Sunday, May 20, 2012

When your Past is your Prison

She had a haunted look that spoke of pain and sadness.  A quiet mourning that was near the surface but rooted deep.  Her eyes could meet yours, but not really connect in a personal way, as if preoccupied and full of a desperate intensity.  Her face bore a tightness around the eyes and the corners of the mouth as though the skin was under a tension tugging deep beneath the surface of her personality.

She leaned forward in her chair to speak, but turned her head to one side, listening to the voice of anguish deep within that pleaded for release, and yet screamed for silence. She was a young teenage girl, but she was hunched over actually embodying the posture of an 80 year old woman.

“You’re hurting deeply inside, aren’t you Sarah?” I spoke with a quiet gentleness, concerned not to startle her into her burrow of protection, yet seeking  to draw her out into the realm of reality and light.  Her eyes misted and brimmed with tears.  She nodded her head slowly.

“Sarah, it is clear that the inner turmoil that you are experiencing is flowing out a deep well of hurt, and emotional pain buried within you.  You have asked me to help you find the peace, and healing, that Jesus Christ has for you. However, unless you can share that with me, I cannot help you.”  I paused, waiting for some response.

Sarah breathed deeply as if to draw enough strength to speak of the unspeakable. She ran her hands through her hair as if to steady herself, and then she looked up and began to tell her story.

The unfolding of the horrific tale of abuse and deprivation that followed explained why she found it so difficult to recount it to anyone.  Sarah had somehow survived the terrible experiences, but not without the painful scars of hurt and bitterness.   

Now, at 19, she was battling feelings of shame, anger, and guilt.  She also felt confused, for feeling such guilt for not having stopped the abuse sooner.  “I feel so guilty”, she confessed quietly as the tears overflowed.”I should have told someone,” she said as she wiped tears from her face. “I was too afraid.”

“Sarah, you were seven years old when it started,” I pointed out. "It is hard enough for a teenage girl to go through the awkward changes in her own body, let alone reveal to another the terrible things that you were threatened and coerced into unwillingly participate in."

I paused and opened my Bible, sat it on my knees, and smoothed out the worn pages with my hands. When I looked up, Sarah looked at me intently.

“It was at thirteen when you fought back.  Don’t take the blame for what you, at such a young age, were made to do by a trusted adult figure.  That is a false kind of guilt, that is really a form of shame. It feels like guilt, but it is more focused on how you have been made to see yourself as a bad person, when you are anything but.”  

I looked out the window at the autumn leaves rustling against the glass with an urgency and impatience. “What concerns me is the painful hurting and anguish that is locked deep down inside of you.” Sarah nodded her head, and then looked down at her clinched hands that lay balled in her lap.

“Our inner self is like a kind of house, that is full of rooms that portray the memories and chapters of our lives. Deep within you there is a room full of suffering that you have not been able to give over to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

You know Him as Lord and Savior, but you have not allowed Him access into this part of your personal life. It has become a kind of prison, that keeps you like a prisoner within your own kind of personal bondage."

Opening my Bible to Isaiah 61, I reminded her that Jesus came to heal the broken heart, and to set the captives free. That included Sarah as well.

“But why am I so afraid to do that?” she wondered aloud.  “It terrifies me to even think of dealing with this part of my life…..but it is true, my past is my prison.” 

“What you may be afraid of is the emotional anguish of those six years of horrific abuse, and perhaps you may wonder if it will be too much for you to experience as you discuss it."  I paused and said, "You do not have to focus on or talk about the details of what happened Sarah. It is the hurt and burden of it that is keeping you a prisoner of the past."

Jesus said...

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…and you will have rest for your souls’.” Matt. 11:28-30.

God encourages each of us to lay our troubled past at His feet, by laying it at the foot of His Cross.  Let the Cross symbolize God’s remedy for broken and sinful lives.  As you release those years of pain to Christ, remember you are merely applying by faith His liberating promise to set you free. You are simply trusting Him for what He has already done for you at the Cross, and validated by His resurrection.” (See II Cor. 5:17-21)

Holding her trembling hands out, as if clasping a fragile container of suffering, she prayed, 

“Dear Lord Jesus, you have saved me and have given me new hope for my life.  Lord, I hurt so very inside yet.  Please take this hurtful burden from me." She wiped tears from her face with a Kleenex, and continued,  "I seek Your deep inner soul rest…peace for my soul.  I set this burden down, by faith, and ask You to release me from the anguish of my awful past.”

Pausing to wipe the tears from a face that was shining and wet, she exclaimed, “Lord, I am receiving your precious healing, and I am clean and pure in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I’m going to accept my new beginning.  Thank You for Your healing and grace.”

A ray of late afternoon sun seemed to reach in through the window to kiss the wall and brighten the room with hope. A new beginning for Sarah was not to be without its challenges, but begin she would. A new release within had given her renewed hope, peace, and as she thought with a smile, the prison cell door is open and I am free.

For Sarah there would be more sessions to sort out the twisted labyrinth of her past and discover how to walk in the new found liberty as a child of the King. I knew just the female counselor that I would refer her to.

Understandably, as she learned to grow in her faith, she would begin to leave behind the ashes of a painful heart, now replaced by a beauty that only Jesus Christ can bring to a broken, and bruised life. The rocky soil of her heart gave way to His creative new life, sprouting new growth, and she was aglow with the radiance of it.

* It is noted that photos of a variety different young women were portrayed in this article to give a reflective view of just how many youth struggle with the burden of When your Past is a Prison.

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