Posts Tagged ‘faith after child abuse’

********** religious triggers **********

On my blog entry entitled My Own Faith Journey after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I’m curious how you got past the feeling that [God] deserted you in your childhood when you really needed Him. ~ Ivory

It took me a long time to move past feeling abandoned by God. I used to ask what the h@#$ good is it being God if He cannot even prevent one child from being abused. However, I came to realize that I was viewing my situation under faulty assumptions.

I blame organized religion for part of the problem. Churches often are guilty of saying things like, “God will keep you safe.” However, that simply is not biblical. Many of the apostles were martyred, and even Jesus himself was crucified. So, telling little kids that they will be safe if they believe in God is just plain wrong.

You will not find anywhere in the Bible that promises that God will keep you from being hurt if you believe in Him or trust Him. I think that church folks made this up to give them a false sense of security. That way, as long as they do X, Y, and Z, then they believe that they are safe as they go about their daily lives. The truth is that, if they have managed to live their lives without being traumatized, they are simply lucky.

Once I accepted the fact that God never promised to keep children safe, I recognized that I was blaming God for failing to do something that He never promised to do in the first place. It is not God’s job to keep my kid safe – that is my job as an adult who loves him. If all adults loved all kids, then no child would be abused. However, there are many people in the world who do not love kids, not even their own children, and that is the reason for child abuse. There is plenty of blame to go around, but God is not where I place the blame.

I do not believe that God deserted me. In fact, I believe He was ever-present, giving me the gift of dissociative identity disorder (DID) and the hope that the future would be better so that I could survive the abuse. God promises to heal broken hearts, not to prevent them from breaking. God also charges His people to protect children. Those who did not heed his instructions will suffer one day. I blame the adults in my life who did not protect me for the abuse, not God.

Back to the question of how I reached this place – It was through a lot of Bible study, prayer (including lots of “prayers” that were really just me yelling at God), and meditation. It also involved letting go of what churches had told me about who God is and exploring who God is myself. God cannot be contained in a church or even in a book like the Bible. The Bible points us to who God is, but it cannot contain Him. To really get to know God, you have to reach out and invite Him in. Like Job, I wanted God to “defend” Himself, and, like Job, I found that I was asking the wrong questions.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Chapel (c) Lynda Bernhardt***** religious triggers *****

A reader emailed me the following questions:

May I ask what your faith walk has been like in this journey you are on? Has there been much prayer involved? Have you been a part of a church? Or is the faith you have a different kind?…Can you elaborate for me what you mean when you say you always had faith that God would help you?

Because many of you are likely struggling with your faith as you heal from child abuse, I thought I would post my response here. This is my own faith story.

Neither of my parents was religious when I was born. When I was eight years old, my mother/abuser joined a Southern Baptist church, which is where I followed their requirements to “be saved.” My father remained an atheist until the day he died. A grabbed onto religion, hoping that it would save me from my h#$% on earth, but that did not stop. I would go to church with my mother and sister by day and then be abused by night.

My mother is mentally ill and has a pattern with churches. She joins a church and becomes ultra-involved. She will hear a voice (which she believes is from God) telling her that the pastor is doing something wrong. She will confront the pastor, who disregards her message. She will then rally other people to try to oust the pastor, and then the elders will ask her to leave. This has been her pattern since the 1970’s and, as far as I know, continues to this day.

As a result, I visited and joined many different churches of all denominations throughout my childhood, mostly staying the longest in Pentecostal types of churches. When I was fifteen, I really embraced my faith as mine and decided to read the entire Bible cover to cover. As a result of reading the Bible for myself and having such a broad view of all of these denominations who thought that their way was the “right” way, I built a faith foundation that does not really fit into any mold.

When I was 16, my father (the “good” parent) died suddenly, and my mother started abusing me again. At this point, I decided I wanted nothing to do with a God who would abandon me to these circumstances. I refused to go to church for the next 11 years. During that time, I questioned my faith to the core – Is there a God? If there is, why is there so much suffering in the world? How can I reconcile the erratic God that my mother presented with the God I needed? Many religious people see this as sacrilege, but I see this time in my life as building a firm foundation of embracing my faith as mine and not just regurgitating what other people told me about God.

After 11 years, a friend who was a new Christian asked me to join a Bible study at work. I did it just for her, but that was the beginning of God wooing me back. Soon after this, I learned that I was infertile and really needed comfort at a level that nobody else could give me. Healing from the loss of my father was hard without leaning on God, so I decided to try dealing with the infertility by embracing the faith that I had as a teenager.

During this time, I joined a Presbyterian church, moved to a different state, and then joined a United Methodist church, where I am still a member today. I do not consider myself to be a “Methodist,” but I love my church and the dear friends I have made there. I embrace many beliefs not held by Methodists, the most notable being a belief in reincarnation. I have enough similar beliefs for it to work. I am very active in my Sunday School class and even facilitate a Bible study. Anyone in one of my studies will tell you that my studies are different from any other class. :0)

Prayer has been a part of my life since I was eight. Even when I walked away from God, I would still send out prayers, but they were more about expressing my anger toward God than about receiving His grace.

God was faithful in my infertility journey. I became a mother in a different way – through adoption – and my life is so much deeper and richer because of that experience. So, when the flashbacks started, I held onto the experience of God being faithful through the infertility years for the hope of God being faithful through the child abuse healing process.

I have gone through periods in which praying to God was triggering, but I have pushed through all of that. I have a very deep faith in God (which is part of how I came up with the pen name of “Faith”). I could not have survived the healing process without leaning on God. I don’t know how other child abuse survivors manage without having that safe place to fall apart. I am not judging anyone because I can understand all too well pushing God away for not protecting you from the abuse. However, I, myself, would not have survived the healing process without a faith in God.

So, that is my faith story in a nutshell. It is much more involved than that, but this provides the big picture.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Chapel (c) Lynda BernhardtIn my last post, Where Was God When I Was Being Abused?, I shared that healing from my history of child abuse led me on a quest to understand who God is and where He fits into the picture of the abuses that I suffered. In this post, I will share the answers that I found to my questions from a Christian perspective. In my next post, I will get into where my faith journey has led me beyond this.

After spending a lot of time searching for answers about where God was, I concluded that God was always there, watching my pain and grieving that He ever made people who could be so cruel. The Bible is filled with instructions to protect the widow and the orphan – those who were the least protected in society at the time. God instructs His followers to be His “hands.” Unfortunately, the people in my life failed to do this. The people in my life are the ones who let me down.

Also, nowhere in the Bible is there a promise of Heaven on earth. Jesus was very clear that in this world we would have trouble, but take heart because He has overcome the world. (See John 16:33.) Most of the people who had the strongest faith suffered. So, being abused is not a breach of some sort of promise that God made. Nowhere in the Bible is there a promise that God will prevent abuse.

In the Bible, God usually intervenes through instructing humans do to something, and humans have free will. I believe that God nudged people to intervene to protect me, but they chose not to listen. However, God also nudged other people to offer me hope, and they did. If they had not, then I would not be the person I am today. I would not have warmth and compassion without having known it from loving teachers and others who showed me kindness. I believe that those kindnesses were gifts from God.

Also, God made me strong. I believe that He knew what I was being born into, so He gave me the gift of dissociation, and He made me with a very strong will to live. He also gave me the gift of healing, which was Jesus’ first job description – the healer of broken hearts. (See Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18.)

So, I have found a way to make peace with my view of God and where He fits into my Christian understanding of who God is. Because I was so broken, I experienced deeper healing than most people will ever know. Because I have experienced deeper healing, I have a much deeper appreciation of God’s power.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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