I’ve got to admit that I’ve been stalling with posting ‘Part 2’ and ‘Part 3’… and I have had mild regrets for not ending it some other way with Part 1. Parts of this post, and the next, were very difficult to write and express, but the real problem is in posting it. I am apprehensive. Not because of the content as much as the concern over how it could be interpreted, and how a misinterpretation could impact some readers. Those who are angered by it, which is in the realm of possibilities, don’t worry me so much. They’ll be fine.
It is those who heap silent guilt upon their own heads–because someone else has been heaping it on for them most of their lives–and view this as a ‘to do if you want to be free’ list, or some guilt trip… They are the ones that concern me. So, if you find yourself struggling with what I write, and feeling guilty or oppressed, then my message is not communicating what I desire to communicate, and I welcome private messages via my ‘Contact’ page. I will do my best to respond personally and privately to you, though not likely before early March, as we have a conference in Chambersburg Pennsylvania at the end of February, and it is claiming my spare time.
Note also that Part 2 & 3 were intended to be one post, but since it became so lengthy, I have broken them up in two, but will post them both at the same time, for those who want to continue.
I ended Part 1 with this paragraph:
“If you are trapped in the darkness, that is not where God wants you. There are some practical things that help break and overcome its grip, in every situation I have been involved with. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. These are not ‘miracle cures’ that will eliminate every struggle for life. We are humans, living in a fallen world. We have an enemy. All of that spells battle. However, if you will take these steps–if they apply in your case–it will break the stranglehold of darkness and strengthen you for the battle…”
In the scenarios I share in this post, it is critical that anyone reading this, who is in a place of turmoil, recognize that not every scenario applies to you. There are some steps we can take toward freedom, but not every step will apply to ever person or help every person. The second scenario, for example, can seem terribly harsh to someone who is caught in a place of emotional chaos that has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to be stuck. (No one wants to be stuck, you say, and I agree that no one typically deliberately and intentionally chooses to be stuck. Sometimes, however, we choose it subconsciously, as in the case of the second example I will share.)
Each of us is on a unique and personal journey to healing, and what heals one person, destroys another. I am cautious in sharing examples for this reason. And yet, because they were effective in these situations, I share them in hopes that someone who is stuck might find answers.
FIND A SAFE MENTOR, COUNSELOR OR BOTH:
Every abuse victim needs someone in his or her life, who will listen with an open heart, and believe every word without judgement or condemnation. If you have never had that someone, I encourage you to make this a priority. Life has already offered you enough judgement and condemnation, in your own mind, if not from people around you. You don’t need any more of that.
A question I’ve been asked many times by other individuals working with victims is, “How do you know what to believe?” or “What if they are not telling the truth?” or “What if they are lying and making things up?”
My answer is the same every time. My role and commitment is to believe every victim’s story. I never worry about whether I am being lied to. That is not mine to carry. And, to be honest, I’ve never had a reason to believe any of my clients are conjuring up fake memories. Why would they?
And that is what you need, if you are a victim of abuse–someone who will listen to your heart, validate your pain, and care for you with compassion, not trying to figure out if every word you say is true.
Along with offering that kind of care, you need someone who will invite you outside your comfort zone, even gently nudge you, rather than leave you stuck. There is nothing worse, no torment greater (in my mind and experience) than to feel helplessly trapped in the chaos of the past. I needed someone to care enough to say the hard things, and ask me the tough questions. And then I had to be willing to ask myself those questions.
ASK YOURSELF THE HARD QUESTIONS:
“Do you really want to be free?” I asked the young woman sitting in front of me. She looked startled. I expected it. Because I’ve asked this question countless times, with many clients who seem helplessly stuck. But I know they are not helpless. At least none that I have worked with. They may feel that way. They may even appear that way, for a time, to everyone looking on. But every one has eventually moved to freedom. Often sooner than expected.
“Of course I want to be free!” she exclaimed.
“What prevents you?” I asked.
She looked at me with the same shocked look. “What do you mean?”
