Month: March 2014

Loved As If: This Is Where the Protection Ends!

I have spent the past nine months trying to write Loved As If so as not to offend anyone or trigger any painful memories in those who have been abused. It’s been a dismal failure. So here is the beginning of my stripped down rewrite. If I don’t tell the brutal story, the miracles of healing will not be miracles at all. Your comments would be most appreciated:

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Chapter 1, Suffer The Little Children

Rust, dust, grittiness against my tongue: I pressed my mouth against some sort of metal mesh. My feet were bare. I stood on a cool, smooth surface, wore pink and white pajamas with legs that ended before they reached my ankles. The mesh was set into the upper part of a white, wooden door. Outside, trees bloomed, a few puffy clouds wafted across a blue sky; the fragrance of grasses, wild flowers, growing trees tickled my nose. Where am I? I was like an electric light that had snapped on. I felt inside myself for my name and encountered a palpable blackness, a thick, rubbery barrier.

I was not alone. A Presence was with me. Separate. Accompanying me. My physical senses were intensely aware of Him. I felt on the verge of touching, smelling, seeing Him. He was absolutely clear to the eyes of my heart. Though He spoke no word, I understood. I stood there probing the barrier, mutely questioning the Presence in my heart and mind. A harsh, angry voice intruded: Go and finish your nap! I looked toward the sound, saw a narrow stream to my right that disappeared between the trees. Several indistinct figures sat or played near the stream. Who are they? The voice intruded again, louder, angrier: Go and finish your nap! I turned, ran into a room, climbed onto a bed. With the eyes of my heart, I looked towards the Presence and shrugged.

We walked through the woods to visit a neighbor. The woman led. A long line of children followed. I, dressed in too big jeans with legs rolled into cuffs and elastic suspenders holding them up, was last. My footsteps became slower and slower as tears spilled from my eyes. The indistinct trees became watery shadows of brown and green. Keep up! the woman’s voice called back to me. A well of hot, salty fluid sloshed around in my heart. It overflowed into the back of my throat. Tears leaked from my eyes and left red burning tracks on my cheeks. My nose was stuffed; I breathed through my mouth as I struggled to catch the others.

I fell amid giant cotton balls. Some of the balls fell faster than I, others at the same speed. All fell at odd angles as if a giant was trying to hit me. Some of the big white balls connected, pushing me off course so that I did not fall straight down. If I can just get atop one of them, I won’t die when I hit bottom, I thought. But as I tried to pull myself onto one ball, another knocked me away. Finally, I hit the ground with a start, confused for a moment that I was in bed and not smashed on the floor.

It was night. I snapped on as I had that day at the mesh door. I was standing outside dressed in pajamas, robe and slippers. I held an old, ragged bear with no eyes. Other people stood watching smoke pour from the house near the stream. With flashing red lights and screaming sirens, giant red trucks pulled up. Men in yellow slicker suits and big black boots sprayed water onto the house. The woman held the hand of a little boy. The man came out the back door holding a girl’s hand, Can you believe it! Eve locked herself in the bathroom. I didn’t know she was that stupid. The man and woman called the names of several children. They did not call me. When the fire was out, as I reentered the house, the woman looked down at me, Oh. You’re here.

On a sunny day a big truck pulled up. Men began taking things from the house by the stream. Other men came and tore away the steps to the front porch with a big, yellow machine. Its diesel-ly smell overpowered the fragrance of grass, trees, flowers; it made my stomach heave. Other machines were demolishing all the houses near the woods. Once the machine that had ripped off the steps left, I went to the edge of the porch and peered down. Come back in! The woman shouted as she passed carrying a box. I ran in. After she had passed, I quickly slipped out again and peered over the edge. Don’t use the front door! There are no steps! her voice came again. I scurried inside. But soon, I went out again. The ground is so far away. Can I jump? The woman pulled me inside and locked the front door.

At the new house, I went in search of doors that led outside. I found them on the first floor and in the cellar. On the second floor, inside the rooms shared  by the man and the woman, there was a door to a wooden balcony with stairs that led to the back garden. From the window in the hallway bathroom, the balcony railing was just a few inches away. I climbed onto the toilet, raised the sash, sat on the sill, then swung my feet over to the railing and pulled myself onto the balcony. On many days after, I locked myself in the bathroom and climbed out the window and onto the balcony.

