Christ's Glory, Not Mine

by science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

Wages of Love

Since the introduction to this blog’s new series referenced the fact I’m a child abuse survivor, I should start there even though I’m “done” talking about that. Since I didn’t have those talks with you, through a long, difficult, painful process, God’s squeezed about every drop of bitterness out of me. Though, we’re probably still working on the toxic feelings I’ve misdirected towards myself.

Whether I’ve forgiven my abusers depends on whether forgiveness is compatible with staying out of their drama when I’m not yet strong enough to be in relationship with them without getting drawn into it and it pulling me down spiritually. Christ, remarkably is strong enough to take all kinds of abuse without falling into sin. The environment I was raised in was so  toxic to my soul, the Lord took me up like he does with children forsaken by their parents and transplanted me 2,000 miles away from my family of origin. When that proved not enough, I was told to shut down all lines of communication until God had strengthened me and moved me to try again.

If you’re debating whether to leave an abusive home, ask yourself and God whether the abuse is doing you spiritual harm. Is it keeping you from maturing and overcoming sin? Is your faith at risk of wilting and dying in this environment? If either is the case, God most likely wants you to separate for a time and let him strengthen you. It’s not good for you to permanently eliminate all possibility of reconciliation, but don’t stay for fear of them doing so.

In my case, I’ve had several bouts of attempting reconciliation with various members of my family of origin. I’m hoping for a better end with the relation I’m currently doing this with, but past attempts all ended with the relative going back to abusing me, and it pulling me down and me having to withdraw, not to punish them, but to stay true to God.

None of my abusive relatives have ever left me covered in bruises or raped me. They’ve not done any of the acts our culture easily recognizes as abuse and condemns without controversy. Since you deserve to hear both sides, my family of origin’s position was that I had good parents and no abuse occurred. Further, I was a bad daughter who is delusional, since they could tell I believe my claims. They’re not surprised I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but they only acknowledge that I was bullied at school, not seeing that things would’ve gone much better for me at school if they hadn’t been teaching me with spankings to only dealt with conflict by running or surrendering.

At times, I’ve wondered if I am delusional, but people with personal experience with abuse tell me I’m not. Don’t judge my parents harshly, please. Abuse is a generational curse passed down from parent to child unless the cycle is broken by therapy and/or the power of Christ. Likely, my parents were  also raised in families whose preferred weapons were words, withholding love as a punishment, and giving love as a reward for accomplishments that make us look good in the eyes of men.

Likely, we were all raised in a family culture where the victims must keep silent on the abuse, but the abusers are/were free to violate our privacy and to maintain zero confidentiality within the family. Perhaps they’re making the mistake many victims make and comparing how they treated me to how their parents treated them and concluding I had it pretty good. It’d be painful to have done my honest best to break the cycle and still see my own wounds in my child’s eyes. Dealing with that in a healthy manner requires feeling safe to face our failures because we’ve found a refuge where our hearts know we’ll receive forgiveness and help, not condemnation and harm. My family of origin doesn’t have that.

Before you assume I’m judging anyone, Christians can know intellectually that we have that refuge in Christ and still struggle with feeling secure in that refuge in our hearts. My parents have been unchurched for decades and have no spiritual vital signs that I can see, but I believe my sister loves the Lord, though she has difficulty trusting the Lord rather than going her own way. She was also jealous of how well I played the perfect daughter as kids. In truth, once, we were bad daughters, but now we are God’s beloved daughters, and God has begun making us good. God will finish his work on the day we meet the Lord face to face. May we always let him do his work now.

In closing, my greatest, far less obvious spiritual battles are rooted in the emotional abuse I suffered as a child. It deeply ingrained in my heart that love is not something freely given, but something earned by good behavior and accomplishing good works before men as an eye-pleaser. Emotional/verbal abuse is the most common and the most culturally accepted form of abuse, but it can be as damaging as any other form of abuse. As a survivor, I am asking you to please strive to show sincere love to the children in your life as freely as God does with us. For “God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

If you relate, please feel free to share your story in the comments or to contact me privately. If you feel spiritually stronger than the author or another commenter, please respond with kind words that gently encourage us to continue to grow in spirit and in truth. Critical, disrespectful words that hurt without helping will be removed.