Last July, I sat across the table from a woman who had been my best friend throughout my teen years. She spent many a night at our house and even went on vacation with us. We shared clothes, cruised the highway, and baked brownies in the middle of the night. We knew each other so well that we often finished each other’s sentences.
Needless to say, my mom’s passing just three months earlier had affected her almost as much as me. So, after our time of separate grieving, we each drove halfway to meet for lunch so we could reminisce.
We laughed and cried, much like the old days. But then! Without even giving it a proper second thought, I blurted out, “I’m about to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone. Not anyone! Ever!” (Even now, I’ve only told a very small circle of people – until today!)
Her eyebrows jumped to attention as her eyes laser-locked mine. Neither of us thought there was anything the other one didn’t know. Before I knew it, I had spit out the details of an encounter with a relative that left an indelible mark on my heart.
She remembered the guy who came for a visit every now and then as being a creep. As a young child, I thought of him as simply the guy 15 years older who carried me to the store, bought me candy, and even gave me piggyback rides. He was someone I trusted to take care of me even though he was easily agitated by my childlike nonsense.
I was about 10 years old; he was around 25. He suffered from a failure to launch and was back home living with his parents. I often hung out in his room when I stayed there with his parents. On this particular day, there was no one home except him and me.
It could have been much, much worse. During my teaching days I taught a few fifth-grade girls who had been through so much more. Still, the damage caused by his unwanted advances took root in my soul. Satan smiled knowing the foul fruit that would grow from this.
I was a feisty 10-year-old, so I managed to push him off of me. By the grace of God, he stopped suddenly and seemed to come to his senses. As confusing as his actions were, it was the words he spoke that caused me the most harm. Glaring at me, he threatened, “Don’t tell your mama and daddy about this because they’ll be mad.”
As a 61-year-old woman, I now know he merely wanted to save his own perverted hide. However, what my young, and suddenly not-so-innocent mind heard was, “Don’t tell your mama and daddy about this because they’ll be mad … at you!” And so, it began.
I became a people-pleasing, rule-following, emotion-stuffing machine who never wanted to rock the boat. My parents taught me to follow God, but I became a religious rule follower who thought God would be mad at me if I didn’t get everything just right. I didn’t take criticism well, since accepting it meant I was wrong. If anyone tried to physically hold me down, I tore into them like a buzz saw. I slept for years with my hands outside the covers, ready to fight, no matter how cold I was. I became prideful and overly competitive. If I couldn’t be the best, I stopped playing. My insecure need to win the acceptance and love of others caused major friendship failures in every decade of my life. Yes, that would be five damaged friendships I’m trying to stop grieving over. I grew into a person who was whitewashed on the outside, but full of dead bones on the inside.
My reason for telling you this story is twofold:
1. If you have a secret you’ve not told, I’m praying you will find the courage to tell a family member or friend. If you feel you can’t tell someone you know, then find a Christian counselor who will guide you through the healing process. There is great freedom in shining Light in the dark places.
2. I want you to enjoy the freedom that can be yours! Satan tried his best to finish me off with whispered lies. In fact, he came very close. He’s most likely playing the same trick on you! He doesn’t want you free because he knows free people free people!
I became desperate enough to beg God for healing, and He did not let me down. The Holy Spirit has since led me step by step through the wardrobe of fear and into a Narnia-like place of wonder that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I hope all my days find me this wide-eyed at the wonder of God’s faithful love.
I remember telling my counselor friend that I just wanted to be normal. She asked me what I thought normal was. I told her that I wanted to be consistent. I knew that in order for someone to travel my life with me, they had to be willing to ride my emotional roller coaster. Most jumped off sooner or later, but I pushed a few others away because I could see how badly I was hurting them. Thankfully, I had a husband and two very exceptional friends who buckled their seatbelts and came along for the ride, no matter how wild it became.
Today, we’re all enjoying floating down my emotional lazy river. No more roller coasters! It’s time I repay my man and my friends with some calm consistency! I can’t find words expressive enough to describe how nice it is not to have anything else to sort out or work through in my mind. If my past can be laid to rest, so can yours. If my confidence can be restored, yours can as well.
I think I’ve found my normal. If you’re looking for yours, open up, and let the process begin.
“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!”Psalm 103:1-5, NLT