Last year, I connected with Jake Owensby’s blog, Looking for God in Messy Places. My own sense of where I find God resonates with his writing, and now I am reading his book, A Resurrection Shaped Life. In both his blog and his book, Jake writes about traumatic events from his childhood, and I am amazed at his openness.
In a memoir I recently read, the author declares that she wishes she could write openly about the trauma of her childhood, but she is not there. Me neither.
I want to be there—that place where I can speak openly and honestly about traumatic things that happened to me, where I have moved past shame—but I am not.
Thirty years ago, I read John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You, hoping it would lead me beyond shame. It gave me insight and understanding, but I was still bound by shame.
Then there was therapy for few years and a series of other therapeutic programs (retreats, family programs, al-anon, etc.). Each moved the needle a bit, but my shame is deep seated.
Shame is the yardstick by which I measure my freedom, because shame truly does keep me bound and unfree.
Looking back, though, I can see the distance I have come. There was a time when I did not even know what had happened to me. Like many children who experience trauma, I buried it deep inside and denied anything had happened.
All I knew for certain was that when I was eight years old, God saved me, that God had somehow picked me up and held me close. I had no understanding of the circumstances from which God was saving me. But I knew this one truth: God saved me.
In my twenties I realized that there was an impact from the damage that had been done to me as a child, because I could see how it was affecting the way I was living as an adult. Bad choices only begins to describe my twenties.
Chapter One in A Resurrection Shaped Life is called “Growing Beyond Our Past.” Jake Owensby writes, “Actually, the past doesn’t just follow us around. It’s a crucial part of our identity” (Page 4). He notes, “We omit the messy parts of our lives” when building a resume, but that we have to “come to terms” with our past as part of a Christian spiritual practice.
I know my past helped me be more compassionate toward people who are vulnerable, especially children and people who have developmental disabilities. It also helped me know how blessed I am to have survived childhood trauma relatively intact.
Therapy, retreats, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, daily prayer and self-help books all helped me get to a place where I could make better choices and live with greater integrity.
I am still working with God in the messy places of my life, those places where I still hold onto shame—and trusting that God is continually healing me.