When it’s not safe to spend Christmas with family
[August 15, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
Some survivors of abuse make the decision that it is not wise to spend Christmas with family. Others predetermine strict boundaries about how and where they will participate in family gatherings. And for some people it is simply impossible to spend Christmas with family or friends.
(John 7:1-13 NMB) After that, Jesus went about in Galilee, and would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. The Jews’ tabernacle feast was at hand. His brethren therefore said to him, Go on, and go into Judea, so that your disciples can see the works that you do. For there is no man who does anything secretly when he himself seeks to be known openly. If you do such things, show yourself to the world. (For as yet his brethren did not believe in him.)
Then Jesus said to them, My time is not yet come, but your time is always at hand. The world cannot hate you, but me it hates, because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast. I will not go up yet to this feast, for my time is not yet full come.
These words he said to them, and remained still in Galilee. But as soon as his brethren had gone up, then he also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were, privately.
Then the Jews were looking for him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring concerning him among the people. Some said, He is good, and others said, No, but he deceives the people. However no one spoke openly about him, for fear of the Jews.
Allow me to use that passage as a springboard for a little tale about how “Tangled”, a survivor of abuse, dealt with Christmas.
“Tangled” (she or he) went about her life quietly, having little or no contact with her family and former church, because her abusive ex had been in their ear slandering her….and manipulating them to disbelieve her.
Christmas was at hand. “Tangled’s” brothers and sisters said to her, “Are you coming to the family Christmas gathering? If you cared, you would come. Your excessive secrecy makes us suspect you. Why not come and be open with us?” (For her siblings did not believe she was really a victim of abuse. And they did not believe she still had to walk on eggshells because of the covert tactics of her ex.)
“Tangled” said to them, The world cannot hate you, but me it hates, because I testify of it that its works are evil. You go to the Christmas feast; but I will not be going.”
These words she said to them, and remained where she was. However, when her siblings had left her, she also went to the feast, not openly, but as it were, privately. She celebrated Christmas in her own way – whatever way was safe for her.
(Mark 3:31-35 NMB) Then his mother and his brethren arrived and stood outside, and sent to him and called for him. The people were sitting around him, and they said to Jesus, Your mother and your brethren are asking for you outside. And he answered them, saying, Who are my mother and my brethren? And he looked round about on his disciples, who sat in a circle around him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever does the will of God, he is my brother, my sister, and mother.
[August 15, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to August 15, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to August 15, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to August 15, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (August 15, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Other posts about Christmas that victims of abuse might find helpful.
I Don’t Do Cliche — By Christine Fox Parker, PorchSwing Ministries.
Rays of Light at Christmas Time — By Rebecca Davis, Here’s the Joy.
A little stranger star — By Barbara Roberts.
The Abuser in the Christmas Story — By Barbara Roberts.
God told them in a dream to flee the evildoer: safety planning in the Christmas story — By Barbara Roberts.
- Posted in: Children & extended family
- Tagged: abuser's allies, abuser's tactics, Barbara Roberts, boundaries, covert aggression, John (epistles), Matthew, safety
I love this post.
Having a very hard run-up to Christmas and needed this encouragement.
Praying for you. Those that are hurting during this time of year are on my heart very strongly.
I too need the encouragement! It’s good to know we are not alone.
After the last family insanity, which I did not attend and have been ostracized over, I told my kids, “You are my family. The rest of those people are just relatives.”
That’s really neat, what you said to your kids. 🙂 And I bet it would have helped them re-frame things and handle their own grief / disappointment or whatever they were feeling.
Agree, Barb, and instils that you can take control and not to allow anyone to hurt or control you. Better learnt young for future confidence we hope and pray.
Last night, for the first time in my life, I cried real tears, not tears of betrayal.
A massive well of pain remains.
I don’t cry for my past, but for my present and my future, facing roadblocks only God in His infinite mercy can eliminate.
Oh yes, Christmas will be different this year….it will be lonelier and more painful than anytime in the past.
And knowing this, the tears begin to flow. Again.
Offering you more ((hugs))….because words are pretty ineffective when someone is weeping.
Finding Answers DITTO to what Barbara said. She said it perfectly.
Sending more hugs and prayers your way. His arms are so long and strong. Putting the hurting into His hands is the best place for them!
Thanks Barb and Helovesme, for your words of encouragement.
In the process of understanding the depth of the pain, the Holy Spirit reminded me to walk by faith, not by sight. He reminded me of other things, too, but my faith-walk with God was the greatest reason for the pain.
