By Betty Gibbs
I wish there was someone here with me today as I write. Then I pause to realize He is here, He is near, and only He understands my deepest emotions. I have sensed Him guiding me to this moment, asking me to simply trust Him. Perhaps the catalyst for freedom is trusting Someone enough that you are willing to allow them to guide you out of the shadows.
In the year 1999, though I am not certain of the exact day, I stood looking out the window of my kitchen while I washed a few dishes. The day was sunny, with a cloudless sky. Sun rays streamed through the windows and I was enjoying the beauty of the morning. Suddenly, and I do mean without warning, a memory surfaced of my early childhood. I wouldn't call it a vision, just a picture locked in my head and projecting onto my eyes. Yes, it was weird.
I saw myself in the darkened hallway of my elementary school. How these events occur I do not know. In that moment I remembered returning to school because I left a paper in my locker and I needed it for homework. (Later calculations pointed to a time of about 4th-5th grade.) It was a little spooky being in the school without all the lights on. I already was afraid of the dark and I looked around as I walked. I was relieved when a male teacher appeared in the hallway. He knew me, and of course, I knew him. After telling him why I was there he pulled a chair from a room and sat down in the hallway, saying he would wait until I found my paper. (I have told this story to no one except my friend, Bonnie, who will be reading and hearing it again.)
Walking back toward the front of the school where he sat, he stood be in front of him and talked for a few moments. At that level I was looking into his eyes, being the little girl that I was. Even now I remember a disconnect in how I felt - nervous, uncomfortable, and yet happy to be talking to a teacher. Teachers are the ones we looked up to. Remember? Male teachers were the ones we had crushes on. Remember? These are the people we can trust. Right? When he turned me around with my back facing him, I was confused, but remained still as he continued talking to me. Speaking softly with affirming words while he lifted my dress and began to fondle me. Dresses being the required clothing during those years made it convenient to betray the innocent. I venture to guess I was not his only victim.
The memory quickly floated away and left me holding onto the counter, trembling and crying. I rather had the feeling that I was losing it, as we say. But I knew it was true. What I didn't know was why - why had it surfaced now? Why was God allowing me to see something so awful? What good could it possible do? I felt dirty, ashamed, sad, and gripped with fear. You know, like dreading there was more hidden that God would show me.
Thank God, there was no more. It took time, but it did eventually move me toward freedom and healing because I better understood myself and the myriad phobias that are inherent with sexual abuse. The shame that is common in girls and women who have been abused. And yes, even fondling is considered sexual abuse! Whether the victim is a girl or a boy. The damage done to the psyche of a young, innocent boy or girl can last a lifetime. Even when the truth is realized and accepted that it wasn't our fault, the embarrassment and shame lie buried within, leaving ridges of pain on the muddy tracks of our heart.
I question counselors who guide clients in exercises to identify suppressed memories. It is dangerous in the hands of the wrong counselor. God needs no help in bringing to our mind anything He wants to use in order to make us whole, in body, mind, or spirit. Someone here has carried a lifetime of shame. You have not recognized in yourself the pattern of depression and hiding that you maintain for safety. Depression is simply anger turned inward. It is more than okay to be angry, but it needs to be channeled where it belongs. Hiding behind food, failure, weight, baggy or unattractive clothing, too much activity, and even perfectionism are classic examples of the choices we make to build a wall of protection. Nothing can reach us if we can control and maintain our world.
There is more to say. Other stories to tell. I will allow us all time to reflect, to pray, to seek God for what He longs to do for us all. This has been difficult to write. But listen, precious friends, there are aspects of your life that have been difficult to live. Abuse takes on many forms and yours may have been different. Whatever they may be, bring them to Him. Lay all of the torment and anguish at His feet. It is time for many of you to walk out from under the burdens you have too long carried. I'm here for you. Jesus is here for you!
Always with love ~ Betty
Photo credit and article written by Allison Brennan