From the doorway, I saw the woman sitting on her bed. She was taking things from a round, red, velvet box. I went in and saw next to her a pile of yellowing envelopes that had been ripped open and a small cream coloured book with gold edged pages. What’s this? I asked, my hand on the book. It’s a children’s Missal. My Father gave it to me. I opened the Missal to a page with a picture of man holding a cup and, above it, a small, white round thing. Inside, I was suddenly very, very still. The woman gently took the Missal from my hands and placed it back in the box. Go play, now, she told me. Half way to the door, I stopped to look back at the box.

With the door open, I sat in the closet of the room I shared with two other girls, reading a big book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old, I sang softly. The closet door was slightly ajar. I heard a door close and saw the woman come into the hallway and walk down the stairs. When the sound of her steps died away, I tip toed into her room. The red, velvet box was no longer on her bed. I went into her closet. There it was on a shelf above my head. I climbed onto her shoe shelf, lifted the box down, found the Missal and took it. After replacing the box, I returned to the closet in the room I shared and slowly read each page, drinking in each picture. On the page with the man holding the cup and the small, white, round thing, the words read: Look, the priest is holding up Jesus so you can see him. Something pulled at my heart. My chest heaved. A clicking, Huh! Huh! Huh! came from the back of my throat. Tears poured from my eyes. When the tears and clicking ended, I left the closet and pushed the book as far as I could under the mattress of the bed I slept in.

The woman went away. The housekeeper stayed overnight. The woman returned with a baby, little Jean. He was soft. He smelled sweet, smelled right. His curly fingers clasped one of my small fingers. His nails were pearly, delicate, his skin warm velvet. Jean slept in a cradle in the alcove in the woman’s bedroom. The woman let me sit in her armchair, she placed Jean in my lap. I sang to him, Hush a-bye. Don’t you cry. Go to sleep my little baby. When you wake, you’ll have cake and all the pretty little horses. When she took him away, the woman warned me, Never try to pick him up. He’s too heavy for you. One day, I was alone with Jean, watching him sleep. I carefully tried to lift him. He fell back into the cradle emitting a loud howl. I squeezed myself between the bookshelf and window frame, pulling a red drape over me. The woman rushed in, lifted him and soothed him back to sleep.

At breakfast one morning, not long after the baby came, the woman announced brightly, It’s your birthday! Sound became fuzzy, muffled. A thick fog enveloped me. Lunch was served in the back garden. All the children who always lived in the house, Eve, Gerard, Claire, Charles and Ames, who was not much older than me, several children who had only lived in the house since the move and others from the neighbourhood sat round the long, low, green play table that had been brought from the play room. I was at one end. The weather was sunny and mild. The wind felt chilly; I wore a white sweater over a yellow striped dress. Small packages sat next to each plate except mine. The boys each unwrapped a small car, the girls small dolls. From within the fog, I opened packages as they were passed to me. The housekeeper served sandwiches, lemonade, candy and cake. Afterwards, the other children ran off to play. I remained in my seat. Isn’t it supposed to be hot? Or cold and foggy? Why do I smell blossoms and mown grass? It all felt wrong.

Several days after the party, as I lay awake one night, I saw the man and woman rush downstairs. The back door slammed. There was the sound of a car driving away. In the foggy chill of the early morning, the woman gently shook my shoulder. The big girls were doing the same, without gentleness, to the two other girls who slept in the room. We three little girls bundled together on one bed, under one quilt as the woman sadly told us, Jean died. Died? a voice asked. He was very sick. He had pneumonia. The room buzzed. White fog descended.

A day came when someone dressed me in a short, cream coloured dress adorned with cream coloured lace. Matching pants covered my underpants. The weather was foggy. In the soft silkiness of that dress, the fog about me dispersed. I hugged myself in a rapture of pleasure: this dress smelled right, felt right. It was mine. I had not worn it on any other day since I snapped on at the door, not even when we went to church on Sundays. We drove along a winding path to a stone building. A white, wooden box with half the top open was at the far end of the room. My skin rejoiced as the fabric of the dress brushed against me. At the sight of that white, wooden box: my heart leaped. My knees raised themselves, one foot touched the ground toe first, then heel. The other foot followed. I am a colt. I smiled at the sight of my bare knees and legs. The man’s rough hand squeezed mine. Walk quietly! he hissed. My knees quieted. My shoes became heavy. The fog descended.

