My journey in my mind started when I was thirteen years old. It was my birthday and my mom came up to my room and told me she was sorry, but that she had to go to a meeting and she couldn’t miss it. At the moment I was shocked, I cried, but I also knew my mom was not a woman to miss her kid’s birthday. This is a woman who for my whole life had balloons, treats, would bring me breakfast in bed, she wanted her kids to know we were loved, wanted, and needed. So, I listened as she told me why she needed to go. She said she was abused by my Grandpa when she was a girl and she was going to a meeting to help her heal. My world came crashing down around me. A man I had thought I trusted had hurt my mom in ways my teenage brain would not comprehend right away. Birthdays have come and gone and the horror of the hurt this man caused to his family is still being felt in my life today. For me this is where my journey started, my emotional journey, the start of how my negative emotional messages formed in my head and they would become the ones I heard until Jesus would set them free. The emotional messages in my head went like this “you are not worthy to be loved”, “no one will protect you and you must protect yourself”, “You must protect your sisters”, “it is never ok to hurt your mother, not ever!”, “hurt others first so you are not the one hurt”, “talk tough, look tough, be tough”, “you are stupid and you will never be able to learn anything and everyone will always laugh at you because of it, so hide it”
There are specific things that happened in my life that I can see as God starting the healing process of learning to trust first God the Father, which would allow me to take baby steps to slowly start trusting people again, all the while being attached to the Father who would guide me through the up’s and down’s of the emotions of dealing with people.
The first healing moment would be from the prayers of my Grandma, my mom, and those around me who could see the destructive path I had taken. I had begun to run with a crowd who knew hurt like I did, but we also experimented with drinking and smoking. I thank Jesus everyday that I did not begin to experiment with more. My family praying for me would begin the healing steps towards emotional freedom.
My second big healing moment was when I was 16 years old. I went to a homeless shelter with my youth group for a day to volunteer our time. The shelter is still there today and is called Sharing and Caring hands. The founder is a woman named Mary Jo who as a child had experienced abuse and homelessness. She as a child had decided that she had a choice, she said she decided “she could get bitter or get better, she could build up or build down”, but that she had a choice”! Hearing this changed my life, hearing this gave me a motto for what I wanted my life to look like. I didn’t want to be bitter and I didn’t want to tear down, I wanted to use the hurts I had experienced and use them to point others to Christ. This set the course for the way I would steer my life.
The third big healing would come when I went to Camp Redcloud in Lake City, Colorado. It was at camp I began having flashbacks and nightmares of being abused as a little eight year old girl. God would use the director’s wives to mold me and shape me, they would give me life saving truth. Truth that would save my life and deepen my relationship with Christ. Women who would stop me when I was at my deepest hurting point and they through prayer, love, and compassion would bring me to the cross and love me along to a healing path. These women are the women I want to look like to others, these women are my role models. Their compassion, tea and coffee times, their ability to sob their eyes out with me, their ability to tell me not how to feel but affirm what I was feeling. It wasn’t so much what these women said as it was the love and time they poured into me.
The fourth healing would come when I met and married Mark Russell. He came into the picture when no man fit into the picture. I was emotionally drained and just starting to heal from my own remembrance of abuse, but God used him and continues to use him in my life to mold and shape me. Through this relationship God has showed me that no one can give me anything unless I am first filled with love for myself which can only be found in the freedom of Christ Jesus. Any other love is always going to be seeking something that cannot be filled. We would meet friends who would jump in our canoe and paddle with us. These friends would give sharpening truth, unending love and support, these friends would brave the rapids with us. But, we had to choose to venture out and trust. We had to choose to pray and ask the Lord to put friends in our paths to help us do life.
I share my journey with you because looking back can be healing. Looking back can allow us to see God’s hand upon us the entire time we are struggling through life. We can see the people he ordained to be in our lives at the right time and the right place. People who he would use to give us life saving motivation, guidance, and mentor-ship. Looking back can give us a glimpse of God’s bigger picture for our lives. But, my journey required me to be willing to do the hard work of working through the pain. It required me to look Jesus fully in the face and seek his healing. Full healing will not come from any other place, but at the foot and throne of Jesus Christ. It required me to look at myself and see myself for who I really am. It required lots of crying and releasing of all the hurt.
I would encourage you to look back on your path of life. I would encourage you to look back and see where God put key people in your life, even if briefly to give you a word of encouragement. A quote such as Mary Jo gave me that would set the course of my life. Along the way we must also take courage and choose to heal, we must choose to be willing. A willing heart is all Jesus needs to begin the healing process. Freedom like nothing you have ever experienced waits on the other side of your pain. When you’ve been abused by your grandfather, felt separation and that you could never do anything right for your father, when your peers have tormented you and tortured you with their words and their actions. Then because you know nothing else you allow yourself to continue to be beat up on, after all it’s not as bad as you’ve had it before. I know the pain of simply having enough of people and enough of relationships, after all they only cause pain in the end. So what’s the point?
I have been in this place too, I thought loneliness was better than relationships, it sure was safer. Always ready to run, trust me, I literally ran through six states, and lots of friendships. But, what I found was it wasn’t safe at all, because in the dark, in the loneliness I was still left in the dark with how I felt about myself. I had let what my Grandfather, what my father said, what my mother said, what my peers said, define who I saw myself to be and I believed it. But, that wasn’t the truth, not at all. The voices of the people around me had become louder than the voice of Jesus.
The truth I learned about myself was I had let the messages sink so far into my soul, I became the messages. How do you begin to undo the messages? First, it’s admitting the messages are there. It’s being honest with yourself, it’s writing down all the negative things you can hear yourself say about yourself, crying your eyes out and allowing healing to wash over you. It’s ripping the paper in shreds and burning them or throwing them away. Symbolizing you are a new person. This is what it has looked like for me.
The journey continues as I process and sort through what my new self means. It’s a process learning to live in the new self when the old self has been cast off. But, oh, the freedom, the joy, the peace! It truly does come! It truly does set one free!
I share my journey with you in hopes you will gain courage and encouragement and begin seeking your own healing! Choose the journey, choose healing, no one can make you be willing, but it’s the first place to start. Will you be willing? Will you choose healing? Start the path today! I promise it’s well worth it!