It happens rather innocuously enough, a look, a comment or a memory and past hurts come crashing down, like being caught under a riptide, one wave after the other, pounding you to the sandy bottom, making it difficult to breathe.
Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays may be difficult for some as they can resurrect memories of family gatherings gone awry. Perhaps political arguments overpowered love. Perhaps alcohol or drug abuse blurred the lines of decency. The disappointments, pain and shame can sometimes be too much and at first, there is avoidance of others and later, full blown depression takes over each day. It can be hard to rise from bed during those dark times.
Always the fat kid growing up, I became accustomed to the rocks hewn towards my head on the way home from school, being chased until I could run no more, being pummeled by those judging me unworthy, as well as the taunts and name-calling and the jingles making fun of my weight. No matter how hard I tried, the weight did not come off; it only increased and ironically, I learned to find solace in food and books. I could live my dreamlike and perfect life through the pages between the hardcovers, while feeding my insecurity with copious amounts of comestibles. Though I grew in size, truly, I was starving.
I tried humor to stave off the attacks and it worked quite well until I became my own worst enemy. I treated myself much worse than those taunting classmates or family members ever did. Finally, after years of bingeing and purging, diet pills and laxatives, starvation and exercise, I learned I had a legitimate health reason for my obesity; however, the damage had been done to my mind and it would take another lifetime to unravel. No matter the dress size, obesity greeted me in the mirror.
There are other matters too, the manner in which we are raised and abuses of all types leading to multiple levels of shame. We, many of us, live with these issues each day, trying to navigate normalcy to the best of our abilities. We may look for our solace and healing through faith, plastic surgery, self-help books, meditation or libation and chemicals of all sorts. We may do well for years, thinking we are cured of the hauntings of our past, but beware–it can come calling again.
The other day, I had a simple request for family history information from a couple of relatives. One was gracious and loving in her response and the other, not so much. The gracious one, though she triggered a variety of pleasant and unpleasant memories, was always kind. The other one chose not to help, but brought shame and condemnation with his comments, which of course, triggered shame and condemnation in me.
For a moment, I allowed myself to wallow there, to be back where I never wished to return, to the pain of my youth, to torment and agony that was never my fault. Isn’t it just like evil to want you to return to that state of shame, embarrassment and condemnation?
But, thankfully, I have a wonderful Father who has reassured me that I need never return to that place. Though I hovered at the door to that dungeon, I did not dare to turn the handle, for God tells me in Romans 8, that:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
I had a million things I wanted to say to this person, about past hurts and pains that he caused me, but instead, I chose to sit back and try to emulate my other relative, the gracious and loving one and allow God to battle for me in His time.
*have you had a time where something or someone triggered bad memories for you? If so, how did you handle it?