My Companion on my Time-Traveling Train

My Companion on my Time-Traveling Train

Please note:  This material may be triggering for some with histories of trauma or abuse. I am more detailed in this piece than I am in most of my pieces.  Please take care of yourself and only read it if you are in a stable place with ample support. 

I watched a child this morning, as if from a train window. A time-traveling train. I had a tour guide and a Faithful Companion along for the ride. As I looked out the window, I saw a little girl:

The sun is getting ready to set, and dusk settles over the little dead-end neighborhood street. She puts down the Barbies and says goodnight to her friends, climbs their basement stairs, and heads out their front door. She didn’t realize that it was so late. Her mother is worried sick, and it is her fault. Darkness encroaches upon her as she marches the quarter mile home, and with a shudder, she sees her mother at the top of the driveway. As the features of her mother’s grief-stricken face come into view, the child feels as if a bowling ball has been dropped into the pit of her stomach. She sprints as fast as her five-year-old legs can carry her to her mother who seems to be overflowing with equal measures of rage and desperation. Her mother reprimands her in the public of her neighborhood community, but the consequences that lurk behind closed doors remain dreadfully looming, as she grovels behind her mother into the “safety” of her house.  The child must pay, and she knows that darkness awaits. Terror grips her heart and her body as they prepare for bath time. She can’t stop crying. Her mother can’t stop crying. “I thought I had lost you,” her mother keeps repeating as she runs the bathwater. The little girl sobs. She has so much power, and she doesn’t want that kind of power. She is just a child. As the bathtub fills up, a switch is flipped in her mother’s brain, and the monster emerges. As her own power vanishes, the child surrenders to the monster. She submits to the punishment as monster-hands hold her head and face under the water. She waits for darkness to enfold her as the monster hands refuse to let up. Lungs burning for air, she succumbs to the need, and water floods her nose and mouth. As the lights fade out, she feels sensations that she assumes accompany the process of dying. The mother-monster of Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde is her daily experience, but she only allows for conscious awareness of the overly attached, doting mother. The darker side lurks in the shadows of her experience, nagging, haunting, chasing her down every dead-end street. She feels the “not-right-ness” of their relationship. She feels the ambivalence that seems to emanate from a mother that she is desperate to please, out of dependence as well as terror. That, however, is the extent of the awareness that she has of the dark places that her mother takes her in her twists of character. Because she doesn’t have a clear picture of her mother’s illness, she assumes that she is evil, broken, and needs to be eliminated.

From the window of my train, I saw the root of self-hate, shame, and fear in that child. I saw her mother behaving like a monster, and as a mother, I despised the abuse. I raged with fury and indignation. I watched Jesus help the child hold her breath as she was being nearly drowned, and I watched Jesus firmly jerk the psychotic mother back into reality, allowing the child a chance to survive. I saw that Jesus loved this child  and wept with her horrific circumstances and loved the mother enough to not abandon her in her destructive illness.

My Faithful Companion sat beside me in the time-traveling train as I looked out the window at five-year-old me and my mother of whom I have so much fear. As He showed me Himself in the scenario, He revealed His power, love, and goodness. As the train came back to the station, and we stepped off into 2016, He said, “My child, I am redeeming you. I never abandoned you. And it is okay that you stepped away from your mother. I have not abandoned her either. You never have to feel like you have to take care of her again. Rest in me. Let me handle her. I love both of you.”

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you walk through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you… (Isaiah 43:1-2, NASB)

When Canaan isn’t Quite Enough

When Canaan isn’t Quite Enough

I am starting a study on Gideon by the brilliant Priscilla Shirer. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, digging into the book of Judges. I mean, really, who gets super pumped to read about Israel and the judges of the Old Testament? Not me. God, however, made it very clear that this was the study for our mom’s group to delve into this fall. One day into it, I have a crystal clear answer as to why this is the study for me right now.

I just have one word: WOW.