The addition of personal emotions, rather than sense-feeling them, has added another dimension to my learning and healing.
Hello Finding Answers. Your comment about feeling personal emotions again is so true for me too right now. I left fairly recently. My emotions have surprised me in their intensity and I realize even more how much they had been stifled, renamed, denied, minimized, mocked, and ignored. Some by myself to cope, and some by others. I will pray for you.
Oh goodness, both Becoming and Finding Answers really said it well.
I’ve “scared” myself with some fairly strong emotions as well. Nothing that the Lord can’t handle, but they have been very hard on me.
Let me make clear that I am not a danger to myself or anyone else. I just had no idea the depth of feelings I had—-they had been:
Letting them rise to the surface is a good thing, however. When Jesus said He shines into the darkness—-it shouldn’t be surprising that the darkness reacts to that Light! It is now exposed, to be dealt with. Not ignored.
In this case, it’s exposing evil that was done to us. It also exposes the evil in our own lives—-our personal sins that we must repent of. But no doubt He exposes deep trauma and real suffering that is no fault of ours.
The last time I saw or spoke to my mother was on Christmas Day 2015. She couldn’t even hold her tongue and give me one day to enjoy as a family member, but verbally and emotionally abused me. That was when I knew that she’d never change, and the day that I decided NC was the only way I’d ever have peace. The first Christmas after that was difficult, awkward, and painful. But with time and healing my Christmas Days have become days of peace and joy, as they should always have been. It takes strength and courage to separate from our abusive family or spouse and to ignore the smear campaigns they wage against us. But God is faithful, and the rewards are great.
Suzanne, thank you for sharing that! What a difficult but precious testimony.
In my last few years before I separated, I decided not to spend Christmas Day with my wife or her mother due to the stress and abuse. Walking on eggshells for days was not my idea of Christmas. I haven’t experienced what I call a true Christmas in 25 years.
Despite a good Christian family, there was always walking on eggshells and I still try not to say too much. Every year I pretend to be festive and try to put memories behind me, but there’s so many triggers at this time of year. I can’t describe the pain in my heart when it was one of the hardest times of the year with no work and full-time at home under much verbal and mental abuse. Getting out to church leading worship was my only way of release until that was taken from me.
Now every carol or hymn of praise triggers pain and hurt. In a godly family, I cannot get away from that. I know it makes me sound heathen and maybe I am but I know my heart.
Something that encourages me more than anything in times like this is that God knows our frame. He understands. He sees our weaknesses and our troubled hearts. He isn’t interested in all the songs and the big celebration really so to speak. He’s more interested in our hearts. When all around may be partying and having fun, He still sees a heart that despite the pain and hurt loves Him and quietly says thanks.
In some ways, I think God appreciates that above, much singing and partying really is not in His name and much of no thought really for Him.
My heart is with all those who can’t be with family, or celebrate the way society expects us to.
I know my family just expects me to forget everything and move on. Those words “it’s in the past get over it”, show no real understanding of abuse and the depth of destruction in our hearts. I walk on eggshells trying to keep a good face up and can’t show my heart.
God is healing us, but we need patience and so should others around us be patient. In this way, I’m very alone with terrible thoughts that I fight this time of year. Not every year is the same. Some I feel better than others. This year I’m struggling.
My heart goes out to those who cannot be with family and those who share with no one for the reason of safety.
May God bless you and touch you as you celebrate in your own way.
I really don’t know what to say, but I want you to know you’re not a Grinch. Many think those hurting have no Christmas spirit or are like Scrooge, etc.
We know different, despite feeling like that at times. The world presses in false guilt, but we know the truth. In fact, I believe we are probably more close to Jesus heart at this time of year than we think. After all, isn’t this why He came so that sin could be dealt with. The sin of man that Satan uses to destroy. Jesus came to seek and save us. He came to give us abundant life. He came to heal the broken-hearted and set the prisoners free. Oh yeh we are much in His heart.
Thank You God for sending Your precious Son. Thank You Jesus that You came!
Love to you all this Christmas. 🙂
I didn’t know what a ‘Grinch’ was and had to look it up! Thanks for filling a gap in my education, Now Free. 🙂
It’s not a term I use, it’s only Americans I think say it, but because of the film most now say it instead of “old Scrooge” or “bah humbug”, “Grouchy and spoilsport”, “not into Christmas spirit” as in the way many go mad wild party etc.
That’s probably not a good explanation.
Yes, yes and double yes.
