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Posts from the ‘Trauma in the Church’ Category

Say I Don’t Know

I am participating in Emily P. Freeman’s #mynextrightthing 24 days of writing prompts to celebrate the release of her new book, The Next Right Thing.

 

 

 

Today, the prompt is: “say I don’t know”.

 

 

Emily says in The Next Right Thing (p.69): “Rather than being an expert, children are free to be curious. Children are able to sit down and let other people know things for a change. Children are able to observe, to watch, to make mistakes, and to learn new things. You are in Christ and your smallness is not a liability. Your smallness is a gift.”

 

It has been a repeated prayer of mine to become that trusting child before God. Oh how I see Him answering that prayer. Just not quite like I expected Him to: by putting my weakness on display for all to see. 

 

The Words He gave me to share, 3 years ago now, were about weakness. About God using the weak things of the world to shame the wise and about God perfecting His power in weakness. About His will not always being physical healing here on earth because in our suffering more of Him becomes visible for the hurting world around us, as He transforms our hearts in and through the pain.

 

Oh how I liked sharing this Word from my pedestal, from a place of “fully healed”. And so He knocked my pedestal down to destroy the growing wall between us. He asked me, even if they mock you, turn their back on you, won’t believe you: will you still choose to utter what is pure and not what is worthless? He invited me to join Him in a communion of suffering.

 

Oh how pridefully I fought this precious invitation: “How dare He do this to me, cause me such pain after only just lifting so much pain and shame in my life? After only just “fully healing” me from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an illness born as I spoke the truth and was turned away in the name of God as a child, unable to protect the one I loved. How could it be love to put me back in a similar situation yet again?”

 

At first, I became the insolent, angry child. But this, believe it or not, was in fact progress. For, right there, I came to Him as myself. As a little girl, who does not play the “good girl”, but who knows her Father well enough to bare herself fully before God, allowing His tender and patient discipline to do its work in her heart. This was the harvest from the first layer of healing He had walked me through a year earlier. 

 

And as I got angry and even bitter before Him, He spoke in kindness. Truth and grace pierced my sin hardened heart until the tears flowed relentlessly and He got to the root. Again and again. And oh how He held me tight in His arms, turning my eyes to what HE sees. Oh the repentance that flowed, naturally and unforced. Oh the thankfulness for the depths of His mercy. Oh the peace, the hope and joy that flowed there, safe in His arms, as my heart grew to deep down know the Cross has truly paid it all. And so, I went where He asked me to, obediently bearing the Words He gifted me.

 

In sharing the Word He gave me via email my weakness remained very much hidden. But physically standing before those He asked me to speak to, I so often faltered. I either placated to please or hid in my trembling fear and shame. And yet even there, He was growing trust in me, growing my heart to lean into the power of His grace at work in me. For, He is the God who sees and knows us like no other.

 

He saw the root of my fear and my shame. He saw what others couldn’t: just how close I came to taking my own life, as I tried so very hard to be obedient to His will. He saw the horrific attack on my mind and body as wave after wave of trauma crashed over me. Again and again. And He saw how once, when I cried out in absolute terror, He even physically tethered my feet to the ground to stop me from running into the canal. And yet right there He was ushering in my healing, as He exposed my desperate need for Him and my absolute insufficiency to stand firm in my own strength.

 

God knew all along that He had to take me back to the root of my trauma to rewrite my story in grace and truth, to humble me beneath His mighty hand. To help me acknowledge and confess that the truth He had asked me to speak, both as a child and at my former church, was a truth my very own heart still needed to receive.

 

I only realized in writing this piece that I needed to become that child clothed in weakness, He was asking me to speak up for. I needed to deep down know that God defends the weak and powerless. I needed to know He never needed me to protect His children, just to join Him in His suffering and watch His goodness and mercy chase us all home.

 

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalms 23:3 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.23.3.KJV

 

 

Piece by piece Jesus is helping me to shake off the dust of my past. I am learning to stop covering up my weakness in fear and shame. I am learning to lay down “expert” legalistic and ritualistic interpretations of Scripture and to listen instead to the Spirit’s gentle, relationship-led revelations of the Word. Revelations that do not incite absolute terror in me, nor awful shame, nor a need to “earn” my salvation by “fixing” myself or others. But instead these revelations are invoking a deep and holy awe for my God, a trembling before the depths of His love for each and every one of us, just as we are.

 

 

Yes, I am a beginner. A needy child before my King. A child who is learning to say: “I don’t know, help me oh LORD.” A child who is learning to embrace her imperfection, so that she may receive grace and mercy in the time of her need. I hear Him say: “Forgive her, Father, for she knows not what she does.”

