienced some crappy stuff. stuff i lacked knowledge about. to add insult to injury i didn’t recall the abuse until i was 12 or 13 years old. right as puberty was reminding me i wasn’t a child any more, my memories reminded me i hadn’t been a child for many years.
i remember being upset with a close friend of mine because she suddenly lost interest in the music we used to like. i thought, how is she so easily given up our jams? most of my friends stopped playing with dolls long before i did. i begrudgingly gave ’em up, but continued watching nickelodeon. (truth me told, if i still had cable i’d probably find myself watching many of the tv shows on there).
a lot of times, my anger was displaced. but then a lot of times my anger wasn’t displaced yet was continued to be treated as if it was. my feelings were brushed off as “another one of those days for our crazy friend”. i finally began standing up for myself in ways i hadn’t done before.
in the past couple of years so many things have changed in my life. i’m only 6 or 7 years into living with Jesus as the center of my life. a concept i don’t think i’ve fully come to comprehend. what does it really mean to live a Christ centered life? how does living this lifestyle impact my relationships with co-workers, friends, new friends, and family?
before i gave my life to Christ i looked at His followers in dismay. i judged them. i thought many of them were missing out on life. i thought many of them blindly followed a man in a black robe who knew little to nothing about real life. at one point i argued with a missionary who came to my college campus and preached on a hill in front of the main building – mostly because i enjoyed a good debate, but also because i hate when people preached fear over love and acceptance.
then i became a christian. i suddenly began to change. my thinking was changing as was my behavior. i saw the ways i treated some of the people closest to me and felt ashamed. i saw the way the abuse as a child impacted me as an adolescent and young adult. i saw the ways i took credit for things i never had the right to take credit for.
[for] they were hungry, so i fed them. they felt satisfied. they grew proud. then they forgot me. hosea 13:6
after reading this verse, i broke down and cried. i asked Jesus to come into my life and change my heart and heal my mind.
i mourned the loss of some of the friendships that were no more. i tried to make right what went wrong, but this was not possible. i hung on to relationships that should have been let go of years prior. why? out of fear that this lost relationship would make me a failure. that somehow what happened to me as a child would win and control my relationships.
but the words of some of the adults in my life echoed in my mind. a song my dad used to sing to me when i was little, you may know it. “Make new friends, but keep the old ones. Some are silver while the others are gold.” or something like that. i hadn’t known which ones to let go of. i didn’t want to lose any of them, who does? but i was terrified of building new friendships, i’d never realized that until the Lord pushed these friendships out of my life.
hindsight is always 20/20. one can always look back and play the “shoulda/woulda/coulda” game, but none of this changes the deeper messages i’m battling with these lost friendships. the reason’s these relationships ended had nothing to do with our innate lack of worthiness of grace or forgiveness/redeeming qualities, but of our cultural inability to have grace or forgiveness for one another.
i think about the pharaoh in exodus and how the Lord hardened his heart and it was only once his son was killed in the plagues that the pharaoh agreed to let “my people go”. this isn’t the first time God harden the hearts of his people. he does it throughout the bible. this has always bothered me. why would he harden the hearts of people? wouldn’t that just cause more sorrow?
i don’t think God harden’s our hearts. i think God allows us to harden our own heart with feelings of false righteousness, and pride. after all, it’s easier to be angry at another person than it is to reflect on our own bad behaviors. like eve and adam, it is too painful to admit we messed up. we instantly feel shame for our behaviors. we feel embarrassed. it goes straight to our idea of worth and value. our identities are attacked. we don’t simply make bad choices, we ARE those bad choices.
i’ve wondered what it would take for reconciliation. what would that look like? would i be ready should it ever happen? am i willing to forgive these individuals for the violations i felt during the friendship? am i ready to take responsibility and repent for the violations they felt in the relationship?
yes. the answer is yes.
not because i long for these relationships to be back in my life. i don’t believe reconciliation always means the relationships come back. these relationships will never be what they were. we simply aren’t the same people. i believe God called these people out of my life for a reason, and me out of their lives for a reason. yet this doesn’t stop the hurt.
recently something popped up on my facebook feed that struck me. my mind and heart were instantly consumed with hurt. i found myself thinking all sorts of terrible things about myself. i thought of all the reasons why i was hurt and i tried to get angry. why? because culture says being angry is more respectful than being hurt and sad.
the sad truth is the last conversations i had with these individuals was horrible. i felt more hurt with the last words spoken to me than i think i felt when the relationships were initially called into question. but i long for reconciliation. i long for the value of a relationship to be placed above the value of pride.
i’m not perfect. i’ve fallen more than once. i’ve made mistakes. i’ve said hurtful things. i’ve acted immaturely. but as i sit here and acknowledge these incredibly personal things, i wonder if they have. and then i conclude, they haven’t.
not because they are horrible people, because they’re more certainly not. but because when we feel hurt we harden our hearts. we justify treating others horrible our of some false belief that they deserve it. we ignore people. we disrespect people. we name call. i we build walls. lock closet doors. we walk away. because sometimes blaming others is easier and less painful than seeing our own responsibility.
yet, today i learned a value lesson. as i processed the hurt i was feeling and recognized the awful pattern this experience has developed in my life, my mentor reminded me that my value and worth are not locked up in whether or not another individual was capable of seeing it. i’m not incapable of being a great friend simply because i struggled with one. i am not unworthy of grace and redemption simply because another can’t grant that to me.
i strive to be a better person. a person who fully encompasses the characteristics of Christ. i will fail at this. i will not always talk out of compassion, though i will strive to always. i will not always love unselfishly, but i was always strive to. i will not always not boast, but i will strive to listen more than talk. i will not always be free from envy, but i will constantly strive to accept what i have and be grateful. i will not always love others the way they wish to or need to be loved, but i will always strive to love others according to their love languages.
what i’ve discovered today is something i hope will stick with me. i have high hopes in the women and men that the Lord has brought into my life today. that these relationships would encourage me to be a better person. that the people around me would seek to see me for who i am, not who they want or need me to be so they can feel good about themselves or their lives. that the people who seek to challenge me and speak up about when my actions are not aligned with one of the characteristics of God.
i’m hopeful for honest relationships that don’t have to physically last a lifetime, but will change me for a lifetime. i ask for grace. i ask for patience and i pray that i would be able to continue to have revealed to me what needs to be revealed.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” ephesians 2:4-9 esv
*to be continued . . .