Time Bomb of Sexual Abuse

“Sexual abuse places an emotional time-bomb in you. When and where it goes off is usually unpredictable. Time, circumstances and honesty will pull that trigger.” -Unknown

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Saturday evening, April 19, 2008. Joe was performing a wedding ceremony for a young couple that we had journeyed with through pre-marriage counseling. Joe had used Genesis 2:24-25 as the foundation for the weeks of counseling. “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.”  Joe summed up the verses in these 4 statements: Leave-Cleave-Become One-You Are Not Ashamed.  The last statement, “You are not ashamed” is that of moving towards transparency in your marriage. The two were naked, transparent, towards one another, and yet they felt no shame in being truly open and honest with each other.

As he shared and encouraged that young couple in the last statement during the ceremony, that is when my “emotional time-bomb” went off. That evening, everything changed in our marriage. For that instant in time, I was a scared little girl, afraid of what may become of my life. Fear or what I did to cause this pain and trouble. Fear that Joe would not understand. Fear to share. Fear.

I will not go into details of my sexual abuse. That is not where I live any longer. I am still on this journey of healing. My scars have all but healed. My memories of those years as a young child are still vivid and clear. However, as I stated last week, I chose not to dwell on the past. I am no longer a victim. I am beyond a survivor. I am a New Creation in Christ. That is where I stand. That is where I live. In Him.

That evening in 2008 I spoke through tears to my husband. I shared with him what had happened in my life as a child. I remember watching his face. The wave of emotions pouring through his eyes as he listened. He will share with you this week what he felt. How he responded. However, I was now more scared than ever because of the rage he displayed towards the one who abused me. Yes, I knew my abuser. Joe even met him once, without knowing my background. You see, almost all sexual abuse victims know their abuser. They are friends, family, neighbors. They are “trusted” and they continually groom their victims into shame and guilt.

As I stated, this began a journey for Joe and me. We both immediately sought counsel. We were very selective in who we shared this information with. The shame and guilt still loomed heavy and large over our lives. The next few years were a cacophony of emotions and communication with each other. Again, remember, this is necessary for healing. We move from Victim, to Survivor, but then to Christ. But that path is still enveloped with pain.

Let me bring some clarity to the years that followed that April evening. I realized that during those years of abuse, God was there. Listen closely before you get all worked up. He was there weeping and hurting alongside of me. He never left me. In fact, I know He gave me “Spiritual Amnesia” so I could move forward in life. He placed Joe in my life. He blessed us with two beautiful daughters. He gave us time to grow as husband and wife. He also knew the time and place that the truth would be revealed. He was there then. He has always been with me. That’s when I realized that He loved me so much that He died on the cross for me.

I am no longer a victim. No I choose not to wallow in the past. I will not allow the abuser to control my life through fear and guilt. I became a survivor. In the initial years after sharing with Joe and a selected few, I chose not to wallow but to move forward. I chose to forgive my abuser. Yes, you heard me correctly. I spent countless hours praying and seeking God’s comfort and peace during this time. I spent hours praying for my husbands heart to be healed as well. During that time with God, He made it clear that His Son died for my abuser as well. That I should allow Christ to take on that burden and I should forgive him for the past. Let me be honest and fair, that was one of the most difficult times in my walk with Christ; however, it was so liberating! This is when I moved from survivor to New Creation. I now knew what that verse meant in 2 Corinthians. I owned it and I began to live it out and still do to this day. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”       2 Corinthians 5:17

This is my prayer for those who still hold onto the title of “Victim.” Sexual abuse is rampant in our society today. It was not and is not your fault! It is also not ok!  The latest data shows that 3 of 5 women have been sexually abused by the age of 25. Those are the ones reported. Some reports place that closer to 85%. Seek strong counsel today. You MUST move from victim to survivor. The world teaches us that being a victim is ok. That you are entitled to your darkness. Listen to me please, no you are not. Let go of the past. Disarm your abuser and move forward. Yes, you will have “scars” but they need to be healed. I will go into greater detail next week.