 

And I see Him lay down His life for me, taking my sin upon Himself, dying on a Cross and rising on the third day, that I in my smallness and weakness, and many others too, might arise anew in His power: in the Way, the Truth and the Life. That I might joyfully take up my Cross and join my Savior in a communion of suffering, knowing my Savior is using this communion to refine my heart and restore me unto Himself and unto others through Him.

 

 

 

For the kingdom is the Lord’s : and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
Psalms 22:28‭-‬31 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.22.28-31.KJV

 

 

 

 

My dear friend, Joy Lenton, also just released a book – Embracing Hope – that has been such a blessing to me.  I would encourage you to check it out.

 

Here is an excerpt of my review:

Going through a time of uncertainty, not quite knowing what is next, Joy’s poems and the words God whispered to her heart brought me both comfort and the courage to keep walking forward, or as Joy puts it so beautifully:

“to stay in faith, believe
there’s an opening
where potential has been sown
where future steps are known”

It’s so easy to become discouraged and turn away from the path of the Cross God has gifted us to discover more of Him. Joy’s words have helped me see purpose in this season of many endings, opening my ears to, as Joy writes:

“Listen, listen with intent”

To remember that even when life seems to pass us by, “life’s heartbeat” is still “ringing loud and clear in us”.

 

Just in case you haven’t heard: Bettie and I have some wonderful news. Our second Treasures from the Sands podcast – Pure GOLD – has gone live!!

What do we do when God doesn’t physically heal us or our loved ones? Where is God in our pain and suffering? Bettie shares what it was like growing up with a mother who suffered from chronic illness and what it is like now being the one who hasn’t been physically healed. It is a story of discovering fresh hope, of God uncovering the stunning beauty of His pure gold in us right there in our pain.

No Good Thing Will He Withhold

Joining the Five Minute Friday community a little late this week to write on the prompt:

 

 

Psalm 84: 11 AMP

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord bestows grace and favor and honor; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

 

When I was a preteen, my heart yearned for the deep down grace I saw in new believers’ hearts, in those who had lived in darkness as children and came to Christ as adults. They had something I wanted. Something I knew I didn’t possess. God gave me what I wanted and yet I didn’t see that until more than twenty years later.

 

What did He give me? He gave me a heart spilling out in the midst of trauma. He gave me light shining into my darkness. As a preteen and teen, that scared me. I wrestled with what was spilling out. I was afraid of God’s light. No, I was terrified. Why? Because I believed good Christian girls didn’t struggle as I did.

 

What was spilling out most? Distrust, doubt, anger, pain and unbelief. And in my wrestling, I yo-yoed between turning toward and turning away from God. Between numbing and pouring out. Between sinful distractions and brutally honest laments. There were ugly moments of sin and there were beautiful and powerful moments of mercy.

 

Until, my eyes began to rest more on human idols than they did on God. Until I began to see God, through the lens of man. Until Scripture, which was used to justify a truth void of grace, began to frighten me, rather than move me to trust and faith. Until I no longer worshipped God, but man, believing man to be God personified.

 

When I finally fled my idols, believing those idols to be God, it didn’t take me away from God. Instead, my Prodigal path set my Savior’s sovereign plan of redemption into action. He guided me blind, as without even knowing it, I began to walk into truth and grace. Into the depths of His mercy and His everlasting love not just for me, but for each one of His children.

 

When He opened my eyes to faith, I returned to my idols without even realizing it. My as yet untransformed, legalistic mind turned toward explaining away, controlling and sinking my feet into what was known and safe. Until my untransformed mind began to grate with the mind of Christ at work in me. Until my Savior challenged me to question what I had always believed to be true and what others told me was true. Until He encouraged me to still to hear His Voice, and to surrender to His will. A will that called me, not to clamp down in control or to sit still in my known, but to step out into the unknown deep.

 

It’s then, the trauma that first began my Prodigal journey was triggered again, as I met the same religious responses I once did as a child. But this time, as I wrestled and yo-yoed between sinful numbing and brutally honest laments, my roots of faith did not give way. Instead my feet did not move, even as I longed for them to, because my roots were no longer shallow, but growing deep. They stretched out through the darkness of the earth below to drink from my rivers of delight: Christ.

 

I cried out to God again and again and again, and each time, He heard my cry. He reached out and drew me up out of the deep, setting my feet upon the Rock. In my terrible lack, I discovered not just once, but again and again, that in Christ I lack no good thing. God has begun to break open the seed He planted deep in my heart all those years before (Psalm 139:12 ESV):

 

“even the darkness is not dark to you;
   the night is bright as the day,
   for darkness is as light with you.”

