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The Lord works righteousness and
justice for all who are oppressed.
I have never, ever connected so deeply with someone else’s spiritual experience as I have recently with reader, Oasis. The tears . . . . oh, the tears. This deep, gut-wrenching, sobbing pain is so real for some of us. I cannot believe I am doing this, but I’m feeling that right now I need to try to clearly articulate my feelings about Father God and how He relates with the abuse some of us have incurred.
I want to discuss my abusive background and tie in with it how some thoughts and words I have heard from Calvinists – people close to me – have affected me spiritually. If you would like to challenge or debate any of this (and I am absolutely fine if you do), please take it to the Calvinism thread (feel free to post a comment in this thread letting us know so we can join you). Thanks for your understanding so we can keep the space on this article safe.
Some of us have been abused as children and the underlying message of abuse is always about control. Someone used their power in a controlling way over us. We were not allowed a choice. We were not allowed to say “no.” We were told to be quiet. We were told to get over it. We were told to stop feeling. We were told to stop crying.
I think these powerful messages are more compounded when it is sent to a child from a very early age. The child has no way of refuting the message and so the painful messages have been repeated in their mind over and over again. The messages become the truth for the child and they believe the lies that their abuser told them.
Oasis shared how she was part of a pedophile ring as a child and has struggled for years with the notion that God saw the abuse and stood behind a curtain and allowed it to continue. That tore me up because it is a similar feeling I have had.
Here were Oasis’ powerful words that really hit home for me:
I remember being in church at five-years-old and staring at a drawing on the wall of Jesus surrounded by children. I was so jealous of the child whose face Jesus held in his hands! He was smiling and there was so much love in his eyes. I asked my teacher more than once if someday Jesus would hold my face in his hands like that, too. She said he would, and I believed her.
Instead of responding to Oasis’ original comment, I will do it here:
Hi Oasis: I think I need a warning disclaimer on each of your comments. I don’t think I have ever gone into full-blown weeping by anyone’s words the way I have with yours – and I mean the ugly crying, not just the shedding of a few tears. The Kleenex on my bed is in shreds – I’m talking pain from the very depths of my being – the pain that rarely comes to surface.
I firmly believe that God has shown His love to me through you and your words, Oasis. As you shared, I felt your compassion and understanding, not this “God-is-sovereign-He-ordained-it” justification stuff that we so often hear when talking about abuse.
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Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18
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Right now, I am at a place where I choose to acknowledge God is real to me and that He ordained YOU, Oasis, to read my blog at such a time as this to be able to say the words that would validate what I have gone through and bring me hope. God, the masterful Conductor, orchestrated this marvelous symphony for me, right here, right now. The timing, the tempo, the phrasing is the gift He has given me through you to touch my soul. Thank you, Oasis.
I am a musician and time and again, I am reminded by examples like this, that God meets me in ways that are intimately personal to me: timing. Any musician will tell you how important timing is. If you are participating with a group of musicians, missing just one beat will yield a musical disaster. God’s timing is perfect. God knew I needed to hear from you this week. He didn’t miss a beat. I can worship this God who loves me deeply and wants to connect with me in the most meaningful ways. I am thankful to God that He has given me this opportunity as a result of you to sort through this rubble of confusion and deep spiritual turmoil.
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And now I will share more of my story knowing the possibility that others who have gone through abuse can find similar hope instead of relying on faulty lies and messages that others or they themselves might have been replaying in their minds.
These words from Oasis melted me inside: I remember being in church at five-years-old and staring at a drawing on the wall of Jesus surrounded by children. I was so jealous of the child whose face Jesus held in his hands! He was smiling and there was so much love in his eyes. I asked my teacher more than once if someday Jesus would hold my face in his hands like that, too. She said he would, and I believed her.
