A letter (with thanks to M.R.)

Image: Ulrike Mai, Pixabay

Trigger alert
Today’s blog is about emotional abuse, and its consequences.

Introduction
The following quotation sets the scene, though its relevance might not be clear until you have read the whole article:

Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the places where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved panelling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).

An open letter to my mother
Mother, despite claiming to love me, you established control over me from my early childhood onwards. You did this through scorn, criticism, bullying, condemnation, rage, and bouts of violent destructiveness. These behaviours made me fear you deeply. I lived in dread of your next outburst.

You continued to maintain control over me during my teenage years and adulthood, too, using intrusion, disapproval, and anger when I dared to express personal feelings, thoughts or beliefs you didn’t agree with. Similarly, you reacted with fury and threats of coercion if I tried to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my life. When I made mistakes, or got things wrong, you never forgave me, or forgot it. All this made me dread seeing you and spending time with you. I particularly hated the sound of your voice, and loathed you touching me, but was afraid to stand up to you, or to say “no”.

Your ways of controlling me have had severe, pervasive, long-term consequences for my mental health, in the form of low self-esteem, anxiety, dread, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I have also had to cope with a constant sense of not wanting to be alive, with chronic depression, and with episodes of acute depression. Furthermore, one question has always preyed on my mind:

How could you say you loved me, yet behave as you did towards me?

It didn’t make sense. I just couldn’t square what you said with what I experienced.

Then, on the 24th of May, 2020, a friend sent me a message she had seen on a Facebook site about domestic abuse. It read:

It’s not CONSENT if you make me afraid to say no.

I stared at these words, instantly electrified by their brevity, clarity and profound truth. Within seconds my brain came up with a personal variation:

It’s not LOVE if you make me afraid to say no.

Deeply stirred by this insight, further phrases began tumbling out of my unconscious mind. Here are just a few examples:

It’s not love if you make me afraid to disagree.

It’s not love if you criticise me all the time.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to be myself.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to choose for myself.

It’s not love if you belittle my achievements.

It’s not love if you only approve of me when I behave like you.

At last, in my late sixties, my friend’s message had given me the answer to my question: your behaviour towards me shows clearly that you did not, in fact, love me in any meaningful way at all.

This shocking realisation made me consider what kinds of behaviour do, in fact, reflect and express genuine love. Here are the best answers I’ve found so far:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NLT).

It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5; NIV).

I know that none of us is perfect, mother, but when I confronted you, you could at least have admitted what you did to me, and said you were sorry. Over the years, I managed to raise the subject of your behaviour with you several times, always at huge personal cost. However, you never responded with genuine understanding or honesty, instead always trying to justify, minimise, or deny what you had done.

For many years now, I have worked hard to forgive you. Sometimes I even think I’ve succeeded. Fortunately, God understands, and accepts, the intense anger and bitterness that can still occasionally emerge from my mind, heart and soul. Slowly, gently, he gives me the insights I need in order to be healed, for which I am profoundly thankful.

Ruth.


References

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).

I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:27; NIV).

Thank you

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised
(Job 1:21; NIV).

1. Thank you, Lord,
For everything you give me.

2. May I grow
Through everything you send,

3. Learning from your gifts,
Both “good” and “bad”, Lord,

4. And always grateful,
Till I reach life’s end.


References

1. No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven (John 3:27; NLT).

2. When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow (James 1:3; NLT).

3. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

4. Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:29; RSV).

Be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NLT).

Bad dreams

Image: vicart26, Pixabay

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain
(Revelation 21:4; NLT).

1. May bad dreams fade, Lord,
Leaving only night,
And darkness lessen,
Giving way to light.

2. May anger wane, Lord,
Leaving only grace,
And doubts diminish,
Giving way to faith.

3. May sorrow end, Lord,
Leaving only calm,
And worries scatter,
Giving way to balm.

4. May evil cease, Lord,
Leaving only good,
And hatred vanish,
Giving way to love.

To sit alone

Image: Free-Photos, Pixabay

1. To sit alone
With you
Is to be one, Lord.

2. To walk with you
In darkness
Is to see.

3. To live with you
In silence
Is to pray, Lord.

4. To rest with you
In stillness
Is to be.


References

1. Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray (Mark 1:35; NLT).

When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private (Matthew 6:6; NLT).

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

2. If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God (Isaiah 50:10; NLT).

You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light (2 Samuel 22:29; NLT).

To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you (Psalm 139:12; NLT).

3. Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely (Psalm 139:4; NIV).

I know everything that comes into your minds (Ezekiel 11:5; NLT).

He knows the secrets of every heart (Psalm 44:21; NLT).

4. Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10; NIV).

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1; NLT).

Breakdown


We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him

(Romans 8:28; NIV).

1. Every breakdown
Is a breakthrough
When I face it, Lord,
With you.

2. Every illness
Is a blessing –
Lord, your saints show
This is true.

3. Every struggle
Is a call
To follow you
Along life’s way –

4. To change and grow,
So I may serve
In all I feel, think, do,
And say.


References

1. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NLT).

2. When I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10; NLT).

3. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21; NIV).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

4. If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23; NLT).

Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17; NLT).

Nothing

Image: young ho seo, Pixabay

No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven
(John 3:27; NLT).

Lord,

1. There’s nothing I can do
To earn the love you give each day,
Nothing I can do
To win your help along the way;

2. There’s nothing I can do
To grasp the joys you want to share,
Nothing I can do
To gain your peace in all I bear;

3. There’s nothing I can do
To make the sunlight you supply,
Nothing I can do
To find your truth before I die;

4. There’s nothing I can do
To be at one with you today,
Nothing, Lord, at all –
Except believe in you, and pray!


References

1. You are trying to earn favour with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. I fear for you (Galatians 4:10-11; NLT).

2. May God, who gives us his peace, be with you all (Romans 15:33; NLT).

3. He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good (Matthew 5:45; NLT).

4. What is impossible for people is possible with God (Luke 18:27; NLT).

This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29; NLT).

Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

Pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Firestorm

God is great (Psalm 70:4; NLT).

1. God is great:
His firestorm
Consumes our hatred, rage, and scorn.

2. God is strong:
His blinding light
Dazzles our weak, human sight.

3. God is good:
His perfect peace
Brings us joy that will not cease.

4. God is wise:
His sacred truth
Kindles insight from our youth.

5. God is kind:
His endless love
Flows from heaven, in Christ’s blood.

6. God is close:
His still, small voice
Helps us with each painful choice.

7. God is here:
His gentle breath
Sustains us all from birth to death.


References

1. God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; NIV). 

2. God is light (1 John 1:5; NIV).


3. The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT).

4. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

5. God is love (1 John 4:16; NIV).

6. Call on him now while he is near (Isaiah 55:6; NLT).

7. God is with us (Matthew 1:23; NLT).