 

Praise God! “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

Leanna Tankersley, On Being, P.154 – 155

“Who has the capacity to sit compassionately with herself, over and over again, when all she wants to do is condemn? Who, among us, has the Love within to forgive herself again and again? Who can open their hurting heart that has clamped shut yet again? Who could let God in once again, even though our faith has not protected us from disappointment, maybe even devastation, maybe even disaster? When we’ve been burned by people who said they believed too? Who could have the resilience and resolve to go on believing when faith hasn’t seemed to produce much of anything? Or so it feels today.

I’ll tell you who: none of us […] we will never—not one of us—be able to muscle our way through it.

God, in his grace, shows us the door, and Love, only LOVE, invites us through. We bring that wounded, wide-eyed part of ourselves to him—the one we’re constantly tempted to appease. We do this over and over and over again. And then, the truth is, there’s really not that much to do. We bring him our burden and he gives us rest.”

 

His Voice Us Calls

Healing from trauma is a step-by-step process. In my own process, God has taken me through a four step process, twice. First complete rest and a steady diet of the Word of God, which slowly brought the trauma to be healed to the surface. Then, one trigger after another inducing the symptoms of (Complex) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a time through which I clung to Scripture as my very breath. Then, complete rest in a safe cocoon in which I could walk through therapy that required me to face the traumatic memories of my past and the lies I clung to in those moments behind safe, closed doors, where Jesus entered these memories and rewrote them in the truth. Finally, it has required a gradual reintroduction to triggers in real life, by going places that remind me of the trauma I have walked through. There, God has given me the opportunity to press through the fear and the pain I feel to find Him present with me and to internalize the truth He spoke over me in therapy.

During the most frightening and painful parts of my healing process, I have faced believers, who have both encouraged me forward into the truth, and others, like Peter, who have tried to protect me from the path of the Cross. Likewise, when God called me to leave my legalistic church to enter an extended period of cocooning and rest, away from a physical church building but surrounded in precious fellowship that God provided both locally and abroad, I also met with both truth speakers and with the enemy’s accusations spoken through fellow believers.

Our enemy will always seek to derail us when we are walking into healing and will most often do it, not through unbelievers, but through fellow believers. But even there we can trust God to guide us through to hear and do HIS will.

In my own healing process, Jesus has repeatedly spoken: “Get behind me Satan.” and led me further on the path He has set before me. He has helped me to hear His Voice above the naysayers, and to take a different path from the one I took as a teenager. With God’s help, I am now slowly and surely arising in the truth of my calling in Christ. Oh yes, I still fall back into pain and shame at times, but I now know: “for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:16 NIV). And just so you know: I have been on the other end at times too, as Jesus has turned to me, when I have pridefully tried to “protect” or “heal” others and He has said: “Get behind Me, Satan.”

I will never regret those terrifying moments that came as I chose the path of the Cross, because they are the moments that wrote truth upon the stone tablet of my heart. Truth that now tethers me as I choose to walk toward triggers of trauma again. And I will never regret the year and a half I did not attend a church, but met the church of Christ in my living room and the living room of friends. God truly knew the best path for me and always has. Even my Prodigal path He always purposed for good: to answer my childhood yearning to plunge deeply into His rivers of mercy and grace. I now know, He has never left my side and never will.

I pray that He will embolden us all to (continue to) hear and obey HIS Voice above all others. May we see His purpose threaded through our whole life. May He help each one of us not to become a stumbling block nor a vessel for Satan’s accusations levelled at our brothers and sisters. And where we fall into Satan’s traps, may He lift our eyes back up to Jesus, so that we can lay down the enemy’s accusations and take up our swords of truth. May we be ones who walk in the Spirit of truth and grace.

 

His Voice Me Calls

Rest, they say
Meaning well
They call me halt
Storms they’ve seen
Upon me hail.

And yet I hear
Your still small voice
Lead me come
Tread where waves
And wind me meet.

Voices hold me back
Sink my feet
Down into sand
Of fears and doubts
Surely reason calls me halt?

But then I see
Your hand outstretched
Beckoning my own
Not alone I walk toward
But Abba’s own, clasped and held.

Yes, the wind and waves
They lash and roar
But My Father’s Voice
Is stronger still
Winds and waves “Be still” He calls.

Tears my eyes now fill
My Father He hears and answers me
Hidden fears and doubts He sees
Spirit-led I cast and pour
My feet He treads toward the deep.

Oh yes, my victory
Rests not in reason’s claim
Nor in man’s safe berth
But in God alone
Abba Father calls me come.

Yes, I will rest
Upon My Peace
Upon My Refuge, Rock
His Voice alone
My shield and sword.

Psalm 62:7 NLT
My victory and honor come from God
alone
He is my refuge, a rock where no
enemy can reach me.

Galatians 3: 6 – 7 NLT
And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba Father”. Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.

