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

“How do I respond when a loved one says ‘I’m gay’?” – by Charlene Hios

Overheard:

“I’m gay.”

(This is reblogged from Messenger Insight)

How do I respond when a loved one says ‘I’m gay’?

by  Charlene E. Hios, Executive Director, Bridging The Gaps Ministries

In today’s age of gay rights, in a culture that is affirming of homosexuality, many of us may know someone who self-identifies as gay or lesbian. This person may be a neighbor, a co-worker or friend. The “new normal” has us living in a world in which homosexuality may hit close to home.

Many Christians now must ask, “How do I respond when a loved one says ‘I’m gay’?” How you respond when they disclose that they believe they are gay or lesbian makes a world of difference in your relationship with them going forward. This is especially true if they are your child.

First, remember this is not about you. It is about that person. The desire for your loved one is that they be reconciled to God from this sin. You can, and must, extend God’s love while holding to a position that homosexuality is sin. (It certainly is not the only sexual sin identified in the Bible, but it is indeed one of them.) They can be reconciled with God from this sin and others.

Whether the disclosure comes from a family member or friend, their admission of homosexuality hits you hard, especially as a Christian. Your initial reaction is likely to be one of shock, disbelief, anger, hurt and guilt. You have started the grieving process. No, your loved one has not died; yet, with the news of their homosexual identity, but you have experienced loss.

Immediately, you start thinking of the dreams you had for your child. You may even start thinking about what others will think. You will wonder if you will even be able to face your friends, your family and everyone at church. Then your anger toward your child or your loved one will surface. How can they do this to you? All of these thoughts have gone through your mind in a matter of moments. Your loved one is standing right there before you waiting for you to respond.

Turn away from your anger or you will push them away. Turn your love for them towards them. They need you to show them that you love them. Embrace them! Say to them that you recognize that this was not an easy thing for them to do. Share with them that you know it took a lot of courage and that you are thankful that they told you. You are not endorsing their homosexuality but you are affirming their courage, their love for you and your love for them.

Although it is hard to hear someone say “I’m gay,” recognize that it is better than hiding it in the darkness. Praise God that they have brought their homosexuality into the light. Your loved one may sound euphoric or say they are more joyful than ever. Understand that the reason for this joy is that they have brought this deep dark sinful secret out into the open. They may not see it this way, but it is something you can take comfort in. Let it give you hope.

One of the most important responses is to listen to your loved one. What was their thinking process on this matter? Ask them when did they first “feel” different. Keep away from the word “why.” Continue to listen to their answers. Do not get defensive. You are fact-finding. This is about you learning their experience. This is not about you telling them yours. You want to understand their process of rationalization. Do not say, “Why didn’t you tell us?” Ask, “What kept you from telling us?” There is a lot you will learn by asking these questions and others.

Never bring up the matter of homosexuality, allow them to bring it up, and they will. They may give you books to read that express their thoughts on homosexuality. Read them. This allows more needed discussion.

Do not argue, but always bring the discussion to God’s Word, especially Gen. 2:4-25 that reflects God’s intended design. Step back and let the Holy Spirit move. As your loved one shares their journey, you should not affirm their conclusion; however, you can confirm the journey. Tread lightly and be gentle. Intercede before God for them. Your loved one wants you in their journey; otherwise, they would not have told you about it. Ultimately your desire is for them (and yourself) to be restored into the image of Christ. This involves a true, lifelong transformation from sin to Christ-likeness. Even in this most difficult of circumstances, God is faithful to extend His grace through forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.

NoteCharlene Hios is the founder and director of Bridging The Gaps Ministries in San Francisco, Calif. She is a graduate of Golden Gate Seminary (GGBTS), and is studying for her Doctor of Ministry. A former lesbian who was washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11), Hios travels around the country speaking to churches sharing her testimony and speaking to how churches can minister compassionate truth telling and grace to a world impacted and affected by homosexuality.

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.

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!”

What We Saturate, We Believe; What We Believe, We Live

Overheard:

“I don’t know why I always end up in the same mess I’m always in!”

There is a powerful principle at work in this person’s life: What we saturate, we believe; what we believe, we live.

If we saturate our mind with lies, we will live as if the lies are the truth. The antidote is to saturate our minds with the truth – then we will live as if the truth is the truth.

