No. 8 – Thy Will be Undone
One of the primary messages you receive growing up in a religious and southern culture, is that being saved means that in the end, your dependence on God is the primary security of every human matter. There is safety in knowing that if you are afraid, God is there. If you are worried, you can cast your worries on God. If you sin, once you repent, God is ready to embrace you.
I often viewed God as the long haired, bearded majestic like figure in the white flowing robe. God is a good God when I am good, and a bad God when I am bad. I believed my actions dictated God’s ability to see me…all of me. There is much to be desired about the awareness that as humans, I believe we can’t touch the realities of God. Even with our greatest attempts to pull from our most sacred and vulnerable parts, and offer those to God, our humanity is simple enough to know something profound has happened, but can’t know the eternal power of what was done. I believe it is far more intricate. Far more loving. Far more powerful, than we know.
But, what about those kids who believe they can disappoint God? There are millions of us. We had tender hearts, molded by who we are to invite in to those hearts. We were told “You hurt Gods heart” when we made decisions that children make. We learned that God can forgive us, but only if we say we are sorry in the truest form of repentance. We were always taught to ignore much of what made sense to our humanity, our heart, our body… and continue to pray “Thy will be done.”
She was a neighbor. I was six. She was older than me. She was known for her rebellion. Everyone knew she was trouble. Her home was a revolving door of new stepdads. I was never afraid of her. As a kid I saw her need to connect to a world where she felt lost. I felt lost too. She was poor. She smoked. She was friends with all the other teens, but people much older than her too. She did not believe in God. There was no hope for her soul.
She was part of my daily life. She was close to one of my siblings. She had a story. To this day, I can articulate much about her, and the impact she had on me. I often wonder, if she could ever do the same. Could she recognize little six year old Nate? Could she recall his presence in her life. Would she wonder what came of him? Would she remember the sexual abuse she scarred him with? Would she say she was sorry? Would she know it rearranged his life forever. Thy will be done.
Her regular routine with our meetings were in a gardening shed at another neighbors home, with an overgrown alley beside it. She could smoke in there, and while instructing me where to place my hands on her, she would flick her ashes on me. I was a human ashtray, falling to despair of what I mirrored to the world, to be treated with this course of cruelty. I did not see cruelty at the time. I did not see what she was doing as wrong. She had an intent. A story. I was weak. I was pitiful. I was the one who did not belong in my family. The family she knew. Thy will be done.
Our meetings went a few rounds, and dissolved. Years went by with silence. Not a word spoken from her. We moved. We moved far enough to know I would never see her again. Years later, in passing, a family member of mine mentioned her and said “I think she did stuff to Nate too.” She was referencing that this girl had been sexually abused by her stepfather. She was referencing my sexual abuse as data. No one asked me anything. No one asked if it were true. It was spoken of in front of me, and dismissed as factual, and irrelevant. I believed it was part of normalcy, since it had been done to her. Thy will be done.
Pleasing God continued to bring me relief when I felt human and needed to feel exceptional. I would somehow escape the nasty secrets I had, and find God. I would repent as often as possible. I did not know how to repent over the feelings I had over what took place in my past life in the smoky shed, but I was willing. I would repent to make it go away, and somehow I defaulted to knowing the shame I felt, was because of my participation. The shame I felt ruled most of every decision I made, and the lens that I viewed my worth. What kind of kid participates in such gross acts? What was it about me, that brought that out in her? How do I release this shame? I find God. I repent. I throw myself at God’s feet, begging for mercy. Thy will be done.
In one of my first EMDR sessions, we finished a round of eye movements. The therapist asks how you are doing as you follow his fingers back and forth, reviving the memory, in order to address it from current day. Navigating the pathway to the days and memories in the shed, were difficult. There were many messages that as a grown man, I felt were crushing my sense of masculinity: “This would not have affected someone else this bad.” “Are you sure that is what happened?” “Are you exaggerating this to avoid other stuff you have done wrong?” We slowly, gracefully approached the memories to her touch, and the betrayal of safe places. We moved in to the memory, and much like many other moments in EMDR, the adult rescues the child. The adult puts words around the pain. The adult tells the child that this was never meant for them to carry. The adult gives the child freedom, to be that child again. The adult is active in his fight. The child releases. The child feels rescued. Thy will be done.
The confusion between a good God who loves me and a brain and body that had trauma was as conflicting as the devil saying the sinners prayer. To trust God’s will, and be stuck in obedience to a God who you believe has somehow instructed your pain in order to have their will be done is a life sentence of misery. Sexual abuse rearranges the way the body processes touch, intimacy and affection. The very moment a child’s body is assaulted by a perpetrator, the life they have known with innocence in tact, is gone. That one moment, rearranges a child soul, with the astoundingly difficult roadmap to find reconciliation. Undoing sexual trauma is intricate. It is detailed. It is profound. It is necessary. Thy will be done.
EMDR: It sometimes takes hours. It sometimes takes minutes. But, when it is time, our little soul will release the messages to us, that is the roadmap to the healing needed. My wonderful six year old self did. He let me come get him. He let me take him out of the smoky shed. He allowed me to say “I am so sorry for not taking you out of this sooner.” He felt safe with me. I was 32 years old. I was pissed that I believed it was my fault. I was fucking furious about his pain. I was determined to at a minimum, say “I am sorry” but hopefully get him to a place of redemption. Thy will be done.
On every chapter of trauma I have addressed there has been conflict in how I view God and what it means for my faith. Gods will being done was so distorted in my world, that it became tempting to walk away from God altogether, and trust that I can choose faith, or health. Christianity or sanity. Redemption or religion. None seemed to be working together in a beneficial way. Thy will be done.
As I began to move toward my present (and address the past), I found myself having these moments, where God changed. Or, I changed. Or, is it the reality of who God is, was so poorly displayed to me, that I was finding God for the first time. I believe God speaks, and here is what I have heard:
“It has NEVER been in My will for a child to be harmed.”
“I am so sorry about what you endured in that shed. I was there. I was furious about what was being done to you.”
“You are mine. You are part of My creation. You are fearfully and wonderful made. I made you in My image.”
“Be free, My image bearer. I am with you. I am the very core to your goodness. I made you to know your own glory. I will always take away your pain.”
Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done. How much praying must we do to understand that God will never affirm the blissful ignorance of a religion that is more concerned about “God’s will” than humanity being busted up and broken, carrying pain, as God’s creation. Thy will be done.
Thy will be done. God is in me. God made me. God grieves deeply over my pain. God is the strongest force to move my angst. Thy will be done. God trusts me to listen to the power placed in me. I knew to get help based on God’s love. God’s voice spoke directly to my pain. The true God shredded religion from my story, and replaced it with genuine hope. Thy will be done. Thy…religious…will…be…undone. Let the healing begin…
Be well. I am fighting for each of you.
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