This morning’s devotional time has brought about some clarity I asked Jesus about when I first started to journal. I asked Jesus when I would finally quit having to deal with the lies of my abuse? Lies such as: one cannot ever overcome, one cannot ever be Christ-like, you’re just a sinner so get use to it, pornography will always haunt you because you’re just one of them. These thoughts not only haunt me but they are the ones I hear when our men come together in class. They are also ones the men at Celebrate Recovery often say.
In my devotional reading Charles Spurgeon says it is a sin to question (disbelieve) the promises of God that He gives us in scripture. His exact words are, “Banish any unbelieving fears, for they bring great dishonor to God….” As I continued my scripture reading in Ezekiel I read more about what God was telling him regarding the punishment the Jews were experiencing due to turning their backs to God’s leadership and following their own desires. In Ezekiel 22:30 it says, “And I sought a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap for Me….” Joyce Meyers writes. “God is looking for people today who will ‘stand in the gap’ for others just as He was in Ezekiel’s time.”
My questions to God this morning were answered in a very meaningful way. First, banish my unbelieving fears and stand in the gap prayerfully for others who struggle with their own unbelieving fears. Joyce concludes her writing by saying, “Then you will be a blessing to them, and you will make much faster progress toward the fulfillment of your destiny.” Second, it is very important that I stay honest with my struggles telling the ones I trust so they can stand in the gap for me. Lastly, it is also equally important that I ask what the struggles are for others so I may stand in the gap for them. This is James 5:16 in action, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Summer is only 5 days away and with it my trips to school districts is ending for the year. I go to one at noon today and I believe that will be the last for a few weeks. It is nice to have the time to just be home and take care of yard and garden. There are some random workshops in the summer, but they will primarily be ones done at home. That’s nice!
Last night Kathy and I were able to connect with friends who live about 25 miles away. We hadn’t been together since the pandemic started. It was so good to spend the evening with them and get caught up on one another’s lives as well as our families. He is a pastor and was the first man I ever told about my past. At the time they lived 400 miles away so I felt safe in telling him. If he shunned me it wouldn’t matter. I only saw them once a year anyway. He didn’t know any of “my friends in Idaho”. Instead, he gave me a couple of books to read which helped frame some lies I’d thought were truths about myself. I was in my earlier 30’s at this time. A few years later I entered into the first counseling I began having.
As I reflect momentarily on this I’m reminded just how far God has brought me from that first night of sharing. Wow, our God is so GOOD!
I have mentioned several times in the past few days about the lesson a week ago with Mending the Soul. We ended the lesson on the topic of sexual abuse as the 6th category of abuse the class addresses. Yesterday we were to take the time to talk about what God’s Spirit had opened our eyes to as we stayed awake to our own past during the week. I suppose I should not be surprised that I was the only one in class that had something to say. These men are starting their journey of addressing this topic. There are so many beliefs they still have about themselves which God is only starting to awaken as lies. The idea these lies will be replaced in a week is my own self-deception. They need time to work through all of the ugliness which I’ve needed to do in the past few years. I’d like to believe others won’t have to deal with their pasts like I’ve had too, they can skip that painful part. Yet, God is reminding me over and over that this is part of healing.
I always wanted God to remove the memories as though they never happened. Instead, God uses the memories I’ve needed to face to help others do the same. So, God’s help for me last week is another example of Him helping me face what I hadn’t wanted to face so others can be encouraged to do the same. Sexual abuse is an awful sin leaving painful wounds, many false beliefs and destructive behaviors. Yet, God continues to heal these as we allow ourselves to trust Him with them one at a time. God is truly a patient healer!
Today’s journey has several opportunities to proclaim the Glory of God. It starts in a couple of hours when our quartet leads worship for our church. We end the time of worship with a song which I’ve grown to greatly appreciate–“He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away”. It is a true testament of God’s working on my life as well as any other, particularly those who have felt their life had no value.
Our Mending the Soul class will come together the second hour and address the last area of abuse–sexual abuse. Last week this topic silenced the men. As I’ve journaled and taken notes through the week I’ve found that this one area has been the most deeply rooted in my value/belief system. It is also the one Satan has a hay day with. However, it has been so good to lay this out on the table so God could squarely speak to me through His Word and His Spirit. I pray that each of the men will find this truth this morning as we meet.
If there is one thing God has always wanted me (you and me) to know, it is the fact that there is no sin we commit or no sin committed against us too big for God’s forgiveness and grace. He never throws the clay of life away. He continues to mold and make us into His image as we let go of the false beliefs we’ve clung to. How amazing our God is !
There are times when I need to stop and take in what is beautiful around me. This morning is one of them. The beauty of God’s landscape when the sun is first rising is glorious. As I look closer I see the June flowers in the beds outside my den window along with the birds feeding off of them. The silence is golden as I take this all in. God is so GOOD to nurture our souls with the beauty He provides.
Last night’s lesson for Celebrate Recovery was CROSSROADS. It is the lesson where we take what we have been taught to do and see if we are going to make it a habit. Examples of this are: examining our day to see if there were any wrongs in it which need to be admitted and ask amends for; are we now daily in God’s word and journaling, etc. Are the old habits being addressed and replaced with new, healthy ones? The crossroads lesson reminds us that the insights from previous lessons are to become new habits or else we fall victim to relapsing.
