Confused by Confusion

Overheard:

“I’m always a little confused by my own mind …”

Sitting in abuse healing groups week in and week out over the years, I have heard this said – or some variation of it – hundreds of times.

As a survivor, I’ve experienced it myself, so I get it: sometimes your own mind can be the most confusing place to find yourself.

We seek truth, yet we shy away from it. We want to know, but we feel better off not knowing. We want to understand, but some of the pieces necessary for that seem to be missing.

On top of that, when we are high-functioning in at least one area of our life, the confusion confuses us: “Why am I so confused so often, and why can’t I figure this out? I do so well (in whatever area of life I am high functioning), yet I suck here.”

One of the reasons for this kind of confusion is that there is a part of us that has learned to survive by keeping the deepest truths in the shadows.

If what we believe to be true about ourselves is indeed true, then we are even worse that we believe ourselves to be. That would then means that we are beyond help and there is no hope because all of this evil that happened is about our “being”, and not about somebody’s “doing”.

And the village of “Shame-filled Hopelessness” is the worst place in the world to live.

The remedy to the problem is simple but is also one of the hardest for survivors of abuse: The safest place to be is the scariest place to be, and that is leaning into and walking through the junkyard of the painful memories of your life, seeing them as they truly were and not as what they have come to look like.

What that means is that we learn to re-examine the hurtful things that have happened and, instead of thinking, “When ‘so-and-so’ did ‘such-and-such’ to me, it wasn’t because there was ‘something so wrong with me’, but ‘there was something really wrong with them that they would do this to any child, including me.'”

We get these things into the light where God’s power is activated and released, out of the darkness and the shadows where our Enemy lurks and works. W don;t do this alone, but we pursue the truth because THAT is where our freedom really lies.

Yes, it is scary. The fears we have are real fears. But we have to remember that, while feelings are real, feelings ARE NOT FACT!

Feelings change; facts do not.

When we learn to see things for what they were instead of what they have come to look like, the truth shines through and the confusion clears. We learn to file things in the right folders, put proper names on things, and call things what they are.

Jesus’ promise that, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) is never more true for a survivor than here.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Abuse Has No Switzerland

Overheard:

“There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse.”

The following is another excerpt from the book I am writing about my experiences being a Biblical counselor to abuse survivors:

Abuse Has No Switzerland

As I have mentioned many, many times in the past, “There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse!” Intentionally or unintentionally, we automatically side with either the victim or the offender. There is no neutral territory, no middle ground.

Abuse does not and cannot happen in a vacuum: it happens in relationships; it happens in families; ; it happens in churches; it happens in communities.

Evil people don’t look evil – they look just like everyone else. So, becoming aware of and sensitive to the warning signs of abuse and abusers is necessary if we are going to answer God’s call to rescue those caught in abuse.

Failing that, by default we provide aid and comfort to those who abuse because, wittingly or unwittingly, we ensure an environment where the abuser feels safe to carry out their evil against their victim(s).

There is a sense of desperation and hopelessness for many survivors that flows from the reality that most people around them do not recognize the signs and symptoms that indicate abuse is happening.

Ironically, despite such a large cross-section of the populace who have experienced or witnessed abuse, there is a veil of ignorance overshadowing the realm of abuse and oppression. It prevents these co-survivors from being aware that it is happening in the lives of others around them.

There are two main reasons for this that I have seen: First there is the self-denial and minimization that survivors engage in when considering their experiences. The abuse/oppression has been miscategorized as something else, or it has been minimized and declassified in their mind as abuse.

The second main reason co-survivors are unaware that abuse is happening in the lives of others is our human tendency to project our standards of behavior on to other people: “I can’t image (or, I would never think of) treating someone that way, so I can’t image someone actually being that evil to someone else.”

The result is that we call authoritarianism “a firm hand”, we call physical beatings “discipline”, we call verbal/emotional abuse “she was just angry and didn’t really mean anything by it”, and we call the isolating of victims “protecting them from the world”.

