A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

A testimony of healing from trauma

Usually our Sunday post is a devotion based on Scripture, but today I’m going to tell you what God did for me last Sunday during the church service I attend, a Lutheran church in Melbourne.

I went to church expecting a touch or teaching from our Lord, because ever since I’ve been attending this church I’ve found that something special from God happens to me every service. I had no idea what particular thing God had in store for me, and that day I was not aware of any particular emotions pressing up in me.

Somewhere during the service I started to weep about a traumatic experience I had 13 years ago.  Grief welled up, the tears rolled down, I silently sobbed, and remembered. . . the phone call from someone in need . . . the phone call I made to the church elder for advice . . .  how he treated me with suspicion . . . which hurt. . . but eventually he gave me cold but correct advice: Ring the relevant secular authority. I phoned the authority, who hand-balled me to another authority. Then I made the long drive in a night of thunderstorm and high winds to where the person in need was. The fear I would skid off the wet road. Holding onto the steering wheel for dear life, praying. Getting the needy person safe, with the help of the authority figures.

And then, the aftermath. My need to grieve stymied by the everyday demands of life and single parenting. My need to grieve, bottled up with no one to talk to who would believe how bad it was, no one who would just let me weep. The sobs stuck in my belly, clogging me, like a dead weight. A counselor who didn’t really get it (and later judged me very badly) but at least she gave me one good piece of advice: to think of some ritual to express my grief through. I did. I bought some flowers, and drove, when I had child-free time, to the place where the incident happened. I sat on the steps outside that flat and wept. Fairly quietly, but not quietly enough for the woman in the flat opposite, who came out of her door and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was grieving for a bad thing that had happened in that flat. She told me to stop and to go away. She said she had had a similar bad thing happen to her when she was a kid, and she didn’t want to be reminded about it. She was short with me, and angry. I understand. But it hurt. There was nowhere for me to grieve to mark this ritual.

I forget whether I left the flowers there. My ritual was wrecked. The grief still stuck inside.

And last Sunday, God took me back to all that and the grief came up, I cried, but even more important: I joined the memories up together in my head, linking them, bringing them into the same room, so they could nod to each other, sob together, weep together. Like each bit of the memory was a different peg on a creative wall hanging and as I remembered and wept God was helping me loop the wool round one peg (the elder’s cold response) and then taking it round another peg (the drive on the drenched road through lighting and thunder) and then around another peg (the rescue) and then another peg (taking the flowers to the doorstep but getting forbidden and dismissed), and then the elder peg again, more tears and handing that over to God, and then looping in the doorstep once more, and then the counselors’ help & hurt, and then the thunderstorm, fear, and my hands gripping the steering wheel, and then the authorities, and then the flowers, and then the woman who could not bear my grieving in the stairwell outside her flat, forgiving her, but it still hurt . . . round and round God was winding a creative tapestry of healing in my mind.

They say that recovery from PTSD involves re-living the memories where they are iconically embedded (gouged in pain and fear) in the limbic part of the brain and bringing them into the frontal cortex so they can be stored like other memories in the normal, autobiographical memory bank we have in our brains. If I’ve got some of that terminology wrong, forgive me.

Last Sunday, that is what God did in me. And the choir with the soprano whose voice is like an angel sang the Aaronic Blessing at the exact point when God was drawing all the threads together in the final recapitulation. [The following broken link was to YouTube, to The Lord Bless You and Keep You (John Rutter). Editors.]

When the service was over the man sitting next to me, beside his wife, looked towards me and I think he noticed for the first time that I had been crying (even though I’d sometimes had gut-heaving sobs, they’d been silent). He asked me if I was okay. No condescension. No patronizing. Just a simple, warm enquiry. I told him what I’d been going through during the service and then, feeling his safety, I told him some of the details of what happened all those years ago. He was so nice. He just said “It’s good you’ve been able to grieve about that, because  — and you probably know this better than I do — if you keep that kind of pain inside it can make you sick.”

