Life Hurts, God Heals
“Sit still and be quiet!” Perhaps I should have used all caps when writing that, as it was not the calm and quiet instruction offered a four year old with a soft touch on the shoulder. No, it was the forceful command of a violent and rageful man – my father. I often heard that command barked out at me when I was young. But the most tangible memory is of hearing it around the dining room table. The dining room was off limits except when we ate there together as a family or with guests. The table was larger than life and the chairs were a deep, dark wood with gold embroidered upholstery. The fear of spilling something on the upholstery was almost as overwhelming as the fear aroused when sharply reminded to “sit still and be quiet!”
I loved my father (he passed away in 2006) but I also feared him. My mother tried to hide the black eyes and bruises, but we knew. And when we crossed the line (Dad’s line), we didn’t just get swats to correct our behavior. No, we received a whipping with his leather belt. I learned quickly from my sister, I didn’t ever want to see that belt taken off. So, I invented many ways of hiding. But, there were times when my “motor-mouth” got the best of me. And I would hear those words, loud and clear, “SIT STILL AND BE QUIET!” I can almost hear them even now as I write, and my heart is tempted to race. It’s almost an instinctual response – the kind that puts you into “fight or flight” mode. I always prefered flight over fight. Snuggling up to my mom’s legs and hiding under her skirt was a common safe haven when I was four.
This wound from my childhood has taken on a life of it’s own at times. It’s kind of like a poisoned arrow was shot into my heart. The arrow may have been removed, but the poisoned tip was left behind. The wound has scarred over, but the pain remains beneath the surface and the poison seeps into my whole body and colors my interpretations of present events.
For instance, when I was checking out Student Ministries in my local church to see if it was where God wanted me to serve during this season, I visited for a few weeks and chatted with a few of the leaders. One Sunday, I shared with the Student Ministries Pastor some things I had experienced. He asked me if I was considering serving with the students and almost instantly my heart started to race. I didn’t realize it, but sometimes just talking with authority figures activates the poison from my past. I have learned enough to recognize the symptoms and didn’t run away and hide this time. Instead, I calmly responded and told him I would set a time to come in and talk to him about it. It didn’t take long for the fearful messages to start flooding my head – “He’s going to tell you that you talk too much and he only wants leaders who just listen and do what he says.” Now, it was obvious to others that that’s not the way this pastor works. He welcomes thoughtful and creative leaders and values what they have to say. But, my past experiences were coloring my present imagination and I could almost hear the words, “Sit still and be quiet.”
My sense of God leading me to work with Student Ministries was strong enough to inspire me to keep going, but at that moment I was very tempted to run and hide. Every fiber of my being wanted to escape the fear and just find some safe place to hide. Unfortunately, I’m too big to hide under my mom’s skirt anymore – and she rarely wears skirts or dresses anyway. Fortunately, God had other plans for me, plans for further healing and deliverance from the fear and from the lies that too frequently flooded my imagination. I scheduled an appointment with the Student Ministries Pastor, but knew I needed to speak with my prayer counselor first. As I met with my prayer counselor, she helped me make the connections between my heart-racing response to the pastor and the terror I experienced when I was young. During our time of prayer, the Holy Spirit helped me find that poisoned-arrow tip and with laser-like skill, God removed the poisoned tip and through the healing power of Christ in me, the poison was removed.
Here are some of the steps I took to experience healing from this poison within me:
- I recognized the root source of the fear – the terror of being raised in a home filled with violence and verbal abuse.
- I found a tangible memory that embodied that fear.
- I thought about what I wanted to say to my Dad in that situation, but couldn’t.
- I recognized and confessed my anger and rage toward my dad and his terrorizing behavior.
- I asked God to give me the gift of forgiveness for my dad and to forgive me for my anger and rage toward my dad.
- God helped me see the lies I believed about myself – like, “Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say.” “You really should just be calm and quiet like all the other Christian girls/women.” Etc. Then I acknowledged them as lies and chose not to believe them.
- I asked God to show me the truth – what does God think about me? Does God want me to “sit still and be quiet”? What is God inviting me to do or be?
It would be nice if that one prayer experience delivered me from all fear for all time, but that’s not the way healing happened for me in this instance. As part of the healing, God showed me a picture of the kind of joyful life I am invited to participate in with Christ and the Holy Spirit. In prayer, I imagined myself as a little girl at that larger-than-life dining room table, but instead of my Dad sitting there at the head of the table, Jesus was standing there holding his hand out and inviting me to climb up over the gold-embroidered upholstery and jump up onto the table and dance. It was a beautiful image – very healing and freeing. But sometimes I still fear those who remind me of my dad in some way or another. I wish the fear was completely gone. Sometimes God heals instantly, but other times it’s a process. Perhaps it’s often a process to remind me to cling to Christ and depend on the Holy Spirit in my life…
One Bible verse the Spirit keeps bringing to mind is 1 John 4:8, “Perfect love casts out fear.” This love that is referenced here is not my love – it’s not, “If you love perfectly you will not be afraid.” It’s not about another human love, like, “If your dad (or pastor or spouse) loves you perfectly, you won’t have to fear.” The only source of perfect love that I know of is God’s love. That’s the love that I cling to whenever I am tempted to fear. And that’s the love that is inviting me not to sit still and be quiet, but to get up and DANCE!
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