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  • Writer's pictureLaura Kae

Embracing Pain to Find Freedom

When I first stepped into a counselor’s office seven years ago to begin my journey to recovery, My counselor shared with me a prayer that included the line, “Come into my heart, break down every idol and cast out every foe.” I have been praying that often recently. When I do, I see this picture in my mind of an uprooted tree. Over the last few days since having the really tough conversation and stepping out of a lot of denial, I feel like God has honored that prayer. A massive tree has been uprooted. After the conversation, I texted a friend and said, “I have tried entirely too hard to worship ______ instead of God…. Goodbye idols! Hello God of the universe!” Perhaps denial is always a form of idol worship, being controlled by pain and fear of facing truth instead of believing God and His promises regarding confronting sin in ourselves and others.

As I prepared for quiet time on the evening after the call, I asked God, “I want to spend time with you, but can you please not talk to me? I mean through the scriptures, but I do not want to face anymore denial tonight. May I just have peace and rest for a little while now.” And I did that night. After my two hours of crying, I felt amazing peace and contentment the rest of the evening.

But today I get to face more denial in my life and more truth. A few days ago, I shared the verse, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” This must be a case of “Be careful what you pray for, God might answer.”

In the last twelve hours a choice has been placed before me. I am staring into the face of a truth about myself that is not pleasant. I have come to the conclusion that like most truths, I now have the choice to look at it directly and deal with it with God accordingly or I can decide to look away from it and step into denial. I suppose it seems obvious to go with the first option to everyone except the very person facing the decision. In this case for me, I cringe having to write it down and face it on the computer screen, let alone share it with another, ask God to remove the character flaw and make amends with others.

The combination of a conversation last night and reading Wounded Heart has brought me to a basic conclusion. I am a bit of a contemptuous hypocrite. I like to look good in front of other people, so that is hard to write here. Wounded Heart talks about contempt a lot and how it plays out in the life of a victim of childhood sexual abuse. Often victims develop a contempt for themselves and for others. I did both. In the words of the book, I began to view myself as dirty, worthless and cheap – a whore. I would not have used those words myself. I would have used dirty, filled with shame, never enough, entirely lacking in acceptability, short on ability, my preference does not matter (the “always says yes” volunteer) and always the problem in every situation.

But as is really common in an abuse victim, I have a lot of strongly conflicting opposing emotions (ambivalence). I also was really contemptuous of others. At one point, Wounded Heart uses the line “above her own feelings, suspicious of others’ motives, and arrogant and angry in her evaluation of others” to describe effects of abuse on some victims’ personalities. I read that and raised my hand. You pegged me. I would not have used those words. I would have used: feelings are a waste of time, feelings do not matter, get over yourself, there is an ulterior motive behind every compliment and act of kindness, extremely insecure, and extremely, extremely insecure so I put others down to survive myself.

Most people would not describe me that way except perhaps my counselor who asked me a few weeks ago, “You think you might be being a little legalistic?” I responded with an incredulous, “A little???” There are some things I know, I just cannot seem to  change quite yet. “Come into my heart, break down every idol and cast out every foe.”

In the past couple days, I feel so much freer from contempt and shame. (I really feel like the past happened 11 to 29 years ago and I might as well leave it there. The effects I have taken with me are bad enough without carrying it along, too.) I have noticed I am going to have to learn a whole new style of relating to those around me. When conversing and disagreeing with people, I feel like I am experiencing an entirely different thing on the inside than I did a week ago. I am not sure whether anything has changed from the outside, but on the inside I feel like a fish out of water and a whole lot better at the same time.

Final thought: Last night after blogging, I wrote it down to share later. “I think ultimate recovery begins as I learn to embrace pain. Not hurt, but pain. When I become willing to look at truth even when it is painful and look at is as beneficial.” I think CR calls that stepping out of denial. All puns intended.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

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