When I was a little girl, my earliest belief was that I was in the way of my family and what it was they were trying to accomplish. What did my parents want? Peace, stability, happiness. But they didn’t seem to be able to attain these things. And somehow I believed it was my fault.
When I was in the first grade, I remember sitting in our fancy living room, surrounded by my mother’s china and crystal dishes, flipping through the pages of a book on the coffee table about adoption. I was adopted when I was three months old. My parents loved to tell the story about how they brought me home and showed me off to their friends. I was a beautiful baby they said. I was what they had wanted for so long. But like the beautiful dishes on the tables in the living room, I felt like it was my job to stay out of the way in a room that was rarely used gathering dust until they wanted to use me.
I don’t know how I came to believe such a bleak story about my life. There were certainly good times. Christmas morning standing at the top of the stairs glancing down to see beneath the glittering Christmas tree, all the things I had asked for; Barbie car, Barbie house, Barbie dolls and Barbie clothes. I would spend the next few days fantasizing with Barbie. She lived in a nice house with a nice car. She was beautiful. She was loved. She was wanted. She made others happy. She was happy. Her plastic face always held a perfect smile with the perfect color lipstick that never smeared while I was having accidents and causing my mother to have to clean up the urine soaked furniture in my room.
I’m not sure when my father’s sexual abuse started. I wonder if it didn’t begin before my earliest memories of it, but I do know my first beliefs about myself were those that communicated that I was a big disappointment.
This past week I have been been reading Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Learning to Walk in the Dark. In one of the final chapters, she talks about how the meaning of the word belief has changed over the centuries. She says:
In the sixteenth century, “to believe” meant “to set the heart upon,” or “to give the heart to,” as in, “I believe in love.” But in the centuries following the Enlightenment, secular use of the words “belief” and “believe” began to change until they said less about the disposition of one’s heart than about the furniture in one’s mind.
The sixteenth century writers were right about belief. Beliefs take root in our heart and direct the choices that we make. Our beliefs determine our choices which can ultimately result in life or death.
For a long time my religious beliefs were the furniture in my mind that I was able to move around and put in just the right places to block the closet to my heart. This gave me a false sense that I was in control. I told myself that I was a new person in Christ and that my past did not matter anymore. But the more life and circumstances happened the more full the closet became and no matter how much I moved the furniture in my mind around I could not keep my heart from breaking through. It wasn’t long before my mind was flooded with bits and pieces of the past mixed in with a present that was out of my control. I was drowning in things I didn’t understand. Then a man entered into my life. He showed me how to find other spaces in my mind where I could put away the things that I didn’t have control over. He helped me clean up my cluttered mind and gave me a new belief system that made it’s way to my heart. For a time, I believed good things about myself and God. But then I realized it was all a lie. I was for this man the same thing I was to my father, something to be used. And it was spiritual abuse.
I do not want abuse to shape my beliefs anymore. But I need something more than beliefs that simply occupy space in my mind. I need beliefs that will uproot the lies in my heart and give me new ones about myself. The most influential men in my life used me. I need someone who is more influential than they are to change my beliefs. Lately, I’ve been catching glimpses of Him around me in the things I read, in the people I encounter, in the beauty of nature and even within my own heart that cares about others. Only a God who is named love can uproot the bad beliefs about myself and give me good ones. I am valuable to Him and so are you, no matter how badly someone else has treated you.
My prayer today:
God reveal your love and goodness to all humanity. Help us to see the promised hope of our Messiah this time of the year. Remind us that you came to bring good news of peace and joy to ALL mankind. Let your love uproot the lies about ourselves and replace them with the truth of who You created us to be. May your perfect love cast out all of our fears and give us the grace to love ourselves and one another.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.