There have been a few times in my life where I was desperate for guidance from God, and when I asked for it, He gave me the answer right then. Let me explain.
The first ten years of my life are virtually blank. I remember essentially nothing from those years, and not much more from the years following. As a consequence I spent a lot of time trying to understand what had happened to me during those blank years, and I also had many well-meaning Christians telling me that I shouldn’t be doing that, that I should just put the past behind me,
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. ~ Isaiah 43:18, NIV.
But I also had a lot of therapists telling me that those empty years weren’t empty at all, but rather were years I had repressed because the events that had occurred during that time were so traumatic that I couldn’t handle the emotional and/or physical impact of what had happened. And how many of you know that putting the past behind you is a whole lot easier said than done?
So who do I believe ~ all those well-meaning Christians, or the therapists who supposedly understand how memory works?
Something that happened back in the mid-1990’s, in the midst of being bombarded by input from both sides, helped me decide to follow God rather than either side, although ideas from the therapists ended up being closer to what God showed me.
What happened was this: I was receiving soaking prayer from a married couple on periodic Sunday afternoons, but everyone who knew I was doing this told me I shouldn’t be doing it because I should be putting the past behind me, as the above-quoted verse says.
Because I’d been hearing this so frequently from everyone around me for such a long time, I finally cried out to God on my way home from that afternoon’s prayer session, and asked Him if I was following the right course. Should I be trying to find out what had happened to me? I only wanted to follow what He wanted me to do!
As I was praying and asking my questions of God, this thought came into my mind: The most tightly-held-onto past is the past that’s been repressed.
I knew that had to be from God because there was no way I could have thought it up myself. And what I took from that incredibly logical thought was that in order for me to let go of my past and put it behind me, I had to remember it and accept that it was a part of who I am. Only then would I be able move past it and let it go.
The reason I say I had to not only remember, but also accept what I was remembering, is that the things I was remembering were so awful that I was having a hard time accepting that the people I was supposed to be able to trust were the same people who had betrayed that trust in such horrific ways. I had to accept that these terrible, evil things were a part of my story, and that the people I had depended on for my most basic needs had abused the trust I had placed in them. It was a hard pill to swallow, and it took me a long time to do it, at least partly because it also meant forgiving those who had hurt me.
I believe every person who has been the victim of child abuse and/or childhood sexual abuse must go through this process if they’ve repressed the memories of the abuse. No one wants to believe that the people they must depend on for their most basic needs would betray the trust that’s been placed in them in such appalling and egregious ways, but unfortunately it does happen. And when it does, the destruction to the life of the victim is far-reaching.
It’s been my personal experience that the only thing that can bring real and long-lasting healing is inviting God into the situation. Therapy can only take you so far on its own before it loses its ability to effect change unless God’s presence is sought in the healing process. Obviously that is my opinion, and opinions are not facts, but it’s an opinion based on hard personal experience.
Even if you never forgot or repressed the memories of the abuse you were subjected to, you still must go through this process, because, as I did, you will probably feel a need to deny that those who were supposed to love and care for you did the exact opposite, and abused you. You will probably also feel the need to blame yourself, as I did. Well, let me tell you, categorically, it was not your fault. It was not my fault either. It took me a very long time to be able to believe that, but now I really do know beyond a shadow of a doubt. It was not my fault. It was entirely my father’s fault. It was also my mother’s fault because she didn’t protect me from my father. But above all else, it was not my fault.
It was not my fault, and it was not your fault either. Know that of a surety.