Paul speaks of this principle quite often in specific and in subtle ways (put off/put on, etc.), but never quite so eloquently as he does in Romans 12:2 (NET):

“Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

The word “transformed” is the Greek word μεταμορφόω “metamorphoō”. We get our English word “metamorphosis” as a near transliteration.

When we hear that word, what do you picture? A butterfly, right? Where did the butterfly come from? It came from a caterpillar that metamorphosed into the butterfly.

To “be transformed” is to be, like the butterfly, changed from one form into another. The essence of the caterpillar is still retained in the butterfly, but almost everything else has been changed.

In another place, Paul speaks of this change with greater dynamism when he says (2 Corinthians 5:17):

“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!”

So, when someone has been converted (changed from one thing into another) in their nature, there is a further, on-going transformation that takes place in their life (2 Corinthians 3:18) and impacts every area more and more each day.

Now that they have the ability and freedom to no longer be in bondage to their old ways, their old sins, their old ways of thinking and believing, they learn to walk in their new identity in Christ.

But it doesn’t happen by accident or osmosis!

How does it happen? By the “renewing of the mind”.

To renew does NOT mean “to freshen up the old”. To renew means “to replace with new”.

Jesus makes a specific promise to His followers in John 8:32 that contains a Christ Kingdom Principle we need to keep in mind:

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

While this is speaking of the Living Truth that is Jesus Christ, there is principle at work here. Jesus is promising freedom from being a slave to our sin; our sin choices and our sin ideas.

Every thought that is not surrendered to the truth indicates a thought-life that is not obedient to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The ONLY escape is to “tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we] take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

And, the ONLY way to accomplish this is to exchange the lies for the truth – the truth contained in God’s Word.

Let me give you a word picture: Imagine your heart as a 5-gallon bucket. Over time, the lies we come to believe – the lies that have been poured into our lives by way of the sins we have committed and the evils we have suffered – are like thick, gooey-black sludge.

Now picture the bucket as near full. See it? Bump or tip the bucket, and what comes out? Sludge. Yuck. Putrid mess.

Now imagine putting the end of a garden hose into the bucket and turning the water on just a little. Know what’s going to happen?

As the pure, clean water goes into the bucket, it begins to dilute the sludge. As the water continues going in, the diluted sludge overflows the top of the bucket and spills over onto the ground.

Leave that hose on. Let that pure, clean water continue to flow into the bucket. Over time, the sludge will be replaced with pure, clean water.

Know what will happen if you bump or tip the bucket?

Yep – pure, clean water will spill out.

The sludge in our hearts and minds is the obstacles and arrogant arguments against the knowledge of God. Where do we gain knowledge of God? From the Word of God.

The Word of God is The truth (John 17:17; 1 Peter 3:21) just as is the Person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The Word of God is also spoken of as cleansing, like water (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26).

Getting the picture?

By saturating our minds and hearts with the “pure water of His Word”, we clean out the sludge of lies and replace it with the truth.

This results in a transformed life.

Tired of believing and living as if the lies you believe about God, about yourself, and about others are true?

Then start saturating on the Word of God.

By “saturating”, I don’t mean “doing devotions”. By “saturating” I mean repeating it over and over and over, just like you have been “saturating” with the lies.

How many times have you said to yourself, “I’m worthless”? How many times have you repeated the lie, “You’ll never measure up”? How many times have you repeated the lie, “I am unworthy of God’s love or forgiveness”?

And to our dear abuse and neglect survivors…how many times have you repeated the lie, “If only I had been/done/said something different, they wouldn’t have done that to me”?

If you want to replace the lies with the truth, then you are going to have to start repeating THE OPPOSITE TRUTH over and over and over to drive out the lies (sludge)!

Only then will what you have believed be replaced by the truth God says you should believe.

Pray about this, examine the Scriptures, and see if these things are not so.

If what I have shared here resonates in your heart, if it gives you a glimmer of hope when you have felt hopeless, let me share one more thing with you: I have witnessed God transform a countless number of lives of those who have begun this practice and made it as much a part of their life as breathing.

This is a personal discipline that has blessed my own life in ways beyond what I have words to describe.

Scripture saturation is more than memorization, more than taking a verse and “meditating” on it. I will discuss this principle and practice in upcoming posts, so stay tuned.

Soli Deo Gloria