“May I ask you some really hard questions?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said, looking puzzled.
“What do you get out of your bondage?” I paused to let the question sink in, then asked a few more questions. “Are you afraid of who you will be without the baggage? Afraid you won’t know how to act, or how to function if the emotional chaos is gone?” I paused again and let these questions sink in.
She started to cry. Not angry tears, but release.
I continued. “Are you afraid that if you heal, you will be abandoned? That no one will care for you? That you will be lonely?” I spoke softly… kindly… gently. No accusation, just hard questions born out of deep compassion for her struggle and frustration.
The young woman sat and wept for a while.
“You’re right,” she said, at length. “I’m terrified of being free. I’m terrified of being lonely and abandoned. I’m terrified of not needing people all the time and I’m terrified of who I might be if I was free. But I desperately want to be free.”
“Are you willing to do the hard work? Willing to risk that process?” I asked.
The questions are offensive. I get that. And I wouldn’t ask them in every situation, or with every person. Not everyone can handle the directness of that interaction. For some it would be destructive because they are not ready. This young woman was desperate for freedom and, having worked with her for almost a year, I had good cause to believe they would change her life. They were painful for her, but they were also the beginning of one of the most amazing journeys I have watched anyone embark on, in overcoming emotional chaos and trauma.
We all need care, compassion and a listening ear. Every single one of us. Especially if we have suffered abuse, neglect or violence at the hands of someone we trusted. But along with that we also need someone who will love us enough to empower us in overcoming that past. Someone who is willing to ask the hard questions, sensitively, yet with a directness that frees us to confront our own fears and move beyond them. I had a rapport with the young woman, and had her deepest respect. I knew I could go to that place of confronting her fears, and not destroy her.
If I had believed there was any other thing standing in the way of her freedom, I would have gone there first, but it was the last door to open. And it worked. She found hope.
Oh… that’s harsh. Repent? Yes. Repent. Nothing has brought more freedom into my personal life than repentance. It’s terribly unpopular in today’s Uber-grace Christian culture. (And I believe in Uber-grace as powerfully as I believe in repentance. Don’t run away with that statement and presume I limit God’s grace. We are saved through Jesus, not performance. Period.) I stand firm on the fact that grace and repentance go hand in hand, for the purpose of our freedom. They are not in conflict.
Before I take the thought of repentance any further, let me say what NOT to repent for. Don’t repent, apologize, or take any kind of ownership for the thing that brought the trauma into your life if you were victimized. It’s not yours to carry. Lay it down. That sin and guilt is for the perpetrator to bring to God in repentance. Too often victims are made to feel guilty for what was done to them. That is wrong. Don’t repent for how the violation made you feel. Feelings are a gift from God. They tell my heart when something is wrong, when something (or someone) is not safe. They tell me when I have been wronged. They alert me to danger. Feelings are a gift. We don’t want to let them rule us, but we need to feel. Don’t repent for being tempted because of what was done to you… tempted to hate… tempted to murder (yes, I hear these confessions)… tempted to lie and say it never happened… tempted to deny and defy God. Temptation is not sin. Sin is sin.
Many victims of abuse whom I work with carry as much shame over what was done to them as they do for their own choices. They are entangled with false guilt, respond at every revival meeting, and wonder why they can’t get rid of that feeling through repentance. The answer, to be direct, is because you are not guilty. The thing that will bring you freedom is the knowledge that it isn’t your fault and there is no need for repentance on your part.
Repent only for sin. Often the choices we make, because of being sexually abused and the premature sexual awakening that results from the abuse, are on-going, and leave us feeling defeated and frustrated. But because of shame we cannot tell anyone.
Sexual abuse creates, for many if not all victims, sexual struggles and/or addictions that often begin in childhood and carry on to old age. (I have sat with couples in their 70’s, still fighting addictions that started before age ten, and speaking of them for the first time in their lives, because they’ve never had anyone willing to hear their struggles.) Many cry out to God for many years, desperately longing for freedom, but trapped in that world of shame and silence.
