Yesterday I was given an assignment by my counselor to write about the things that I don’t trust about myself. The words of the song by Downhere The Problem come to mind as I complete this assignment.
No, I cannot trust myself
I dare not trust myself
So I trust in someone else *
I totally relate to this song. I dare not trust myself.
The definition of trust from Websters is firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
I have found myself to be unreliable to make the best decisions for myself on my own, and I recognize as a Christian I need to understand this, so that I will depend on God to direct my life. However, a certain amount of trust is required of myself that I can at least hear what God is telling me. There are times I don’t even trust in my ability to do that, and that produces a real problem. When one has suffered from spiritual abuse that’s often what happens. It’s incredibly confusing and disheartening, and thus a large part of the reason I am in counseling.
I guess the best place to start is how my distrust of myself is obvious in my life now. Once again it is revealed in my ambivalence. I can spend hours deliberating about what is the right or wrong thing for me to do. My indecision drives me crazy! It is clear that I don’t trust myself to make good decisions.
For example, as I’ve said before, I need a job to contribute to our household income. We just bought a house and now we have a mortgage, as well as utilities for the house we are trying to sell and our current home. So that’s a no brainer. But what kind of job isn’t a no brainer. Yesterday, after much deliberation I finally was able to make a decision to train and work from home for a medical software company. I’ll be alone, which really will be more comfortable for me at this time of healing. However, the indecision resulted, because I just couldn’t figure out what it was I desired to do.
Deep down my desires scare me to death, because of where they have led me in the past. Therefore, I do not trust my desires. But are my desires really the problem?
I remember before I even met my ex-pastor praying hard for years for someone to just listen to me and help me understand all the turmoil in my heart that had been there since childhood…someone who would accept me and understand…someone who could know everything and still love me. I was terribly lonely and longed for connection. I had built up walls to keep people out without even realizing it.
I understand now that healthy relationships involve sharing one another’s thoughts and feelings truthfully. In my past there is a long line of unhealthy one-sided relationships in which I was merely listening to others feelings and telling them what I thought they wanted to hear and neglecting to share my own true feelings. I was a people pleaser, and I can see now that I lost my voice and my ability to have a healthy relationship in doing this.
Those patterns were ingrained in me from my childhood. My earliest relationships with family involved doing whatever it took to keep things comfortable and not rocking the boat. That meant being in tune to their feelings and not my own and constantly monitoring their behavior to keep myself safe. If I shared my feelings they were burdensome and troublesome. I learned early on my family couldn’t handle them, so I kept them to myself.
For example, in my early teens I asked my adopted father, who was a former banker, to help me with my math homework. I got frustrated when I couldn’t understand how he was explaining a problem and so did he. I remember him hollering at me and making me feel stupid. The conclusion I came to was the same as the one I always came to, “You screwed it up again. Why couldn’t you stay calm? You only cause trouble.”
Needless to say I never asked him for help with math again. Later, a cousin helped me with math and was able to stay calm. I pulled an F up to an A in Algebra as a result. Of course I don’t remember any of it now! Math is still something I abhor. Maybe it’s because I just can’t get it, or maybe it’s because that teenage girl is still inside feeling like a dummy who can’t do anything right…
So my desire for someone to understand and accept me wasn’t the problem. This desire is normal and natural for all of us. My desperation to have this desire fulfilled in ways God didn’t intend, however wasn’t normal or natural. God created us to be loved and accepted so we can grow up into healthy adults. When we don’t receive this love and acceptance, often we are emotionally handicapped. When sexual abuse is involved, especially from a parent, there is even more distortion and desperation. Words cannot describe how desperate I was to find that love and acceptance. I look back on that time and wonder how I’d functioned as well as I had for as long as I had.
My former pastor seemed to be the fulfillment of my desire for love and acceptance. My emotional load never seemed too heavy for him. I could have as many emotional outbursts as I wanted, and he was always there to listen, and he didn’t get upset. He encouraged me to talk to him about anything, and I did. For the first time in my life I believed someone could handle me. However, without the healthy boundaries that needed to be in place in our counseling relationship, as well as the secrets that he asked me to keep about the sins that were involved, an unhealthy dependence on him developed. He became the only person I thought could love and accept me, and this was very unhealthy.
So it’s easy to understand after all that has happened why I don’t trust myself to make decisions, and why I am afraid of my desires. However, it is vital that I realize my desire to connect with other human beings is not the problem. I believe I have a healthy relationship with my counselor and now with my husband, an amazing evidence of God’s mercy. They understand and accept me and this helps so much. I believe they are directing me towards the Lord and I’m learning to depend on Him and not them…a clear sign things are healthy.