People sat in rows of white, wooden chairs. Some faces seemed familiar. The woman sat in the front row, hunched over, her face red, shaking with sobs. As we walked forward, female voices whispered, Why wasn’t the funeral held at the church? The baby wasn’t baptized. Well really! She said, No! The man led me to the box. The baby lay within. I touched his cheek. It was no longer warm. I sat in a seat in the front row. A man spoke: Even though we are sad, we must rejoice. Little Jean is with God now. Tears trickled down the faces of the women. I slid from my chair to the floor. Why are they crying? The baby’s small face was before my eyes. My mouth hidden in my hand, I smiled to the Presence: He’s so sweet, so beautiful. Afterwards, as I walked through the front door of the man’s house, he commanded: Change out of that dress. I left the dress on the bed. When I went to change for bed that evening, the delicious, cream coloured dress was gone.

The man called us into the living room one evening: A family ought to read the Bible together every day. He began reading from a book. My ears perked up: What is this? I asked the Presence. When some of the children were told to read a verse from the book, I piped up, May I read? You haven’t learned to read yet, the woman gently responded. I can read. No you can’t, the man told me. Pass the Bible to Charles, he directed the woman. But I can read! I insisted. The man turned the pages and then handed the book to me, Read this. He pointed to a line. Jesus wept, I read. Read the next verse. I continued, Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! A huge grin cracked my face. I bounced in my chairs as with open mouths and wide eyes, the man and the woman looked at each other. My heart pounded. I hadn’t known there was such a big book about about the Presence. This is great! I hugged myself in delight. He knows You!

It’s Not Naaman’s Fault!

Today’s lectionary included 2 Kings 5:1-15:

Na’aman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little maid from the land of Israel, and she waited on Na’aman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Sama’ria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Na’aman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the maiden from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten festal garments. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Na’aman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he rent his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” But when Eli’sha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you rent your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Na’aman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the door of Eli’sha’s house.  And Eli’sha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Na’aman was angry, and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper. Are not Aba’na and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, if the prophet had commanded you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather, then, when he says to you, `Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him; and he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel.”

wounded child cryingI first read this story when I was five. Once my hands had been well scrubbed, I would stand on a dining room chair and read from the illustrated “family” Bible. The book was too big for me to lift so it lay on the big table and I propped myself on one hand while turning the pages with the other. The lovely pastel illustration showed Naaman’s little maid servant peeping over the edge his chariot as he dipped himself in the river. She was, at most, about six or seven.

I’ve reread the story the story of Naaman’s healing many times since, in many translations. I’ve also heard many sermons and homilies on 2 Kings 5 from different Christian preachers. All of them have been much like the one I heard today, an exhortation to accept healing by doing the simple things God asks of us, particularly admitting our sins. But today, I realized Naaman isn’t a leper because he has done something wrong. He is ill. Elisha does not tell Naaman to confess his sins. Instead, Elisha gives him a treatment protocol so that he will be healed from the disease that has invaded his body.

Those of us who were abused as children (and the numbers are staggering) can sit in church and find ourselves bewildered. It’s such a simple thing, Confess your sins and you will be healed. The book of James tells us that. But our gaping wounds, though hidden, come not from what we did. Rather, they come from what was done to us. Except in rare instances, confession of my sins against God and my neighbour, while necessary, won’t heal the wounds others have incised within me. And, being told to stop the obsessive behaviours that came as a result of the sins committed against us is utterly ineffective. Usually we can’t just stop. We need something else.

At times, I have wanted to sit in a public square and cry out, Look! Look at what was done to me! Look! Instead, I learned to act as normally as I could. It was not until I found myself overwhelmingly loved by other Christians in Christian community that I was seen and loved as the wounded creature I am. The love I encountered didn’t negate or ignore any of the wisdom I had gained, neither did it patronize me. The love of my brothers and sisters, the love of the Body of Christ, scooped up the whole of me, including the crier in the public square. Before I knew what was happening, those Christians scooped me up and healing was happening. Some of them still don’t know the extent of the wounds I carry.

Children are inordinately harmed by the evils in this world because they are unable to fend for themselves. But many of us grow up. Some seek revenge on the entire world or as much of it as they can affect. But others simply do the best we can with broken hearts and shredded souls. And, quite simply, we’ve all been a bit shredded. One thing that might start many on the road to healing is acknowledgement of those times when Scripture makes it clear, the wounds are not always our fault but God will heal us anyway.

Weeds? Flowers?

What day-to-day help is there for those of us who have been shredded? Especially when rape, ongoing sexual violence and violations of our physical being were instrumental in the shredding? How do we fight with the darkness that refuses to remain hidden but rises up as obsessions to self-destructive fantasy, as masturbation or other acts that we don’t want but which are so overwhelming, we can’t stop them?