Christmas is not about that perfectly decorated tree loaded up with perfectly wrapped presents, that perfectly posed family Christmas photo, and everyone perfectly dressed up with smiles pasted on their faces—-ready to “sing and party.” I’d like to think it is far more than that.
By the way, it’s perfectly fine and wonderful if you are surrounded by a loving family. I try to be very glad for people like that. It’s a treasure and a blessing—-and lately I’ve been thinking how rare that is. So many families are broken, or dealing with brokenness.
But I think some or many families try too hard to put on an “act” especially during the holidays. So that the family can indulge in the image they want to portray, that nothing is wrong and everything is right—–at least for this time of the year. The rest of the year everything will revert back to the way it was.
No, you don’t sound a “heathen” at all! In fact, those that ARE unsaved would greatly benefit from hearing much of what you wrote. The “good news” that He came to heal the brokenhearted, set the captives free and proclaim the good news to the poor (not just poor in purse, but poor in spirit).
This is a God who never tried to deny that brokenness exists, the way too many Christians try to do. This time of year is not about trying to hide or deny their brokenness—-it’s a time to rejoice that He would not leave us in such captivity. So He sent His only Son into the world.
So many of us feel helpless and vulnerable like our Savior might have—-lying in that manger as a baby. Born into the world He created, but born as a human being. Just as frail and fragile as His creation.
I got triggered so badly yesterday. I still don’t know what exactly set it off. I was so frustrated with the trauma I’ve been carrying. The holiday season triggers it for sure. I too have very few memories of a good holiday season. I was unsaved for about half my life, and I lived in an abusive home. So I have little to no good memories there.
The second half of my life is a mixed bag—-but it mostly leans towards being difficult as well. Too much to explain, but every year I pray and pray to keep my eyes where they belong—fixed on the Savior who deserves to be honored. If that is through tears, so be it. If that is through brief but precious moments of joy, so be it.
As long as He is glorified—-recognized and blessed for the enormous “step” He took from Heaven to Earth for no other reason than to save those that were lost—-I don’t care if I have no perfect family photo, family dinner or family gatherings. They will pass, but He remains.
He IS my family. He is my Father, Brother, Friend and Savior. Before Him, I was dead inside. After Him, I am alive inside. No amount of family can claim that!
I feel the need to stress that family IS important! No way I am trying to minimize the preciousness of family. It’s just that if you do not have a loving family, and many of us do not—we must remember our Father in Heaven, our real home is in Heaven, and His love for us surpasses our minds. In fact, there are no words to describe it. We just hope and pray to experience it as much as possible.
Sending tons of hugs and love out to you, and thankful that you have shared your thoughts with us again!
Amen to those scriptures.
Your song is wonderful, Now Free.
Couldn’t have put it better.
A loving godly family is a blessing, but as you say there’s denial of brokenness and I’m not the only one in my family, abused. It seems as though no one is allowed to have triggers and most certainly they are not even thought of for the other person. There’s no real understanding, it’s like “get over it. You’re not a true Christian anyways. You didn’t even bother to go to church on Christmas Day?!” And much more related to all that, so why I feel heathen. I’m related to as pagan almost. The black sheep of the family.
So surrounded or not, the heart is heavy. Heavy with triggers galore. The best time is giving and it’s the one thing I enjoy. The rest is just heavy going with a day filled with heartbreak, but I dare not show it. The same goes for the New Year. These days are tough and it’s even worse when you have to hide for a week returning after holidays and everyone is ranting and raving and asking each other about their good times. I go to the toilets and weep. It’s so hard to face people and put on a smile. I hate shopping at the best of times, but at this crazy mad couldn’t care about anyone kind of shopping days, I just stay at home. People all hyper, as of course is right and good it’s lovely to see, but also horrible to not feel the same. Again you brave a smile and put on your mask and try not spoil things for others. You greet with love and kindness as Christ did, yet He too had a constant heavy heart. It’s not easy, but we do it as part of our giving to others.
Well said again, Helovesme. You’re in my thoughts at this time.
Paul says in Corinthians:
We do both out of empathy which I know here at ACFJ we abound in. It’s part and parcel of why we are here.
Know only too well about a loved one missing at Christmas too. They were the life and soul of the party despite having such a hard life. So I get you, Helovesme, on that one, but one thing I do have is very precious memories of the one who despite everything made everyone laugh. Can’t say too much for my own safety, but one sure thing for me and the other family member is that if anyone would have understood and wept with us they would have.
One of things that they do after dinner is go to [the] grave and read out the jokes from the daft Christmas crackers. Something that they loved and makes everyone smile for a while through our tears. We know they are not there only in body, but it helps esp the young one who is most hurt by their passing.
