Fear Fails To Show

As a child, I loved going to Karen’s house and playing with her daughter Susie. Karen had a quick laugh; provided fun, kid-approved snacks; and allowed us to play outside with Susie until the street lights came on. I loved going to grandma’s house because I knew I could play with Susie .

Three decades later, my heart skipped a beat when I saw Karen and Susie at a local craft show. The place was noisy and crowded and full of unnecessary stuff, but there she was! Before I thought, I reached out, took her arm, looked her square in the face, and squealed, “Karen! It’s me!”

Rewind the clock ten years, and I would have broken into a sweat, started seeing tunnel-vision, and gasped for air if I had even thought she saw me, let alone if she she had spoken to me. I’m talking a full-on anxiety attack, post-traumatic-stress style.

Ten years ago my father was incarcerated for two felony charges of sexual violence against a minor. Due to the timing of the offense and the law changes, he was issued a range of two consecutive sentences, totaling 15 to 50 years. My father was sentenced on his father’s birthday, which was five days into my honeymoon.

Talk about timing! But I digress, that’s another blog post.

You see, ten years ago, I was a newlywed who was finishing her second year in a new career as a teacher. I had stress coming from every direction. A simple run to the local Kroger was a trigger for a panic attack. I was terrified to meet anyone who knew my father, who knew my family, or who was my family.

Even though my father had penned a rather detailed and disturbing confession letter, he still continues to argue he was coerced into writing those haunting words.

Many in my town, in my family, believe his innocence.

So bumping into Karen and initiating conversation with her reflects a significant growth point in me. I didn’t break into a sweat, my heart rate didn’t spike, and–for the first time ever–I had forgotten about the fear of my dad being brought up in conversation.

And then she said it.

“So how’s your dad?”

Wow.

Didn’t see that one coming. Fear was no where to be found, just surprise.

“Well, you do know that he’s in prison, right?”

“Oh, well, I would have thought he was out by now.”

“Oh, no. He doesn’t go up for parole until the end of 2014.”

“Well, then, tell him I said ‘hi,'” Karen beamed, leaning forward to seal with a cheeky smile.

“I’m not really in touch with him,” I said, exhaling slowly, deliberately…awaiting her reply.

Pulling back, almost as if I wasn’t really the person she thought I was, but rather a stranger, Karen closed the conversation with, “What a weird world we live in.”

To be honest, I didn’t give much heed to her words at the time because I was so thrilled that my body didn’t nearly stroke out from my blood pressure surging out of control.

Karen’s words felt accusatory once I reflected upon them, and they stirred up that belly-fire in me that makes me want to shout, to be heard: “Stop the madness!”

A weird world it is in which we live when the abused is shunned, isolated, cut off, discounted, marginalized, discarded, and viewed as worthless.

As refined and affluent Americans, it makes us squirm to talk about incest, rape, molestation, and any other form of sexual violence. These topics are instant conversation stoppers.

Ironically, the Bible is stocked with passages that address sexual violence, condemn its practice, and details God’s heart on the matter.

Jesus loved the children who ran to him and sat upon his knee. He spoke protective words over them, about them, to us that included a harsh judgment for maltreatment of a little one (Matt. 18.5-6).

“Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back. If you say, ‘See, we did not know this,’ does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul?” (Prov. 24.11-2).

In all fairness to Karen, we were never intimate in our relationship. I enjoyed her hospitality and her snacks and the quiet home she allowed us to play in with her daughter Susie, but she never knew me. In fact, I never knew her.

I think it’s safe to say she heard my dad’s story second-hand, assumed I supported his claim of innocence, and was just attempting polite conversation.

But tonight, as I struggle to put words with thought, I rejoice. What once had caused debilitating fear and anxiety and dread, no longer causes great angst. Healing remains necessary in some parts of my heart, as evidenced by the anger that boiled up while thinking on Karen’s words, but God is causing healing and growth in my heart. Fear no longer dominates my every waking thought when I go out in public.

For that, I am thankful.

Today, I’m accepting the dare to give thanks and to rejoice in the healing that God has done in my heart.

What’s your next step?
In what ways can you give thanks to the Lord for healing and growth, as evidenced in your every day? What triggers do you have that still cause fear, shame, or powerlessness? Consider sharing your victories with a like-minded friend who could celebrate with you.