Here’s the deal with Israel: God called them to Canaan, the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. He orchestrated miracle after miracle getting them to their destination. They made it, after a heck of a long time and some crazy awesome unforgettable works of God. Joshua followed God, leading Israel in conquests that landed them smack in the middle of paradise. There was no possible way that Israel did this on her own. In Deuteronomy 7, God commands his people not to make treaties, marry, or connect in any way with the former inhabitants of Canaan. God says to destroy all of the former altars and worship practices of the former people groups because they know this to be truth: “God, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon (Deut. 7:10)”. But they didn’t remember what God did to get them to the promised land. Or possibly, they remembered but didn’t trust God to finish His work.

Their weaponry was not nearly as advanced as the nations that already inhabited Canaan. They were able to fight in the hill-country, but they felt that they could never go against those iron chariots on the plains of the flat lands. God had brought them to Canaan. That was awesome. Good enough, right. Why upset the balance that was already established, however delicately? Why not acknowledge that their “favor from God” might run out? Surely the miracles could only last so long. (They may have not been thinking this, but I certainly might have had these cognitions.) So they set up camp alongside the people that God had called them to obliterate because, let’s face it, they were afraid. They forgot what God had done, or at least they didn’t want to risk the chance of not receiving the next promised miracles only to perish after coming so far.

I get it. Oh my gosh, I get it. I have come so far. I wandered way too long after being in bondage for my own 400 years in my own Egypt. God brought me to my Canaan, my land flowing with milk and honey.   He performed miracle after miracle in order to get me here, to the safety and abundance of this paradise.   And He called me to demolish all of the strongholds. But I don’t know whether I forget His miracles, or if I don’t trust Him to continue performing the miraculous, or if I doubt His call, but I strive to maintain this tenuous balance here in my own paradise. I am just like the Israelites. I am terrified to lose what I have gained, so I set up negotiations with the enemies. I guess that I really do forget that the God who got me this far is the same God who calls me into deeper freedom.

The balance that I am striving to maintain is only an illusion, and He is not the author of that balance. I am healthier than I have ever been before. I have a wonderful husband, beautiful children, sweet friends, and an unfolding calling. I teeter, however, on what appears to me to be the precipice of disaster. If I venture too deeply into trauma work or begin to acknowledge the true brokenness and pain of my past, I might careen into a deep depression that could destroy everything and everyone that I love. If I relax too much on food and actually entirely trust my treatment team with my meal plan, my body might become unbearably uncomfortable and uninhabitable for me, and I might never be able to go out in public or bear the burden of my physicality for the rest of my life.   If I really start writing and singing and putting myself out there, I might face rejection, or worse yet, hurting someone in my past who has the ability to knock me entirely off of my rocker and send me to some psych hospital, unable to care for the children whom are now entrusted to my care. But this is all based in fear, and it is not in line with God’s promise to me or with His calling.

The consequences for Israel’s compromise included divided and incomplete worship, because they were also worshipping the idols of the other nations, and also military and physical vulnerability because they remained a fragile nation. This was not God’s best for them. They were certainly better off than they were in Egypt, but they were nowhere near the place where God had called them. They stopped short because of fear and complacency. At this juncture, I have stopped short as well. My consequences are similar to Israel’s. My worship is divided and ambivalent because I have been unwilling to confront the very literal demons of my past. In my unwillingness to face the ritual abuse of a deeply spiritual nature, I harbor a deep distrust for all things Christian and spiritual. This is obviously problematic if God is calling me to Christian ministry. In addition, I am physically vulnerable because I am unwilling to trust God to carry me to fullness in healing from the eating disorder. You cannot maintain rigid rules around food and weight and fully recover from an eating disorder, even if your current weight falls within the acceptable range.

I have allowed myself to disregard the miracles that God gracefully and mercifully has performed to carry me to the promised land. They are very real. He dried the sea for the Israelites to cross over on dry land. He carried me safely through multiple suicide attempts. He sent manna from heaven when the Israelites where starving in the wilderness. He planted life within my dead womb, dried up from years of anorexia, and He gave me two beautiful, healthy children. He has more and greater miracles to birth out of my life through His divine Spirit, and I will cooperate in surrendering the strongholds so that my “good enough” Canaan can become complete and total abundance.