Oh, how wonderful to weep in church and not to be treated like I must have some hidden unconfessed sin! Like I have the emotional mange and although they put on the dutiful niceness they actually wish I would go away so I don’t contaminate them.How wonderful for tears to be treated as ordinary! For no-one to feel they have to give me advice because I’ve been suffering.

Dog with mange

Dog with mange

Sad dog with mange

Sad dog with mange

I love this church. And I love God.

***

17 Comments

  1. Heather 2

    A big hug for you, Barbara. I am so thankful that The Lord took you back there and brought you to grieve the way He did. I am so glad you were allowed that safe place and were accepted.

  2. rhonda

    This post allowed me to shed just a few of my own bottled up tears, Barbara. It captures so much of my experience and I am deeply grateful to you for this raw sharing of your faith & experience.
    Blessings.
    Rhonda

  3. Anonymous

    Barbara, Thank you for this testimony of God’s healing. I didn’t know what to expect when I began reading this post. I can’t help but glorify the Lord for bringing you to a church that is allowing you to grieve and heal. I continue to pray for such a ‘safe haven of rest’. Thank you also for the Aaronic Blessing. Praying that all victims are led to worship with those who do not condemn the innocent. (((hugs to you Barb and others who are grieving)))

  4. Barnabasintraining

    Barbara,

    I’m so glad the Lord met you at the point of your pain and brought you that healing. It is so special when He does that because He lets you know He knows and cares and does not at all condemn. Sometimes He reinforces that with human affirmation.

    And that is a beautiful anthem.

  5. Charis

    I like what the gentleman in church observed to you:
    “He just said “It’s good you’ve been able to grieve about that, because — and you probably know this better than I do — if you keep that kind of pain inside it can make you sick.”

    I recall last year, at a women’s intensive, the concept that when we don’t allow ourselves to grieve and grieve well – it either “seeps in or leaks out.” Seeping in being what this gentleman referred to, all the physical manifestations of stress-related symptoms from holding in our grief for far too long: pain, migraines, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, bowel complaints, etc. So many forms it might take. Leaking out refers mostly to anger or frustration, snarky remarks or any overblown response that would qualify as a “$20 reaction to a $5 situation.”

    Of course, there can be both – seeping in AND leaking out.

    I know I’ve been experiencing grief seeping in. I am still trying to learn how to recognize when it is leaking out.

    Your therapist was wise in her advice; find a way to grieve in the midst of chaos & loss. Even if it’s just 15min a day. Then put it aside and do everyday life for the rest of the day. Hard sometimes. I’m still learning how to do that myself. It needs to become a priority with me.

    Much love & grace to you.

  6. Brenda R

    Barb, ((((Hugs & Prayers)))). God never stops healing us. I am grateful that you sat next to this man. He was sat in that seat just for you by the Healer. I don’t know what the need was that you grieved, but can only imagine that it was severe. I rarely see someone cry in church anymore. In the past it was frequent. Hearts are cold these days as Christiams think they must always be smiling and if you are crying they don’t usually want to get involved. I don’t think people realize that church services are not only to worship our Savior and revival for the next week, but also to bear our burdens and healing. Thank you for your testimony. God is faithful in all things.

    • Barnabasintraining

      I don’t know, Brenda. I remember the last time I was sad in church and a woman I sort of knew asked me what was up and I told her. I was given the “you must rejoice in all things” treatment. It taught me to keep my feelings to myself in church. 😦

      • Brenda R

        Sad, but true, Bit. I was reminded of that as well. Maybe that is why there are not many tears in church anymore. Instead of helping the persons immediate needs, Christians move on to the Biblical eternal needs. Sometimes we just need people to listen and help get us through this moment` and not the eternal. God will help us through until we get to the rejoicing. What people don’t understand (and don’t want to) is there is a heart that is broken in a lot of pieces. That can take a long time for God to mend. I was in the last abusive “relationship, marriage, whatever you want to call it” for 23 years. It took daily prayer asking God to fill the cracks in my heart with his Love and Spirit, reading, counseling, looking for people who would understand, etc……before I began to feel whole it was 3 of those years and one since then. There are times when I still cry. Worship service is where you SHOULD be able to express all of your feelings before God no matter what they were. I know I used the “S” word, but in a good way I think. I don’t get that everyone is suppose to always be smiling. I go to church to worship God just as I am. He accepts me just as I am. Other Christians don’t. I don’t remember it being this way in years past. I love this testimony. It gives me hope.