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8 responses to “Fear Fails To Show

  1. I have had 2 family members go to prison for similar things – with similar claims. I have had to choose silence in many conversations. Thankfully I lived out of town with both situations but even as the years pass I sometimes have to just not speak. Forgiveness is a funny thing … just when you think that God has fully done His work within you, there’s that little piece that creeps from the pit of your stomach. Makes me thankful for that the Word says that He was, He is now, He is continual, He is to come.

    • Thanks for sharing part of your story here. Yes, there have been times that I wished the Lord allowed me to move out of town, but he has me here. And I’m with ya! He is, was, and is to come! Praise His holy name! Even this is worthy of redemptive and holy value as I give Him full reign. Thanks for participating in the conversation. πŸ™‚

  2. Celebrating with you! πŸ™‚

  3. Growing up spiritually.

    Thanks for the reminder that forgiveness from the heart isn’t a one-time quick fix but rather a decision with a lot of follow-through required if you really intend to mean it. In another post, you refer to the decision to forgive as the “I do” on the wedding day that must be followed up with daily (sometimes several times per day) recommitments to really make a marriage work. Thanks for the analogy. I get down on myself sometimes because I am still affected by hurtful things that have happened in my life. I am most definitely getting over them, but it’s a PROCESS of surrendering to God, giving up control, giving up pride, allowing God to be my source and my rock instead of people… all of the usual things that becoming a healthy disciple of Christ entails… Patience with myself and acceptance of my imperfect humanity definitely ought to be a theme for me in 2014. πŸ™‚ Thanks again, and happy New Year!

    • To God be the glory! It thrills me time and time again how something so ugly is now being refined into useful thoughts, coming alongside others in their healing journey. To me, our speaking up and engaging in honest dialogue allows me to be a little more patient with myself–and others, if I’m honest–and accept those limitations of my own person-hood. πŸ˜€ Blessings, and Happy New Year!

  4. I am also a victim of early childhood abuse. After my abuser left my home, the person I was left with continued to abuse me and replaced the other person with yet another abuser. I never told anyone what I went through and my friends all thought I had a great upbringing and was very lucky because of the persona presented. I was a good little girl and smiled when told to and lied about why I didn’t always want to go home. Today, I find that I am furious when people ask me how my abusers are or have been, or remind me how jealous they were of me or how happy I seemed. I want to scream at them. When my family tells me I didn’t have it so bad, or refuses to admit that anything happened I just shut down again. Even worse, at home with my husband and kids I continue to be closed off. Hugging and kissing aren’t always options. I can’t tell them why. Your post gives me hope that the healing is never over and one day I’ll find myself doing something that wouldn’t have been possible before. Thank you.

    • Growing up spiritually.

      Hi Tricia! Your story is so heartbreaking! I hate all the stupid masks we learn to wear when we grow up with dysfunction/ abuse! I truly haven’t been through anything as tough as what you’re describing, but I had to deal with a lot of abandonment and loneliness in my childhood due to my parents’ breakup and several other factors, and what I’m finding in my adult life is that I shut down and shut people out to “protect” myself. I also felt for years like I had to cover for my parents’ poor choices, so I presented such a “wonderful” image to the world that I really lost touch with the real me. Lol, it doesn’t really help to keep my true self away from relationship with healthy people though.– It just prolongs the hurt! That said, I soooo badly want my husband’s and others’ support, approval, and validation on every little thing, but it’s just unrealistic that I will always be handled with kid gloves, you know? I’m having to start approving of myself and backing my own decisions with the Word of God, to realize that my own “OK” has worth and that my feelings and opinions truly do matter. And this is painful: I have to give myself the space and grace to be wrong sometimes and to not have all the answers, which feels so scary!!! But thankfully, God has all the answers I will ever need, so even when I personally don’t have the solution I want, I have HIM, and that’s way more important! I love the books Approval Addiction by Joyce Meyer and Boundaries by Drs. Townsend and Cloud. Also, the Bait of Satan by John Bevere has been key in helping me learn how not to take an offense and to let go of people’s insensitivity, which it sounds like you’ve had your fair share of. I wish you much success, patience, and heart strength in your recovery! I guess I just wrote all this to say, “Hey sis, I can relate! God bless you!”

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