Discerning Accurate Messages
Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life!
Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy. Psalm 130:2 (MSG)
In today’s story, my friend, Bethany illustrates the power of messages—harsh, inaccurate voices from childhood trauma and abuse as well as wise, mature and kind messages pointing to restoration and wholeness. Sorting through an assortment of conflicting and confusing messages is messy business! (If you didn’t read Part 1 or 2, they can be found in the March 28 & 31, 2016 Listening… blog posts.)
So Many Different Messages…
Bethany’s ‘little girl’ story – (Part 3)
Where we left off last time: 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.
I was 16 years old when I met a boy who changed the way I had always felt about men. He was the first person I told about my abuse. He loved me anyway. He married me. I thought everything would be easier after we got married.
I had found someone who loved and accepted me—dirty secrets and all. But things weren’t easy. My past ate at me. It popped up from my sub-conscience. I didn’t have the tools I needed to be free. I still believed the lies I grew up hearing. They were so ingrained in me. Over and over the voices sneered, and I listened as they reminded me:
You’re a liar!
Those voices were so loud. Perhaps they were drowning out other voices that were trying to warn me to watch for red flags in my marriage. I ended up being betrayed by the only man I had ever truly trusted with my heart.
Then the angry voices erupted. By the time I discovered what my husband was doing, we had two children. I watched as my kids became the targets of my anger. I listened to the angry words I hurled at my precious children, and I hated myself for this behavior.
Then, there were those voices, which I talked about in part 1 of my story. Voices I heard at church, talking about the Grace of God.
So many voices—those with which I was familiar: worthlessness, shame, inadequacy, unworthiness—the newly acquired, frightening voice of anger—all mingling and clashing together with an unfamiliar voice of grace.
Even though listening to the conflicting messages was disturbing, I’m sure they are what brought me to the place where I was able to say, “That’s enough!” and gave me the courage to reach out for help.
When I met with the woman at my church who I had admired from a distance, I had no idea what our meeting would hold. I’d heard her speak before. There was something different about her message. She seemed authentic and trustworthy. The intimacy with which she talked about God was foreign, but felt real and like something I wanted.
Even though I didn’t know what I was going to say, before our time together was over, I had poured out my whole shameful story. I’ll never forget what she said to me.
“Bethany, it’s okay to to cry for the ‘little girl’ in you who died that day when you were 7.”
She prayed for me. She asked God to restore the joy that had been taken from me as a child. She walked with me, assisting me in finding resources to get the help I so desperately needed.
Shortly after that meeting, one of our pastors did a mini-series of sermons on God-honoring, healthy sexuality. He’d invited a woman to share her story of growing up with her minister-father who sexually abused her and her sisters.
Four words in the guest speaker’s talk impacted me deeply. Concerning her father’s pattern of repeated sexual abuse, the woman said she reached a point where she finally decided,
“The crazy stops here!”
That’s where I’m at now! (to be continued…)
Sue’s insight concerning the chaos of confusing messages:
Every time I hear the group, Casting Crowns, sing, The Voice of Truth. I realize my head is nodding in agreement with the lyrics. Sometimes, I feel as if a cacophony of messages is hollering at me from every which way—entertainment, politics, education, religion, family, the workplace—even messages that come from within me. Trying to sort out truth is often confusing and frustrating. Some points to consider:
- Voices of shame and inadequacy may have originated with abuse or from unwise, unhealthy or unkind actions or words that took root and grew in our impressionable childhood or adolescent soul.
- Many of life’s issues don’t have a quick and easy fix. Certainly, childhood abuse is one that is multi-layered and complex.
- For most who find the courage to fight this battle, healing occurs one layer at a time.
- Even though we may believe the truth, it will probably be a while before the truth we believe overtakes the lies we’ve absorbed.
I’m praying God will help each of us hear and believe messages that speak truth…