True Heroes

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My biological mother told me right after I was born she was only able to hold me for a few minutes before handing me over to a social worker.  I was born in a home for unwed mothers.  My mother, who’s family was Catholic had sent her away to hide her pregnancy from others.

I found my biological mother when I was 19.  I was unable to connect with her.  She wanted to connect badly and it scared me away.

I found my biological father a few months later. I loved him instantly, and he did me.  He lived several hours away from me. After staying at his house for a few days the hardest thing I did was leave him. 

I’ll never forget the 3 hour ride with him back to my car.  I laid my head on his lap. We listened to Barry Manilow. A love for his music was just one of the things we had in common.  We had a beautiful, unbelievable connection and it scared me to death.

As the intimacy grew between the two of us over those days, I started to have sexual thoughts of him.  They came out of no where.  I didn’t share these thoughts with anyone.  I felt so ashamed.  This man was my biological father.  I felt so sick inside.  I believed he’d be better off without me.  I broke his heart only a few months later when I broke off the relationship.

I didn’t understand healthy intimacy, because I’d never had it.

In adolescence I had two close girl friends.  Whenever they’d spend the night we’d explore one another’s bodies.  I was the one who usually instigated this.  I didn’t realize then that the secret game we played in the dark was one my father had taught me.

Several months after dating a controlling boyfriend at only 16 I lost my virginity. The relationship lasted a year.  Then another boyfriend came along and a couple of weeks later we were having sex.  That relationship lasted only a few months.  Then I met my husband.  He was ten years older than me and an elder in a church.  I continued to pursue him sexually until he finally gave in. He married me the following year.  Later, I confessed to him that I believed he married me only out of shame.  We have been married almost 25 years so obviously he had more reasons than that.

I didn’t understand why every close relationship in my life became sexual.  I also didn’t understand why there was such a desperate longing to connect with someone in my heart.

After becoming a Christian, the verses from John about love and being one were my favorites.  I prayed so many times for these kinds of relationships even though I had no understanding of what they looked like.

John 17:20-23 ESV

I do not  ask for these only, but also for those  who will believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

In my 20’s after my adopted father died of cancer Charles Stanley was preaching on surrendering to the Lord. I prayed a prayer that day and some of the darkest memories came to my mind of my adopted father touching me.

I was working for a Christian doctor at the time and talked to him some about my spiritual life.  He was encouraging and helpful.  But I started to develop feelings for him and mentioned it to him, because I felt so ashamed.  He encouraged me to read Romans 7 and 8.  When I did I came to know the Lord personally.  For the first time in my life I believed God loved me. 

But the memory I’d had continued to gnaw at my mind. I called my Baptist pastor at the time and told him I’d had something troubling come to my mind from the past.  He was a kind man, but I could tell he was a little uneasy about talking with me.  He said I’d have to come when his secretary was there.  I know he didn’t intend to communicate to me that I was not a safe person to meet with him alone, but that’s what I heard.  I never contacted him again about the issue.  I began to seek help on my own. 

I read David Seamans, Beth Moore, Neil Anderson and numerous other authors. I wrote what I could remember about my past.  But I could only get so far alone.

Conflict arose between myself, my husband and his family and some of our friends who were attending our church.  The leadership of the church wasn’t strong enough to deal with it.  We left the church in an attempt to find a safer environment that was doctrinally sound and walked into my abuser’s church.

The pastor seemed like everything my husband and I were looking for. He came across as a strong leader who cared about sound doctrine and taking care of the flock.

He reached out to us. In a few short months we trusted him with our stories.  He was teaching straight from the Bible. I was comforted by his words and sent him a few emails to communicate this to him. 

Then I emailed him for relationship advice.  I was trying to understand why relationships in our previous church had fallen as part.  I really wanted to know it wasn’t my fault. 

Even after realizing the Lord loved me, even after reading many books on healing from trauma, there was still this dark place inside of me that believed I was a bad person who couldn’t connect with anyone without it becoming bad and sexual.

I longed for a healthy connection with someone who wasn’t afraid of me. I’d prayed John 17 for so long.  I knew I needed to connect in a healthy way with others in order to live the Christian life God desires for us. 

Also, I can now see there was a huge hole in my heart from never having that healthy connection.

When the pastor told me one day he’d developed “a strong emotional attachment to me” I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards him and God.  I believed he was answered prayer.

A bond developed with him I’d never shared with anyone. 

The sexual desires were there but I didn’t tell anyone. Memories of past sexual abuse began to surface more and more. 