As I listened to the lesson I was challenged to apply it to my Mending the Soul purpose for the week–staying awake to what sexual abuse has done and responding to what God wants to tell/show me. What has become extremely clear to me is that I felt the sexual abuse robbed all personal value from me. I had to create value for me from what I do. The self-love, self-appreciation and self-confidence needed to be fed by the success of doing. This has always been my singing, my educational profession and my gardening. My personal characteristics were what attracted men to want me for sex so I had to replace them–I thought. How could one love oneself when he attracted abuse to himself?
All of this has been laid before me these past few days and I give them to God my Healer. He has allowed me to recognize them, rebuke them and to now replace them. All of these teachings are coming together to restore and awaken the new creation God has wanted me to know. I look forward to this coming Sunday’s class so we can share our findings with one another. Our God is AMAZING!
The book of Ezekiel is striking. God is giving him graphic pictures of the consequences for Israel’s rebellion against Him. Ezekiel is obedient and giving this to the captives since they have been removed from their homeland and brought to this foreign land. Even though the people are being held responsible for their sins of past and present God told them He’d given them an opportunity to let their hearts turn from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19.
Several years ago (about10) I was in therapy–EMDR for PTSD. God during this time had me reading Ezekiel and I read this verse and this promise. I couldn’t fathom a heart of flesh at that time. I literally saw my heart as a polished, stainless bucket which could be filled with God’s love or my selfishness. The fact that my heart pumped the lifeblood throughout my body meant nothing. In the last few years I’ve found this heart of flesh through the continued healing God gives. When we allow ourselves to be tools in God’s Hands He can take our life experiences and let them be Light for another, giving them life where they felt dead.
Last night at our quartet practice a lady filling in for our piano player said she’d just read my book. She thought she was reading her own husband’s story. She is sending the book to him since they are separated presently. We prayed he’d read this and see his own bondage. Instead of hiding behind the shame of his past, he’d reach out for the help God is wanting to offer. I know this hiding all too well and I also know the healing God gives once we begin to surrender each day’s bondage to Him. A heart of flesh God has been helping me to see. This heart pumps life (God’s Light) into darkness where life feels dead and even prays for death. How I love the way our God works!
This journey never stops until the day of our human death. The reality of that truly hit home yesterday. When we started the Mending the Soul class a couple months ago I told the men that our commitment needed to be to stay awake to our past each and every day. In so doing God could work with us each day on our overcoming and not just in class once a week for1.5 hours. I thought I’d learned that habit well over the past few years. However, last Sunday’s awakening to sexual abuse opened my own eyes to the reality that I hadn’t put this to practice here. My own practice is to talk about it when necessary and act like it never happened as soon as I walk away from any conversation. Yesterday’s conversation with Jesus allowed me to see myself as a created human who had been sexually abused in his childhood. Yet, in my older adulthood I was free to not only talk about it but stay awake to it without it destroying my inner beliefs of human worth. God is bringing more healing as I apply new discipline to my day to day living. Staying awake to my past doesn’t mean I have to fight the past anymore. God really does want to fight this battle–in fact, the battle has been fought and Christ won!
I’ve said a few times that I need to write a follow up to my autobiography which would be Living in Freedom. My first book’s third part was Finding Freedom. Almost six years after publishing my book I’m finding that living in freedom still has finding more freedom as the journey continues. God is never done bringing us more glory as we live for Him and commit to Him. PRAISE GOD!
Day 2 of pondering with God about the topic of sexual abuse is bringing awareness I’ve hidden behind my entire life. I could have never before this present time been able to stay focused on this topic for a week. I’ve needed to hide it and move on. What I was able to record this morning with Jesus is that all I want to do is self-gratify when I am awake to the feelings of this abuse. I’ve hated this all of my life so I’ve always stuffed it knowing I don’t want to step into this sinful nature. With the commitment now to stay focused through the week I asked Jesus to show me what He wanted me to know. He kindly pointed out that I see darkness as I see this abuse and this is SO TRUE. He asked me to turn on the Light He provides. This Light reveals TRUTH rather than lies. The biggest truth is that this is His battle, not mine. He wants to fight it for me. He wants me to put on His Shield of Faith for my protection. Lastly, He pointed out that I am not “little Earnie” anymore. I am the new creation who is grandpa Earnie today and I don’t need to hide anything from my past. If any reader were present at this moment they would see that my eyes are filled with tears of rejoicing as I write this. PRAISE JESUS!
The class, Mending the Soul, has taken on a life like I’ve not seen before in teaching this class. Each and every man is contributing from their own background almost without any prodding. The Holy Spirit seems to be nudging and each one is responding. After leading this two previous times and getting little openness I knew if I were to do another class something had to change. What has changed the most for me is taking the time to reinforce the practice of complete openness from each member, allowing The Holy Spirit to nudge and respond to the nudge with obedience to share instead of to hide and then to keep talking. Lastly, as we walk away from class, we allow The Holy Spirit to speak to us during the week instead of going back into denial as soon as we leave the classroom. I love seeing The Holy Spirit working!
Yesterday’s lesson was expounding on the 6 areas of abuse. The last one was sexual abuse. We approached it in the last 15 minutes. As we did the room became quiet. It was as though there were no need to talk about it–each one knew the definition and the consequences of it. I found myself telling the group that this topic still sucks the wind out of my lungs. The damage of it goes so deeply into my/our souls. This is the topic I asked everyone to ponder with God during the week. We will start next week’s class with insights God has provided. My first insight this morning is that this abuse more than any other has been the one which falsely determined my sense of value to God and to man. When one is abused, one begins to believe he doesn’t have value. Why would someone abuse something valuable?