Unveiling a Culture of Shame: Shining Light into Darkness

Through my healing journey from trauma, my eyes have been opened to all the ways shame is unknowingly being perpetuated in Christian community. So many seeking to help their brothers and sisters in Christ through mental, physical and/or emotional anguish, are in fact adding to the weight of their burden, just as I myself did until God allowed me to walk through suffering myself.

My body physically responds to triggers of multiple traumatic events I walked through as a child and as an adult. These events altered the make-up of my brain to such an extent, that whenever I find myself in a situation that remotely mirrors the unsafe situations I found myself in then, my mind AND body will be overcome with a rush of emotions and adrenalin exponentially stronger than a person with a healthy brain produces. I also hear cruel lies spoken over me and have experienced terrifying flashbacks.

However, I know my Heavenly Father is present with me through these storms. And surprisingly these triggers of trauma have in fact been God’s gift to me, because each time they have led to so much healing and restoration. So much so that, coupled with the therapy I have walked through and the Living Word that is daily bringing healing to my heart, the intensity and frequency of these triggers have dramatically reduced. And even through each attack, my faith and trust in God has only grown deeper, as He has revealed His presence in a more profound way, reminding me of the truth of my freedom from fear, sin and shame.

Colossians 2 ESV

14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]

Sadly, throughout my healing process, I have, however, not just experienced loving fellowship, but also condemnation and shaming in physical and online Christian community.

I have been encouraged to repent of my forefathers’ sins to be fully freed of my mental illness, instead of being reminded that all my and my forefathers’ sin and shame has been nailed to the Cross and that I am invited to come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy in my time of need.

I have been told I need to be “set free” or have “strongholds broken”, rather than being reminded that our freedom has been paid in full at the Cross and each one of us is being transformed daily from glory to glory, as GOD opens our eyes to see by faith. You see, each one of us already lives in freedom, yoked to our holy Savior, and each one of us is simultaneously being freed from our sin daily. Have we forgotten that God actually perfects His power in our weakness, as we draw near to Him?

I have been told that perhaps I need to have “evil spirits” expelled from me, rather than being assured that no demon can overpower the fullness of Christ present in me. Have we forgotten that the enemy may condemn us internally, as He does all God’s children, but that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world?

When I confessed my struggles with mental torment, I was encouraged by my pastor to retreat from fellowship with my brothers and sisters. God broke my heart for him also, as I saw how deep spiritual abuse can go. You see, he told me that I should take the same advice once given him: I should go sit in seclusion, like wine in a barrel, so I could ripen and become tasty and of good quality. He was only repeating the terrible harm once done to him.

I was told I am unforgiving, when God called me to cut ties with the church where I continued to face unsafe situations that triggered trauma. Interestingly, cutting ties, after I had forgiven each person who had hurt me, actually brought deeper healing and enabled me to see, confess and turn away from sin in my own life. It is then I sought forgiveness for hurtful actions I had committed at my old church, in my friendships and in my own home. I saw how I had tried to defend myself, assert myself or protect myself through the waves of trauma, rather than boast in my weakness, lean into God’s strength and seek (professional) help, love and support.

I now know that God wept with and for me through each wave of shame and that He never ever advocates our condemnation and shaming.

I will no longer stay silent. I will no longer believe my many sins, my mental illness or my Prodigal past warrant the hurt and abuse I have experienced in Christian community. Instead I will choose to shine the light of God’s love and grace into our churches, so that Christ may unify us in who HE is. I am speaking up because I long for the shame that is weighing heavily upon many more inside our churches to finally be lifted. I long for us to breathe as One in Christ.

Hebrews 13:3 ESV tells us to: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Trauma is a type of prison and is definitely the direct result of being mistreated. Will we as the church choose to remember men and women who are suffering, as though we too are in that prison of trauma with them?

Will we affirm them in the truth of their freedom in Christ as we invite them to sit next to us in our pews? Will we hug them and pray with them, rather than slinking back as if they are possessed? Will we be loving enough to speak truth to them that may hurt them, but also open their eyes to the kindness of our God? Will we show them that our God never pushes us away in our sin, but always bends down to shower us in grace and embrace us in compassion, when we turn toward Him?

And if God calls them away from our churches to rest in His arms and surround them by members of His Body who are able to comfort them from the comfort they have received. If He calls them out to protect them and others from them, to heal them on a deeper level, will we choose to remember them in love? Will we choose not to condemn them in word and deed for their retreat?

Will we weep with them and with our God for the deep wounding they have experienced in this broken world? Will we choose not to perpetuate their shame, but be lifters of shame in their life by boasting in our own weakness and need of grace daily? Will we affirm each beautiful child of God as forgiven, spoken free, healed and whole in Jesus’ Name? I pray that we may.