contempt

Trusting God Again

This is the sixth of seven posts in the Becoming a Wounded Healer: My Story Through Abuse series. All posts available here.

As I began meeting with my counsellor, it seemed the painful layers of what happened were being peeled back. More and more came to the surface that I didn’t know was there.  It was as if I was at the checkout in a store, about to pay for my item. Just before the payment was finalized, the price was increased. Over and over again. I didn’t think I had anything left to forgive, but suddenly I was angry. There was no clear-cut process to follow with a start and an end. It all felt so unfair. Dealing with everything was taking so much energy, and John was probably living his life as if nothing ever happened.

November 2016

I really struggled through counselling, and even kickboxing couldn’t get me out of my funk. I was crying out to God on the drive home – actual tears, swearing, etc. Why do I have to suffer because of someone else’s actions? It’s not fair! He’s fine and I’m still suffering. If it was my own bad choice I wouldn’t complain…Then I sensed God speak to me clearly that he understood, because that’s what the cross is all about. Jesus punished for sins he didn’t commit (ours). I was personally experiencing something of the cross. Somehow that calmed me down and gave me peace.

My counsellor’s specialty was biblical counselling, so she often connected what we talked about to Bible verses, and encouraged me in ways I could pray about the situation. I remember one meeting in particular where she told me I should pray boldly for justice. I didn’t want to because I didn’t believe there was any hope for it, and I thought if I focused too much on that, I would get angry again. I knew eventually he would experience the consequences of his actions, even if not in this life.

God doesn’t usually speak to me in dreams, but shortly afterward I dreamed as I hadn’t before. I was in my apartment and John was there too. Initially I was afraid, but he began to apologize. For the first time, he acknowledged what happened and was truly sorry for it. I began to weep uncontrollably. It felt like a massive release in my heart of all that had happened. When I woke up, I felt like I had been given a gift from God. Although none of the events in my dream have happened, I experienced some healing in a way that is hard to put into words.

In another meeting, my counsellor asked me if I had problems trusting God. Initially, I thought my trust problems were more with other people, but I realized I struggled to trust God, too. I didn’t blame God for what happened, but I still didn’t understand why it happened. I had gone into self-protection mode. Subconsciously I thought that if God wouldn’t or couldn’t protect me, I would do it myself. By putting up walls, avoiding vulnerability, and appropriating a high level of skepticism in my interactions, I was removing any possibility of being hurt again, as much as was in my power. In short, I was a control freak.

I was angry when my counsellor suggested my reactions were sinful and I needed to repent. I preferred to see them as opportunities for growth, because that didn’t engender feelings of contempt and dread, but rather opportunity and possibility. However, as I worked through the chapter on repentance in the Wounded Heart book, I realized she was right. I had confused repentance and penance. “Contempt (self- or other-centered) is the energy behind penance. It produces a sense of being downtrodden and worthless and leads eventually to rage and murderous hatred. The result is an unredemptive sorrow that is full of self-pity and despair” (p.206). But “genuine conviction of sin, on the other hand, leads to a softening of the heart that dispels other-centered contempt in the wake of the recognition that we are no better, at core, than those who have abused us. Self-contempt is Satan’s counterfeit for true conviction. Contempt attacks the perceived source of the problem to gain control and then attempts to regain relationship with others and God through penitent deeds. Conviction humbly recognizes the need for grace and embraces a sorrow that leads to life and sacrificial love” (p.206).

I knew I needed to call sin, sin, and not try to make it nicer. My attempt to control, to be in control, was trying to protect myself, rather than trusting God. It was an avoidance of vulnerability, which decreases my own life, and my ability to love God and others the way I was intended to. It was seeking comfort apart from God. It was sin. Sure, it came mostly out of being sinned against, but my reaction to that was still sin. I asked God for forgiveness again.

I wondered for some time what it meant to trust God if there was no guarantee I wouldn’t be hurt again. I realized that trusting God didn’t mean nothing bad would ever happen to me again. It meant that God was still good and still enough even if it did.

Dr. Dan B. Allender. 1990. The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Christmas Contempt

I heard someone say once that “familiarity breeds contempt.” It sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true isn’t it? You see or hear something enough times, and when it comes up for the umpteenth time you think, ‘This? Again? No thanks.’ It gets discarded like yesterday’s rubbish.

For many things, I suppose it doesn’t matter. Some things could use discarding anyway. But what happens when it is something that matters? What happens when it is something that needs to remain?

Earlier this year I was on a family holiday in Mexico. As I do most holidays, I try to find a useful souvenir to remember it. I saw so many things, but nothing really caught my eye. That is, until I noticed a number of figurines Made with Repix (http://repix.it)out of the corner of my eye, arranged, as it were, around a smaller figure. I looked closer and realized it was the nativity scene. You know, Mary, Joseph, wise people, shepherds and animals all crowded around baby Jesus. It was like no nativity I had seen before, and I had seen many. The colours, clothing, and nationalities represented were far from the plainly dressed, brown haired, blue-eyed Caucasian ensemble I knew so well. This was it! I had found my souvenir, but it was much more than that.

As I stare at the colourful statuettes, now displayed on my shelf in much colder Canada, I am forced to rethink what has become so familiar to me. And I confess that that familiarity has bred some level of contempt. The nativity and all it represents had lost its wonder and become simply another thing I saw at a certain time every year [I was blessed enough to see/hear it this many times]. Sometimes it takes a completely different perspective to restore the spark in the familiar. But what’s so amazing about the nativity and what it represents, anyway?

There’s one verse that sums it up well for me, and that’s Matthew 1:23. It says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” Wait a minute. God, with us? God, the creator of all, wanting to be with us? Wow. This short verse dismantles all arguments that God is distant and unfeeling. God chose to become a vulnerable baby, needing to grow and learn in this world, in order to relate to us in a way we could understand.

As if this wasn’t awesome enough in itself, it also gives us a taste of what is to come. Revelation 21:3 says, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.” Matthew 1:23 foreshadows Revelation 21:3, giving us something to remember and something to look forward to. We are not alone in this world, and we anticipate an even closer and more tangible relationship with the God of all.

Isn’t that an amazing Christmas message worth salvaging from contempt?