So my thoughts will be with you too and others this year here at ACFJ. We are family too. 🙂
For this season of life, I am discovering that stepping away from the Sunday church has been a wonderful release and opportunity for healing.
For now, a minimum wage weekend job allows me to connect with unchurched people in the morning and observe better-dressed church people when church is over in the afternoon. I receive / give smiles and words of kindness with both.
I find the manger in this work setting. It is a place of wonder-filled, broken, struggling, hurting, loving, thoughtful needy humans. It represents to me the reason for the birth of Jesus in the lowliest of places.
There is not enough glue to piece together all the crumbling fractures in my generation of family. We limp into Christmas. One reason is that I finally announced that I won’t join in Christmas Day with a sibling who refuses to acknowledge me in her space. It is a more aggressive form of the bullying that has gone on at holidays for [about four decades].
Seeing Clearly commented:
I used to be piggy in the middle between an abusive wife and an abusive mother, while trying at the same time to entertain and cook. That’s one thing I do not miss at Christmas.
The manger and stable really does represent so much, and the shepherds – as it was usually the lowly who were out in the fields at that time of year watching over flocks. They would not even have been seen to be much in society at all. So glad Christ accepts the misfits and the outcasts of society. In fact it was usually those He would have rather spent time with and dined with.
I wonder if He walked our streets today where and who would He want to spend time with??
Oh my goodness how perfectly put!
Please! If the Lord enables and opens a door in this department, ask Him for the strength to be a blessing this way.
Not at all saying this to coerce out of guilt, but to let the love of the Lord compel you.
I believe there are several different perceptions of His birth setting (what it was actually like).
He was born in a stable, laid in a manger. I took that to mean that Mary gave birth in a not so comfortable setting. Possibly dirty and smelly? I am unsure if she had anything soft to rest upon as she birthed (besides hay?). My best guess is that Joseph greatly assisted her, since the Word does not mention anyone else there.
I am also not sure why there was no room for them at the Inn. I don’t think the Word mentions that, but I have always wondered. Was there literally no room for them, or was there no room for them in the heart of the Innkeeper?
There is no shame for how and where He was born. I have never heard anyone imply that since He was born in a not so ideal setting—-that that diminished His worth and His status as our God in human form, and our Savior. The Bible says He is that light that shines into the darkness. Makes no difference if His arrival didn’t reflect such a lofty calling.
There is no shame for us who were abused—-it is no badge of honor to be sure, but it is nothing to shrink back from. It doesn’t diminish our standing with Him.
He was born in an unprivileged setting—-a stable. We were born into families that were not so ideal as well. Or, we found ourselves in relationships and marriages that fell far short of what they were supposed to be.
It didn’t keep Him from fulfilling His purpose here on Earth. He shone into that darkness like no other. I pray constantly that my abuse and trauma doesn’t stop me from shining His light into whatever darkness is around me. And there is plenty of it.
I wanted to first apologize to Barb—-I just read this post. I don’t like to comment or even reply to others before I read what was posted, but I wanted to offer some support to others while I had the time. I’m glad I have now read this! It was very well written as usual.
I almost never share this incredibly personal view about social media, particularly Facebook. No matter how well I phrase it—I fear that someone will take it the wrong way. If Barb catches anything that sounds authoritative, I would ask she not post it out of respect for the others.
Anyone is free to post whatever they want on their Facebook wall. Understandably, that usually means the smiling photos, the long lists of blessings God has given, and even not so good news or info that garner sympathy and offers of help.
Rightly so, you only tell people want you want them to know. Never post anything that you do not want others to have knowledge of. Since people tend to have hundreds of friends or followers—-I can’t imagine posting incredibly sensitive and private info. You’re depressed. You’re suicidal. You’re in an abusive relationship.
My problem with social media is that it can become nothing more than your own personal PR (public relations) page. I have seen happy pictures posted, but privately I know there is more going on behind those photos. OR I found out later that the image was not reflecting the reality.
This is where I fear I will be taken wrong. Anyone and everyone has every right to post those happy pictures. No one is obligated to tell hundreds of people that in reality, you’re unhappy and miserable. My message is not to tell anyone what to do or not to do. I have simply taken a bird’s eye view of the situation, and explain what I have picked up on.
Now Free (Formerly Struggling To Be Free) spoke of listening to the stories:
I understand that. We’re going to tell everyone about the highs, not the lows (if there were any). Chances are there may have been lows, but no one understandably wants to share them. Not in public, at least.
