Part of the reason I started this blog–the main reason, really–was to share my journey of faith with others. It requires transparency to write about things so personal and close. There are times when I would rather hide from what is happening in my life, especially when the main things that are happening are internal and not external. The past two weeks I have been having a rough patch.
Last year, when I was going through Making Peace with Your Past, I realized that I have very few pictures from my childhood. I actually have no pictures of me before about the age of eight. I am sure my parents have pictures, but I don’t think they have many. We were poor back then….pictures were a luxury. The funny thing about pictures is that they only reflect the external. Oh, you might get a sense of what is happening inside a person by the look on their face or the gleam–or lack thereof–in their eye, but you would really have no real idea if a person was joyful or bitter, if they were thankful or envious from just a snapshot.
I have come to learn that when the Lord wants to go deeper with me, He will use the most mundane of things to jar me, to cause me to reach deeper. So, too, my mind will begin to explore certain things that have been locked away, memories that have been lost for a time so to protect me from things that were too hard to handle at that time. For me, sometimes the memories that come back are in the form of a snapshot…a picture in my head for which I have no matching context. And that is exactly what happened two weeks ago.
Our church has a new pastor. He is young, and he is under-paid, and I think he is going to be fantastic at shepherding the wayward flock he has been given. In the process of coming on board, though, he and the elders defaulted to a very formal church service for the time being, and it was a shock for me. You see, what happened to me was a flashback to a very brief time when my family attended an especially formal Episcopal Church around the time when we first moved to our home in Mount Airy, Maryland. It was also around the time that I was molested. The fact that we were going to that church at that time, I think, has absolutely nothing to do with what happened to me. At least I can find no connection at all. However, the snapshot in my mind as I sat in church was of that particular church.
The most disturbing part wasn’t just the picture in my head, because frankly the picture in my head was not at all bad. The rush of feelings, however, was absolutely paralyzing. My throat felt constricted, I was fighting tears, I felt like my stomach was being twisted in knots and then like my guts were being ripped out. It took me two Sundays to identify that a part of the feeling was a lack of feeling like I have a voice. I never told my parents about the abuse until I was an adult. At least I don’t remember telling them, but there is a LOT I do not recall from about the ages of ten to fifteen.
As I have worked through this, I have reminded myself of the truth over and over again. I do have a voice. His name is Jesus. He is my mediator. I have the Holy Spirit who intercedes for me in groans. I have the Father who loved me from before the foundation of the world and chose me for his very own. I have the promise that He will never leave nor forsake me. These truths are able to shatter the lies that kept me silent for so long, and the power of Jesus in my life is able to help me overcome the lies the enemy throws at me to make me feel like I have no voice. I must choose which to believe; will I believe the truth and walk in it, appropriating it for every aspect of my life, or will I believe the lie and be bound by it? I choose to believe the truth.
I do not know all that the Lord has for me in this rough patch. I know He wants me to lean on him. My acceptance is assured. There is nothing I can tell Jesus that will shock Him. There is no memory so bad that he cannot help me get past it. I am so very thankful for the people He has put in my life: my friend Debbie who helps me work through my feelings, my friend Patty who is okay with my sobbing beside her in church…and doesn’t feel compelled to make me “okay” before the end of church, and my husband, my dear Handy Man, who holds me at night when I cry and who, though he has no idea of what is going on in my head, listens to me talk and work it out. And I am thankful for a young, new pastor who hears the very surface of what I am going through and jumps to the conclusion that everyone needs a voice. God keeps surprising me with good things. He keeps drawing me closer.
I asked my friend the other day if she ever got to like the rough patches. She told me she does, in a way, because she looks forward to the Lord drawing her deeper. I want to have that willing spirit, to say, “Yes, Lord Jesus” to whatever He asks of me. As I shed the legalisms and the false appearances that have held me back from deep relationships with the Lord and with those around me, I, too, am learning to look forward to being drawn deeper in. And if that means dealing with paralyzing feelings and confusing snapshots in my head, well, then, so be it. I choose to be healthy. I choose to let the Lord strip away the dross. It hurts, but it cleanses, too.
So, if you happen to be around me in the next few weeks, particularly at church, and I seem to be having a rough time, I am. It isn’t you. It is the stuff in my memory that I am battling. I stand on Ephesians 6, and I am wearily putting on my armor every day. I will emerge from this soon, I hope. That is where I am, standing under the shadow of the Almighty, and singing with the hymn writer:
Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.