Ever since I was a little girl, I have been plagued by nightmares.
One dream was particularly disturbing. It began during the period of time when I was being abused, and would often rip me violently from sleep. I would wake up terrified, my heart racing.
In the dream, my family and I were going out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. One of those places that are lavishly decorated with fresh flowers and tasteful artwork. The table was adorned with an elegant, white tablecloth and flickering candles. There were cloth napkins impeccably folded on each dinner plate.
After we were seated, I excused myself to go to the bathroom but was soon lost in a dark maze of hallways. When I finally found my way out, I discovered a large gymnastics studio that was bright and welcoming. The floor was covered with royal blue gymnasium mats, like those found in an elementary school. I had always wanted to join a gymnastics club, and was excited to have happened upon such a wonderful place.
I soon forgot about the family dinner and began having a wonderful time doing cartwheels and somersaults to my heart’s content. I was enjoying the freedom of this place so much that I failed to notice the small square in the middle of the room that was not covered with a blue mat. I did a cartwheel right into this section, and found myself falling down a twisting playground slide (Stay with me here, I realize the thoughts and fears of a five-year-old child may not make sense at times).
As I reached the bottom of the slide, I came face-to-face with a man dressed as a clown. He smiled at me, but I sensed immediately that he was extremely dangerous.
When I failed to cooperate with the games this man wanted to play, he locked me in a cage and began boiling a pot of water to cook me in (kind of reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel, right?) Anyways, I remember feeling terrified. I was sure I was going to die.
Then, I noticed a small birdcage beside the place where I was trapped. I suddenly had an idea. When the clown’s back was turned, I wrote a note to my family to tell them that I was in danger. That I needed them to save me. I reached over and tied the note to the bird’s leg and unlatched the door to its cage. I watched as the bird flew up the slide and through the opening in the floor. The clown didn’t seem to notice. The plan was working. I remember feeling, in the dream, that I was very clever.
The dream then transitioned back to the restaurant scene. I could see my father’s frustration as he and my family waited for me to return so that they could order. He sat quietly, looking solemn and imposing. The wait staff would never guess that he was livid, but I could tell just by looking at him. He was angry that I was inconveniencing him and causing embarrassment to my family.
The bird landed on the table and sat patiently while my father untied the string from around its leg. He read the note and let out a sigh of frustration. He leaned over and whispered something to my mother, and then addressed the wait staff in a formal and detached manner, “We will not be expecting anyone else to join us this evening, would you be so kind as to take our orders now”.
The scene flashed back to the basement room where I was trapped with the clown who could not be trusted. He walked slowly toward the cage and reached over to unlock the door. He looked up and smiled at me in a way that made me feel sick to my stomach. I desperately tried to back away from his reach, but soon felt the cold, hard steel of the cage pressing into my back. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…
It was at this point in the dream that I often woke up in a panic, my heart racing and drops of sweat running down my face. Though I was trembling with fear, I didn’t dare cry out for my parents. I was afraid that if they found out about the dream, they would find out about the abuse as well. I worried that they would be angry and would punish me severely. I was convinced that they would stop loving me if they knew.
As I reflect back on that time in my life, I am heartbroken for the little girl I once was. I would give anything to take her in my arms and comfort her, reassuring her that the ‘bad’ things that happened to her were not her fault, and that she is worthy of love and protection.
That may seem like a given, but believe me – I did not always feel this way. There was a day, not so very long ago, when I hated that little girl. I believed she was to blame for the abuse, and the suffering that followed. This may seem difficult to believe, and I pray that you would not judge me too harshly – that you would extend grace. You see, I was deceived. I had entertained the lies of the evil one for so long that I was utterly convinced of their truth. He had a very powerful foothold in my life.
Even as I write this, I see the miracle of freedom unfolding. There was a time when I thought I was beyond hope, a day when I believed all manner of lies. Although the Pastor and my husband tried to speak truth into my life, I would not listen to reason.
And yet, my loving, heavenly Father has taken me by the hand and led me along the path toward healing. I know that I have not ‘arrived’ – that there is still brokenness inside in need of the Father’s healing touch, but the fact that I can look on that little girl with such compassion fills my heart with joy. It is evidence of the healing that has already taken place, and the promise of healing yet to come.
I can see the heart of the Father growing within me. Renewing my thoughts, my attitudes, and my passions. Transforming me into the person He always intended me to be, and equipping me for the tasks he planned for me before the foundation of the world.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Psalm 37:4-6 (NLT)
Many misinterpret these verses, preaching a kind of prosperity gospel in which God will grant any request we make of Him. That message simply does not line up with Scripture, or with the reality of our experiences. However, there is no need to be disappointed. The promise is far greater. Our loving, heavenly Father has promised that if we walk closely with him (take delight in the Lord), He will fill our heart with His own, holy desires. It is then, desiring what He desires, that we will find ourselves walking into all that God has planned for us.
Even as I am writing this, my eyes are being opened afresh to one of God’s wonderful promises. Verse six of the passage above states, “He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.” How wondrous! I know I have been forgiven. I am learning to believe it in my heart, not just accept it as intellectual fact. But to think that my innocence will radiate like the dawn, what an exquisite thought! And that the justice of my cause will shine like the noonday sun. Glorious!
The lyrics from Hillsong United’s Hosanna echo through my mind…
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
Without a doubt, a miracle is taking place. My eyes are being opened to truths that had been veiled by darkness. My heavenly Father is teaching me to love. Even to love myself. My heart had become hardened from years of self-protection, but is now being softened day by day. Abba’s heart of compassion beats within me. The things that break His heart, increasingly break mine as well.
May you, dear friend, be filled to overflowing with the tenderness that flows from the Father’s heart of love.
Blessings and hugs,
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/amymctigue/3081660779/”>Amy McTigue</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>