Proverbs 13:12 ESV
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Sunday night I was on the floor beside my bed, banging on the side of the mattress, biting it with my teeth, screaming a silent scream in my head that no one could hear. I was so angry and worn out from dealing with all our recent trauma. Hope felt deferred and I was afraid I’d never experience another healthy relationship again.
I cried more than I had in a long time telling God how alone I felt, begging Him to please help me. After my fit was over and I’d worn myself out, I finally went to bed.
The next day my husband and I talked. We knew we had to keep trying slowly to let others in. The walls we’ve built to keep ourselves safe are suffocating and heavy. We know we are not meant to fight this battle alone. So we decided to take a small step out of our fear and go to a seminar at the church we’ve been visiting to hear a counselor give a presentation on healthy relationships in the church.
I tell myself before the seminar that I shouldn’t expect too much. Life feels a little safer that way. What I’m really revealing about myself is how scared I am that I’ll hear something that will hurt me worse. My hypervigilence is still working overtime.
But I was pleasantly surprised. The presentation was like a cup of cold water to my thirsty soul. The counselor presented very useful information on the different parts of the brain and how they functioned. He also talked about relationships and how healthy ones bring healing to trauma and help us to live more healthy lives.
It felt good to be in church that was informed and equipping its members on how to support one another in a healthy way. The seminar was better than I expected. I felt more encouraged than I had in a while. I was ready to go home, satisfied that God had spoken through this man to teach us some encouraging truths.
But as we prepared to leave the pastor greeted us and began to talk to us. I wondered if my husband might cut him off and head for the door. We were both really tired and ready to get home – and for obvious reasons right now pastors are not my husband’s favorite people.
But this pastor’s nonthreatening and humble approach caused us to relax. When he asked questions about what brought us to the area, we found ourselves telling him a condensed version of our story. The pastor listened with care and concern and most importantly without shock, fear or condemnation. He shared about some of his own experiences with the church and the pain he’d seen. He let us know that we could sit on the back pew as long as we needed to to heal, but also let us know there were people in the church who’d been through difficult circumstances and would offer support to us when we were ready.
The relief I experienced felt like a thousand pounds taken off my shoulders. This man had given us a voice by hearing our story. He’d shown us acceptance by listening and not trying to fix us. He gave no quick promises or pat answers, only compassion and understanding. It was exactly what we needed. I felt hope and life returning. Maybe there is a church that we can be a part of that really gets it.
Today, my heart feels a mixture of joy and sorrow, hope and fear. I wish I could tell you I have this great faith without any doubt, but I can’t. I’m still asking God to help my unbelief. I know there is still so much healing He has to do in our family.
Memories of the day we walked into our former church ten years ago come to my mind. The pastor there had offered us what looked like bread. In our desperation we’d taken it and eaten it only to discover years later that the the evil one had been fattening us up like the witch did Hansel and Gretel so he could attempt to devour our souls.
I think of all the kind words my abusive pastor said to me and how my desperate starving heart devoured them all. I lived on his every word. I came to believe he was my savior. The relationship I developed with him felt like a runaway train that I couldn’t control. After only a few months, I’d traded in my Unseen Hope for a cheap imitation.
The most recent season five of The Walking Dead was my favorite. The characters have been through so much. They’ve been attacked by countless numbers of zombies, have lost their homes and loved ones and been betrayed over and over again. In season five, they’ve found a community that appears to be safe. It’s everything they’ve dreamed about. Beautiful homes with a protective wall to keep the zombies out, and what appears to be a thriving community and happy people have welcomed them. Every part of them wants to hope and settle in and get comfortable, but they know better. They’ve seen too much pain. They know how vicious and deadly the world can be.
I faced my fears growing up by watching horror movies and reading horror books, I found comfort as I related to the characters who fought the scary monsters on the screen. I’d known a lot of monsters that I hadn’t been able to fight as a helpless, little girl. In my favorite movies and books, the good overcame the evil and the monster died in the end. I hated those twisted stories where the monster came back at the end and devoured the character in the final scene.
I’d almost convinced myself a while back that I was safe and a that a happy ending was coming. It was a delusion. My angel of light turned out to be a demon hiding in the dark. He’d convinced me that the only way I could be safe was to be in control. That I should hide in the darkness, keep my secrets to myself, because no one could ever understand and that I’d lose everything. For almost a decade I believed his lies until the light of God’s love revealed the truth. In the darkness of sin and shame, the monsters were eating away at my soul. I knew I had to get out.
Following Jesus out into the light was the hardest thing I ever did. But I knew I had no choice. I risked losing everything. But I knew He had the only words of life and there was no where else to go.
Now here I am, like the characters in The Walking Dead, and asking myself if I can really trust what looks like a safe haven? Can I trust that I’m not deceiving myself again?
Jesus said in Matthew 10:16-17 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues…
To let my guard down and blindly trust another human being would be foolish. We are sheep in the midst of wolves. No where is safe. Yet Jesus says for us not to be afraid.
Matthew 10:26-31 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
The hairs on my head are all numbered. He notices every single sparrow and He sees me and knows exactly what I need. He doesn’t want me to be afraid to hope. He is in control. Yes, there will be pain. There will be heartache. Humans are broken and the world is groaning. No human relationship can ever fully satisfy us, yet every time we choose to take the risk to love another we reveal Him to the world.
The answer is clear. Stay out of the dark. Live in the light. Tell my story. Stop hiding. Don’t be afraid of men. Trust God. He cares about me. He doesn’t want me to be alone. Yes, there are sheep and there are wolves and sometimes I won’t be able to tell the difference. But a life lived in fear isn’t a life. Only a life lived in love is real life, and His perfect love casts out all fear.