|The light shines in our darkness...|
I'm indebted to mentor and friend, Dr. Elaine Heath, who has given survivors of abuse and those who help them a framework for healing that is based in reality, and not denial. When we deny reality, we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit.
Some of the expectations for recovery are unreal, implying that "getting over it," or "moving on" or forgetting the past is even possible, much less advisable. Abuse is one of those traumas from which psychological closure is simply not the same as healing and spiritual wholeness.
What Heath says about recovery from sexual abuse, I find to be instructive about survivors of abuse of all kinds, that survivors' own experiences set the framework instead of some other agenda:
Recovery [from sexual abuse] is a gradual, spiraling journey, one in which we heal from a memory or a consequence, then circle around, and when our souls are ready, heal again at a deeper level. Our healing brings us freedom and compassion for others. Our scars become catalysts of healing for many others, in ways we see and do not see. Our journey is sacred and lifelong.The invitation to continue healing is possible at any and all levels, and clergy are responsible for voicing it- simply and openly and faithfully. The goal is healing, however circuitous that may come, not "closure." There's no "getting over" a sibling who has raped you- or "closing the door" on being around by a drunk parent.
Adults and adult children of all ages still wonder if healing is possible, or if they have missed the boat on ever being whole again. Why should I still be struggling with something that happened 30, 40, or 50 years ago? It seems that we have misrepresented healing, speaking of forgiveness as once and for all, or once in a lifetime. In reality it is almost never experienced as instantaneous, even in any of the less traumatic wrongs and hurts we regularly endure or inflict on others.
The experience of "how long, Lord?" couldn't be truer to the actual biblical narrative, and it's one question that can lead to deeper forgiveness, healing, and communion if we let it.