Two years, I was having flashbacks to the first time I was raped. The images of being four and having two adult men coming at me kept playing in my heart and mind. I couldn’t stop them. I wanted to hide in a corner. I slept on my sofa, was afraid to sleep in my own bed. There was no window in my bedroom, no escape. Two dear friends suggested I contact Fr. Brent at the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, an apostolate of the Dominican Order. As I familiarized myself with the Confraternity’s ministry to those trying to live chastely, I wondered how it could help me. But I was desperate. I contacted Fr. Brent. He sent me the materials I needed to become enrolled in the Confraternity and authorized my pastor to enroll me. Even before I could be enrolled, I began the prayers each day and found several of them opened the flood gates and kindled hope.

6th prayer. Dear Jesus, bless our imagination. Grant that we may be preserved from the fantasies and daydreams that defile us, that all impure images may vanish, and that we may be protected from all the assaults of demons. “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Eph 6:11, 4:23). Hail Mary…

My imagination had always filled in and expanded upon the horrors I had experienced. The self-destructive fantasies had become darker and darker. And though I had had a one year respite from them, the current crop of flashbacks threatened to overwhelm my mind and heart with fresh monstrosities.

7th prayer. Dear Jesus, bless our memory. Grant that no dark memories from our past may haunt us, but let your light shine within us to fill us with a healing hope in you. “And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 Jn 3:1). Hail Mary…

I had never prayed for the healing of my memory. It had never occurred to me; no one had suggested it. The 7th prayer inspired me to write my own prayer on my blog, Heirs In Hope:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
Please heal my memory and sensibilities so I may remain aware of and live the life You have given me today. Please make my memory and sensibilities able to distinguish between experiences in my past and experiences today. If it is Your will, grant me the ability to use the memory of offenses committed against me in the past to aid in healing those who have been abused and offended as well as those who abuse and offend the little ones whom You love so dearly. And dearest, dearest Lord, please commission me as You commissioned Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta though Your dear Mother to pray and sacrifice on behalf of poor sinners. Amen.

Finally, the 10th prayer gave me hope that God could replace all the ugliness with the beauty:

10th prayer. Dear Jesus, bless our intellect. Grant that it may be purged of all false beliefs and all misunderstandings of human sexuality, and that the good angels may flood our intellects with thoughts that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8). Hail Mary…

Anyone may pray the prayers and pray with the Angelic Warfare Confraternity; we pray for ourselves and each other. Only Catholics may be enrolled. Instructions for becoming enrolled are on the site.

One of the biggest horrors of child rape and abuse is that they so destroy our sense of good and bad, so overwhelm us with fear and shame, our ability to choose for ourselves becomes mangled. By praying with the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, we place our brokenness in Jesus hands and ask Him to fix what we cannot fix. Therapy is useful as is spiritual direction. The Confraternity prayers bring us face-to-face with the ugliness, day after day, and and day after day, puts it in the hands of the only One who can truly heal us. We become like a child bringing weeds to his mother, Flower, Mummy! Flower! And the mother takes those weeds and gives them a place of honour in a glass on the kitchen windowsill where she may see them as she works and remember how much her child loves her. Jesus wants our weeds to transform, to recall us to whom He created us to be, because they are what we have to give and giving them to Him shows how much we love Him.

 

A Prophetic and Emblematic Dream

Since I was a child, I’ve had dreams that come true. Some have been very specific, others more symbolic. A few have been clearly prophetic and emblematic of my life. This dream is all of those and is vital to Loved As If:

I was on a white beach, the taste of salt on my lips, the smell of it in the air. A cerulean sky met a sea of the same colour. Foamy waves lapped against the shore and at the sides of a narrow rock spar that formed a land bridge leading to my home. I had built a many-tiered sandcastle. Elaboratetreasure chest 1 tracery highlighted the top of each Gothic window. Curved mouldings, deeply impressed in the sand, highlighted doors, decorated each tier. An arched roof with trellised walls covered the cloister. I must show my family. Then I saw, the tide had come in and the land bridge was now beneath the brilliant blue sea.

A tunnel, now filled with water, cut through the rock beneath the bridge. I’m a strong swimmer, I thought  as I dove into the in, remembering I had already passed my Water Safety Instructor’s certification which required me to swim twice the length of the pool under water. With powerful strokes, I began to traverse the underwater lane. I must be nearly there. My muscles began to ache at the prolonged effort. My lungs heaved against my chest: I need air, Lord. I’ll have to go back. When I tried to turn, I saw many people were swimming behind me. I’ll never be able to get them all to turn and swim back in time. They’ll drown and so will I. I must go on. The pain in my chest and limbs increased with every movement. I won’t make it, Lord. I lacked the energy to pull my arms back once more; my feeble whip kick moved me only inches forward. I knew I would drown. At that moment, a hand reached out, caught hold of me, and pulled me to shore.

