Our Inner Child: Connecting and Recovering Those Pockets of Our Real Selves

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“We can’t go back the way we came.
Let’s travel ahead with each other –
to awaken our hearts to rest in whitespace,
to recover those pockets of our real selves.”

Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest
by Bonnie Gray

findingspiritualwhitespace_book-194x300I read these words and I can’t help but cry, “But how do I do that? How do I recover those pockets of my real self? That little girl who God created me to be? How do I recover those lost, stolen pockets of me as a person to be loved, respected, valued?”

To recover the pockets of my real self, I need to connect with that hurting child in me. If I don’t believe what I have lost, I will never find it back. I’m trying to connect, but I feel like I’m wandering in a maze of fog, disorientation, and numbness. I don’t know how to proceed, and yet I can’t go back to ignoring her either. I can’t keep trying to forget her pain.

I look back and see that little girl always striving to be enough in the eyes of her dad. Always worried about making everyone else happy, but feeling she doesn’t deserve to be happy herself. That little girl trying to be strong for her sister, trying to cheer up her brother, trying to get her dad to talk when he was mad and wouldn’t talk to her mom for days. Desperately trying to help her mom stop crying and be happier, only to end up feeling abandoned when her mom still checked out of her life either by withdrawing into her pain or going again to the hospital.

I look closer and watch the flits of sadness on her face. I catch her sitting on the steps with her head nestled in her arms across her knees. The tears flooding… A dog noses his way under her arms and licks the tears from her face. Then she buries her head into his fur and clings to his comfort.

This little girl hurts so bad, but she keeps it inside. She feels so lost and alone. Sometimes she wishes she had never been born. She tries to be so strong, but inside she is so afraid of her dad and does what she can to avoid being alone with him. And many times his words cut her to the core of her being.

As I take a step to go deeper into that little girl’s heart, I am sucked down into a quagmire of shame. Darkness and confusion engulf me. You are worthless. Nothing. Zero. Rejected. You will never be good enough. You will never amount to much. You are unlovable, incapable, and inadequate. You make life more miserable for anyone around you. What’s wrong with you anyway?

“As I think back on my childhood,
the word shame serves as an umbrella.
It is the sense of being completely insufficient as a person,
the nagging feeling that for some reason
you’re defective and unworthy.”

(All Is Grace by Brennan Manning)

Often that hurting child cries for help. She is still so alone, so empty, so inadequate. But I ignore her. I say, “I don’t believe you had it that bad. Suck it up and move on. Quit complaining. Others had it worse than you.”

I wholeheartedly believe what my dad did do to someone else and I can feel deep hurt and anger for them. But when it comes to this hurting little girl, I minimize or disassociate from her pain as if she is not a part of me. I have shared snippets of her sadness at times, but then my heart disassociates and closes her in again. Keep thinking happy. There is no room for sadness. Others had it worse than you. Be grateful for what you did have.

It pains me to talk bad about anyone. I always tell myself that if I look in myself, I see enough. I have no right to judge someone else’s heart. And it’s so hard to talk against my dad, because I loved him and he was the only dad I had. I’d try to forget how he hurt me and focus on the good things. Then later in life, when I could see the grace of God work a change in him, I felt even more guilty to bring it up. Why should I talk about it if God forgave him? And I started seeing his inner hurting child, so again I kept minimizing the pain in my own inner child. And that isn’t fair to her. I need to acknowledge her pain. If I don’t believe the truth of her pain, how will I ever connect with her?

I can’t connect with her and bring her to a place of healing if I don’t believe her. If I face the truth, I know her identity became who her dad said she was. I have not wanted to admit this to myself, but the truth is my dad laid the groundwork of shame that made me more vulnerable to further abuse at the hands of others. Minimizing this truth is lying and continuing to beat down that hurting little girl inside of me. I just hope what I have shared is grace-filled, makes you feel less alone, and gives you courage to connect with and bring healing to that hurting child within you.

When Bonnie gave us this week’s Spiritual Whitespace challenge, I didn’t think I could do it. I still teeter between shame sucking me under and no feelings at all when I go deeper into the pain of my inner child. But after writing the above, I’m going to attempt a short note, hopefully the beginning of many more as I learn to connect with her and nurture her as God wants me to.

