One of the most common sad statements we’ve heard from BJU-related abuse survivors is that they can no longer read the Bible, because the Bible was often twisted by the abuser to justify the abuse, and then in counseling it was often used to heap on more guilt, to shame and blame them. It is even used to protect the abuser.
For the abused, reading the Bible often became like walking through a mine field, never knowing when they would run into a phrase or a passage that would trigger excruciatingly painful memories and send them spiraling into a dark place. And yet, many of them have felt a wistfulness to want to read the Bible, believing that there really is hope to be found there. And there is.
What’s the solution? God works miracles, in person.
This is a guest post by a BJU-related abuse survivor.
God Still Does Obvious Miracles
About a month ago something amazing happened to me. It didn’t make all my future days wonderful and normal, but it has changed my life in an area I had given up hope in ever getting any better.
It’s been a lot of years since I’ve read the Bible and felt safe doing so. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and it became one more guilt item on my list proving what a lousy Christian I was, if I even was one. Because, of course, all Christians read the Bible, and I didn’t, so what did that mean? Once I learned about triggers and flashbacks, I realized that hearing and reading the Bible was one of my many triggers. That explained a lot, except it didn’t fix it.
For the last two and a half years other things have been the main focus in counseling. My inability to read the Bible without being triggered or having intense fear associated with it, has been the elephant in the room that would stampede anytime it was poked at. For a long time I could barely tolerate hearing the Bible read. It wasn’t much of an issue until the last few years because I was so disconnected (dissociated) that I didn’t hear much of anything that happened at church between the opening and closing “Amens” anyway.
I spent Monday and Tuesday of the first week of June 2015 spell checking an introductory book on postmillennial eschatology, The Covenantal Kingdom, by Ralph Smith, for my pastor, Uri Brito. I’ve pointedly avoided eschatology up until now, but for some reason I wanted to read this book, not just spell check it. The ideas that came out loud and clear in the portion I read of the book was the love of God for me, and his greatness.
I also spent more than a week with at least ten attempts of trying to listen all the way through Pastor Brito’s sermon from Pentecost Sunday in May, but I kept falling asleep by or before the five or six minute mark. Tuesday night I made it almost through the whole sermon and finally heard the part of the sermon that when I had heard it on Sunday made me want to think more about it, but at the time I couldn’t hang on to it long enough. I knew I would recognize it when I heard it again, but I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit at that point in the sermon, or at all.
“When the fire of God descends on the people of God, there is no distance between God and his people. There is no distance.”
At that point everything was different. I was crying, but I didn’t know why. I’m not sure which came first. It was a flooding of feeling that finally connected me to what I’ve said I knew about God. It was God’s love, his greatness and his nearness suddenly becoming real all at once and it made me cry, but it didn’t hurt or scare me. It was like a switch got flipped and I felt it, and in that moment, fear and dread about reading the Bible or hearing it read was gone, and in its place was a desire and hunger to read it. I wasn’t afraid of it hurting me anymore. I felt open and safe like I was in the country after being in the city for a long time. A weight was gone, and even though I was crying, I could breathe easier.
The things I’ve acknowledged about God to be true, but couldn’t believe it in a deeper and more personal way, are real now. It wasn’t anything I did to get some emotion going. That’s not me. I believe that the Holy Spirit unlocked something in me, took away my fear of reading the Bible and gifted me with feeling God’s love, greatness and nearness and a desire to read the Bible. I’ve been reading in Acts for a while now. I’m also looking forward with anticipation to reading actual scripture to my little guys and teaching them intentionally about God, using a real Bible curriculum. I was unable to do that with my older children.
The timing was odd in how I needed to read a good chunk out of that eschatology book and hear the sermon at the same time before everything happened. God didn’t let me listen to that sermon again until he put in my head a bunch more about his greatness and love from Ralph Smith’s book.
The idea of the nearness of God has always been a fearful thing to me, but not anymore. For days afterward I was smiling, and it was an at-ease sort of smile, at peace. It’s been over a month now; concerns of life have wiped the constant smile off my face, but I can still read the Bible and want to, and that peace keeps coming back, and the smile shows up too.
My story isn’t finished, so I can’t have that happily ever after ending just yet, but I know it will be there someday.