I found myself on a thickly wooded island. Open, brass-studded treasure chests lay beneath many of the trees. They held gold coins, held set and unset gem stones. The rubies and emeralds and sapphires were vivid, rich in colours like newly-dyed silk velvet. I made my way into the mouth of a deep cave lit with candles in ornate holders and torches set in gilded brackets. More open chests spilled treasures about the floor. A dais in the center of the cave held a carved golden throne which faced away from me. A man, robed in a green velvet cloak with ermine trim, sat on it in silence. This man’s head, his profile, had haunted me since the day I had snapped on and found myself in the midst of the strangers. I knew those hands, knew the feel of those arms holding me close as we rode through the rush of briny wind on the back of a cantering horse. I stepped toward him and touched his arm and wakened.

Loved As If – Chapter 9: The Plans I Have For You (another preview)

I was on a white beach. The taste of salt was on my lips, the smell of it in the air. A cerulean sky met a sea of the same colour. Foamy waves lapped against the shore and at the sides of a narrow land bridge that led to my home. I had built a many-tiered sandcastle. Elaborate tracery highlighted the top of each Gothic window. Mouldings, deeply impressed in the sand highlighted doors, decorated walls. An arched roof with trellised walls covered the cloister. I must show my family. But the tide had come in and the land bridge was now beneath brilliant blue waves.

A tunnel, cut through the rock beneath the bridge, provided an alternative route. I’m a strong swimmer, I thought as I dove into the water. With powerful strokes, I began to traverse the distance between the two shores. Before long, my muscles began to ache at the effort, my lungs heaved against my chest. I need air. I’ll have to go back. But then I saw them, a host of people swam behind me. I’ll never be able to get them all to turn and swim back in time. I must go on. The pain in my chest and limbs increased with every movement. I won’t make it, Lord. I had no more energy to pull my arms back, my feeble whip kick carried me just inches forward; I knew I would drown. At that moment, a hand reached out  and pulled me to shore.

I found myself on a thickly wooded island. Open, brass-studded treasure chests lay scattered beneath many trees, held gold coins and set and unset gem stones. The rubies and emeralds and sapphires were intensely vivid, richer than any color I had ever seen. The gold was nearly liquid. I made my way to a deep cave lit with candles in ornate holders and torches set in wall brackets. More open treasure chests were strewn about the floor. A dais in the center of the cave held an ornate, but tarnished, gold throne. The tunnel had exited behind the throne. A man, robed in a green velvet cloak with ermine trim, sat there in silence peering away from me. This man’s profile had haunted me since the day I had snapped on and found myself in the midst of strangers. I knew those hands, knew the feel of those arms holding me close as we rode through the rush of briny wind on a cantering horse. I stepped toward him, touched his arm, and wakened.

 

Ending Child Abuse

Child abuse is rampant throughout the world. It breaks our hearts. But what can we really do?

Recently, I commented on a “Stop Child Abuse” Facebook page:

Child abuse can’t be stopped w/ slogans.

 

The people who hurt children lie to themselves. They think they’re “teaching” or “disciplining” or they’re so busy w/ their own pain & addictions, they don’t see what they’re doing to their children. And some parents/guardians enjoy hurting their children. Many abused children know nothing different; abuse is normal. Others don’t know where to turn.

 

Close families & communities are the only means to end child abuse. Recently, a woman I know won custody of her nephews because she & their grandmother discovered the boys were being abused & neglected. My church works w/ Kid’s Hope, a child tutoring/mentoring program. Volunteers get to know individual children. If they learn or suspect a child is being abused, the volunteer calls the police & child services. When a child knows there’s an adult he can trust, then he will tell the secret. But when there is no one to trust, children keep the secret.

 

I certainly did.

If we really want to end child abuse, we must begin on the personal level. First, we must know our families. And not just the adults, but the children also. Being a good friend to the children in your family is the best way to prevent child abuse or, at least, hasten it’s end. We must also get to know the children in our churches and in every other community we frequent. And seriously consider becoming a volunteer with a tutoring/mentoring programs such as Kid’s Hope USA. In the past few years, I know of several children who have been rescued from abusive situations because they came to trust their mentors and were able to share their secrets: hunger, neglect, emotional abuse, beatings, sexual abuse.