Write a letter to your younger self.
What would you say to her, knowing what you know today?

“My dear child, I’m so sorry I have ignored your pain. I have abandoned anything good in you. It’s no wonder you feel so empty and alone. My heart aches and is heavily burdened for the pain of other children, but I have not acknowledged yours. I’m so sorry. I want you in my life. I want to acknowledge you as a part of me. I don’t want to keep stuffing you deeper into the quagmire of shame. I don’t want to keep avoiding its power to keep hurting you. I want to nurture you more. You feel so unlovable, so incapable, so inadequate. I want to take you with me into the open heart of Jesus. Jesus who travels this journey of pain with us. He understands and longs to recover those lost and stolen pockets of our real selves. Let’s open our heart and invite Him in. To connect us. To make us one. To penetrate those deep hidden crevices of pain and heal us. He takes little girls into the center of His heart and longs to bless them. He doesn’t want me to keep hiding you. Even He chose to allow the world to see His wounds after He arose again. He doesn’t want me to be ashamed of your brokenness. Come. Let’s enter into His safe and healing sanctuary together.”

“His (Jesus’) wounds didn’t disappear with His resurrected body.
Jesus chose to walk out into the world
with His scars from the past – visible.”

– Bonnie Gray

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How about you? Can you connect with your inner child?
Or do you disassociate from him/her? Maybe because it hurts too much?
If you could write him/her a letter, what would you say?

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Joining Up With:

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

A Soft Gentle Voice

Journey of Rest: It’s Time to Stop Running

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“Rest became a battle to run away from the things that break me
– instead of allowing the brokenness to bring me to Him.”
– Bonnie Gray

That’s me. Running away. Fighting against the remembering. Spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere but empty and exhausted. But I don’t want to live like this anymore. This numbness, this shutting off my feelings because it hurts too much. This putting on a strong front and saying, “I’m fine.” This letting the words and actions of others give me my identity. This robotic living controlled by what was or is expected of me.

As I write this, steady rain is falling straight down in a peaceful rhythm, replenishing, refreshing, brightening the dependent earth. As I sit and watch, I listen and let the sounds soothe my soul. I breathe in the freshly laundered air, begging God to fill me with the rain of His Holy Spirit. To breathe life into my soul. To break the shackles from my soul and set me free.

Please, Dear God,
May Your Holy Spirit flood my soul,
Wash away all my self-sufficiency,
All the lies about who I am,
Whatever keeps me from resting in You.

I don’t want to be strong anymore,
I want to relinquish all control,
The control I let people hold over me,
The control of wanting my own way,
Not trusting Your plan for my life.

I don’t want to run away anymore,
I want to embrace the vulnerability,
To find the real child in me
You created me to be,
To lean into You trusting and unafraid.

I want to open the doors of my heart,
To journey with You,
To layer by layer
Expose to Your healing rain
Those deep places of pain.

Please break away
These embedded shackles
That trap me –
This shame that poisons my perspective,
This fear that freezes my faith,
This unfounded guilt that eats me alive.

I want to be free, Lord,
To feel, to want, to need,
To allow myself to be loved,
To love myself as You desire,
To nurture my depleted soul,
To open my heart to the power of Your love.

justrestAre these the longings of your soul, too? Do you need rest? Then come on a journey with us to find it. Bonnie Gray’s new book – Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest – has come out this week and is packed with so many insights that I have to read it slowly, trying to process one revelation at a time. It is already changing my life. It has shaken up beliefs that have been instilled into me. This idea of doing God more service if I forget about me and concentrate on encouraging and nurturing others. This doing and not just being. I always feel selfish when I take time to nurture myself, not realizing God wants me to take care of myself – to nurture myself in His bottomless fountain of love and security. I’m beginning to understand why it’s not selfish, because it is only through accepting and nurturing myself as the precious beloved of Jesus who wants me to bare my entire vulnerability to Him for healing that I will be able to nurture others with reckless abandon with the same love Jesus gives.

