One afternoon while scrubbing in the bathroom, just doing my routine household duties, an image suddenly popped into my mind. With the image came a memory. The story with this image was familiar because it was told to me years ago while facilitating a class at House of Hope.
The description was short but graphic and horrific. In the years since I heard it, it hasn’t gone away from me. I haven’t forgotten it. Tucked away in my memory, it stayed hidden, until an unguarded, innocent moment.
Another thought followed. Why do I open myself to the pain of others when there is the danger of keeping some of it stashed in the dark corners of my own mind? Wouldn’t it be better to just hide in my own little “safe” life?
This story was not mine. But the described image comes back every now and then. I see the scenario, hear the noises and imagine the pain. I wonder at unthinkable selfishness; the kind that heaps shame on innocent people.
I’ve come to call these flashbacks to a sister’s story - battle wounds. They are the cost of fighting for women’s hearts and souls. Fighting for freedom from shame and worthlessness requires heavy weapons, ones that present the possibility of wounding or scarring. Listening to the stories, Identifying lies, seeking truth, encouraging feelings, digging deeper and asking insightful questions requires insight, wisdom, prayer and diligence…and sometimes tears along with agonizing sadness.
When I help others process what happened to them, I work hard. I seek connections and concentrate on details. I watch body language and pray as I go, desperately asking God to lead and guide me to His truth and wisdom.
But along the way, sometimes, I get hit with something I didn’t see coming; a story leaves an image that stays and once in a while, pops up unexpectedly.
Does that mean the work is too dangerous? Does it suggest that keeping myself safe is more important than getting out there and fighting! Should I have stopped long ago?
My answer is, "No!" I count it a privilege to suffer this flashback in honor of the women I walk with; the ones who bravely sift through the details and feelings of the life they have lived, step by step right through the lies and into the freedom of light and truth. For many, this process is life changing.
Amy Tan writes, “In the telling of stories something happens, your whole perception and memory of things begins to change and you can let go of what you have just told - you give it away.” In letting go, we begin the healing process.
And those of us who carefully and seriously walk along side, sometimes get hit in the process. But I can only count it an honor and remind myself:
- I can keep an image that pops up in my mind or I can refuse to “savor” it by remembering Paul’s encouragement to think on whatever is true, pure, lovely and excellent. (Philippians 4:8) If it presents itself, I can reject it.
- I can understand that this kind of work needs to be covered in protective prayer. I am not on my own here. I have powerful resources, God himself, who is with me to fight the battle.
- God’s Word is here to help me also. It is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword and I can use it for this protection. Psalm 5:12 tells me that the LORD surrounds those he loves with his favor, as with a shield. I can visualize this shield of protective love surrounding me as I do battle with evil in the stories I hear. This is not my fight. But it is outright war on horrible memories that seek to ruin people’s lives.
- I can be self-controlled and alert, knowing that my enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I am called to resist him, standing firm in the faith.
- I can stand in the Light. In Him, no darkness can remain.
Yes, it would be easier to just hide from all this sister-pain. But I know from which I, myself have been delivered and so I remain firm in my determination to walk in the truth of God’s complete grace-filled love. Often we just need some healing in order to actually be free to experience that beautiful love. So I stand with the sword in my hand and declare: “You are not defined by what happened to you!” Come along and let me tell you some things about our great God’s amazing love and the truth He declares about you.