Finally, also know this. I could not have traveled this journey without Jesus Christ. When I surrendered my life to Him, He took on my pain and suffering for me. He held me close and has never let me go. I no longer dwell in the past, even as a survivor. I am a New Creation in Christ. That’s where I stand.  You can too. It’s never too late.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””               Matthew 11:28-30

 

Kerry

 

Victim or Survivor?

Victim: Something destroyed; something completely sacrificed in the pursuit of an object or situation.

Survivor: One who outlives another or a situation of conflict.

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In this world, it seems that we begin to classify ourselves as either a “Victim” or a “Survivor” of our past or current circumstances.

It’s become easy to play the victim card and stay a prisoner of the past. Not allowing ourselves to look forward, but to be perpetually stuck looking in the rear-view mirror.  We use the pain of past or the trials of the current to set the tone for our life. We become “Hand-Wringers” and use that victim card to remain hopeless and broken. It is the excuse we carry so we no longer have to take responsibility for our own actions but instead we place blame on the past.

Or, we take a new ownership and call ourselves Survivors! We have overcome the past. We no longer place blame on the past, but instead we know where the pain came/comes from and we conquer it. We take either responsibility for our actions or we choose to forgive the one who caused us the pain and terror. We no longer live in the grip on its guilt. We point back to our past and declare we are a survivor.

However, I am asking that you notice something from both those classifications: Victim or Survivor. They both still point to the past. While one is victorious and the other is brokenness, they both rely on the past as their “Badge.”

In the next couple of weeks, I will share with you all some very personal and raw emotions and events from my past. I will also take time to share with you where I was a Victim, where I became a Survivor, but most of all, when I chose to become a New Creation in Christ. The past is gone, a new life has begun.

Hear me please, I truly know that there are many circumstances out in the world that are so overwhelming that you cannot fully understand how to even begin to survive. I will not be trivial nor contrite in the upcoming weeks. I give you my word that I will be honest, true and very transparent. I will share with you my journey and where my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has brought me. So please, let me share with each of you my heart.  Thank you. We will continue this discussion next Monday.

Kerry

5 Toxic Phrases to Immediately Remove from Your Marriage Vocabulary

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You see it as a central theme in most television shows and movies: “Lack of Effective Communication.”  Ya know what else, that could be the same theme for Marriages.

Kerry and I facilitate to couples the benefits of effective communication; however, too often we both have learned that when it comes to communication, it’s not a matter of if we disagree, but when we do disagree, how well will we handle it? Yes, Kerry and I have not fully mastered “Effective Communication.”

In a sentence, here’s the key to healthy communication through virtually anything: Both Husband and Wife should never quit and always communicate until they begin to reach the other side. This, of course, takes courage, humility and constant dedication… and a few bits of sound wisdom on how to resolve things more healthily wouldn’t hurt either. Thus, this article.

It’s not our intentions to define everything everyone should or shouldn’t say in every situation. That’s impossible. Instead, we should seek to remove some phrases from our vocabulary as husband and wife. Here’s our list from our personal experiences.

5 Toxic Phrases to Immediately Remove from Your Marriage Vocabulary

1: “I’m busy…”

This could be the easiest to begin to remove. Do you know why you’ll want to remove “I’m busy…” from your vocabulary for good?

Because saying “I’m busy” is often just a force of habit and usually an indication of some deeper dysfunction (no, not always, but often). There’s a saying: “If you’re too busy for your spouse, you’re too busy”. That being the case, we should always make time for our spouses without relegating ourselves to simply being “busy”.

If you are actually busy, that’s fine, just articulate exactly what’s going on so your spouse may understand and support you with your tasks!

2: “You always…”

Absolute statements like “you always…” or “you never…” are something Kerry and I have worked very hard to remove from our marriage. We’ve yet to fully succeed in this endeavor, but we recognize it and continue to grow in reducing those statements.

The problem with absolute statements is that they’re never true when speaking of behavior, and they are always hurtful (there are two absolute statements you can be sure of!). Absolute statements say more about who’s saying them then they do about whom they’re directed at.

If I may be blunt, absolute statements are just plain lazy.  Let me explain why. Follow the example below.