There are innumerable other ways we fall into this trap of corporate denial, but you get the idea.

The question is, then: How do we stop providing aid and comfort to this enemy?

First, we have to understand that it is never okay with God for one person to misuse or abuse another person!

Second, we have to commit to becoming better educated about the warning signs of potential abusers and the signs of ongoing abuse. Our hope is that this book will be a useful tool to help with that.

I cannot tell you how heartbreaking and traumatizing it is for someone who is experiencing abuse to have what is happening to them be ignored, overlooked, or – worse yet – discounted, minimized, denied.

Jennifer’s story is another example of how this happens in the church. Jennifer is a pastor’s wife. She grew up in an abusive and neglectful home. Her family of origin had stringent rules of behavior that allowed no margin for error. Violation of those rules met with such severe punishment that she still has scars on her back and on the backs of her upper thighs.

The punishment for violating the rules never took place in front of others – it was always reserved for when the family had withdrawn to the confines of the four walls of their home. So deceptive were the parents about the abuse the children were subjected to that they intentionally presented a false front to everyone around them.

In fact, the parents presented a calm and understanding face to the world at large when one of the children spilled something or allowed their voice to get too loud or used the wrong utensil to eat with. But this was only a front.

Jennifer describes one incident in particular when the family was at a church barbeque and picnic. She had been carrying a paper plate loaded with food toward the family table. Two other children who were running and playing collided with her and the plate of food got mashed food-side first into her little white dress.

She was horrified! Jennifer remembered her mother specifically telling her before they left the house not to get that dress dirty!

Terror-stricken and hyper-anxious about the severe beating she knew was coming, Jennifer wet herself. The shame she felt was overwhelming and she ran and hid inside the church – but not before she saw the dark look pass across her mother’s face.

The anxiety this little nine year-old girl experienced at that moment resided in the pit of her stomach clear up until she sat in my office at age 48.

The pastor’s wife found Jennifer cowering in one of the Sunday School rooms, having seen what had happened and having watched Jennifer run into the church. She felt bad for the little girl and her heart went out to her.

Sadly, however, this kindhearted, well-intentioned woman of God was convinced in her own mind that Jennifer’s reaction was due to embarrassment – not terror.

The pastor’s wife sat on the floor next to Jennifer, pulled the curled up, whimpering little girl on to her lap and began to gently rock her, gently trying to console her. She used reassuring words, declaring to Jennifer that everything was going to be all right, that there was nothing to be ashamed about, and nothing to worry about.

Jennifer wanted it to be so –so much so that she started to almost believe this kind and loving lady. When she weakly said, “My Momma’s gonna punish me real good,” the well-intentioned but uninformed woman failed to hear the firm resolve in the little girl’s tone.

Had she been better trained, her ear would have picked up the sureness with which that statement had been made and, perhaps, she would have pursued a line of questioning that would have cracked open the veil of deceit that concealed the long-term violence Jennifer and her siblings had been subjected to.

That was not the case, however, and the pastor’s wife eventually calmed the terrified little girl enough to coax her in to returning to the picnic area and rejoining the festivities. Jennifer’s mother gave no indication at all that she was in the least bit upset about the mess on Jennifer’s dress or that her daughter had shamed herself and her family by losing control of her bladder.

On the contrary: “Momma” was all smiles and laughter as if nothing had gone wrong at all.

Jennifer started to have hope, started to believe that the pastor’s wife had told her the truth and that this time, there would be no beating for breaking Momma’s rules.

She relaxed and started to run and play with the other children, even making light-hearted conversation with her mother a couple of times, gaining confidence in her hope because her mother was responding in-kind.

When the party broke up and the families gathered their things, Jennifer furtively cast glances at Momma, assessing her mood, searching for some sign that the feeling in the pit of her stomach could go away and never return.

The children laughed and compared stories about their adventures at the picnic, and the atmosphere in on the ride home was relaxed and easy — like a real family.

