I mentioned once before that I grew up with an abusive father. My childhood was genuinely good when he was not abusive, but it was nightmarish when he was. It is difficult to talk about, and I have found that most people don't really want to hear about it. It makes them more uncomfortable than me. But for the sake of illustrating the truth found in Christy's subject this week (week 18) I want to share something specific from that past.
Many years have past since I was in my early 20's and my husband and his family were the outside influence which finally brought a stop to Daddy's ability to continue his abuse in the night hours, so that it remained a secret to all who knew him. They intervened and put a stop to it, to the point that my father had to move away, into another state. The years of fear were finally over. Since he took most of his things with him, I didn't have occasion to be reminded daily of how bad it had been. Let me quickly say that he never molested any of us children that I am aware of. But as we grew older and sought to defend our mother from the very physical and mental/verbal abuse she endured, he often beat my brothers and myself physically, and did odd things, like burning my face with his cigarettes. Please be aware, that I am not going down memory lane....I was healed of that. Thankfully, God gave me complete healing and I no longer have dreams or sad memories of all those scarey times. Praise His Name. Time however, did not heal the wounds, God did.
In later years, when my children were still young, we moved to the same state as my dad, and we had opportunity to visit with him for a number of years before he died, without my children ever knowing much about what happened in my youth. I wanted them to know the man I loved as a child, not the one I feared. He took them fishing, and spent time with them, and that is how I want them to remember him.
When he passed away, we went to clean out his home, which was on land that had belonged to his brother while he was alive, but had passed to my cousin upon the brother's death. My cousin had kindly allowed that Daddy continue to live there until his death. But once both dad's wife and Daddy had died, my cousin feared there might be things, which his children would find in the house, that might harm them, if they found their way in. So he searched through the house and discovered the medicines left behind, some fireworks, matches and Dad's 22 rifle. My heart skips a beat just saying the words. His 22 rifle.
When my cousin met us at the house so we could enter and clean it out, he asked me to come into the bedroom and get rid of something for him, because he didn't want his children finding it and getting hurt. I said certainly and followed him to the closet, and when he pulled down the gun, I was unable to see it until he turned around. The instant I saw it, my legs buckled underneath me, and I scarcely breathed as I said: I want nothing to do with that gun. That is the gun Daddy held us hostage with when I was seven. A strange look came over his face, becauses he didn't know that side of Dad. I told him to see if one of my brother's wanted it, but I hoped to never see it again..EVER. Except for the bed being directly behind me, I would have hit the floor.
My counsin said that, judging from my reaction, what I said must be true, but that just was not the man he knew. I told him I was totally glad it was not, or his children would have not been safe. I certainly had not been safe most of my childhood with him. But I didn't intend to stand there and start bashing him to someone who never knew his dark side.
Now, my point is this. Objects absolutely do hold attatchement in our brain, that will steal away the preciousness of life if you let them. I am a strong believer that you cannot simply do away with things and expect the very deeply ingrained memories a thing might evoke to be healed. Sometimes, if your attitude is one of hiding from the thing that causes you hurt, you are only putting on another worse problem, which is denial. As you eliminate items that remind you of pain, you must actively put on new life, and fill the void left with God's healing. As time goes on, it is easier and easier to forget the details of our years of fear. But it isn't because I am in denial of it's pain. I dealt with the pain.
All the years that I sought to know how to be healed from the pain of those awful times, as long as I just tried to put it out of my mind, a day like the one when my cousin pulled out that gun, brought it all back up. For my sister and myself, that incident and Daddy's death affected us to the point that we were torn up worse by the memoires than when it was actually happening. We began to have nightmares, and recurring memories, and found it to be on our minds for months afterward, as if we were reliving it. AS if it had happened yesterday. We were brave as children, but not so much when it was memories we were fighting. The remedy came when the Lord healed my dreams, and healed my memories. Without going into how...He completely gave me a new memory -one of seeing Him in my situation, present, and able to cause even the Prince of Darkness to fear his mighty power. Any time I think of those awful days, now, I first see my precious Lord's protective hand and I am not afraid.
What that always brings to mind for me, is, first of all, his abiding power within me. But also that Jesus spoke several times of what newness should look like. He spoke on several occasions of getting rid of the old. Consider this verse for example:
And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. Mark 2:22
He also spoke of not mending old fabric with new cloth. We cannot simply patch the old life by inserting the new into a place of old things. It doesn't work. There must be a newness of life, and a newness of what we are putting that life into. Digging through Mom and Dads old things, actually gave me answers to questions that brought my healing to new depths. But I threw away a ton. I still have a couple of boxes that need to be purged, but they aren't hurtful things. They are just things that I no longer have to keep, clothing/papers. Only a few things that give me a blessing are things I kept. To share a story with my children and grandchildren now and then. But not one thing did I keep that would remind me of that past, and bring fear. God gave me new memories, and I intend to live in the peace and protection of that newness, for to live in Christ is to live in newness.
Both my sister and I have each thought at one time or another about writing a book hoping to help others know how to escape the madness of that life we lived. But bringing up the memories of it don't seem to be in God's will for us, so we never have. In those years, there were no places of refuge, no laws that would benefit my mother, no judges that would listen to her case, no child services that would allow us to continue to live with our very capable mother. Women in the work place was still fairly rare, as far as making enough to support her and us. And even my mother's family blamed her for my father's violence and horrors. My mother had nothing to do with it. Daddy was just a monster sometimes. I was so glad to become old enough at age 12 to be able to go before a court and tell them how we were living, but quite possibly by the Grace of God, I was not allowed because, I saw my father hand the judge an envelope full of money, and he dismissed the case without my mother being allowed to speak a word. Had I talked, they would have taken all of us away from her, and I dread to think what kind of life that might have been. For even with the constant threats that he would kill us, nothing could have been better than her love.
That is how it is with Jesus. There is nothing in life that he wants to be greater than his love for us. Though we live through some pretty nasty stuff, walking in God's path is just a better path than the easy one. But he doesn't want us to drag the old past around in our brand spanking new day, each time the sun rises. My mother was amazing in that way. She continued to forgive Daddy, and lived as if nothing had happened each day. She wanted that for us. But even though I too forgave him, that one object was able to stirr up the memories to a point they were debilitating!
There have been times that I was afraid to throw away old clothes, because I just didn't have funds to replace them. Each time I know I need to, I have had to pray, Lord, I am getting rid of this junk, because you said to, to honor your principle, and accept your love. And each time I have obeyed, there has been a marvelous sale come up with oodles for me to buy to replace the old with beautiful new clothes. God is faithful, if we honor his principles, and give him the opportunity to bring newness when we faithfully get rid of the old.
Dear Jesus, I love that you expect us to look for newness. That you want us to rid ourselves of the things that constantly dig up the old pain. Help us find the useless, and the destructive, and trade them for the useful and the purposeful. AMEN