I, too, have always tried to imagine what it might be like to have Jesus hold my face. The thought of Jesus’ hands touching my face is unfathomable to me, I cannot even picture it happening in my mind. It is too good for me, but I can visualize it happening to someone else. I also cannot imagine myself as a child sitting in the lap of Jesus. In my mind, I was always off to the side longing for that opportunity. I was not chosen for that. Just like the last kid left standing when being picked for school teams in PE, that was me and my relationship with God. I was damaged goods, never worthy enough to be picked. I wasn’t chosen to have that kind off relationship where I could sit in His lap. I didn’t have a teacher to tell me that one day Jesus would hold my face in His hands or allow me to snuggle in His lap. That really wasn’t a possibility for me. That is what the messages in my mind told me. I’ve heard those messages for decades.
Most people come into the world because their moms go into labor at the appointed time. The baby’s fully developed body triggers a response in the mom’s body signaling her body to prepare for birth. My entrance to the world was quite different. I was not “welcomed” to the world. I was beaten before I was born and I fought to remain alive. My mom hid my dad’s drugs and he beat her, putting her into premature labor. The labor did not stop and I was born 10 weeks early. There was concern about my lungs and I was not supposed to survive that ordeal, yet here I am. I was born to abuse and came home to chaos. My mom divorced my dad when I was 1. I never saw him again. Ever.
I can’t remember how old I was when Mom told me the story of why I was born premature, but that surely sent me a message: “my father didn’t care if I lived or died, so I must not have mattered to him.” The lining of the lungs is one of the last finishing touches in baby’s development in the womb. As no one else in the family has asthma, it is very likely the asthma I have had my whole life is due to my premature birth. I didn’t have a choice to be born early or to have asthma. As I went through life, some of the burning questions in my mind have been: did my dad care about me? Did he ever think of me? Such simple questions, such powerful questions for a child. And you know what? Those same questions remained powerful even into my forties – you don’t just get over it so easily.
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He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,
according to the purpose of his will . . . Ephesians 1:5
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My Dad had a college ring. He was proud of that ring. Seeing a big clunky college ring on a man’s hand brings back painful memories for me. He chose to wear it. I didn’t.
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My mom remarried when I was 3 years old and my new Dad legally adopted me when I was 5. We were now a legal family. He is the only Dad I’ve known. I liked him initially. But he had a rage. I will never have the answer to why, but he took his rage out on me, a 3-yr old skinny redhead, by beating me, leaving me bruised, with welts, sometimes a bloody nose, knots on my head, belt buckle imprints. I’m a mom with 7 kids and as I sit here typing this I’m struck at the idea of a full-grown 6 ft 2 in.-tall man who could get in such a rage and take it out on a 3-yr old child. This is some crazy stuff, isn’t it?
As I got older, he added kicking to the routine. He would tell me to go to my room, kicking me and shoving me against the wall of the staircase as I attempted to make my way to the bedroom to get “spanked.” Usually his kicking made me fall down which meant more kicks. I finally got to the bedroom where I was beaten more, eventually ending up in the corner of the room, curled up into a ball to protect my head. He’d then go back down stairs where life was going on as normal. The television was on. There was laughter. It never happened. It was never mentioned. It just was.
I’m an emotional person now, but as a child, I refused to let my dad see me cry during or after. I would not give him that satisfaction. There was no way in hell I was going to let him know how he was affecting me. I had control over that choice.
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But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
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Years ago I went to counseling dealing with this abuse and one of the questions that I heard time and again: “surely your dad was an alcoholic, right?” Wrong. He did have a few beers while watching football, etc, but that is not when he had his fits of rage. The fits came out of no where with no rhyme or reason. My dad worked strange hours and so I never knew when he would be at home. My first fear coming home from school was, “is Dad home?” I haven’t thought about this for a long while, and once again, it’s hitting me: in my childhood home, my home was not a place of refuge. I never knew when a battle would ensue, so I walked on eggshells.
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According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:2
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My Mom and Dad had their own biological children. For some unknown reason, he did not treat them the same as me. I was chosen to be the victim of his violence. They were not. Why? I told many, many people about the abuse, even the police, trusted family and friends, and people dismissed it, didn’t want to get involved, or didn’t believe me. The abuse continued until I was 19 years old and moved out.