      • fiftyandfree

        I hear this all the time too. I wonder if this is why it’s been so hard for me to heal. I just feel stuck in an emotional wasteland of sorrow, grief, regret, despair, loneliness. He’s getting remarried and I’m still living in survival mode, but for different reasons than before the divorce. He seems to be completely unscathed, and I continue to wish Jesus would just come and take us all home because this life is so darn hard. I’ve given up talking to Christian friends and pastors or counselors because all I hear is that I need to be thankful, I need to rejoice, I need to rely on Christ’s strength, all things work together for good, etc. etc. I know these are truths, and I believe all of God’s promises, but I am in pain and all I hear when I confide in others is that my pain is sin. So, I don’t talk anymore.

        Barbara, I wish I understood what you mean by all the memories linking together. I just don’t understand. I guess it’s because I haven’t experienced it. I’m happy that the Lord is helping you to heal. God bless you!

      • Yes Fifty, I couldn’t have understood it until it happened to me, either.

        I tried this Lutheran church because PW was praising her Lutheran church so highly. Maybe you might find a good one near you? There are different branches of Lutheranism in the USA so I guess you’d want to avoid the liberal version. I suspect that the lovely response of the man sitting next to me woould not be unusual in that church, but it would have been very rare at the Presbyterian churches I’d been attending for years.

      • Brenda R

        F&F, I would like to give you a big hug right now. I don’t know what is keeping you in pain. Being in pain in itself I don’t find sinful. I used to pray that Jesus would take me home and it was painful, but after a while of being on my own I got involved with helping others and my pain (on most days) was not so bad anymore. Now I feel pity for X. He will never get it.

        It is not easy to get over trauma and it doesn’t sound like the people you have talked to understand that. For me the closer I got to Jesus the more the pain went away and get great joy in feeling that the way I am living now is pleasing Him. He knows how hard life is. He is the only one who did it perfectly. We will never be perfect. I pray that your burdens will be lifted, that the weight of your pain will be taken away and released to God. I know this is not what God wants for you.

        Jeremiah 29:11
        For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

        I found this verse everywhere when I needed it most. I was unsure that it was true at the time, but have come to know without a doubt that he meant every word.

      • Brenda R

        F&F, Have you ever read the devotionals from http://www.transformationGarden.com? They are quite good and are written for women by Dorothy Valcárcel. She wrote “When a Woman Meets Jesus”. It is a very good book and her devotionals are comforting. She is a prayer warrior and has been inspirational for me.

  7. joepote01

    Barbara, I have had similar epxeriences, where God opened my floodgates of grief at a totally unexpected moment. Somtimes at church, somtimes at home, sometimes as I’m writing, sometimes while driving…

    He is so good!

    This caught my attention: “…God took me back to all that and the grief came up, I cried, but even more important: I joined the memories up together in my head, linking them, bringing them into the same room, so they could nod to each other, sob together, weep together”

    This seems to become more true for me as time goes on. I don’t seem to grieve just one sorrow, anymore…each sorrow links to another until I’m grieving for a world…and find my heart crying, “even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

    • Barnabasintraining

      Yep. Me too.

    • 🙂
      thanks Joe

  8. cindy burrell

    Oh, Barb. I could feel the anguish in your words, and I am so glad that you took the time to share not only your story, but what you decided to do to allow the pain to rise so that it could be addressed – at least somewhat. Some wounds like that just take a long time to heal.

    And what a courageous thing you did on that scary night. What a blessing you were to that woman – and continue to be to so many – including me.

    Thank you for writing this. I’m sure even that wasn’t easy to do.

    Blessings,

    Cindy.

  9. SJR

    I’m so glad this happened in a church that can handle grief, and you were next to someone who helped and didn’t try to close down your grieving.

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