Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Where was God when I was being abused?’

**** religious triggers ****

As I shared previously, I am working through a Bible study right now written by Beth Moore called Breaking Free. Two days of the study during Week 5 are devoted to healing from child victimization. Because I have many readers who are Christians, I thought I would share some of Beth Moore’s insights on forgiveness from a (helpful) Christian perspective.

Beth Moore does not share the details of her child victimization publically, but she has shared that, by the time she first learned what a virgin was, she was ashamed to know that she was not one. She has also shared that the person who raped her was a male authority figure who should have protected her, not harmed her. While I do not agree with everything that worked for her, I think most of what she wrote was helpful. This is definitely the best Christian writing I have seen for addressing healing from child abuse.

Of course, Beth Moore addresses the topic of forgiveness, which is a very touchy subject among child abuse survivors. I really liked what she had to say about it:

Forgiving my perpetrator didn’t mean suddenly shrugging my shoulders, muttering, “OK, I forgive,” and going on as if those things didn’t happen. They did happen. And they took a terrible toll on my life. Forgiveness involved my handing over to God the responsibility for justice. The longer I held on to it, the more bondage strangled the life out of me. God saw every bit of it, and He can far better represent me and uphold my cause. Forgiveness meant my deferring the cause to Christ and deciding to be free from the ongoing burden of bitterness and blame. ~ p. 112

While I would word my perspective on forgiveness differently, I think we are pretty much saying the same thing. Forgiveness has nothing to do with “forgetting” or letting my abuser off the hook. Instead, it is about choosing to stop nursing the bitterness as a gift to myself. By making this choice, I stopped thinking about my abusers so much and also stopped making them a central focus of my life. I was able to use that freed up energy to focus on my own healing and my own life.

She says that the “memories are still painful to me at times, but they no longer have power over me” (p. 112). This has been my experience as well. While I still have the memories of all of the abuse and can now access them at will, they don’t rock me in the way that they once did. They are a fact of my history, but they are not who I am.

Like many of you, I have also heard many unhelpful things about forgiveness from Christians, including from the pulpit. It is refreshing to hear a more realistic view from a prominent Christian teacher who has actually lived through child abuse and can speak from her own personal experience.

Beth Moore also equates the battle of healing from childhood abuse to the battle that David experienced when battling Goliath. She does not minimize the devastation of child abuse at all, which is also very refreshing to read.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

*******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

Read Full Post »

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

On my blog entry entitled Talking Very Fast When Triggered, a reader posted the following comment:

If I may briefly touch on the subject of religion: I hate to question your beliefs, but I’ll admit that I’m curious about how you reconcile the idea that god is all-powerful, all-merciful, and loving, with the fact that he allows things such as this to occur to innocent children? ~ Lagore

This is a great question, and I have written on issues of faith on my blog a number of times. I wrestled with the answer to this question for many years and finally reached a place of peace within myself.

The book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner talks about the same thing. If we assume that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, then why do bad things happen to good people?

I think where we go wrong is that we have the expectation that life is about being comfortable and safe and that, if we do X, Y, Z, then God will keep us comfortable and safe. That is contrary to what the Bible has to say:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

Jesus was very clear that we would “have trouble” in this world, so it is an unrealistic expectation to believe that God is guaranteeing heaven on earth. It simply is not biblical.

The Bible has numerous charges to take care of the widow and orphan (the weakest members of society). When that does not happen, it is not God who failed to act but MAN. I do not believe that God is responsible for the Holocaust. God’s people who failed to act soon enough are accountable. I apply the same principal to child abuse. God has called US to prevent it. At no point did God promise that no innocent will be harmed.

So, then where does God come in? Jesus’ first job description was to heal the brokenhearted. (See Isaiah 61:1.) This assumes that hearts will be broken on earth. God provides the hope of healing and then wants us to extend that hope to others.

I also embrace a belief in reincarnation, which I believe is the missing part of what Christian doctrine teaches. I believe that the point of being on this earth is to learn life lessons that mold us into becoming more like God. I believe that, with each lifetime, we learn different lessons that shape into the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).

The only way to know if those past life lessons have “stuck” is to endure a painful life that would not produce this “fruit” on its own. There was little in my childhood to produce these “fruit” in me, but somehow I grew up to embrace many of these attributes. Where did my compassion come from? I think it came from previous lifetimes. If I can endure a childhood like I had and grow into the person that I am, I believe that this is like a “final exam” of sorts showing that who I am is stronger than my circumstances.

I believe that all of us are one (the “body of Christ”). When I am good and kind to you, I am good and kind to myself as well as to God because we are all intertwined.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

Read Full Post »