Now Free (Formerly Struggling To Be Free) spoke of crying in the restroom. My first reaction was agony, imagining that. Then I wondered who else might be hiding in another area in that same building, crying their eyes out. They had just told everyone about their good times, but in reality there was much more going on than they cared to admit.
Jesus is described as:
Of all people, we should listen closely to how He is described in the Word. He is a God who certainly advocates and promotes joy, but He is particularly described as a Man of sorrows, not a Man of good times. This should give us pause.
This describes me as well. When I used to see what I call “mush and gush” pictures and posts on Facebook, I would do my best to stifle the twinges of jealousy and resentment. And do my best to actively be glad for them. What kind of person would begrudge others being blessed, just because your life isn’t as rosy as theirs?
I do my absolute best to not wonder what might be going on behind those posts, because I truly have no idea. And I try to hope for the best—-that they really are doing well and are in a season of joy and harmony.
But sometimes I wonder if they are trying too hard to convince themselves, or others—-that these photos reflect their reality. Some people share an avalanche of photos or posts. They are laying it on quick thick, to the point where I truly DO wonder if they are working hard to hide something. Bear in mind—-I have no idea if that is true. I just wonder about people who are putting so much time and effort into making sure the public knows how great their lives are.
I personally don’t want to be like that. If I am content, it’s because the Lord did for me what Paul described: He LEARNED contentment (Philippians 4:11) He was taught to be content; it did not come naturally or quickly even.
I never post on Facebook because there is too much potential for someone to see a rare but real smiling photo—-and it brings up the pain in their personal lives. A lost loved one, a recent divorce or a current and abusive relationship. It’s not worth it to me.
Nor will I post about real trauma or issues—-because it’s fair to question who can be trusted with such sensitive info. Many times, I’ve been tempted to post about intense conflicts that America is going through, and make my thoughts known, backed up by Scripture. But I refuse to. I would rather discuss such things with people in a one-on-one basis, rather than a back-and-forth online.
I also don’t need anyone to “thumbs up” my photos or posts, as if their acknowledgement makes my life legitimate. It’s also a real possibility that posts about your suffering will go unacknowledged. I have found out that such posts make people uncomfortable, and they will usually choose to not get involved. So looking for compassion online is not always the best option.
The 24 / 7 open door for the Lord’s compassion is more than enough for me. He never shuts it, and never will. Not only that, but since my life is transparent to Him, I can also celebrate the small but real joys He has put in my life. Not to mention the avalanche of answered prayers, and every answer to prayer counts—-even for the smallest of things.
Social media I’ll never be able to be near again. Too many vindictive people spying and watching every move. I can’t explain the amount of problems it brings up for someone like me. Wanting to know your business and pretending to be your friend. Friends of a friend of a friend’s just does not sit well with safety at all, either from abusers or allies. It also throws up what someone has not got the guts to ask you as they don’t really care, but through the online typed word they get courage to prove and become very hurtful. You can blank, delete and block all you like but there’s ways round many of these things and it just opens up the gossip’s mouth to spin some words of truth mixed with a little extra for good measure and suddenly the “Chinese whispers” start and can ruin many a person.
I near got caught up a few years back with so-called friends fishing for inside information on where I was worshipping, knowing fine-well I was no longer at the church. When I answered “nothing” they suddenly let slip they knew the answers anyway. Which they don’t, because no one has ever told them the truth. I just said “bye” and blocked and have never spoken since.
It’s way too dangerous for someone in my position and as much as I wish I could have a private Facebook again, who could I put in but family. Guess what – they have friends of a friend etc.
Even just knowing you are online throws up problems with What’s App and Facebook Messenger. In the end, I’d so many problems I have had no option but to delete all and stay clear.
If I dared go online this week to such, I bet I’d not get near Xmas day without abuse or someone trying to get information posing as “we miss you!”
They don’t and neither do I them.
Too easily used by abusers if you ask me.
Now Free (Formerly Struggling To Be Free), I wanted to applaud that precious poem. Amazing!
Barb, it’s amazing that you shared this:
Just this morning, before I read your post—-I was thinking about how Christ said He was hated for no reason.
I usually don’t share this, out of concern that it will be taken the wrong way. We tend to read the Word as if we are believers, which we are—-but I tried to take a step back from that verse for a moment.
Imagine this reaction to that verse for a moment:
I have often told the Lord, that if I am being hated because I was foolish or obnoxious—convict me of sin. Hopefully I can repent to the person or persons I have hurt.
