If you’ve read many of my blogs, you’ll discover what my counselor pointed out to me today – that I struggle to find compassion for myself.
I’ve been reading Mary Demuth’s memoir Thin Places where she describes the severe sexual assault she suffered at the young age of five by boy scouts in her neighborhood. As I read the graphic description of the horrible abuse she suffered I got so angry. I wanted to hang those boys from a tree and beat them…I wanted to rescue any child in circumstances like Mary’s and take them home with me where they’d never be abused again.
The crazy thing is I feel way more compassion for Mary than I ever have for myself.
It’s insane that I can think back to my own story of abuse and feel like somehow it was my fault.
My counselor has encouraged me today to think back to the memories of my worst days, in an effort to find compassion for myself.
Her skinny fair leg slid into the shorts in the top drawer of her father’s dresser. Soon it’d be time for bed. She tried not to think about what might happen when the door closed and the light was turned off, but there was a sense of something not being right as she dressed in his clothes.
She turned on her side in the bed, staring out the window. She tried to go to sleep so the night would pass quickly.
He would start off playing a game and naming different parts of her body silly things. Sometimes she’d laugh. But then he asked her to sit on top. Sometimes she experienced pleasure.
When it was over she turned on her side. She drew her knees against her stomach and curled into a ball. She was glad it was over.
She thought of the ocean. Imagined the waves rocking her back and forth, soothing her soul. Sometimes she thought God was rocking her.
Leaving his room the following morning she wondered should she tell her aunt.
She’d remember his words that everyone did it but no one told. She decided it was best not to tell. She’d go to her aunts store, eat bacon and eggs and try to forget.
She was standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom full of need. Need to feel his touch. Need to be wanted and loved. Need to be completed by him. She thirsted for him like a woman stranded in the boiling hot desert for a day. She looked in the mirror and hated herself. Why did she let herself get this worked up? Why couldn’t she be normal and be satisfied with what she had? Why was she so bad that she brought out the bad in others?
She walked into his office. He’d been talking to her about the fantasies he was having about her. When she started to act on it he pushed her away. He had to be in control and it made her very angry.
Why did he tell her things to get her imagination carried away and then push her away? It didn’t take much pressure from her before he’d give in. Then after he’d lost control she’d apologize to him for pushing. He’d accept her apology and she’d feel like it was all her fault. Deep down she wondered if he was manipulating her. She knew what was happening was very wrong, but once it started she couldn’t stop.
After giving into the temptation, he reminded her there was no condemnation. She tried to believe it, but it was too hard. The shame overwhelmed her. The cycle continued. She wanted to get out of it, but there was no one to talk to. Who would understand her need for him? She thought of every person she knew. The truth was too terrible to tell anyone. He’d told her he’d lose everything if she told. She believed she would, too. So she kept going to him to talk it through. Sometimes they’d talk for hours, but she couldn’t get rid of the shame. He said he trusted in God’s forgiveness, but she couldn’t do it. She thought her faith was just too small. No matter how many times he told her he loved her and that they were soul mates. She felt like her life was slipping away. There was a time she’d dreamt of being healed, of working through the pains of the past and being delivered to freedom. How did she come this far? She’d only wanted to belong to someone. To feel accepted and loved. Now she felt dirty and ashamed. She felt like she was lying to everyone around her. She worked really hard to hide it and did a good job. Some days it felt like what they had was love. On the days they sat on the sofa eating ice cream and talking about normal things. Sometimes it felt like she belonged with him, but if what they had was so wonderful why did it have to be kept a secret? If their relationship was truly a gift from God why did she feel so bad?
My heart breaks for that little girl. Her abuser took so much from her. I’m glad for her that he is dead. What he did to her was a terrible, terrible thing. She was forced to grow up way too fast. My desire is that one day she’ll walk outside in the sunshine, gaze at the bright blue skies, watch the birds soar, breathe in the life she lost and find her wings to fly.
To the woman standing in front of the mirror who’s being abused and manipulated by her pastor. I’m so angry that she didn’t get the help she needed. It could have turned out so differently. I wish she could see how selfish this man is. I long for her to know that God loves her on her worst day. If only she could hear him knocking on the of that bathroom and could open and see Him holding a beautiful white wedding gown. Oh that she’d only look into the mirror again and see that shimmering gown is already on her. She’s more beautiful than she ever imagined she could be. Behind her reflection in the mirror, is the face of Jesus. He’s staring at her with affection and wiping away the tears He’s been crying for all the pain He’s watched her suffer. His plan was for the church to be a safe place and for the shepherd to watch out for her soul, but instead he’d fed off of her leaving her a bleeding mess. This makes Him so very angry.
In my imagination I can see the broken woman and the little girl standing face to face.
“I want you to live,” the woman says holding out her hand to the little girl. “You don’t have to hide anymore.”
The little girl is reluctant. The woman had always told her it was safer to stay in the dark where no one could find her and hurt her anymore. She’d protected her for years. It was the only life she knew.
“My life is not complete without you,” the broken woman says. “I’m so sorry I’ve kept you hidden. It’s time for you to live.”
The little girl moves her hand towards the woman. She feels the warmth of the light as she touches the ends of her fingers. The woman gently takes her hand and pulls her closer into an embrace. The two become one.
Gazing into the mirror, I think I see that little girl. She’s excited about living. It’s revealed by the sparkle in my eyes. The woman is there, too. For the first time in a long time she has the desire to smile. She has been made whole and clean. Finally, she is free. She no longer needs another person to make her complete. She’s found the lost part of her soul and God says it’s very good.
From now on the woman and the little girl will journey together walking hand in hand, following in the footsteps of the only Father they ever needed.