True rest is not running away from all our vulnerability, brokenness, and hurting emotions. It is leaning into Jesus, allowing Him to love us fully and freely. To go to Him just as we are, not trying to be strong, but raw with all our pain, shame, and fear, not trying to minimize any of it. Baring our hearts to Him, letting Him cut away the cancer in our souls, and wash and restore us with His healing balm of grace and love. 

“But there comes a time
when it takes more faith
to fall apart with Jesus
than to stay strong enough
to stop it from happening.”
– Bonnie Gray

“Whitespace. It’s the space on a page left unmarked used to make art beautiful. It gives the eye a place to rest, to bring out all the beautiful colors and images. You and I are God’s artwork. We need space to rest, so we can live a beautiful story.

I’ve written this memoir-driven guidebook — with chapter by chapter journaling prompts and group discussions questions so you can:

~ move beyond surviving to find rejuvenating rest

~ uncover the you God made: explore what feeds your soul

~ discover practical ideas to create space in your heart and schedule to rest

~ understand how your personal story shapes how easy or hard it is to receive self-care and soul care.

~ be inspired with hope, peace and encouragement”

– Bonnie Gray

 

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Joining Up With


A Soft Gentle Voice

Trusting God Loves Cracked Pots and He Will Heal In His Time and Way

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I was trying to take a risk in spite of my fear – go to church. We hadn’t been going for a while again, because my sensitive airways reject cold air. But it was going to be warmer, so on Saturday night I thought I could try it again. But the cold isn’t the only thing keeping me away.

When I woke up on Sunday, fear consumed me. I kept pleading with God, “O God, help me, please. I am so afraid. Please be with me.”

I tried to read from His promises that He will always be with me. And He whispered, “Stay with Me. Let Me stay with you.

I thought I was all set. What time I am afraid, I will trust in YOU, O God.

But I was helpless with what my mind and body were doing. My identity was splitting again. It’s hard to explain, but I guess they call it disassociating. I disconnect from my thoughts, feelings, and who I really am. It’s so hard to describe what it feels like. Kind of like I’m two people… My true identity gets shoved into the garbage disposal. A different person takes over, one who listlessly rides along in life like a puppet on strings, one with emotions shut off so I won’t feel pain. It’s how I coped at the time of abuse, and sometimes it comes back when memories get triggered.

I kept crying to God. My heart was ready to place my trust in Him. I left the bedroom with brave intentions. My heart was going to plow forward and conquer this fear, because God is with me. Yet I became so confused, because my mind and body weren’t cooperating. I hate that feeling of when my mind and body disconnect. Sometimes I can process it, reason with myself, and come back to “earth,” but sometimes it doesn’t help until I remove myself from the situation and feel “safe” again.

I was out of the zone of reality, the here and now. Without thinking, I would get up with my cup of tea in my hands, pace, then sit in a different spot, and look out the window or try to converse.

My ever-protective, observant husband said, “You look uncomfortable. You’re troubled. Are you afraid someone is going to hurt you again?”

“I don’t knooow…”

I got my coat on and was ready to go out the door, and he stopped me. “You’re trembling.”

“No, I’m not… HOW can you see that?” I thought my trembling was only on the inside.

“Yes, you are. Even your jaw is quivering. I am not going, because you are NOT ready.”

I broke down and sobbed, “But how will I ever get past my fears if I don’t face them? Why can’t I stop being afraid? Do I have no faith?”

After more tears and hugs, I had to admit my husband was right. I was going more because I thought I was keeping him away from it (since he won’t go without me). And for approval from Christians who believe going to church is the right thing to do… If I’m honest with myself, the times I do go are more out of obligation than desire or need. And when I do have the courage to go, the gloom of depression sinks me down, often during the entire week or longer.

For many, going to church is not a problem, because they grew up in a nurturing church with a supportive community. Not me. “Church” is bad memories of spiritual, emotional, mental and sexual abuse.

When I shared the truth of my story many years later with friends, they deserted me.  They were willing to believe I was guilty of leading a “poor man of God” astray, but they were not willing to accept the truth – that I was victimized and deeply wounded.

