I was never set free by the truth

John 8:32 “and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Growing up, I was continuously reminded at every opportunity that lying is literally the worst thing I could ever do. This Bible verse was repetitively hammered into my frail bones like it was the answer to every adult problem I could ever face. I will never forget the first time I was caught in a lie. My brother and I had been playing in our backyard and we decided that it might be fun to play our version of Power Rangers, a show we weren’t allowed to watch out of fear that it was too violent. A little while later, our mother appeared on the scene and demanded to know what we were playing. I was too afraid that I would get in trouble for playing an innocent game she disagreed with, so I lied. If I think hard enough, I can still remember the taste of the bar of soap and the way it made me gag as it was shoved in my mouth as punishment for my lie. The scraping of the top layer against my teeth. The bitter taste burning the back of my throat and making me dry heave. The acid that burned my stomach. There was no calm reprimanding. It was threat level midnight on first offense with my mother.

Or the incident a few years later, when Harry Potter became a mainstream obsession. Shortly after the first movie came out, I remember shopping at Target with my mother and brother. They had a television in the kids section that was playing a loop of the movie on silent. Our church had banned Harry Potter out of fear of the presence of witchcraft in the books and movies. As we were shopping, my mother noticed my brother had begun focusing his attention to the movie looping on the screen. She told him several times to stop watching it, and he assured her that he wasn’t. He was caught in his lie. Returning home, he was gifted with a fistful of belt thrashes.

There were endless conversations about the consequences of lying. The reminders that those who lie are hell-bound. The assurance that even white lies count, and yes, there is never a lie that is ever effective to keep anyone safe. Because lies will never keep anyone safe.

The troubling thing for me now, as a survivor, is that lying seems to be the only way to keep myself safe. The only thing that lets me sleep at night some weeks. The troubling thing for me now, as a survivor, is that lying seems to be the only thing keeping my shame at bay enough for me to even perform the act of surviving.

..for me to even perform the act of surviving.

You see, I spent 19 years holed up in a vortex of silence. The echo of truth banging against the walls inside the black hole we called a home. I was told that the life we were living was the truth, but no one else could have a look inside. Those who did not live there were not allowed to have access to the keys. They were shut out–metaphorically and literally.

Indoctrination does a funny thing. It brain washes you. It convinces you that what you are being taught is absolute truth and there is no point in questioning, because it is just the way it is. It makes you feel that the world is actually a warped Picasso painting, and that you are obviously a righteous, stable statue of perfection and purity outsiders are not quite ready to accept. It is an absolute mind-fuck of epic proportions. I watched as my parents told me over and over that I should despise those different from us. “Be not of this world. It surrounds you, but do not let it become you. ” Reminded that I was alien, not born of this world, but of a blessed bloodline I should be terrified others would taint.

Apparently, so blessed that I was not allowed to discuss my problems with other family members with whom I was extremely close with. Once it was discovered that I was having knowledgeable conversation with my cousins about topics other than the Bible, we were discouraged from spending time alone together. We were constantly interrupted, for fear I would be someone who removed the blindfold. I was repetitively wrist-yanked by my mother into the bathroom for harsh scoldings about my behavior. I think they were afraid that I, as the oldest, would be the one to make them all aware of the blindfolds that had been placed on our eyes in the delivery room. That somehow I had figured out their big secret, delved beneath the poison of their indoctrination and found fresh air.

The troubling thing to me, as a survivor, is that the truth has NOT set me free.

This week I have struggled with just making it through the long days. I have fought with sleep overrun with nightmares about the abuse I suffered, waking up in panic attacks that feel like I am being choked from the inside out. I have found my head in a constant cloudy reminder that my shame will always be the strongest chains, binding me to the past. Chains that I currently do not have the tools to break, so I do my best to paint them pretty colors so other people don’t notice their ugly hue clashing with my attempt at a bright exterior. Chains that I try to disguise by pretending their existence isn’t hindering my daily life, yet knowing they are.

There will always be the shame. The first emotion poured into the empty vessel of my soul as a baby, and the warning about not numbing my conscience. I think I will always feel guilty for exposing the truth about my past. I will feel forever consumed with the worry about what my abusers will think, and the inability to come to terms with the remainder of healing I still have yet to accomplish as a result of that denial.

I have always felt like I am being choked by a force far greater than myself.

When your parents are your abusers, you wonder if you will ever be able to untangle the complicated weaving mess of your relationship. If you will ever be able to dissect the shame and decide if you want to have a real relationship with them despite all those feelings or as a result of them. You will spend what feels like centuries, wading through old conversations in your head trying to pick apart the moment you realized that you were drowning in a sea of shame so deep you worried you would never be able to breathe again.

