Last night I had a dream I was crawling under the house where I grew up. I was shining my phone flashlight in one hand and holding a water hose in the other. I screamed out in my dream if anyone was hiding under there I’d shoot them with my water hose. I woke myself and my husband up crying out.
Dreams are sometimes crazy. But this one had significance. I think my counseling session yesterday jarred something loose in my subconscious, because after having this dream my memories drifted back to the place where I grew up.
The memories from that time of my life are dark and oppressive. It was the house where my father abused me my 4th grade year the summer he and my mother were separated.
It was also the house where in my early 20’s I watched him die from a brain tumor over the course of a couple of months. I’ll never forget those few nights when I slept on the sofa next to his hospital bed in the kitchen, so my mom could get a break from caring for him. At the time, I wasn’t even aware that the abuse had happened to me as a child. My brain had suppressed it. I’d awaken from horrible, oppressive nightmares. My adopted father was evil in the dreams with a monstrous face and eyes. On the sofa next to his bed, I’d strain my eyes in the dim light of the room to see if he was still breathing, hoping he was because after those dreams I was frozen with fear. The fear was so bad the day that he actually did die, that I forced myself off that sofa and drove home in the early morning hours. I just couldn’t stay in that house another moment.
The house was also the place where I found pornographic magazines under the porch in my early teenage years. My adopted father had them hidden in a bucket. Photos of naked men were in the books. I can still remember some of the pictures and the stir of emotions my teenage body felt seeing them. I began to fantasize about the men and masturbate. The temporary pleasure it gave caused me to turn to it for relief. My favorite sources of entertainment were horror movies and books, as well as other books that fed my sexual fantasies. My mind went to very dark places and the shame about who I was just grew.
In my later teenage years, I was sexually active with two boyfriends. I remember one night getting drunk and begging one of them to be with me. I was a desperate soul longing for love, trying so hard to fix what was broken inside me.
Jesus said we are all like sheep gone astray. He says all of our righteousness is like filthy rags and there are none of us that are good, but I believed I was worse than anyone else.
When my former pastor told me he was tempted by me it just caused me to believe this lie even more.
When I went to see him for the first time, I was desperately trying to fix what was broken in me. When he started to tell me how special I was to him I believed all my prayers had been answered.
If the pastor of a church could love me then maybe I wasn’t as bad as I believed I was. When he told me I was his little girl and held me everything broken in my life seemed fixed.
But then the sexual relationship started and the belief that I was worse than anyone else just grew. I now believed I’d caused a pastor to fall.
After months of counseling and God’s healing in my life, I’m finally starting to realize that the choices I made in my desperation are not an indication that I’m an evil woman worse worse than anyone else, but rather I’m just a broken human being in need of redemption.
I take great comfort in knowing I’m not the only one that tried to fix what was broken in my life and just wound up more broken.
Reading others stories in blogs and books has helped me to understand and know I’m not alone.
Don Miller shares in Scary Close:
I’d spent a lifetime being drawn to women who exhibited some of the patterns I’d grown up with. And more than that, what I’d misunderstood as passion or love was actually a deep sense that if this relationship worked out, my oldest wounds might be healed. In other words, I didn’t love these girls so much as I wanted to use them to fix something broken inside of me.
I started reading the book Fallen by Annie Lobert last night. Annie runs the ministry Hookers for Jesus, and she describes much the same thing.
I was constantly chasing the ideal man, only to find out the perfect man did not exist. No matter who the guy was or what the situation, my self-deprecating monologues replayed themselves over and over. It was terrible. The mental gymnastics were exhausting. And it all stemmed from my deep-rooted feelings of rejection, insecurity, lack of and mostly my strong desire to be loved. In hindsight, I can see many times when all those failures with men were actually feeble attempts at fixing the broken relationship I had with my dad. If I could make a guy love me, that would make up for the fact that my dad didn’t. I was trying to find the one who would fit perfectly into my empty heart. Of course that One could only be Jesus, but I didn’t know that back then. I was determined to find a man, my dream man, to fill those shoes, even if I needed to sell my soul to do it.
I know only too well about those self depreciating monologues and that desperate need to find someone who could perfectly fit into my needy heart. Someone who would really love me, but just like Annie and Don I was looking in the wrong places.
My counselor says our desperation is often the very thing that opens our hearts to Jesus. This is so clear to me now.
Our desperation also provides an opportunity for those God has called into ministry to truly share the love of Christ.
But we have a worthy adversary and he knows the same desperation that can lead us to Christ can also open the door for him to abuse and use us.
Is it any wonder Jesus and the apostle’s warned us against false prophets in the church?
Jesus came to fix our brokenness.
Satan came to steal, kill and destroy us, and because we are in the church we shouldn’t be surprised that he is, too.
These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 1:12-13 ESV
According to my counselor, the average predator abuses a hundred victims. I was stunned by these statistics. Our enemy must be very pleased. But I know God’s heart grieves.
Pastors, counselors and doctors have a tremendous responsibility to keep healthy boundaries.
I’d give anything if my former pastor had kept them with me.
I poured my heart out to him.
There isn’t a secret in my life he didn’t know.
He was the first person I told about what my adopted father did to me.
He was the first person I shared about my struggles with masturbation that caused me so much shame, and I realize now he fed off of this and used my own weaknesses to seduce me.
I thought telling him my secrets would cause the shame to die, but it only grew.
Please if you are in the position to help others and you are tempted by them, by all means don’t tell them about your feelings and refer them to someone else.
Even if it means losing a member of your congregation or a friend.
The cost is just too high for everyone.