20

September

Finding Freedom

Many years ago I attended a women’s conference put on by Linda Pender, called Passport to Freedom.  It was a local conference with many churches represented and I knew or was in relationship with many women who were in attendance.  At the end of Linda’s teaching session, she gave an invitation for prayer and she said, “I would like to invite all women who have been sexually abused in this room to stand.  Many stood, and she repeated the invitation.  A few more responded and stood.  My heart was absolutely pounding in my chest but my body was glued to the seat.

There was no way I was going to stand up in front of all my friends and own the fact that I had been abused for a number of years as a child.  There was no way I was going to wear that label.  I wanted to keep the façade that I had it all together and I worked very hard to mask the truth through many means one being perfectionism.  But beneath the surface of my life was powerlessness, anger which often turned to rage and a deep seated fear of emotional pain.  A spirit of fear also controlled me for many years of my life. The invitation came to stand for the last time.  She said there is another woman here that needs to be standing. I knew it was me and I stood and for the first time owned my pain.  My journey into healing and authenticity began that day with that big step out of “denial.”

There are many forms of denial but you will have to come to Freedom Session to learn what they are.   A simple definition of “denial” is a rejection of/or unwillingness to believe the truth about whatever.  God caused me to take a long and painful look at the truth.  The scripture says:   You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  Jesus Christ and Christianity is all about living in truth.  The problem is we don’t want to face the truth because we are afraid of the pain.  Basically denial keeps us from facing the pain.  So we erect shields around our hearts to protect ourselves.  If I work hard enough… If I look good enough… or I became very busy for God… serving, doing.  But these shields cause us to hurt others and keep God out.  I realized as I embraced this healing journey God was trying to reach me through the pain of an abusive past.

Pain is God’s way of telling us something is wrong and needs to be dealt with.  But what do we do?  We stuff it, minimize it or numb it out with our “drugs of choice.”  We are not just talking about drugs and alcohol.  Consider what you run to escape pain or avoid conflict.  TV, food, work, blaming, performance, avoidance, pornography, people pleasing, perfectionism, social media, our hobbies, rescuing, ministry… and the list goes on and on.  Pain is God’s megaphone to us.  He wants us to feel the pain so we will recognize something is wrong and deal with it so we can be free in our relationship with God and others.

Shame was also a huge factor in my inability to be honest about who I was and the pain I had suffered and was still suffering.  Dr. Allender describes shame as being a “hemorrhage of the soul.  Shame produces a pressure to perform and an intense desire not to fail.”  Shame also causes us to hide from others and God.  What if I admit it.  Then what I fear must be true and the dark secret is out.  So we hide in denial… afraid of rejection.

Then there is the issue of trust.  When trust is broken in the foundational years it affects our ability to hold our heart open to God and others.  Something deep inside us reacts to deception and betrayal and it inevitably deepens hatred for ourselves.  It also distorts our view of a loving God.  Simply put “abuse provides the raw data that seems to prove that God is not good.”

Through pain we develop a hunger for change.  We change when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.  Change is always a process but we rarely take the time to look deeply into our heart.

Proverbs 4:23 says Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.  Most of us don’t know how to guard it.  I know I didn’t.  That’s what we are doing at Freedom Session.  We are taking 30 weeks to look deeply into our heart and deal with the things in our past that keep us stuck in the present.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t erase the past.  God heals the pain and erases the guilt and condemnation but He allows the weaknesses and scars to remain so that we will seek Him and desperately realize our need for a Saviour.  He will use your weakness to draw you closer to Him and bring beauty out of ashes… that He might be glorified.

 

-Leigh-ann Harris

Freedom Session Director