Example: Instead of “You never want want sex…”, consider a statement like “lately, I’ve felt like we’re not connecting intimately enough. Can we talk about what’s going on?”

By being specific and purposeful with your language, you can actually move forward together instead of accusing one another. Removing absolute statements from your marriage vocabulary will do wonders.

3: “Whatever.”

How many times have we ended an argument with a single dismissive “whatever”?

Whatever” is the Arch Enemy of Biblical Reconciliation. By dismissing disagreements with “whatever”, you’re essentially stating that you don’t care enough about the person or disagreement to discuss further. Love never quits. Love is patient, kind, not easily angered, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13).

It’s not that whatever is a bad word, it’s just usually used in times when love isn’t at it’s best. Removing whatever from your marriage vocabulary will force to to either 1) explain why you’re OK with dismissing the conversation, or 2) explain why you’re truly ok with whatever.

4: The word Divorce

It’s tragic when we hear couples use the word “divorce”, either jokingly or seriously, in reference to their own marriage. Marriage only works if divorce is not an option; If there’s no back door, you’ll both be committed to working through anything.

The greatest enemy we’ve seen at play in marriage is simply giving up; someone decides to step out the back door. They mentally, emotionally, and spiritually check-out of the marriage. How can you work something out if one person leaves or refuses to engage? Divorce is just that: giving up on the marriage.

Using the word “divorce” potentially cracks the door on a terrible possibility into your marriage. Would it be funny or appropriate ever if you said “I sincerely hope you die a horrible painful death”? Nope. It’s hurtful no matter how you slice it.

Kerry and I implore you, please remove “divorce” from your vocabulary. Don’t use it as a threat, comedic relief, or otherwise. It is toxic from the get go.

5: “I wish you were more like…” and “you’re just like your [parent]”

Ok, yes this is two phrases. I wanted to combine them here because I believe they come from the same place: comparison.

Comparison is truly heartbreaking. Nobody likes being compared to someone else, whether it’s a friend, a stranger, a family member, or a celebrity. People aren’t things, like cars with features to be compared. “This one has GPS”, “that one gets 40 MPG”, etc.

Nothing makes me feel smaller than when I’m unscrupulously compared to someone greater than me. Feeling that kind of small is ok, I guess, but only if it’s relation to Jesus. May Jesus be the only person we compare ourselves and our spouses to.

Here are some tough comparisons married folks tend to make; some explicitly and some internally that Kerry and I have heard through marriage counseling.

  1. I wish [my wife] looked more like [other woman]

 

  1. I wish [my husband] acted more like [other man]

 

  1. You’re just like your father/mother.Usually used to illustrate an undesirable behavior, thus pigeonholing the person compared.

 

  1. Why can’t we be more like [some other couple]?

 

Let’s close with this thought…

Be selective with your words. There are two things in this life you can never get back once used, words and time. Use your words to give life.

Joe & Kerry

 

 

Practice Biblical Conflict

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Last year I was blessed and honored to have officiated 6 weddings.  Kerry and I spent time with each of those couples as their Pre-Marriage Counselors.  We were privileged to spend time with them and journey with them as they prepared for their marriage and life together as husband and wife. To be able to do Pre-Marriage Counseling as Husband/Wife and to also be a firsthand witness to the genesis of each of these relationships-from courtship to becoming one as husband and wife, is cherished and priceless.

During the 12 week journey with each couple, the primary focus of discussion usually turns to conflict in their relationship and how to deal with it in a Biblical manner. Kerry and I tell each couple that Biblical Conflict is good and necessary to grow in their marriage; however, we so often are not taught what this looks like nor how to fight fair. One of my favorite “Joeisms” is to say, “If every day were sunshine, you would have a desert. Storms bring growth and new life; however, you need to know how to prune and manage that growth so it will not overrun your marriage.” The need of effective communication thus in turn leads to how well your conflict is dealt with and what growth comes from it: nurturing or destructive.

Gary Thomas wrote a book, The Sacred Search-A Couple’s Conversation Guide, as a guide for pre-marriage counseling. This has become our primary tool we use with our couples we journey with. In chapter 6 of his book, Constructive Conflict, Gary delves deep into the attitudes and actions we each take as individuals with regards to conflict. I would like to share with you his closing paragraph in that chapter.

