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After experiencing crippling flashbacks and God opening my eyes to the need to speak the truth of His Word against the lies that hold me captive, He began to gently lead me into facing the shackles of my past. If you have read my previous post, you will have been given a glimpse into part of my biggest struggles: to express the emotions I feel to both God and others, and to speak up when people have hurt me, rather than let their words cause me to doubt God’s path for me and grow a hardened layer over my heart.
Through the Community Bible Experience and the Christian psychology book I was reading, I came to recognize just how much fear shackled my life. When I gave my testimony at church, God had shown me that He would strengthen and bless me in stepping into my fears in obedient trust. And yet, at that time, I failed to see how fear pervaded so many other areas in my life. As I read 1 John 4: 18:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I began to see that what I thought I had left behind me, by accepting the grace of God, was still deeply rooted within me. Whenever anyone was angry at me, even if only passive-aggressively, through their body language, my whole body would tense and reel from it. It was as if I were inwardly ducking for cover. It felt as if the blows could hit me at any second, even though rationally I knew the person in front of me would never do that. And rather than speak up in response to the anger directed at me, I would cower and flee it because of the voices inside me telling me that it was all my fault and I fully deserved the anger directed at me, that it was a just punishment for who I was.
Reading 1 John 4: 18 and reflecting on my past turned my attention to the gift God has given me to feel the deep pain and grief of others, without them having to tell me about it. This is why, when we welcomed my little brother into our home as a 15 month old, from a Romanian orphanage, I immediately felt a special love for him. Without understanding it, I felt his pain and his deep yearning for love and acceptance, just as God still opens my heart in the same way today. This is why I was compelled to stop on my run almost a year ago to tell an elderly gentleman that God loves Him and sees His suffering and struggles, as tears flowed down his cheeks. And it is why I was drawn to a woman sitting by the side of the path I was running on, who turned out to be a Syrian refugee, whose family had fled the war and arrived in a country where they didn’t speak the language and were incredibly lonely.
As my brother grew he began to test the boundaries much more often and much more blatantly than any of us, his five brothers and sisters, ever had. My parents struggled in knowing how to discipline, also exhausted by caring for a family of six children and holding down demanding jobs outside the home. They chose to rest upon what they saw as the Biblical principle of choosing not to spare the rod, lest they spoil the child, just as they had with us.
My heart broke in watching it unfold, as it became a repeated occurrence and I saw their anger grow. And when I tried to reason or step in between, I was told I was only making things worse. What my parents, at the time, felt they were doing for his good, I saw destroying a soul that was crying out for love, to be held, to be told nothing could remove him from the love of a Heavenly Father who sent His very own Son to the cross to pay for every one of our sins. That nothing, absolutely nothing could stop Him from wrapping my little brother in His arms. Only He truly understood the hurt, the broken shards that pushed this little soul to rebel, to repel the arms that sought to love him. And only our Heavenly Father could have taught my parents to see beyond the rebellion to find the little soul crying out for love, perfect love: a love that is patient, kind, not dishonoring, not self-seeking, that doesn’t keep track of wrongs, doesn’t rejoice in evil but in the truth, always protects, always hopes, always trusts, never gives up, NEVER fails (1 Corinthians 13: 4- 8).
Years later, my mother’s eyes and heart were opened to this inner pain I had felt within my brother, that was back then shrouded by outer rebellion and her own exhaustion and desperation. She ended up apologizing and reconciling with my brother, after watching a video for her counselling diploma. The video was about the impact of a severed bond and neglect upon children and I still remember her telling me how she just cried and cried and cried as she sat there watching it, realizing the extent of pain and suffering that had been inflicted upon my little brother, who had been given away at two weeks old and spent fifteen months in an orphanage, where physical affection, holding, hugging and comforting were of secondary concern.
In going back to these memories I began to understand why I reel in the face of anger and why I immediately place the blame upon myself. As a child, watching the discipline of my parents upon my brother unfold, I placed myself into the shoes of my brother. And when they disciplined him, fear rooted within me, as if the blows were falling upon me. Their decision to turn me away, when I tried to speak up and protect my brother, also taught me to repress what I truly felt, to hide who I was, so that I could be the “good” girl. I yearned for their love and approval and let the idol I had let this become shape the path I took.
But in returning me to my past, the Lord helped open my eyes to the lie rooted in my fear of anger and my fear of expressing the pain caused to me. His grace covers all my guilt and shame. The blood of Jesus Christ, his death at the cross, has removed the wages of sin and through His resurrection and power over the hold of sin and death, I am birthed, through my choice to believe, into a new life, free of the fear of punishment. The anger directed at me cannot touch me, if I lean into His protective arms. I have no need to cower in fear at who the Lord has created me to become: a woman of faith emboldened to sit with and speak God’s love into the lives of the broken and hurting. I may lose the love and approval of men and women in the process, but “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” (see Luke 9: 23 – 27). The real me is the person God has created me to become and not a person who lets who I am now, or the love and approval of others, or the fear they cause me, shape what I do or say:
Luke 14: 25 – 27
One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters – yes, even one’s own self! – can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind can’t be my disciple.
I still struggle with this fear of man, but God has been gentle and patient in leading me further and further into trusting Him to protect and shield me, as I step into more and more of my fears. And it is this trust that led me to my next step: my decision to seek therapy and counselling, as I realized that a deep-rooted anger still lay within me and that I was often overcome by emotions I could not control. This was a step God would use to birth a much greater freedom, as he called me out upon the waters, to speak His Mighty Shielding and Comforting Presence into my deepest fears, further emboldening me on my journey into His Love.
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