Children can’t process, “say no to child abuse.” And strangers can’t help. Strangers are as frightening as the parents and other adults who are committing acts of abuse. Only friends can help. Adult friends who choose to watch out for children on a personal level can begin to end child abuse. Yet, as long as there are fallen human beings, child abuse will exist. But we can reduce the suffering.

 

 

 

Children Who Aren’t As Fortunate As I Was – 1

If nothing else comes of Loved As If, it must bring more attention to the millions and millions of children who live in horrific conditions everyday.

I was fortunate. though I lived through horrors, I had school, cleanliness and the hope of a future. God told me when I was ten, “You are going to New York.” and “You were happy once. You will be happy again.” He told me the truth. He put the people and circumstances in my life to manifest His words to me. We must be the people He uses to manifest His desire that all children be loved and cared for.

I’m so glad she has a hula hoop.

Get Thee To A Therapist

Natalie Anne’s post, An Open Letter To Priests, on Catholic Spiritual Healing is spot on. For long, when I mentioned the abuse I suffered as a child, priests responded w/ the equivalent of ‘Get thee to a therapist!’

My experience was similar to Natalie Anne’s. I had been in therapy for many years and it wasn’t enough. I also minored in psychology and counted many therapists among my acquaintances so I knew an enormous amount about the recommended “treatments” for abuse survivors. “Get a boyfriend” was a frequent recommendation. It is only now that I realize what an insane treatment that is. I must mention, I did find two therapists who never made such insane suggestions. One was Catholic and had been a seminarian. Another was a laicized priest. But, though therapy with them was helpful, it didn’t bring healing.

Finally, I found a priest who pointed out to me that abuse causes victims to be “confused” about sex and all sorts of other things. He helped me become clear of mind and clear of heart. That priest and real Christian friends who love me as if I’m a family member have brought me healing far greater than I ever imagined.

One excellent book for abuse survivors is Dawn Eden’s, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.

Loved As If will also specifically speaks of my failure to find healing in therapy. Therapy can be very useful but I don’t think it’s enough. We’ve been hurt by the people in our lives and must find healing through the people in our lives; through the love Christ provides through His community.

Scenes From My Childhood – Angels 1

Frequently, I’ll encounter something that reminds me of an experience from my childhood. A friend of a friend on Facebook posted the following:

To avoid dissensions we should be ever on our guard, more especially with those who drive us to argue with them, with those who vex and irritate us, and who say things likely to excite us to anger. When we find ourselves in company with quarrelsome, eccentric individuals, people who openly and unblushingly say the most shocking things, difficult to put up with, we should take refuge in silence, and the wisest plan is not to reply to people whose behavior is so preposterous. Those who insult us and treat us contumeliously are anxious for a spiteful and sarcastic reply: the silence we then affect disheartens them, and they cannot avoid showing their vexation; they do all they can to provoke us and to elicit a reply, but the best way to baffle them is to say nothing, refuse to argue with them, and to leave them to chew the cud of their hasty anger. This method of bringing down their pride disarms them, and shows them plainly that we slight and despise them. – Saint Ambrose

That quote reminded me of of the fights I had with the minister when I was a young teen. He would make an accusation against me or call me a name and I would respond angrily. Because I had taken two psychology classes, I often used terminology that angered him.

“Don’t try using psychology against me!” he’d shout and then slap me.

I’d continue to argue and he’d become more and more violent. With each new argument, his violence increased. I was terrified but I would not back down.

I began dreaming that I was watching our fights. An angel stood next to me. In my dreams, the minister always badly injured me. At that point, the angel would turn to me and say, “Can you see if you had just walked away, remained silent, apologized, it would have ended differently?”

With the angel beside me, I would see the moment when I might have responded differently. “Yes,” I would answer, “I do see it.”

Within three weeks, I’d find myself actually living my dream. I would be suffused with the knowledge that I had already seen the fight, suffused with the powerful electric tingle that came when God tightened His arms about me. During the fight, I heard myself respond but was also intensely aware that I was waiting for the moment when I was to follow the angel’s instructions. And when the moment arrived, I’d shut up or say, “I smell something burning. Excuse me.” Or, “I’m sorry.” Or I’d just walk away. The minister would look puzzled and shake his head but the argument would be at an end. Soon, I just stopped responding to any of his accusations and name calling; the fights ended. For nearly two years, we didn’t fight and he didn’t hit me.

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