When it comes to marital conflict, there are many unhealthy forms of communication—acts that make the conflict worse. Let’s agree to reject all these unhealthy methods of relating:
A.Hurtful Words. So much harm can be done in so little time if we don’t train our tongues (see James 3:1–12). Name-calling or blasting back with hateful things has never solved a single marital conflict. It has never served the cause of love. It has never fostered intimacy.
B. Stonewalling. This is such a harmful and common practice. It’s passive-aggressiveness taken to a malicious level. When you agree to marry someone, you agree ahead of time to work through conflict. Stonewalling (the silent treatment or withdrawal) is essentially renouncing your wedding vows. Some introverted personality types may need a moment to themselves to collect their thoughts and pray, but this is different from refusing to engage with your spouse. It’s putting off resolution indefinitely, and that’s just wrong.
C. Bringing Up The Past. Adopt this mantra: “One conflict at a time.” There is no use trying to bring three previous fights into the current one.
D. Acting Like You’re Above Being Wrong. In most conflicts, two people are both behaving inappropriately. One might be 95 percent in the wrong, but there is still 5 percent to be owned. Your spouse’s 95 percent doesn’t excuse your 5 percent. Seek to grow, not to win, in every argument. Own that 5 percent.

As said at the beginning, this is a journey that takes time and practice on both individuals and it is not only necessary in a marriage, but in any form of relationships. Praying that we all heed and own James’ teachings in his letter; James 4:1-3. Seek the Lord and His counsel as you then seek forgiveness from God and then from the one you are in conflict with.

In His Grip~

Joe

More Than a Parent’s Rage…

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4  
In our Sunday morning Bible Study we have been going through the book of Ephesians, applying its principles and instructions into our marriages and families, as well as into our personal lives. These past two Sundays we have spent time in one verse from Ephesians, 6:4. 

Verse 4 instructs us not to “provoke or exasperate your children.” The Greek word for provoke is parorgizo. This simply means to provoke to wrath or to exasperate another. Both wrath and exasperate come from the root word anger. It would not take too much of an in-depth study of human and family behavior to shed some basic insight on how we might exasperate our children and provoke them to anger. We so often will see this as an extreme outburst towards our children, an uncontrolled momentary burst of anger, then it’s done. However, as we truly step back and evaluate our parenting, we may just see this picture of “provoking and exasperating” in the minutia of our everyday parenting. The following examples will give us a good starting point for understanding the command that Paul shares with us in verse 4. This is not an end all list, nor is it meant to “guilt” you as a parent or grandparent. Take time in prayer and reflect on the following list, take time to ask God to reveal to you as to which of those 8, or maybe you have another one, you are in the habit of doing towards your children.  Ask God to help you stop in that behavior/action and then move towards reconciliation with your children and then begin a new path of Biblical discipline and instruction in the Lord.  

1. Overprotecting Children: Parents who do everything for their children and do not let them gain any degree of independence or self-determination.

2. Over Disciplining Children: Parents who overly restrict where children can go and what they can do, who never trust them to do things on their own, and who continually question their judgment. Certainly, a proper amount of this is necessary. We are talking about overdoing it.

3. Expecting More Than The Child Can Ever Perform: Perfectionistic parents for whom the child’s performance is never good enough.

4. Expecting Less of Them Than They Can Perform: Parents who discourage the child’s decisions and dreams—never approving, affirming, or encouraging.

5. Failing to Sacrifice for Their Children: Parents who make the children feel as though they are an intrusion and burden.

6. Verbal and/or Physical Abuse: Parents who abuse their children, either by actions, negligence, words, or attitudes.

7. Legalism: Parents who use the Bible, religion, or God to browbeat the children into behavior that is not required by scriptural teachings.

8. Imbalance: Parents who fail to balance affirmation and discipline, who affirm without discipline, who discipline without affirmation, or who do neither.

These eight things will provoke a child to anger; they will exasperate a child, and we would be well-advised to avoid them.

Joe