There was absolutely no sign that Momma was angry. In fact, Jennifer started to feel like maybe she had been forgiven! The stain on her dress was a reminder to her that Momma could not have forgotten the accident.

But, maybe Momma realized it wasn’t her fault. Maybe

The car was unloaded, their things were put away, and the children all headed upstairs to bathe and get ready for bed. The tight knot in Jennifer’s stomach began to release its grip.

She started to actually feel happy for the first time in — oh, she didn’t know how long!

“Jennifer?” she heard Momma say. “Get yourself up to my room.”

All of the anxiety-filled terror came rushing back with a vengeance, overtaking her little mind and heart so powerfully that she almost fainted. That meant the beating she had been falsely led to believe would not be forthcoming was about to be unleashed on her frail little body.

Of all the terror-filled moments of her life, she couldn’t remember one that was so intense.

She couldn’t feel her legs move as she climbed the long stairway to the second floor and moved to the large room her parents shared at the end of the hallway.

The only thought that kept racing through her mind was, “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod…” She couldn’t breathe through the fear.

To this day, the details of the beating she received that night are but few bright flashes of memory buried under an overriding sense of searing pain.

The violence and brutality that took place that night was a repeat of hundreds of other such incidents that would also be replayed hundreds upon hundreds of times more in the years to come, but with one marked difference – it seared her soul a little more with each stroke of the belt.

When the belt broke and the beating still continued, her mother continuing to wield the remaining piece at least to the point where Jennifer passed out, part of her mind mercifully escaped the scene, not recording the remained of the night in a part of her memory where she could recall it from.

School was out, so no one had reason to take notice that Jennifer was not around for over a week following the picnic. Her parents told the people at church that Jennifer was home “with a touch of a bug”, which was why she wasn’t with the family the following Sunday.

The other children did not let on that Jennifer had been laying on her stomach with cold compresses on her back and bottom since her last “discipline” session. No one was any the wiser.

Oh, and the pastor’s wife? She took them at their word — she had no reason not to, right?

She had no reason to believe that Jennifer’s statement, “My Momma’s gonna punish me real good,” was anything more than an frightened child’s overstatement.

She had no reason to think anything of the fact that none of the children in the family ever did anything that hinted of rebelliousness or mischievousness – they were just remarkably well behaved children.

The pastor’s wife had no reason to think there was anything untoward about a family with four school-age children where the girls were always pristinely dressed,  the boys were never scuffed or dirty, and the children were always, always, always obedient, compliant, and submissive in their demeanor to everyone. They never squabble or even tussled.

Good-hearted, well-intentioned people in the church who “Give folks the benefit of the doubt”,”Let’s not assume the worst about people”, “People are basically good”…these are nice ideas, but not founded in reality and not Biblically based.

Human beings are selfish and fallen, not “basically good”. Humans beings are scoundrels at heart and rebellious toward righteousness and justice.

God specifically warns us in His judgment oracle in Genesis 3 that men and women will tend toward selfish domination and overbearing approach to relationships – and we see it played out in the very next chapter when one brother beats to death (dare we say “physically abuses”?) the other.

We need to be better students of human nature – we need to study human nature from God’s perspective, not secularized psychology and sociology.

We, the Church, need to listen more attentively and be more prayerful about what we see and hear from those around us.

And we need to be more cognizant of the fact that, under the right set of circumstances, every one of us has the propensity to selfishly abuse others.

Only then can we stop believing that “it doesn’t happen here with our people.”

Only then can we stop pretending abuse isn’t happening.

And it is only then that we will start standing with and for the abused instead of with and for the abusers.

“SHE SURVIVED” it all.

It’s never “too much” to speak the truth about the vile wickedness of abuse and the damage it does to those who endure it. Awareness and honest conversation are necessary and needed if we are to stop this perniciousness.

Barbara C Rowe Author

bigstock-Battered-woman-lies-lifelessly-27172106

I have not addressed this issue in a long time, but felt compelled to share with you food for thought.

