The second phase of Anderson’s Steps to Freedom in Christ was ‘Deception Versus Truth’. Before we began, the Pastor explained that this step involved asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any lies that I was believing. He handed me a pad of paper and a pen, and told me to write down whatever came to mind. Sounded easy enough.
Lies I Believe… I wrote at the top of the sheet. “Ok,” I smiled, “I’m ready.” Little did I know that I was about to be completely derailed.
The Pastor bowed his head and prayed, asking for divine revelation of lies masquerading as truth.
I’m a bad person.
That was the first thing that came to mind. I hesitantly wrote it down, and then looked up with uncertainty from my paper. I could feel the heat of shame burning in my cheeks. “Ummm, what if the things that come to mind are not actually lies at all, but things that are true?” I asked.
The Pastor gently reminded me that I should just write down whatever came to mind, without thinking too much about it. He promised that we would read through the list afterward to discern whether the things I was hearing were indeed from God. We would take the time to measure them against the truth of God’s word and what we knew of His character.
“Ok,” I sighed nervously. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure that this was a good idea.
The Pastor again prayed. He asked that God would fill me with His peace, and would strengthen me for the task at hand. Words began flowing into my mind with such a clarity that I could almost hear them.
I am repulsive.
I am stupid.
I am unworthy of being loved.
My eyes brimmed with hot tears, but I kept writing…
I am good for absolutely nothing.
My family would be better off without me.
The ‘bad things’ that happened to me were my fault.
Tears now ran in streams down my face (and to be honest are again as I write this)…
My sole purpose in life is to be used for the gratification of others, and then be tossed aside like useless trash.
I am ‘that kind of girl’.
No one will ever be able to understand.
I’ll never get past this.
These things define who I am.
I felt the crushing pain of brokenness. Tears dripped off my hot cheeks onto the paper, blurring some of the words…
I can’t trust anyone to help me. Not that anyone would ever want to.
I’m broken beyond repair.
Once people find out the bad things I’ve done – the terrible person that I am – they won’t want anything to do with me, OR they will use what they know to hurt, shame or manipulate me.
No one cares about me.
God is angry and disgusted with me.
I deserved all the ‘bad things’ that happened to me.
I deserve to be punished.
I deserve to suffer.
Once I stop writing, the Pastor asks me if I will read the list to him. I try, but it’s too difficult. I hand the paper over to him, not daring to look him in the face.
This step involves renouncing the lies that Satan, the deceiver, has been accusing me of and replacing them with the truth of God’s Word. Dispelling the darkness with His glorious light.
The trouble is, I can’t do it. Not even the very first one.
I am supposed to say, “I renounce the lie that… I am a bad person” but I can’t. I honestly believe that it’s true. The Pastor just doesn’t understand, I tell myself. But, if he knew…
“What about Romans 3:23?” I ask. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are ALL sinners, not one of us is good.”
The Pastor agrees that this verse does point to our sinful nature. Without Christ’s sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins we would be lost, destined to live an eternity separated from God. “But, is that what you really mean?” he asks softly. “That you are a sinner, just like I am a sinner, or your husband, or kids are sinners?”
“No,” I confess. “It’s not the same. Maybe sinful or ‘bad’ is too tame of a word.” I try my best to explain through my sobs. I can’t look at the Pastor anymore. I am consumed with guilt and shame. For reasons that I don’t understand, I begin digging my nails into the backs of my hands.
I try, through my sobs to explain. I tell the Pastor that little children are supposed to be innocent and pure – not perfect in a human sense – but basically good. Untainted by the evils of the world around them. But I was different. I did things. Disgusting and shameful things.
The Pastor asks how old I was when these things happened. “Five,” I answer.
His voice is compassionate as he tells me he’s so sorry, and that it’s not my fault.
“Yes,” I protest. “It is. Other five year olds wouldn’t even know what was happening to them, but my dad warned me about this. He made me promise to say no, and to tell. But I didn’t listen. Don’t tell me it’s not my fault. I knew better, but I did it anyways. And I kept going back. Don’t you understand,” I sobbed. “I went back.”
My body racked with sobs of anguish. For decades these hideous secrets had been locked away from a world too unsafe to trust. I hid my brokenness with outward smiles, but inside I suffered in tortured silence.
Suddenly, I’m feeling acutely nauseous. My head hurts. I feel confused and disoriented. I don’t remember anything after this. My husband, who has been quietly observing, tells me I became markedly different. Where I had been avoiding eye contact, I began looking distrustfully at both the Pastor and my husband. I looked frightened and confused, and just kept repeating that I didn’t want to be there, that I wanted to go home.
What I do remember is the fear that consumed me when my husband described the end of the meeting to me, and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, and no memory of how I had gotten home. A terrifying ‘black hole’ in time.
I didn’t understand at that time, but I had dissociated. “Dissociation is a common defense/reaction to stressful or traumatic situations” (Steinburg, M.). Talking about the trauma from my past had caused me to feel threatened beyond my capacity to cope. At that time, I had not even heard of dissociation, but that does not mean it was the first time this had happened. It was, however, the first time that anyone had observed an episode, and told me about it. (I’ll share more about dissociation in future posts).
I was terrified. For one thing, I didn’t understand what had happened. It would be a least a few months before I was introduced to the word ‘dissociation’. On top of that, there was the aspect of losing control. I have been intensely hypervigilant for most of my life, trusting no one but myself to be on guard against danger. How was I supposed to keep myself safe, if I didn’t even know what was going on? Perhaps you can imagine my anxiety.
So there we were, in what felt like a ‘no-win’ situation. The band-aid had been ripped off my wound, leaving a gaping hole which oozed darkness and fear. The days ahead were challenging beyond words. The mess that spilled out was too ugly to ignore, and too massive to shove back into the closet marked ‘secret’. My life, for a time, was a complete disaster. It seemed that healing such absolute brokenness was an impossible task.
Yet, “Nothing is impossible with God” Luke 1:37 NIV
It would take some time, and would be the most difficult thing I had ever dealt with, but healing would come. Incrementally, to be sure, but it would come.
May you, dear friend, be encouraged knowing that even when the days seem dark and hopeless – He is with you, He loves you, and He holds the answers to all that troubles you,
Sharing God’s faithfulness at…
Steinburg, Marlene M.D. In-Depth: Understanding Dissociative Disorders. http://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-understanding-dissociative-disorders/0001377
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ferran-jorda/1429681296/”>Ferran.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>