As a survivor, the truth never set me free. The truth only tangled things.

 

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The answer to proper healing is to make ourselves better, not bitter.

Bitterness is like gangrene, with a paperweight on the end. First it starts to eat up your insides, starting with your heart and then working its way outward until every part of your body is consumed with its raging fire. After you have been efficiently torn apart internally by this beast, it begins to work on the outside, transforming your smile into an ugly snarl, making the cheerful lines you once had around your mouth develop into nothing beautiful. Maybe you start to wonder why people do not call as often to hang around you, or attempt to make you laugh as often. You might slowly begin to resemble Gollum in both actions and appearance (I’m kind of kidding here).

Bitterness is a disease. One that ravishes and rapes the heart and mind until there is nothing left of you but a shell of a person. It knows what its doing. It knows it is destroying you. And once you let it in, it can be as difficult to remove as the blood stains from a murder scene. 

The enemy knows what he is doing. He knows that our mind is like a jail cell, and once something enters that cell, finding the key to let it out and destroy it at sentencing is a challenge within itself. 

Bitterness kind of reminds me of worry. It’s like a rocking chair, except you get nowhere in it, and all you have done is waste a lot of time trying to mentally take care of something our Father has already declared he will take care of. Why do we keep attempting to find the life raft when Dad already has hold of one? Maybe because with faith, we cannot see the results immediately, and so we attempt to quicken the process, to find a way to ensure the deed gets done, even if that means doing it ourselves. After all, we cannot be lazy if we expect Him to do things for us. This thinking is totally incorrect. But, before I get off track, let me say I’ll attempt to write a separate post about worry so that I don’t consume this one with my ramblings on another topic. 

In my life, I have struggled a lot with bitterness off and on. Given a lot of the things I have been through, some might even say I’m allowed to feel unjust anger towards the people who have hurt me, because what they did was awful. I used to agree with them, think that harboring my own little corner in my mind for this hurt and brokenness I felt was all right because it was MY own corner and really, what bad could come of someone discovering I had been dwelling on what I felt was a multitude of transgressions that had transpired against me? I discovered, a lot. 

See, once we allow ourselves that little space to dwell on the hurt someone exacted upon us, like a weed on fertilizer, it begins to grow until it is difficult to handle. It might have only began as bitterness towards the major transgressions in life but then suddenly you realize that you are now becoming angry at everything. A little side remark someone said that really should not have mattered has you seething in your bed three days later because your warped mind begins to think they purposely attempted to destroy you with those five little words. You think you have it under control and then BAM! you don’t know who you are anymore. After all, we are definitely what we think. And bitterness takes up a lot of our mental time and capacity. 

I will not lie, sometimes bitterness is a daily battle for me. I wake up one morning angry at my past circumstances, and then my Father reminds me to hand them over to Him, allow Him to carry my burdens for me so He can do a creative work on my soul. And let me tell you, when He is done completing his work, I find I am even more beautiful before than I was when I started. It’s all connected. You can’t keep part of yourself to yourself and hope to be a whole being. I’ll say it again–stop holding back. You don’t know better than your Maker. Let Him fight your battles for you, find the rope, and bring you home. 

When I began the journey to remove the bitterness, I wasn’t sure where to start. I confessed to a few people I knew, and even some strangers knowing someone had to have answers. And I was handed a book. One of the lines in the book said “be better, not bitter.” I related so well to that. I needed to stop being bitter and angry at past circumstances, but instead become a better person because of them. I needed to give them up. Let me tell you, when I allowed the Lord to work in my life in this area, I found refreshment brand new, because I realized, some of the things that happened to me because it was what the other person thought was best in that moment. We all perceive things differently, and while someone might not know they hurt me, I was devastated. But beginning to let God in my dark, secret places, allowed Him to move in me a peace that overwhelmed the hurt, the broken pieces, and the pain. We think that by holding on to all of that we will fix the problem, it will help with the coping. And I’m not saying for those going through a traumatic event, being angry is wrong, but after years or months of constantly dwelling on what happened, it might be time to allow yourself to heal. I’m not saying forget about it, I haven’t forgotten about what happened to me. Instead, I have allowed my pain to transform. I realized that some of the things that happened were not intended to destroy me, but I perceived them that way. And that’s not wrong or bad, but I needed to alter my thinking at the altar to realize that. If something horrible has happened to, please, see what happens when you give up and give God. 

I could go on, but I think that what I have said here is enough for today. I hope this post impacts someone in some way. If it has moved you, please leave a comment. If you have questions or would like me to expand on something, let me know, I am happy to help.