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Posts Tagged ‘God and child abuse’

*** religious triggers ***

This is a continuation from this blog entry.

I want to focus on this part of Lizzy’s question:

How do you handle the balance between not being able to undo the past and it\’s scars and the whole ”Jesus heals all” attitude? ~ Lizzy

I am (thankfully) in a season of recognizing how far I have come with my healing. That is not to say that I won’t have a whole lot of sludge to work through as the holidays roll around … only that, at the present time, I am in a season of respite, which I am enjoying immensely.

My experience has been that, as my emotional wounds heal into scars, they stop hurting. I have experienced this many times. If you read through my blog, you will see me writing about processing lots of pain, but I am not typically dealing with the same emotional wound for years on end. Some emotional wounds take me longer to heal, but they do, in fact, heal.

No, I cannot change the past, but the past loses its power over me as I heal. As an example, when I first recovered the memories of animal rape, I could not look anyone in the eye because I felt such deep shame. I worked through my feelings about those experiences, and now I can talk about without feeling any shame or emotional pain. It’s not something I go around telling everyone (nor is there a need to do this). It is also something I don’t think about on a daily basis. It is something I experienced as a girl, but it is not something that continues to hurt me as a woman (since healing it).

This does not mean that I am immune from triggers. If I were to watch a movie with an animal rape scene, I am sure I would feel triggered, and I would use my tools (deep breathing, walking out of the theater, etc.) to calm myself back down. I might feel “off” for a few days, but then I might go months without thinking about the animal rapes at all.

I do believe that God has the power to heal all, but it takes time and work. Because I endured so much trauma, I don’t know at what point, if ever, I will have experienced healing in all areas. What I can tell you is that I am no longer the brokenhearted woman I used to be, and I view my life much differently than I used to. My past has not changed, but my perspective about my past has.

I do not write about religious topics like this very often because I don’t want to exclude my readers who are triggered by religion, but talking about God’s healing power is actually one of my favorite topics! I am glad you asked the questions.

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********** 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.

Does this help?

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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*******Religion triggers*******

On my blog entry entitled Reconciling Child Abuse and Faith/Religion, a reader posted the following comment:

Anywho… if I can continue our religious discussion: so you contend that the evil of the world is caused by humans. An obvious enough answer. But what does god do as he looks down upon the evil that his children create? He should easily be able to prevent these terrible things from happening and spare the innocent victims. The fact that he doesn’t means that either he is willing to allow the innocent to suffer, or he does not have the power to stop it. Perhaps he does have a purpose for allowing this suffering, as you seem to imply (if I understand you properly). But the fact remains: the lord, who is supposed to be all-loving allows unspeakable acts to be inflicted upon the nicest, kindest, most devout, and most innocent of his creations. God could have hypothetically created a world where there is no pain and suffering, and his creations are only ever filled with positive emotion, but he didn’t. In my mind, the only logical conclusions to make of this are that:
1.) God is not truly all-powerful.
2.) God is not truly all-loving.
3.) God does not exist.
And what of natural disasters, disease, accidents, and other forms of suffering and pain which humans do not cause?
Hehe… sorry for the somewhat confrontational answer. I just really like these kinds of discussions. ~ Lenore

I really like these kinds of discussions, too, which is why I am blogging about this today. :0) Considering how deeply child abuse survivors have been wounded, I think that these are good issues to explore as people wrestle with how a loving God could have allowed such terrible things to happen to them when they were innocent children.

To respond to your question, I need to present a different premise from what you might hear from many religious people… I do not believe that the Garden of Eden was a place. I think that story is an allegory for something that happened to us in the spiritual realm. I believe that all of us were once a part of God and that something happened that split us off. (People with Dissociative Identity Disorder will probably understand what I mean the best.) Our natural state is being one with God and includes having his attributes – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the fruit of the Spirit).

I do not believe that God created anything evil but that evil is a natural state of being outside of the presence of God. Blaming God for the existence of evil is like blame light for the existence of darkness. Darkness is what exists when there is no light: all of the darkness in the world cannot snuff out a tiny candle.

I think that each of us is a part of God that somehow got “split off” and is in the process of integrating back into being a part of God. For this to happen, we need to become pure light because darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. I believe that the way we become pure light is to develop the fruit of the Spirit, and we do this by experiencing difficult circumstances that have the ability to solidify embracing these attributes. For example, how else can you learn patience than by being forced to wait? If you don’t have to wait, there is no need for patience.

I think earth is a place that is separate from God other than what we bring with us. We are the hands of God on this earth. The more we become like God (develop the fruit of the Spirit), the more presence God has on this earth. God is also present in the living things that surround us (nature), which helps him be closer to us. However, earth is no Eden. We learn through facing and overcoming obstacles, and that is what life is all about. It takes many lifetimes to develop the fruit of the Spirit.

Because the purpose of earth is to learn, I have no expectation of life being easy. I do not believe that death is the end – I actually believe that living through trauma is a much more difficult road than dying from it. So, when natural disasters happen and people die, I see them as being released from this cycle of the learning experience and being at peace for a while before they travel back to learn more life lessons the next time around.

What is the point of a weight room with no weights in it? You wouldn’t grow any muscle. The hardships in life are what develop our spiritual muscle.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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