From Terror Into Tears of Belonging [Updated: see bit in italics]

I am most terrified that I don’t belong to Jesus, where I follow His convictions and open my mouth and come face to face with condemnation, shame and blame for speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves (children). Where the other person (an adult) refuses to admit their wrongdoing and then condemns and shames me for not okaying their “coping mechanism” and their “truth” that is hurting not just them but helpless children, I become that little girl all over again.

Without realizing it, I detach from my body. I become hyper alert, wary of anyone or anything that affirms that I don’t belong and that they don’t understand me. In that vigilant state I feel what I did as a little girl all over again: the absolute terror, and the seething anger that there is absolutely no one – not even my God – who appears to be sticking up for me or for my little traumatized brother, who is being repeatedly smacked and condemned in the name of my God.

And the guilt – the awful guilt – that I cannot stop what I deep down know is so wrong. It must be my fault, I reason, that me speaking up isn’t enough to change the situation. Maybe I said it the wrong way. Maybe God’s not listening because I’ve been too sinful. Maybe I shouldn’t have opened my mouth at all and just prayed instead. Maybe me speaking up is sinful, disobedient and disrespectful?

And I cannot feel the arms that hold me, I cannot feel the love of God. I cannot feel anything but this hyper alert vigilance: preparing for the lashes to be dolled out upon the one I love so deeply because I failed him. Because I wasn’t enough. And the very ones who were supposed to protect us both from harm are dolling it out: in the name of my God.

But then, I feel a prompting to read further in David Goggins’ book, Can’t Hurt Me. I read: “The beatings were often brutal, but the anticipation was the worst part.” (p.28) Oh yes, I could argue my little brother didn’t get “beaten” but “only smacked” and minimize what was done to this already traumatized by neglect, abuse and abandonment little adopted boy. But I will not.

Visiting my brother’s birth family in their mud house in Romania around the time we adopted him, deeply disturbed and grieved by what I (as a nine year old) witnessed of this family home my little brother never knew. He was placed in an orpnanage at a few days old and never once visited by his parents or five brothers and sisters, where he lived for the first 15 months of his life. I visited that orphanage too and saw first-hand the impact of neglect upon babies caged in rows upon rows of cots, rocking to and fro. I will never never ever forget it, nor how my little brother screamed and screamed as I bathed him, trying to convince him I wasn’t going to hurt him.

I still see that little girl who tried so hard to keep her little brother quiet, out the way, being good, so it wouldn’t get to this point but, no: here we go again. My whole body tenses. I prepare for those lashes as if they are hitting my own body.

And never have I ever felt so alone, so abandoned, so unseen as in those moments – by the God who tells me He never forsakes us, never abandons us, always sees us.

And I make myself real small, into foetal position as if hiding, will make it all go away – the lashes hitting my little brother and the sounds I will never in my life forget and my parents telling me this is my Jesus, the One who loves me? Loves my little hurting brother? Is this love?

And I go back to reread David’s words: “It’s almost like, no matter, who our parents are and what they do, we’re all born with a moral compass that’s properly tuned … and when you’re born into a cyclone of terror and pain, you know it doesn’t have to be that way, and that truth nags at you like a splinter in your jacked up mind. You can choose to ignore it, but the dull throbbing is always there as the days and nights bleed together into one blurred memory.” (p.22). And I nodd. Oh how he gets me. And I read on: “Have you ever heard the phrase, “Faith over Fear. For me it was Hate over Fear.” (p.27).

And I remember those churchy messages to me in my terror, in my pain and my need. And I remember not choosing hatred of others but hatred of myself. Yes, I must be evil. I must be wrong. I must be too black inside: otherwise I could believe like these “believers” who are telling me my emotions prove I don’t have faith,  that I am “cursed”, that “maybe” there’s an evil spirit lurking in me, that it would indeed be better for me to leave, to not burden those around me.

And the waterfall unleashes. And I cry until I can’t cry anymore and my heart cries: “Thank You, Jesus.” as I feel my body again and the tension releases as this body of mine – a Temple of the Holy Spirit – receives the truth: it was good and right and pure for me to speak up. I don’t have to okay others’ or my own “coping mechanisms” that are hurting us and hurting those around us.

I don’t have to okay “freedom” courses that turn traumatized people away from the Presence of love, truth, grace and the compassion of my God and tell them that they have to work for their own salvation. I don’t have to shut my mouth to “be good”, “respect church authorities” and “be acceptable”.

And this is where I now get to face what I was once most terrified of but no longer am, thanks to the compassion Jesus has shown me, even in writing this: that what was done to me, I did to others also. For God has also rebuked me and led me to repentance for applying the false doctrine of my church upon another also. I followed the example of my church leaders and mentor and the freedom teaching they followed, and tried to command the so-called “evil spirit” in my friend, who had begun to experience the very triggers of trauma (from spiritual abuse) I was experiencing myself, to leave her. But that made it even worse, so I stopped that, after two fearful attempts, and kept doing what I had felt the Holy Spirit actually ask me to do: the very things He had led me to myself through my own triggers of trauma: listening to worship music (which led her to weep and weep on our couch) and having her write out the beautiful truth of Scripture verses next to every accusation she was hearing inside of her and send her worship songs that she later told me were such a gift.

Not long later, I followed God’s prompting to speak up about the evil of the “freedom” course that advocated such “casting out of evil spirits” and spiritual abuse against the very ones who (like myself and my dear friend) had already been through horrific trauma. This doctrine goes even so far as to condemn those who have been sexually, physically and spiritually abused, who are experiencing massive triggers of trauma, as being possessed with an evil spirit, when in fact grave evil has actually been perpetrated against them.

I now realize that me not speaking up is my coping mechanism – to not feel what I did as a little girl (terror and deep pain). But it’s only when I do feel that and then meet God’s compassion (like I did when I read David Goggins’ words) that I allow God to enter that terror and pain and lift it off of me.

It’s when I open my mouth to speak the Word of God I am living out the goodness of my God, my deep awe for His authority (no matter what friendships and religious communities and human respect I lose) and I am living out the truth that we are accepted in the blood shed for us all at the Cross.

I am free to pick up my mat and walk out of the lies condemning me to run into and live out the truth and grace of my God for me and for us all (including those still dolling out the abuse) who have been abused and harmed “in the name of God”. YES! That’s where God meets us all right there, dissolving our terror into tears – as Jesus grieves with us and through us to set us free of all (self-)hatred, hiding, pain and shame to arise and shine in His truth and deep deep compassion. Sing it with me today: Jesus is mine!

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