There is a woman who doesn’t really know what functional really is, pertaining to marriage.   A woman who has not really had a home to compare anything to, so she accepts whatever life throws her way…Complacent.  Abuse becomes part of her daily life, not believing it gets any better, or that she deserves any better.

One day she is going on with her daily routine of being a housewife and her husband, who is usually drinking….Snaps.  There is no apparent reason for it, but it just happens. Police come and he spends the night in jail, only to come home apologizing for what he had done, or pretends nothing ever happened the night before. The day after, varies, depending on his mood.

Finally one day she has enough and has the…

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Giving Voice to the Survivors

Reblogged from secretangel911

Let the trumpets sound!! Sing for the victims!! (Joshua 6:20)

Posted on May 25, 2013 by secretangelps911

Have you ever had words dancing around rhythmically in your head? If you are like me, you may not be able to sing…but I know when the Lord is playing a tune for me or giving me a song in my heart. Tonight, I was hearing these words about abuse victims. I know that there are many more victims of abuse than most of us even realize. So much verbal and emotional abuse takes place behind closed doors where only God sees and knows what is happening.

I feel that God has been mobilizing an army to fight for all victims of abuse. And, just like the walls of Jericho just fell down as the trumpets sounded and the army shouted after the Israelites had marched in faith around it 7 days (Joshua 6:20), I feel that God will use His army, not by their power, but His Mighty Power to bring down the walls and expose the abuses taking place as well as rescue victims from their circumstances. We all need to keep praying for victims and that “what is done in the darkness, will be brought to the Light.”

SONG FOR THE VICTIMS
So much hurt!
So much pain!
The “Walking Wounded”,
that’s their name!
Hidden deep,
where no one sees.
Scars of abuse,
but who would believe.
Behind closed doors,
the truth’s exposed.
The abusive attacks,
where no one knows.
The wounds are real,
but he would deny.
And she’s too scared,
to testify.
Verbal abuse,
many think its ok.
But it’s so destructive,
and being done everyday.
It tears them down,
to a point so low.
Then fear sets in,
with no place to go.
Many abuses,
and wounds so real.
But God sees all,
and only He can heal.
He’s calling His army!
Mobilize to fight!
Let’s rescue these victims,
and show them the Light!

by Secret Angel of Secret Angel Ministries

 

Overheard:

“I always knew I should feel anger over the evil that was done to me; but until now, I’ve never been able to!”

The following is being reprinted with permission from the author, a multi-level abuse survivor:

“I really need this message to penetrate my heart like never before!

I have gone to counseling several different times over my lifetime. Six days ago was different though.

The premise of the counseling is transforming your mind with the Truth, God’s Word.

The root of my need always seemed to be about the consequences of my inability to process certain areas of life and each time inevitability the counseling session lead me back to when I was sexually abused as a child.

Over the years when it came to discernment of character I would feel that the wires in my brain were not connected like others. I don’t remember ever hearing that term but I did feel that was my reality. My counselor actually used those very words as what happens in the brain of someone who has been abused, specifically sexually.

I thought I was just somehow a little more understanding, loving, empathetic and forgiving than others. You know how God would want us to be. What a fool I have been.

O how the enemy has deceived me, masterfully for most of my life.

Well somehow through the grace of God I left my counseling session not only with my eyes open but something that had been seared in my brain for all these years reconnected. Oh God..I have believed the lies of a sexual perpetrator for more than 30 years.

This week the anger I have felt has been so intense I could have easily taken revenge without remorse at any moment.

Reflecting through the night I wake up feeling utter disgust unable to put into words at this sexual perpetrators behavior, lies and manipulation even to this day. Grooming anyone he can exploit, sexually, emotionally, or financially for his own selfish gain. For years this has been his behavior and continues to this day. How does he keep this going, he is very cunning and manipulative, full of lies and deceit.

One of his ways is to masterfully tell you what you want to hear, divide and conquer, he stops at nothing.