From sexual immorality, to pornography, to masturbation (yes, I know, it’s a touchy and controversial subject, that one, but I’m addressing addictions here) or any other form of sexual experimentation, many victims find themselves lost in addictions. Keep in mind, in reading this, that I don’t profess to be a counselor. And, quite frankly, have no desire to be one. I help people overcome the things they struggle with and achieve the results they long for, mostly in their faith journey and healing from past pain. I work from a biblical perspective, using a coaching method. So if you come to me because you struggle with pornography, we will work through that from a biblical perspective, looking at God’s plan and intent for us, as well as looking at where the addiction was ‘birthed’ and the root problem. If it is cutting and self harm, we will look at that from a biblical perspective, focusing on the root, not the symptom.
I won’t quickly slap a ‘sin’ label on these things and appropriately condemn you and send you on your way, because there is always something deeper going on. Labeling sin is easy. Anyone can do it. But digging deeper, and inviting Jesus to heal and restore at a deeper place takes relationship. (Jesus did not come to bring condemnation, but to offer salvation in every situation, every struggle. John 3:17 And He came for relationship.) It is important to remember that an addiction is never about the addiction. Ever.
We need to identify and work through the cause–whatever pain and trauma is there, and the lies we believe as a result–but we can’t blame our choices on those things. We need to take ownership for our sinful choices. Regardless what my childhood was, or wasn’t, the choices I made in the past and make today are mine. Where those choices lead me into sin, if I really want to be free, I must repent.
I cannot count the number of times someone has shared with me some dark, even demonic, struggle… Or the oppression of suicidal ideation, the temptation to cut, or extreme hopelessness that overtake them… And, when we go back and trace where that darkness started, almost without fail it started after one sinful behaviour or another.
The most common addiction that brings this darkness, that I have worked with, is pornography. A woman shares with me that she has demons attacking her mind and spirit, that she awakens to a suffocating feeling and the sensation of hands around her throat, strangling her. She suffers through explicit and horrible nightmares and feels completely helpless. We talk about when it started. She remembers the first night it happened.
“What changed that day? What did you do before bed?” I ask a series of questions that might shed some light.
“Nothing,” she says. Moments later, having paused to think back, she says, “Oh… wait… yeah, there was something.” She hesitates, avoids eye contact.
“What is it?” I ask, but still she sits silently.
The game of a thousand questions it will be. I can see she wants to share, but can’t get it out, so I will do what I’ve done with many clients before, and help her .
“Is it something we’ve discussed before?” I ask. She nods. “Did we discuss it last time?” She shakes her head. “Is it pornography?” She nods. I wait in silence for a few moments. “Do you think there might be a connection?”
“Maybe,” she says. By the third time this happens, where the dark and demonic attacks begin with exposure to pornography, she will recognize it, but today is the first time she makes the connection, and it startles her.
“So, now what?” she asks.
“You repent. If you want to break the power it has over you, that’s what you do,” I tell her. “That’s it. Nothing more. You’ve confessed it to me, but you need to repent before God, accept His forgiveness and move on.”
“Will that really help?” she asks.
“I can’t promise that there won’t be any struggle, but I can promise that you will be forgiven, and that it will break something in the spiritual realm.”
Immediately she bows her head, prays and thanks God for His grace and forgiveness, and asks Him to help her overcome temptation. I pray for her too, and together we take a stand against the enemy. We meet again two weeks later. She is excited to tell me that she has not touched pornography, and the dark demonic attacks are gone, for the most part.
For several months she does well, then the darkness comes back. The attacks are more fierce than ever, she tells me. Again we go through the process of taking it apart, and again it comes back to pornography. This time she sees it more quickly, and repents again, breaking the power of sin in her life. And again she overcomes the temptations, this time for almost a year.
So why do I teach repentance? Because we were not created to carry sin. It has negative power over our mind and spirit, that will destroy us, if we don’t repent. If being told to repent offends you, I am willing to risk being unpopular for the sake of your freedom…
To be continued…
© Trudy Metzger
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