We were hurt again at a couple of other churches since then, so we became even more guarded. I also still hear stories of other hurting souls who are not believed or supported in some churches. Even where perpetrators are more supported and prayed for than the victims are.

Anyway, I am trying to make sense of what happens to me, and I still don’t know. Questions roar and tumble in my mind: Should I just forget about trying to go to church anymore? Should I stop pushing myself? When will all these memory triggers stop? Why do they seem to be getting worse the older I get? Where is my faith?

A few months ago, in a non-denominational Bible study I attend when I am able to, there was a discussion about attending a church. Some concluded that faithful church attendance is not a requirement for salvation, but not going means we are missing out on the blessings of community. My heart cringed and curled up into a fetal position, ashamed and inadequate. I didn’t dare to tell even this safe, nonjudgmental community of beautiful women that I don’t go to church. I reasoned: If I tell them, they won’t understand anyway, they will look differently at me, they won’t like me anymore, they will “preach” at me and hurt me with words, etc.

This is also why I have been struggling whether or not to openly tell you on this blog post. In the corner of my mind, I keep seeing former friends who rejected me shake their heads at me and look at me like I’m a lost cause. But I want to be “real” here, and hopefully I will learn to share it someday at Bible study as well, no matter what the reaction.

As I write this, God is helping me to process my confusion. I beat myself up with – If you really trusted God, you could do this… Satan scoffs me with “Where is your God and His power?” That old legalism still has a condemning “do this or else” hold on me, but I must learn the Spirit gives life, not condemnation and death. It’s not about how many times I go to church. It’s about my relationship with Jesus. God is not confined to four walls. I can worship Him anywhere. The “church” is not a building but the indwelling of Jesus in the hearts of His people all over this world.

Yesterday I read how the disciples were in a room with the doors locked out of fear. Did Jesus walk away because the doors were locked, because they were afraid? No, nothing stops Him from loving His own unconditionally. He entered in and spoke peace to their trembling hearts. The doors were still locked… I still struggle with fear because of past trauma, but Jesus still will never turn His back on me. Even when fear locks the door to my heart, even though my faith is weak, Jesus still chooses to enter and dwell in my heart.

What happened on Sunday is turning out to be a blessing. A lesson in trust… Trusting in God doesn’t always mean taking a risk out of my comfort zone. Trust can mean to wait patiently and allow time for God’s complete healing.

To trust that Jesus will heal me in His time and His way.

To trust Him even though my mind and body react to memory triggers that bind me and limit me.

To trust that maybe He has more use for me in my woundedness than in my being of strong faith.

“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
for it will surely take place.
It will not be delayed.”
(Habakkuk 2:3 NLT)

I am not perfect, but He loves me anyway. I am not going to keep forcing myself to go to church. I have to let it go for now. I have to quit heaping more guilt on myself for not going, no matter what I hear people say. I have to shake loose from those legalistic shackles and rest in the life and liberty of Jesus. I will not find peace in a building. I will only find peace in Jesus. Jesus understands and doesn’t condemn me for it, so why should I? Instead I will continue to worship Him wherever I am and to seek a closer and more intimate relationship with my Lord and my Redeemer.

I will try to be more gentle on myself and more patient with the healing process. Each day, hour, moment, I will try to lay this cross at the feet of Jesus. Layer by layer, God will heal me, if not here, in the hereafter. Someday all the shackles of fear and shame will disintegrate in the power of God’s saving and healing grace. Meanwhile, I want to accept my brokenness as beautiful in His sight. He can still use this battered, cracked pot.

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Are you sometimes impatient with the healing process? Do you beat yourself up because you can’t always do what you think you should be able to if you trusted God enough? Or maybe people condemn you for not being able to move forward more quickly? Be more gentle with yourself. No matter what, Jesus understands. He never condemns. He hurts when we hurt. We don’t have to be completely healed to be used by Him. Sometimes He may have more use for us in our woundedness. God sees our cracks as beautiful!

The Cracked Pot from Neepa Sharma

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Joining Faith Barista’s Writing Prompt:
Your Cross