The destruction he leaves behind as he moves onto his next victims is deplorable.

Yes sadly enough he could be sitting beside you in church, raising his hands, using the right Christian lingo as someone who loves God, quoting scripture, even playing an instrument in your worship team. But all the time looking for his next victim.

A monster I would say, YES. God please stop Him in his tracks.

If you have been abused in your life seek connecting what was broken, don’t give up until you can feel and connect to the reality of the abuse. The emotion is intense but the only way to wholeness and hopefully the way to stop these sick souls. God help me to keep calm and let You serve the justice due. But please do it quickly!”

Wounded Hearts and Mangled Souls – an Excerpt

Overheard:

“We have to be careful slinging that word ‘abuse’ around too freely, you know. That can become abusive itself. Abuse is a lot rarer than some people make it out to be.”

The following is excerpted from a book I am writing about my experience as a Biblical counselor who seems to have specialized in abuse. I say, “seems to have specialized,” because it wasn’t a primary area for counseling focus I planned, it has just ended up that way. Let me know what you think, hm?

For over twenty-five years, I have sat week in and week out with troubled and hurting people who seek God’s answers to their struggles. I serve the Body of Christ in a number of roles, one of which is as a Biblical counselor.

Before coming to me, most of the people I meet with have gone to pastors and therapists and psychologists and prayer groups and all manner of folk in an effort to find resolution to two recurring battles in their lives: the pain of the evil they have suffered and the shame of the sins they have committed—often as a result of the evil they have suffered.

When people ask me what it is I do and I mention Biblical counseling, they get an odd look on their face and many ask, “What’s that?” The simplest answer I have come up with is this: Biblical counseling is targeted discipleship aimed at guiding people into the robust relationship with Jesus Christ that their current struggles are preventing. Not a textbook definition, but we find it to be an excellent working definition.

There is one area of counseling expertise that God has developed me in over the past twenty-six years and that is in the area of abuse and its cognates. Abuse in its various and tawdry forms is rampant in society and increasingly so. Sad to say, it is at least as widespread within the church in America as it is without, and (in some cases) is even more prevalent.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this is that almost every single one of the almost twenty-six hundred counselees I have worked with has been involved in a local church where they could not get help, where they experienced the abuse in the first place, or where they experienced additional wounding when they did seek help.

Am I bringing an indictment against the church in America? Indeed I am. I have been banging on the doors and walls and windows of the church for over a quarter century, trying to get the church to understand and address these matters well. The most common response?

“We have to be careful slinging that word ‘abuse’ around too freely, you know. That can become abusive itself. Abuse is a lot rarer than some people make it out to be.”

Really!?

This not only breaks my heart, but angers me just about as much.

Can I tell you how intentionally ignorant and arrogantly obtuse that is?

Statistically, when a pastor stands behind his pulpit on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning, for every hundred people sitting in front of him, only twelve to fourteen of those hundred people have not –and I say again, have not –either personally experienced abuse/neglect or been a first-hand witness to abuse or domestic violence/oppression in their own home.

Let me make that point as clear as I can. Out of a hundred people sitting down to listen to a Christian sermon on any given weekend, eighty-six to eighty-eight of those people have (statistically) either experienced or witnessed abuse or domestic brutality and/or oppression in their home. I am not talking about the occasional sinful treatment sinners perpetrate on one another. I am speaking about an atmosphere and a pattern of attitudes and behaviors that have had a defining effect on those involved.

These folks have been misused and abused beyond the normal wear-and-tear we experience as fallen human beings bound in relationship with other fallen human beings. These folks have become objectified, considered as “things” to be used for someone else’s own sensual pleasures or as punching bags on which to vent their rage. They have been minimized and cast aside as inconvenient or, even worse, as a nuisance and a bother.

They have been little children cowering under covers and in closets as one adult has verbally reviled and physically terrorized the other adult in their home.

