I am a pastor’s wife from Coloma, Michigan, a speaker and musician. I have just read your book, God’s Battered Child, and wanted to write to you and tell you what I have learned from your book. It definitely was a roller coaster, but I couldn’t put it down.
I learned so much that I will use when I’m in a position to minister to someone who has experienced abuse. The book clearly shows that an abused person has a difficult time discerning who they are, separate from the one who is abusing them. She (or he) must remove herself from the abuse and the abuser long enough to clearly define who she is so that she can establish new healthy boundaries.
I also learned the importance of bringing the dark things to light. It seemed to be very healing for you as you confronted issues with your sister and your mom, and even as you looked into some of the history of your own parents’ upbringing. Not that it, in any way, excused the behavior; but I think it helped you to understand their humanity and where their limitations as human beings were. It enabled you to be more gracious, compassionate and forgiving of them. Because I know God’s Word, I believe that if you had not worked through the process of forgiving your mother, your sister, and your dad, your own healing probably wouldn’t have been as complete.
From your book also I am reminded that hurting people hurt people, and those who’ve experienced abuse often become abusers themselves. I can see, too, that those who have been abused seem to “auto pilot” in a survival mode. It seems from your book that perhaps they become almost addicted to the drama and unsettled crisis.
From a spiritual perspective I learned that those who have been abused need to be introduced to the God of the Bible. I mean that the abuse skews their perception of God. Like in your case, when the abuse is brought on by professing Christians, and especially, spiritual leaders. I can see that being abused clearly affects a person’s self-perception. They cannot see their own goodness or worth, and this causes them to become self-hating and self-destructive. They can’t believe they’re lovable – their own parents didn’t demonstrate love for them – so they seem to have a need to keep reinforcing how “bad” they are.
I also learned that there is unwritten code (and maybe there is to some degree in all families, but especially where abuse is present) about keeping the skeletons tucked away discreetly in your family closet. It would have been much more beneficial if your parents had been less discreet and sought help for themselves. Also, if you or your sister would have been less cooperative with the family “code of silence” and would have reached out to somebody like your grandmother to be an advocate for you, you would have had a chance to stop the abuse. In your conversation with your “grandma,” what you demonstrated so well is how afraid you became once you began to share the family secrets with her.
April, I remember that while reading Chapter 2, I forgot that I was reading your story of a little girl’s terror and I became seriously afraid that Marilyn was going to die. Clearly that’s not possible since you were writing the story, but the way you wrote the book made me forget. I honestly felt like I was experiencing your life in a vivid and tangible way. I compliment you on your writing skills.
I almost felt as if I was able to walk a mile in your shoes, not that there were not many times along the way that I wanted to take yours off and put mine back on. The honesty and transparency with which you presented your story left me feeling raw, as if I had experienced a piece of your life and the abuse right along with you. I wanted the story to end because it was so painful, but I couldn’t quit reading until I found out how God brought you through.
What stands out the most to me is God’s awesome Amazing Grace. How he brought you through such physical and emotional abuse. How he was able in the end to draw you to Himself despite the impression of Him your parents left on you. He was further gracious and kind by allowing you a chance to confront, forgive, and reconcile with your mother.
It was heart breaking to discover the hurt from which your abuse was birthed – to discover that your mother and father really weren’t evil or wicked people. They were just broken people who didn’t know how to go about getting themselves fixed. As I said, hurting people hurt people.
The biggest impression left on me was probably one of humility. I realized that we are all broken and hurting people in no less desperate need of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Thank you for sharing your story.