When I first met to pray with Catherine she asked me what had been troubling to me. I told her about the fear and anxiety I had experienced with my ex-husband. The effects of the abuse still lingered and every day I worried that I would need to confront his anger in an email or through accusations hurled through the kids. After a lifetime spent trying to please him, even in the divorce it wasn’t over. It seemed like I would never be free – always feeling trapped and never feeling like I was good enough or could make everyone happy. I felt controlled by fear, anger and guilt, and I really wanted to move past these scars. I wanted to be able to embrace the new life God had given me and the grace I knew was there with my kids, my new husband and now a bigger, happier family. I was still living in fear that I tried to control but found it was controlling me. Just opening an email could send my heart racing and start the entire cycle of anxiety pulsing through my system again. Would I ever be able to survive for just 24 hours without living in panic and shame?
The day Catherine came to my house, she described the healing that God wanted to do in my life. Then she prayed with me and invited the Lord to come into this place in my heart. She asked me to describe to her the first time I had experienced this kind of terrifying fear. I told her it was when I was very young. When my father was angry, he would use a belt to discipline me, leaving striations of scars and bloody wounds behind. Catherine asked me how old I was when this took place. I told her I was 8, maybe nine. She asked if I could see this situation. As I closed my eyes in prayer, I could see my dad standing over me. I was like a bundle of rags thrown over the bed waiting for the next lash of the belt. She asked me to invite Jesus to come into this situation and I did. She asked if Jesus was there in the room with me as a child and I saw Jesus standing next to me in that same bedroom I had lived in when I was a small child. Jesus stood between my father and me. My father was raising his hand with the belt, ready to strike me again, and Jesus held out his arm and said, “Stop!” In that crystallized moment everything slowed down and all the days of the past came rushing in like a wave breaking upon the shore of my life. I saw how Jesus did not want this kind of abuse in my life. I realized that he did not approve of my father’s actions and was putting a stop to all of this mistreatment, not just in the past but also in present. I saw the heart-chorded connection between the abuse as a child and how I had allowed people I loved to treat me today. This included all the ways that I had allowed people I loved to have that kind of unbridled access to my life. I saw that the pattern of this lack of boundaries had continued with others, especially my former husband. I had accepted his constant criticism and cruelty as the price one paid for love just as I had accepted the beatings from my father. I had thought that to love someone also meant to suffer for them and I realized how this abuse had entwined itself into the recesses of my heart. Yet, in this moment, I somehow knew this would all have to stop now. Towards the end of this prayer, Catherine asked me what I could see in this situation. In my mind’s eye, I could see that I had become an innocent child again. I was a small baby now and Jesus was holding me and wrapping a protective blanket around me. All the fear was gone, all the wounds had disappeared, and the reality I knew experienced with the Lord holding me was more real and more permanent that any I had known before. In the days to follow I found for the first time that I was able to say simply “No”. And again, “No, not with me.” After this time, I did not feel the guilt I would usually feel for not doing what someone else needed, even if it wasn’t good for me. I felt free! The “No” that the Lord gave me was protecting me from getting into situations that would turn out to be abusive to me. He was also freeing me. For in saying “No” to people and situations that would harm or compromise me, I also found an incredible “Yes” to myself, “Yes” to the people God had placed in my life, and “Yes” to the newness of ministry that was emerging in my life towards others. I saw the truth of God’s heart for me in this healing time of prayer, and that truth has set me free. Yes!!
This story is true and was posted with permission. The names were changed to ensure privacy.
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