But if I am being hated because I stood for His righteousness, bring on the hate. Not that I welcome it, but I will not apologize.
In fact, the Bible claims there is great reward in Heaven for those who are hated for “no reason” as He was (and still is). So bring on the contempt. Whatever is waiting for me in Heaven will more than make up for whatever I endured in my earthly life. And then I PRAY for endurance! Goodness, I need it! It is an awful feeling and experience to be despised, even if all the reasons why, are really “no reasons” at all.
Anyone and everyone who is choosing to stand for His righteousness this holiday season, and in general—-stand strong in Him. Stay bold, and stay fearless in Him. Ask Him for strength when you are wavering. Ask Him for endurance when you are faltering.
And remember that you don’t deserve to be hated. It may be understandable in the eyes of the people, but never is it justified in the eyes of the Lord.
I appreciate this post and all the comments.
The 1st link given, “I Don’t Do Cliche,” at PorchSwing Ministries, has this sentence in it:
(The author is referring to one Christmas which, for her own healing, she knew she had to spend completely alone with God. She also knew it would be misunderstood by well-meaning friends.)
Praying for the ACFJ family during this season.
Thank you, Gany T., for highlighting that phrase. I, too, read it when I first read the original post. Only for me, I’ve been living it pretty much every day since my walls crumbled just over one year ago.
The blessing has been incredibly profound and deep healing….and a complete acceptance of the profound damage done to me, though the complete acceptance took rather longer to attain. 🙂
And I, too, pray for the ACFJ family….not only during this season, but every day.
Thank you Gany T., it’s very encouraging that others here are thinking of us here. We are family and it helps to know when feeling so lonely.
What Jesus does with His statement is demonstrate that as important as His earthly relatives are to Him, they have no special claim on Him. Remember when His mother Mary tried to make Him do something at the wedding in Cana. Jesus made it clear although they were family, God’s will was paramount and would not be coerced into anything. He made it clear they would not be controlling Him. Christ takes as His closest family members any who trust in Him and show that trust by keeping His commandments.
Calvin comments that Jesus:
[May 6, 2022: We added the link to the page that contains the above quote by Calvin. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]
Consequently, Jesus is not more willing to listen to Mary, His mother, than He is to any other disciple. James and Joseph do not have an inside track to Christ that no one else shares. Jesus accepts all believers as equal members of His family.
For those without it – who cannot have contact with family this Christmas and are lonely – I hope this encourages you as much it does me. We are here for you.
I love it. Love how you used Jesus’ own words to point abuse survivors to doing likewise. As you point out, it is not always safe to be with family. Often that family was toxic, leading the abused to choose an abuser.
The stone manger was a hewn-out trough for feeding animals and the babe Jesus was wrapped in swaddling bands and therefore points clearly to the reason for His birth. The only person born to die and would be wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a fresh hewn-out tomb in a rock.
Swaddling bands were used so the child would not thrash about and hurt himself. It was in a sense to keep him in tight and cosy as a babe.
However, the dead Christ would not be contained by His grave-cloths and would rise after three days so that we would be protected from the punishment of sin by a holy God.
There’s symbolism all over the nativity that points to the reason why Christ came and for who. Also much to fulfil prophecy also from the OT which we find in Matthew’s gospel, he refers a lot to the fulfilling of the prophetic word.
No room at the inn was as many Jews had to travel to the home of their birth to be registered in the census. Otherwise Mary would most likely have had her baby in Nazareth, but to fulfil prophecy she must travel to the place of her lineage, the city of David. Indicating that Jesus was the true Messiah, Emmanuel – God with us as Isaiah prophesied. King of Kings the heavenly king would come in human form. I think what has been said already on that has been so encouraging to me. Despite our frailty He identified fully with us in every way yet knew no sin, but was to take our sin upon Himself and was to suffer and die as our substitute that we may be saved.
We can certainly rejoice with those first to visit the babe Jesus as Christ Jesus was going to be that perfect Passover lamb slain for us without blemish or spot. Is it any wonder we read that Mary pondered all these things in her heart. I believe from her knowledge as a Jewish mother she knew who the Messiah would be, but as most Jews believed that He would be a revolutionary bringing relief for the common man from tyrant governing oppressors. I can hear Mary’s mind ticking over as she wondered about all these things. She believed but only knew in part.
We, looking back however, can see the full picture of redemption and rejoice as we see the scriptures fulfilled for our salvation. Today though we only see our part as through a glass darkly as Paul says, but one day all will be revealed. We will know why we too went through and are going through many trials and these tough times. What an amazing day that is going to be.
