The Box

I recently was challenged to look back and consider the work of God in the life of His child. As a writer, I have a box filled with journals that go back more than 20 years. Those years were instrumental in my formation as a disciple of Christ. As I opened the box, I was concerned about what I might find. I don’t remember much—but I remember the places I’ve been and the things that have shaped my belief system and the attitudes (sin) that I held onto for so many years. Imagine the memories and the lessons contained in these book which are dated from 1994 all the way to the present. As I leafed through the pages, I was amazed to see the wealth of Scripture that was written on them. So many years, so much truth that God wanted to teach me. So many affirmations, convictions, fun facts and of course, so much pain. Broken relationships, death of loved ones, disappointment, betrayal, highs and lows spread out before me, and in a flash, I was experiencing all the emotions but without all the pain. It is true that there was still pain, but it was a different type of pain. The raw emotions have been tempered through the years and God has given me eyes to see His Hand at work drawing me closer to Himself and bringing good from the experiences.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV) “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Even as Joseph was able to look his brothers in the eyes and say this, I feel a similar faith raising up in me. Not that I have always followed God or done what was right. Somehow, even in the depth of my sin and anger, God called me to be His and promised to bring beauty from the ashes of a life that was filled with pain. He bid me to come and test Him—to see if what He offered was better than what I could conjure up on my own. His protection—His love—His truth was enough to bring me peace and a place to rest. I did not have to be on guard. My hyper-vigilance was not keeping me safe, but keeping me isolated. Unlike Joseph, I had put myself in prison and the lies I was believing kept me there.

Some journal entries through the years:

12-9-1994 Father God, I marvel that you picked me and chose me. I pray that you will reveal Your purpose and strengthen me that I may walk with you and in Your will. I pray that you will reveal my path and when I have stumbled cause me to examine my weaknesses and failings that your grace may abound in me. And this I pray, that my love may abound still more and more in all knowledge and discernment, that I may approve the things which are excellent and walk blamelessly before you. (Philippians 1:10) I thank you that you are in control. I thank you that you know all things and can see the outcome. What a mighty God we serve! You are out of time and therefore can work all things to your purpose.

6-30-1995 Thank you that I am not what I was—have mercy—I am not what I should be. Praise You—I am not what I will be! Help me to be who I am—to realize that I do not need to put on a front; You love me as I am and can use me as I am.

9-26-1995 The God of the mountain is the same God in the valley.

In 1996, I began to read “The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse” and started dealing with the effects abuse had on my life.

3-23-1996 Why not forget? Why hope toward a cure? “To forget your personal history is tantamount to trying to forget yourself and the journey that God has called you to live.” It is worthy to reclaim the parts of one’s soul that remain untilled and unproductive for bearing fruit.

Hosea 10:12 (NIV) “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” As farmers we use all the land available to benefit the operation. We are always striving to be more efficient, more productive, to make the most of everything. Does God want less in my life? God demands the same: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.

“To deny the past is to deny God…Only by working through the defenses I built can I allow God to remove them and use them to glorify His name.”

At some point, I quit dating the entries but continued to work my way through the book and the abuse I had suffered.

I have spent the last twenty years minimizing the damage and degree of abuse. The abuse did constitute a major event in my life and produced damage—to my soul and person. I have always lived a double life—the reality and the hoped for –fantasy—life.

If I try to forget, it is futile. I will only remember more or lash out at other things. I have always been extremely critical. I do have a hard, inflexible exterior—I WILL NOT OPEN MYSELF TO ABUSE AGAIN! Yet, in doing this, I am only perpetuating the abuse and increasing the pain. I am subjecting myself to loneliness. My soul was made for fellowship—and my soul cries out for it! If I don’t allow the relationships, I am empty.

A godly response to abuse is to grieve—for the perpetrator’s sin and the damage to our soul. If I fail to rely on God to fill that empty place in my heart—that wounded part—I will never be filled.

I am realizing how much contempt I have. I am seeing many behaviors that I have adapted to cope with the abuse. As a result, I am earnestly trying to recognize and change these sinful actions and become a different person. I feel less critical, less angry, more compassion toward others. I can see where my behavior has harmed others. Repentance—an internal change that will bring about the clarity, desire and energy to make external changes in behavior.

A refusal to be dead. Deadness is the choice to rob others of our God-given humanness and the choice to deny God the opportunity to touch our lives deeply and to use us fully. The refusal to be dead is a choice to admit and embrace our existence. (This choice) will free my soul to face sadness, grief and sorrow and, ultimately, joy.

Sadness opens the heart to what was meant to be and is not,

Grief opens the heart to what was not meant to be and is.

Sorrow breaks the heart as it exposes the damage done to others.

As I stepped back into time and made an effort to identify the abuse, I wrote about the day I chose to shut down my emotions:

The detachment came quickly and never left. From that point on, I quit caring. I allowed no one to get to know the real me—after all Jackie is abomination. So, I created a different Jackie. One who changed to match her environment. I had nothing left intact, therefore I felt I had nothing to lose.

My tears fall as I realize the depth of the pain and the extreme response to that pain. The young girl who chose deadness and lived so many years trapped in a cocoon of my own making. The entries go back and forth—some filled with anger, others pain, others questioning, many crying for grace, mercy, understanding, compassion and relief.

God, through your grace grant me wisdom. Cause me to concentrate on what you will for me. I ask for your grace to work in me today. Grace to come to repentance that causes an internal shifting and works its way externally.

I will never be able to fully relax in another’s care without at least a hint of suspiciousness and discomfort and anxiety. Suspiciousness and paranoia will exist as long as my sin nature exists.

6-24-96 Who is Jackie? What does Jackie feel, think, want? What if? What are my dreams—am I supposed to have dreams? Can I dream am I so afraid of disappointment that I refuse to dream? What does God want me to do? What do I want to do? Do I believe what Diane was saying? Can I accept it? What if I do? It will mean a total lifestyle change—will it be healthy? Is it healthy now? So many questions, so much to absorb, think about – ponder.

Through the years, I have gone back and read the journal that I kept while I was working through the process of restoration. What a blessing to know that change is possible—and God is faithful.

8-28-1997 There is joy in the journey. God has worked mightily. The lessons, the revelations, the compassion, all these and more bring joy. The signs of life—to be alive and vulnerable, to have a heart of flesh instead of stone. God is truly gracious and loving.

2-3-2001 Again, I weep as I read these pages, the grief, the sorrow the pain—again I mourn and come undone. I realize the greatness of my sin and the depth of sins I committed. Again, I confess my need for a Savior. Once again I thank You, once again I love You, once again I fall on my knees.

6-24-2011 Crying again—sadness over the truth that trust is damaged—life was forever changed but I know that everyone experiences betrayal and it is a way that God calls us to share in His suffering. I need to learn to trust God to take care of me and to love others…

Today, after digging out that box, opening the lid and diving in, I am amazed at the work that God has done, is doing and will continue to do until I am once more safe at home in His arms.

3-1-2017 Crying again—will it ever stop hurting? As I ponder the many years of God’s grace at work in my life, my tears turn from sadness to amazement to awe. Behold, I am making all things new. What an amazing journey it has been!