On my knees on the floor in front of the ugly brown sofa with wooden arms.  I was wearing a blue gown with a teddy bear on front.  The teddy bear was hugging a heart. The man behind me was rubbing himself against my back side. It was painful.  My adopted father was next.  Waking up the next morning wondering if it was a dream.

Wearing the navy silk shorts with a dolphin in the lower left corner and his white v neck t-shirt.  I was sitting on top the jar of Vaseline on the beside table.  When his rubbing was over I’d turn over on my side.  I’d imagine I was on a float on the ocean.  I could feel my body being rocked back and forth, back and forth until I went to sleep. 

The next morning I’d leave the room and read the Footprints poem on the wall by the door. I was comforted by the words.  I’d imagine at night the Lord was carrying me and rocking me to sleep.

The pastor became a representative of God for me.  After he gave me the first hug I looked at him like he was the father I’d always wanted but never had.  The sexual thoughts came, but I didn’t tell him in the beginning.  I was determined to have a healthy relationship. 

Then the pastor said he had fallen in love with me, not just as someone like a daughter, but also like someone he’d marry if he could. It was right in the middle of weeks of counseling through some of the worst memories.  I knew it was wrong. But I also knew I was sexually tempted by him.  That day the little girl longing to be love curled up in a dark corner of my mind and believed the healthy relationship she’d always longed for just wasn’t possible.  She let the dark part of her soul take over, the part that believed love was really about sex. 

I experienced what I believed was real intimacy over those next several years.  In a relationship full of secrets and lies.  Just like the relationship with my adopted father.  I came to believe it was just the way real love was. 

This man became my everything.  I rushed through work to spend time with him.  I turned down invitations from friends to go somewhere because I didn’t want to lose time with him.  Went to my bedroom and closed the door while my kids entertained themselves, so I could spend time with him. He was a drug and I was addicted.  I found my life in him, but I was losing everything God intended for me to have. 

I felt more empty and alone than I ever had.  He’d been telling me from the beginning all the good things my soul longed to hear.  Words that communicated connection, dignity and purpose. Life.

You are beautiful.
You are my heart.
You are my soul mate.
You are the sunshine of my life.
I will always love you.

He signed every private text or email with Whit and I with Whitney because this meant I will always love you. 

I still cannot listen to that song without feeling sick inside.

But over time I learned I was losing my life and the person God called me to be. His affirmation and praise of me just became shallow and empty words.

The little girl wanted out.  She was sick to death of hiding in the dark. 

When I was a little girl I loved Superman.  I believed only someone with his incredible strength could save me from my circumstances. 

But Superman never came. 

I’d believed this pastor was my Superman.  He had incredible strength on the outside. He manipulated circumstances and people to cause things to work out the way he desired.  When people opposed him he didn’t put up with it. He was looked up to and admired, and he called me special.

When Jesus came people were looking for a hero, too.  They expected a Messiah who’d change the world through His incredible strength and abilities.  They expected a warrior king.

But Jesus wasn’t what they expected.  He hung out with the prostitutes, the drunkards, and the tax collectors.  His closest friends were a ragtag bunch of lowly fishermen. 

It wasn’t long before they screamed in their disappointment, “Crucify Him!”

Even after being beaten, betrayed by His closest friends and nailed to a cross, Jesus cried out to God, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Jesus knew the only way to save the world was for Him to die.  He could have used His strength to call down a thousand angels to strike down every human being on the planet that hurt Him, but He sacrificed Himself instead. 

I, like the people of Jesus time, believed I needed a superhero, but I’ve learned superheros aren’t people born with incredible strength.  Rather, true superheroes are developed over time through all of life’s circumstances through fiery trials and even abuse. 

Their true strength is revealed in their ability to forgive those who’ve abused and neglected them,  in dying to themselves, rather than getting all they can.  In giving rather than taking. In telling the truth rather than manipulating.  In making a choice to do the right thing, even when it means suffering great loss. 

I’ve seen that hero revealed in my husband, as he’s forgiven me and reflected the true character of Christ.

True heroes find great strength in their weaknesses by turning to Jesus, not by being strong enough to get what they want.

I needed a superhero. He was right there all along.  During the darkest nights of abuse and even when I looked for Him in someone else.

He’s taken the hand of the little girl hiding in the corner of my mind and told her it’s OK to come out into the light and be herself. 

In His arms I am safe.
I am free.

2 thoughts on “True Heroes

  1. You are so incredibly strong to share so openly about your pain and to be so honest about your struggles. My heart was aching for you as I read this post. I am so very sorry for the selfishness of the adults in your life, who were meant to protect, but thought only of their own twisted desires. I wish I had been there to rescue that little girl you once were.

    Like

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