I don’t go to church for many reasons I’ve stated before. At Christmas my family treat it as the one big special day when all Christians should at least go to church if possible i.e. no work commitments. Therefore, although no longer invited as they have given up asking, I’m made to feel as if I’m a backslider and away from God. Maybe I am by their standards. That will always be the case. Until I attend church again, as far as they are concerned I’m not really walking fully with God.
Therefore as someone put it in another post, it’s safer over Christmas and other times to have ‘low contact’ as opposed to ‘no contact’. It saves me hopefully saying something that is jumped upon and criticised as they are highly opinionated and seems the least thing sometimes can be turned on its head. I come away hurt and saddened, as if I stand up for myself it ruins their day, but in turn ruins mine.
To shun them completely when apart from this which may or may not arise, [they] are a good loving family. Just as we all have some flaws and for the most part they don’t fully understand where I am at. They would like to understand, but they will never as they won’t listen beyond their own thinking. Out of respect and the fact I’d deeply hurt my parents who on the whole are good people, I would never think of it unless I had some good reason to shun them as it would be wrong of me.
Surrounded by family, but alone very much in my heart.
Yesterday, while reading the comments that had come in on this thread, I started weeping and could not continue reading. The tears are okay, so please don’t anyone feel bad for what you have written here. You are my real Christian family; I feel closer to you than I do to the few Christians who I sometimes talk to here in Australia. I’m still recovering and learning from the traumatic series of events that happened to me fairly recently, some of which the regular readers of this blog know about. God is helping me, but you ACFJ commenters are helping me too in the words of lament, wisdom and encouragement that you share here. Today I’ve read all the comments that I didn’t read yesterday. Thank you, everyone. What beautiful poignant emotions and images and insights you are sharing. 🙂
It’s good to cry Barb, especially after all you have been through lately. My love and prayers are very much with you.
So blessed by all your input into my life. I have made many a blunder but you have never pointed the finger but encouraged and helped make sense of many things. I appreciate you and am loving the ACFJ family and comments here also.
For some of us, this is the only fellowship we have and I for one have had more out of the comments in the last few weeks than churchy stuff I’ve heard in ages.
Now Free, we are ‘practicing’ life every day. Coming out of the fog, we begin life anew, perhaps more like toddlers than adults. We’re learning to do life on our own, much of it for the first time.
Are we making more blunders than most people? Maybe, maybe not. The real difference lies in the scrutiny we face with each decision, each statement. Those who never loved us or wanted us to succeed are quick to point out their dislikes in us. They bully, lie, push back, undermine, strive to keep us in the limelight when it serves their purpose to downgrade us.
Every moment is trial and error. Our goal should be to mimic God’s approval of us. And with each moment that we inhale, exhale this eternal acceptance, a searing spark of hatred directed at us loses its heat.
When I open my computer to ACFJ, I step into a real world. I was almost [in my sixth decade] when I started reading and studying the posts. Never, ever in my entire life had I ever heard teachings that consistently made sense to me; having experienced Jesus from birth and abusers in and out of the church since age [very you child].
Now, at [past my sixth decade], looking back, ACFJ is sort of like my personal 2-way diary with a padlock.
Sure, close friends know of my journey, in pieces. Some have never abandoned me. Mostly there are few people who really care to have conversations about what I feel passionately about. I feel passionately about topics discussed right here.
ACFJ indirectly gives me courage to stand for what I know is right for me. I know that abusers have manipulated me and messed me [up] nearly to the core of my being. I know that my abusers were mostly wolves in sheep clothing because I have been steeped in Sunday School, church commitments, mission work, international Bible education, pastoral ministry, music ministry….
Life has been hard and confusing. I never had much of a backbone.
While I recommend ACFJ on an individual basis to women I encounter, I don’t tell family or close friends. It is my safe space, it is a refuge where for the first time in my life I give myself permission to think and decide for myself.
In a sense, Barbara, this is my family where I come to for so much that matters and can’t be found anywhere else. I love my ACFJ family, that includes all who share of their personal lives. We are all journeying together. I am so thankful, Barbara, that you have held firm to what you know to be truth. No matter how deeply you have been blindsided and betrayed, you have kept the door open for all of us to stop in and fellowship together. Thank you.
Seeing Clearly commented:
Yes and Amen.
Ditto ditto ditto exactly how I feel, Seeing Clearly.
So well put and completely agree especially that here we truly do step into the real world.
