I had no idea 3 days ago when I did the first post on the topic of depression that this was going to turn into a much larger journey than just one blog entry.
I am trusting God with this, especially with Part II posted yesterday which is an honest and raw look into those places many don’t talk about, childhood abuse.
What is happening in this season for me is, I believe, God giving me greater clarity, a new perspective on the trajectory of my life.
And I suspect my story may be similar to anyone who has experienced childhood trauma, abuse or neglect.
As I see it, there are a series of steps we must pass through to overcome the ACEs in our life (Adverse Childhood Experiences)
That doesn’t mean we will (or even can) do the levels in order. This is not a checklist and when you mark off the boxes you are healed.
But I do believe as we gain greater clarity on the origination of our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs which came about from the pain and shame years, the greater our life experience today can be.
The Stages of Childhood Abuse Recovery
- Facing and accepting the reality of what happened
- TO US (mental, physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse)
- WHAT DIDN’T HAPPEN FOR US (neglect, abandonment, non-nurture, no physical touch, emotional unavailability, poor or absent life-skills teaching, and more)
- Becoming aware of the dead and broken places
- EMOTIONAL DISORDERS (depression, anxiety, phobias, extreme anger or rage, isolation, debilitating fears, OCD, PTSD, AADD and more)
- NEGATIVE BELIEFS about ourselves and others (self-condemnation, unworthiness, blame, hate, unforgiveness, victimhood, helpless, powerless, people are not safe, nobody can help me, and more)
- NEGATIVE THOUGHT PATTERNS (extreme thinking, catastrophizing, all-or-nothing, black and white, mind-reading, exaggeration or minimizing, and more)
- UNHEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS (denial, pride, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, workaholism, perfectionism, people-pleasing, sexual disorders, materialism, gambling, compulsive shopping or exercise, and more)
- Taking ownership of the choices and actions we have made throughout our lifetime
- INFLICTING HARM ON OTHERS (perpetuating abuse or neglect)
- INFLICTING HARM AGAINST OURSELVES (addictions, compulsions, self-harm, self-sabotage, self-condemnation)
- Making Amends for the harm we have caused
- TO OTHERS (repay any debts, restore broken relationships, and more)
- TO OURSELVES (lose weight, eat healthily, beat addictions, learn self-care and acceptance, and more)
- Learn to LIVE and LOVE again
This is on the “what” list, what do we need to do to experience new life.
It can look like a daunting list that will take a lifetime to wade through and maybe never even get through it all… and if you thought that, you would be correct.
Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Complete healing and restoration are not anything we will ever experience this side of heaven.
But I, for one, want to experience more of what God offers
Galatians 5:22-24 (NLT)
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
So the next big question then becomes how, how do we grow in all these areas?
The answer is LOVE, and God tells us how to love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
But if we haven’t been living our life that way, how do we just start doing those things?
How do we break free from the emotional, mental and physical barriers that make living that way feel and look nearly impossible?
1 John 4:7-8 (NLT)
Loving One Another
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I know, we are stubborn, and rarely do we take advice from others. And even then, only when we truly trust, admire and respect someone will we even listen to what they have to say, or remotely consider following their direction.
And I know, you don’t know me.
But I promise you, I’ve looked everywhere for hope and healing for some 50 years of my life before finding the way out, the way up, the way through.
My young childhood it was anger, resentment, fear, alcohol, drugs, sex… none of that worked
At the age of 21, I got sober through AA and found long-term sobriety, but I still felt miserable inside… that alone didn’t work.
My sobriety, however, did open the door to a great career in Information Technology. But I became a workaholic who struggled my whole life with perfectionism. Trust me, those character flaws are highly rewarded in our performance-based society. I received the most prestigious awards my companies offered, excelled to the top of my fields, made great money… and none of that worked.
I have literally hundreds of books on healing, self-help, and recovery. It all gave me insight, but not understanding or wisdom. I learned a lot but didn’t heal any… none of it worked.
I have been through hundreds of hours of secular and Christain-based counseling. Again, super insightful… but by itself none of it worked.
I have been to hundreds of AA, SA, NA, CR and other “meetings” based recovery groups. All of it was excellent in building community and getting me outside of myself and providing solid wisdom… but none of those by themselves worked.
I poured myself into studying the Bible, attending and serving at church, and leading Men’s discipleship and recovery groups. Those too gave me wonderful experiences close to The Truth, but still, the pain, confusion, and emptiness continued… even those things didn’t work by themselves.
So what was the missing piece that began to change everything for me?
It all starts with a right relationship with God
And that starts through a confession of faith in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith.
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
2 John 1:9
Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.
I don’t know if this blog entry will conclude the Christian Depression Series, but I know this journey for me is not over, not by a long shot.
In fact, God is stirring my heart that this very specific topic of surviving child abuse could be my calling.
I know it’s not just a “life coaching business” in the sense of motivation or overcoming limitations or setting goals and learning how to achieve them. That’s all good stuff, but that comes way after the footholds on healing have overtaken our life.
And it’s not just about blogging. That too will remain a vehicle for getting my message of hope and strength through Christ out to a dying world, but it’s a means, not the end.
It’s got to be about finding some way to tangibly come alongside others who are still suffering from the brutal effects of childhood trauma and neglect and love them toward their own freedom in Christ, while I’m pursuing the same.
So my prayer today is that if you don’t know Jesus personally, may you find the courage to reach out to someone you know, possibly someone you’ve been afraid approach about this, and ask him or her to pray with you and show you how to get started down this wonderful new-life path.
And if you are like me and have known Jesus for a while but have let the message get lost in the weeds that having a right relationship with Jesus by faith is the ONLY way forward, that you will join me in this new season of revival.
And if you’re already there, relying fully on His Grace, Strength, Mercy, and Wisdom, then make sure to keep sharing your faith with others, for you are a light in a very dark and hurting world.
Until next we meet, blessings in Christ,