“I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me.”
Robert Browning Hamilton
The Sadness – an Obstacle too Big?
For many years I worked as an Employee Assistance Professional, and now I’m privileged to serve on the team at Lake City Church as a pastoral counselor. I’ve heard some very sad stories. There was a period in my career when sometimes I felt so overwhelmed with the sadness of a client’s story—so weighted down with sympathy—I wanted to flee.
There are times when the sadness in our own story feels crushing. We wonder if the obstacles we must traverse in order to achieve healing are simply too big. Running away seems easier than struggling to climb to heights of new health and happiness.
In today’s post, my friend, Bethany, continues her story. (If you didn’t read Part 1, this can be found in the March 28, 2016 Listening… blog post.)
Sad, Sad Pages of my Story
Bethany’s ‘little girl’ story – (Part 2)
Where we left off last time: I didn’t even know what I was going to say. I was terrified. The day of our meeting, I was a mess. I thought about canceling so many times, but staying stuck where I was seemed worse than finally being real with someone. I ended up telling her everything!
Growing up I was not the ladylike, good Christian girl I was expected to be. I preferred wrestling, climbing trees, and playing sports to playing dolls and dressing up. I knew this disappointed my mom.
My natural tendency is to express, not hide, feelings and emotions. But, early in my life, I learned it wasn’t safe to ‘let it all hang out’ as my mother would say. Even though I never understood why it was a bad thing to be honest with my emotions, I became good at putting them away and pretending nothing was wrong—no matter what. In our family no one ever talked about feelings. We never discussed things that made us sad.
My parents were separated most of my growing up years. My siblings and I never knew the security of a loving stable home. I know my parents tried hard for our sakes, but it just never worked out. My mom suffered from depression. Sometimes she stayed in her room for weeks. We took care of ourselves and each other during those times.
Occasionally, my dad came home during one of my mom’s bouts with depression, and he helped out. Even though Dad was gone most of the time, he worked hard and always supported us financially. Mom always stayed home with us kids.
My mom was a very harsh disciplinarian. She called them ‘spankings,’ and we were ‘spanked’ often. Her blows didn’t stop until we would no longer move. She believed that meant ‘our will had been broken.’ In reality, our wills hadn’t been broken. We were just too tired to keep fighting.
We went to church three times a week. We wore the clothes the church deemed ‘right.’ We sang the ‘right’ songs. We said the ‘right’ prayers. I never had a real relationship with God. Sometimes, I was told “God loves you,” but had no understanding of what that meant.
I was 7 years old the first time my Sunday school teacher sexually abused me. Later, this man became my pastor. The abuse continued eight years. Confusion, pain, and betrayal—all were too much for my little brain. I learned to put them away with all my other pain—hidden in a place where I never wanted to go.This man told me what happened was my fault. He said I must never tell anyone. “They will blame you,” he warned. I believed him. For years I lived feeling shame of my body and my sexuality.
I learned how to blend in. I loved learning and always really enjoyed school. But, even when I knew I could do well at something, I made sure I didn’t excel, always staying even with the majority of my class. I never wanted to stand out. I would rather fail at something than be noticed.
When I was halfway through the 7th grade, my dad got work somewhere else, and my family relocated. I never returned to school. This left me with the insecurity of being very uneducated, a feeling with which I continue to struggle. (to be continued…)
Sue’s insight concerning sadness in our story:
In my Employee Assistance career, I served as a member of a critical incident management team. In the early 2000’s, I was introduced to a branch of psychological research exploring happiness and resilience. The topic fascinated me. I read whatever I could about the subject. The more secular literature I read, the more common threads I began to see between the research and Scripture.
As my knowledge increased about the science behind happiness, I became intrigued with the concept of God’s immutable character. Until my brain ached, I thought about the paradox of a never-changing God existing in a world and within cultures that are forever changing. I concluded God is a resilient being who built into the nature of humankind the characteristic of resilience.
When I decided to get serious about writing for information and inspiration, I wrote the following purpose statement, which emerged from my exhaustive thinking about the never-changing character of the God I loved and wanted to serve with my entire being: “My purpose as a writer is to point readers to a never-changing God in our ever-changing world.”
The resilient woman speaks gently to that little girl within her, ”We’re going to take that first step and climb to heights of new health and happiness!”
As my understanding of resilience grew, I began to feel less sympathy and see more opportunity when I heard a sad story. Hope ignited as I observed people, who from the most horrific experiences, ‘bounced back.’ They not only survived, but they thrived.
Of the sadness in our stories, Dr. Dan Allender says, “Tragedy shapes our deepest passions, and our passions shape who we are and what we will become….As we do battle against the tragedy of our story, we determine whom we will fight for and how we will rage the war of life.”
I’m praying God will add meaning, create hope and bless the pages of your story…
- To be told, – God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future, Dan B. Allender, Ph.D., © 2005 ↑