No one knows my full story only God. My family know a lot, but not the details for their protection and sanity. So I too know here are my real friends and my family. Ones who listen and understand and don’t interrupt with criticism and further abusive comments.
Without ACFJ and you all here I honestly would be going crazy. You lot keep me sane haha well as best as this guy can be. 🙂
The word “lament” has caught my eye in recent posts / comments. The intensity of emotional pain is felt more deeply at Christmas it seems. There grows a deeper longing for Jesus to be out of Mary’s womb and into our world. Perhaps I am sort of feeling Mary’s birthing pains, so to speak.
I step to the edge of lament and pause. I feel the need to immerse parts of me into the pool of lament. At the same time, I sense the grief woven in lament. There is a caring, cautious voice within that reminds me it is nearly impossible to simply stand in the ripples at the edge of the pool of lament. The lifelong ripple effect of severe childhood abuse set the trajectory for relationships I would choose in teen years, young adult, and later years. The continuing abuse drew me into religious circles that held my mind captive. The tapestry of my life holds so many dark gnarly colors of threads, yarns and ropes. Perhaps the weight of the tapestry, soaked in the pool would pull me under.
It’s five days ’til Christmas, I just walked, once again, out of a therapy session. So much reality pain, making sense of deep layers of self. They are precious parts that could not be touched until I was able to sense that I am standing on much safer ground, able to hold my own. Well-equipped enough so that I won’t lose my mind, facing the truth.
Lament, lament for the child Jesus who withstood every form of abuse.
Lament, lament for the ACFJ children who withstood more forms of abuse than any one of us could imagine.
Come, Jesus, come. We are kneeling at the manger, waiting for you to abide with us.
Seeing Clearly, your comment is beautiful! The image of the pool and the tapestry….thank you.
You have described the heart of a pain experienced by abuse so eloquently. I have this sense that you are a kind, tender-hearted person who is growing more and more beautiful inside, daily.
I am kneeling with you, Seeing Clearly, for hope in healing. Jesus sees and knows you.
Thank you, Karen.
Dear Barbara, and ACFJ friends,
Thank you so much for being the advocate that I need. I’ve been reading a lot of articles and comments. Through the revelation that I’m getting out of them, God is strengthening my inner self. Bless you all.
I am so touched by Seeing Clearly’s words:
This is what I have been experiencing the last couple of months. I feel like I am on more solid ground; and my arms are getting stronger; able to hold up that shield of faith that Jesus talks to me about.
Sometimes it felt so heavy that I can’t lift it up high enough, but lately it is becoming easier. Finding here, truth explained so well, has shifted a lot off my heart.
Four years and this season is still difficult for me. But I was so encouraged the other night, after tea, when my teen grandson said to me. “Nanna, can I help you with anything?” He took my bags and walked with me to the car, and said “I love you.”
That was an amazing blessing. And I loved him back for his gentle caring heart.
Yes, this makes healing possible and strength regained.
I am extremely happy for you, describing love expressed between you and your grandson. This is such a wonderful Christmas gift he gave to you and you returned to him. Our grandchildren can fill our love buckets. Caring for my grandchildren, born in the years just after my divorce, was a miracle. Rocking with them through afternoon naps really filled my love bucket, a gift from God and my [child].
I appreciate your sharing about your strengthening, it means you are working hard.
Feeling very alone. Merry Christmas to my ACFJ family. I hope in some way you feel God’s love for you today.
Now Free, I wish you a Blessed Christmas. Also, comfort for the next few days. It’s a mostly quiet day for me. Phones calls, perhaps.
It’s actually sort of a release of memories day from so much stress and confusion for many, many years. I will re-love myself when a memory surfaces.
Last night I pulled a Christmas / winter book off my shelf and am looking forward to reading an old book today. No one will be unkind to me today.
—what a beautiful sentence!
Now Free, you’ve been on my heart so much. Prayed for you yesterday and today.
I’ve been doing my best to read all the comments because I can see so much time and effort put into them. You all put so much heart into them as well.
Thank you, Seeing Clearly and Helovesme, it’s lovely to hear from you. I am glad you are having a good day.
It’s Boxing Day here now for me. I was busy yesterday doing family stuff etc. I appreciate you sharing this scripture, Now Free. I hope you felt God’s love somehow too. You certainly display God’s love to others. Praying for you here.
Wow! This article “When it’s not safe to dpend Christmas with family” really spoke to me! I chose to spend Christmas without family for this exact reason – thanks for sharing!
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Wow! Thank you for articulating what I couldn’t find words to say, and for seeing what many close their eyes to!