My counselor also asked me to write about the things that I was grateful for about myself. I have to be honest. I’m still seeking to find those things. Sometimes I look at my life, and all I can see is the shame. It takes a lot of effort for me to see the good on the really bad days. But those days are getting fewer, and today when I think of what I’m grateful for, the first thing that comes to mind is that I am a Christian.
I think back to the day in my early 20’s when I first started to understand God’s love for me. My adopted father had died the year before. I was so anxious I could hardly sit still, and had been that way since his death. i didn’t understand my state of confusion over his death. I never cried when he died, and there was this sense of relief that I felt guilty for having. When he was dying I’d have evil and oppressive dreams about him and wake up thinking he was going to hell. This was before the memories of the abuse came. I turned in my confusion to my medical doctor, who was also my employer and out of the blue, I started to develop feelings for him. He knew it, because I was desperate enough to tell him, but he was a godly man with healthy boundaries, who with only a few words encouraged me to start reading at Romans 6 about the struggles between the flesh and God’s Spirit. I remember going home after leaving his office that day and reading the passages he’d told me about. When I first read the words they didn’t make much sense. I stopped for a while and listened to some music. I don’t think the voices of condemnation were ever as loud as they were that day. I can see now there was a battle going on for my soul.
This song came on my CD by Twila Paris.
When the second verse of the song came on, God spoke to my heart clearly in these words.
There are many wondrous voices,
Day and night they fill the air,
But there is one so small and quiet I would know it anywhere.
God helped me to understand in those words for the first time that those screaming voices of condemnation in my head were not His voice. His words were the whispered ones to the depths of my soul that gave me peace that surpassed my understanding.
In those moments, He was telling me to pick up the Bible and try reading again. I did. When I got to Romans 8:24 everything in the world made sense for the first time in my life.
Romans 8:24-28 ESV
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
I knew I’d been hoping for the wrong things in this world, things that would never give me lasting hope. The words encouraged me to look beyond what I could see for my hope…to my unseen hope. As I read on I didn’t get the condemnation I expected from the Father about the feelings I had for someone who wasn’t my husband, rather I received words of comfort and more understanding than I knew was possible. He told me he’d been there all along through all my tears, sorrow and pain and times of confusion…through every single moment, and He’d been praying exactly for exactly what I needed when I had no idea how to even pray. He told me He was sovereign over everything. He promised to bring good.
I’ll never forget the relief I felt. I could stop trying. He was in control. I gave my life to Him. Committed to follow Him wherever He led me. Those first month’s were a glorious relief. I was free for the first time in my life. I never get tired of telling this story. It helps so much to remember.
I am so grateful for the faith He’s given me, and the way I see it being worked out in my life despite the fact that I have failed too many times to count since that day. I’m reminded it’s not about what I do, but rather who I am and He says I am covered with His righteousness. I’m also thankful that He is working in my life through the truth that He’s speaking to me about all that has happened to me. I cling to this truth, because the truth is the only thing in my life that I know is absolute.
The other thing I am thankful for about me is the desire He has given me to write all this down with a real hope that all this mess of my life won’t be wasted. He is already using it to give me clarity about the lies I am overcoming, and I am encouraged that others will receive the same relief I have from their own lies. He’s also given me a sensitivity towards others and insight at times into what they need to hear to bring them comfort I’ve learned this from all I’ve suffered in my own life. I am also grateful that I care about others and have a desire to help them. This is who God made me to be.
It is so hard writing about myself. It really makes me uncomfortable, but I know I need to remind myself He made me to glorify Him in ways that no one else can. This is important for healing and to protect me from being manipulated into an unhealthy relationship again. Steve Brown said in a recent article, When you know who you are and what you are to do, it is a tremendous defense against those who would attempt to manipulate and control you.** I remember telling my ex pastor time and time again if I just had something I really loved more than my sin with him I could stop doing it. I didn’t know how close to the truth I really was.
I’m also grateful that I am able to see my sin and own it. Steve Brown said Sunday’s sermon at Coral Ridge, God doesn’t waste our sin. He encourages us to own it, accept it and use it to help others.***
God’s not wasting any of this. That gives me so much comfort. I can press on through another day knowing He’s doing something good. I can trust He’s directing me. I can be grateful that I am exactly who He created me to be.
I’m also grateful that I’m getting better. Thank God!