They have been children and adolescents silently begging God, “PLEASE don’t let him come in my room tonight!!”

Most of these abusive self-proclaimed stalwarts of our communities and churches have made their victims believe they were deserving of this mistreatment or that they (the victims) had caused it, setting them up for more abuse now and later. Or they have cast these used-up “less-than’s” aside as one would an empty candy wrapper or a melon rind and moved on to the next person who has become targeted as their prey.

Over and over again, I hear the same heart-cries about the church and its leadership: “Where were they?” “Why didn’t they stop it?” “Why didn’t they help?” “Why don’t they talk about it?”

And, even more often, these wounded hearts and mangled souls seem sadly resigned to a recurring sense of, “They just don’t understand and don’t know how to help.”

My goal is to do three things:

First, to clearly articulate what constitutes abuse by God’s definition and by the fruit borne out in people’s lives;

Second, to call Christ’s church to action as the agent of God’s grace and truth in the lives of the offended and the offenders;

Third, to provide resources and references to equip the church to answer the call and be the safest place for wounded hearts and mangled souls to find rest, hope, and healing.

My goal is not to offend, but I will. My goal is not to blame, but I will. My goal is not to shame, but I hope I do some of that in a God-focused way that leads to repentance and fruit in keeping with repentance.

My main goal is to equip and to motivate God’s people to rise to the call to be instrument’s in the hands of the Redeemer as He satisfies the cry of the psalmist: “Lord, you have heard the request of the oppressed; You make them feel secure because You listen to their prayer.You defend the fatherless and oppressed, so that mere mortals may no longer terrorize them.”(Psalm 10:17-18 NET).

Perhaps you are one of the many survivors of abuse, neglect, domestic violence/oppression, or sexual assault who has been looking to the church, hoping she would be a bastion of hope and help in your time of trouble.

My challenge to you is to become the very answer to prayer that you have sought. Become someone whom God has healed of the brokenness and sinfulness that has plagued your life and become His agent of grace and healing in the lives of others who are like you.

I say this because that is why I do what I do and why I am writing this book. You see, I, too, am a survivor. And I have learned that God always intends for the evil we have suffered to be turned into good.

That is not just the trite mouthing of some Bible verse too often tossed around Christian circles like a well-worn beanbag toy. While we often lob Romans 8:28 into a conversation as if it was the silver bullet that will kill off every tortured memory or gasping-for-breath anxiety attack, its misuse does not invalidate the truth of the verse.

Bad hermeneutics notwithstanding, God does sovereignly take every good and every ill in the life of those who are His and works it to their good—eventually.

The verses that have become my “anchor verses” are 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

When I look back at the abuse I suffered and the abusiveness that became part of my way of dealing with the pain of what I had endured, and when I see how God has chosen to use me to bring help and comfort to so many over the years since the day I became a follower of Christ, it is these verses that have been the greatest help to me in making sense of it all.

What I have learned and have found strength in is the understanding that God entrusted those experiences to me as a stewardship; something to be managed and invested and returned to Him with a profit. Had I not gone through what I have and had I not experienced the healing that He has brought into my life, I would not be equipped to sit with person after person and guide them through that same process of healing and, in turn, them becoming a helper to Him in bringing that same comfort and healing to others.

Don’t take this to mean that I can now look back on the beatings and the screaming and the molesting and all of the other sordid things that were done to me and say, “Yippee! I am so glad s/he did that to me!” Not in the least.

But, what I can honestly do is look at each of the memories as they come to mind and see the benefit that God has been able to bring into the life of someone else as a result of how He has walked with me through it all.

The point is this: abuse is to be expected but not accepted. The misuse or abuse of one person by another is never okay with God. Yet, knowing it will come, He has determined to put these evils to work and to turn them from evil into good.

And, lest we forget, God brought redemption into this world and into our lives through abuse! Jesus of Nazareth suffered the most inhumane and torturous treatment any human being has ever experienced, and it is because of that abuse that salvation can be ours. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 NASB)