So you can imagine that my image of “father” is quite skewed. I didn’t know unconditional love from either of my fathers. I did not hear messages from my fathers that said: I love you for who you are, I’m so glad you are in this world, you are precious to me.
My Dad who raised me, praised me for outward performance. I made him look good. My grades were good and thankfully, for my emotional health, I had piano and excelled in it.
My heart and soul poured out through my fingers as they expressed the emotion that was penned up inside. To this day, people say they feel an emotional connection when they hear me play – – – I’m not surprised, I spent many years practicing that – – – music was my language when I had no words as a child and no adult wanted to hear about the abuse. My piano was the safe-keeper of all unspoken thoughts and feelings and that is where I spent many hours wrestling with God asking Him, “why was I chosen for this?”
As I became an adult, I learned how powerful a father’s role and relationship is in the development of a child. But I also learned that the relationship with our father has a direct impact on one’s relationship with God. Our earthly fathers can somehow in our minds get confused with God the Father. If I had difficulty trusting my earthly father, I’d probably have difficulty trusting my heavenly Father.
I’m kind of a stubborn person and I simply decided that was not going to happen to me. I wasn’t going to let it happen. Just by having that knowledge, I convinced myself that I could combat that common issue of earthly and heavenly father confusion that so many survivors face.
Well, the reality is that the lies that permeated my mind as a child resurface when I least expect it. Those old messages from the deep recesses of my mind sometimes override what fact I know or what common sense I have. It is a very difficult mountain to climb to fully trust, to truly believe that God loves me unconditionally, to understand that God forgives me as far as the east is from the west, that God loves me with an everlasting love. These are the truths that I must repeat in my mind frequently . . . . . to this day.
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The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
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For those who felt the love of their earthly fathers, their faith may come easy. They probably don’t have these issues. They are more likely to have a sure foundation. This creates a spiritual conflict for those of us with father issues. We can doubt our faith, question whether our salvation is real, wonder if it’s all in our head. We are easily confused.
For me, sometimes it is a daily battle, not only with my mind, but with people around me. I have been battered spiritually by those who should be loving and supporting me. I have been told that I am an unbeliever because I don’t match the way they think Christianity looks like – whatever that means. When I have been unable to read my Bible or pray for a season, that gets labeled as “rotten fruit” and proof that I’m an unbeliever. Those same people who claim to know Christ and judge me are not willing to come along side and have compassion or understanding considering where I have come from or willing to simply say, “when you can’t pray, I will pray for you.” I think they believe I have not accepted my lot in life, the lot that God chose for me.
Please imagine being in the shoes of someone abused. Imagine the picture of a God who chooses whom He elects – there is no rhyme or reason. The dad who raised me chose which children he liked. He didn’t choose me. He said in words that he loved me. He showed me off as his trophy prize when I played the piano well for company. But when the company left, I could have been beaten for a “wrong look.” It sure sounds like my father was playing favorites to me. Did God also choose to let me get abused and not my siblings?
I’m sorry, I cannot allow my brain to go back to that. That is hell – – – every day coming home from school wondering if this would be the day that he’d explode. What is it like every day wondering if I measure up to God, if I got the doctrine right if He’s going to elect me – even if I have already believed in my heart He has saved me? Sometimes my feelings waver. It’s déja vu, but now with a spiritual Father.
Do you sense both the physical and heavenly father chaos I have experienced? It’s hell. Do you see why hell might seem preferable than heaven – – if I have to acknowledge that this God, the One who sent Jesus to die for me, actually chose for me to be abandoned, rejected, and beaten by both of my earthly fathers? I’m now supposed to be okay with the fact that God foresaw the abuse I would endure and it was in His glorious plan?
Finally, Oasis’ words articulated so powerfully what I have felt. She speaks so well for me here:
It is IMPOSSIBLE for me believe that God loves me, if he was the man behind the curtain the entire time. I have cried so many tears over the concept. If any part of him, on any level, wanted those abusers to destroy me in the way they did, then I conclude that GOD DOES NOT LOVE ME. And if this is true, then my sorrow will never end, because my God is no more.