Monday, February 8, 2010

We are Children of God

I did a talk on Saturday for a Day of Prayer. The subject was God's Love and the title of my talk was Cherished by God.
In this talk I share my reflections on how much God loves us and how some of us have a hard time internalizing this so it changes our lives. Especially those of us who have been abused.
Then I witnessed a little about my abuse and about how God has helped me and the people who have helped me.
Then I ended with the story of what happened last summer when my son decided not to invite my father to his wedding.
Here is part of what I said at the end:

God is just crazy about us.
Julian of Norwich wrote -
“...we are God’s happiness and God finds endless enjoyment in us, and we shall in him, by his grace.”
And one of my favorite scripture verses on this subject -
Zephaniah 3:17-18
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals. 
I am starting to make God’s love for me the foundation of my life. I talk about it, I write about it, I encourage those who come to me for spiritual direction. 
Kind of like the Samaritan woman. She receives life from Jesus and she goes out to bring this life to others. She goes out to bring others to the well of living water.
God loves us. But there are, however, outside and within us, strong voices that try to tell us something different.
My youngest son, Brian, got married last August. We were so looking forward to the wedding, to celebrate with him his love and his joy.
But there was one small dark cloud hovering over me, hanging out in the back of my mind.
My father.
My son had made the decision not to invite my father. I understood the decision and supported it.
Part of me was relieved. Part of me was scared to death.
Because I knew, it was time. It was finally time to tell the one person in the family who did not know about the sexual abuse. My stepmother.
I had begged my father for years to tell her. But he refused. When my book came out, I begged him again. Did he want her to find out this way? But he refused.
I wanted him to tell her so I would be free of the secret.
I wanted him to tell her so he would also be free. No worrying about her finding out. No more lying and hiding in the dark.
But he wanted me to shut up about it. He was angry that I wrote the book. He was angry that I had told my sons.
He still wanted me to keep the Big Secret that he had forced me to keep as a child.
The secret that was toxic to all of us.
He did not know nor did he want to understand, that telling my Big Secret was a major part of my healing.
Now I was giving him no choice. He had to tell my stepmother the truth because she would wonder why she was not invited to the wedding.
He stalled, he lied, he tried manipulating me. Finally I told him -
You tell her or I will tell her.
And when he told her, she was angry too. Not only at him, but at me and soon, in a scenario that is very common, they both turned on me.
My friends, my sister, my husband, other survivors - they all tried to get me to back away, to separate myself from them. I was being abused again, emotionally and verbally.
Finally I did. I turned away. I cut them out of my life.
And then, I felt guilty. Was I doing the right thing? Would God approve of this?
So I talked to people I knew and trusted.
I spoke to priests. I spoke to friends. I spoke to my husband.
And they all said the same thing to me - Your father is not willing to change, after all these years. You need to protect yourself.
And then I emailed a therapist I know and I will never forget some of the things he wrote to me. He told me that the best thing about all this coming to a head was my son's decision not to invite my father. He said that "... any good son would want to protect his mother. You have a very good son to stand up and do what is right. ... enjoy your son's wedding and the love and respect he has for you.
Remember who your real father is as he will never abuse you...”.
And so, finally free of guilt and grief, I went to the wedding and watched my son enjoy his special day. I could hardly take my eyes off of him, never tiring of watching him smile and dance and hold his bride.
And I felt such deep abiding joy. I felt joy for him and joy for me.
For I knew my son loved me.
And out of love, he had helped to set me free.
And I will never forget the moment when my son took my hand and he whirled me around the dance floor til I got dizzy and all I could do was laugh.
I laughed and I laughed.
I laughed high and long. And it sounded to me like I had a fountain of living water springing up inside of me.
We are people of value.
We are loved and cherished and nourished.
We are the precious children of God.


Andrea said...

Praising GOD for HIS unconditional love.
Blessings, andrea

Colleen said...

Andrea, amen. Thank you!

Patricia Singleton said...

Colleen, what a wonderful tribute to you and your spiritual growth and to our real Father who unconditionally loves us all. He loves all of us enough to allow us to make our own mistakes and to have our own victories. He takes every step of our journey to wholeness with us and when we need it, He carries us.

Colleen said...

Patricia, Amen. He carries us. And when we realize that, it makes all the difference. Thanks.

Marj aka Thriver said...

Precious, beloved, cherished. Yes! I know that we are these things to God because we are PART of him. People who abuse make me sad because they have obviously lost this connection and feel separated. They have also allowed themselves to become separate from their humanity.

sarah said...

this is a wonderful post Colleen. Wonderful b/c I hear your freedom....and you deserve freedom. I have learned this past year in writing how keeping secrets kept me sick....kept me living in shame...kept me living less more secrets!!!! hugs to you. Sarah

Lily said...

What an amazing son you have. And what a testament to your growth to approach your dad and try to allow him to do the right thing. What a wonderful post!

Colleen said...

Marj, I agree with all that you say. I feel sad too. My father has no clue and I just wonder, what kind of life has he had?

Sarah, I love how you put that. Secrets do make us sick. They do keep us living in shame. There is freedom when we tell our story.

Lily, thank you. I did not look at it like that - trying to allow my father to do the right thing. Many times I tried. And yes, my son is amazing. Needless to say, I am proud of him.

Paula said...

Beautiful, sad and amazing at the same time. What an unusual story to share. Had to come by to show some love. Hugs, Paula

Andrea said...

Sitka has an award for you at All Gods Creatures.
Blessings, andrea

Colleen said...

Paula, thanks for the love and the hugs.

Andrea, thank you!