I couldn’t believe that I admitted some of the things I did right before I spoke the words that made the next moments seem surreal. Sitting in my counseling course group, I blurted out “I f…ing hate myself!,” and its weird — I cant seem to remember much after that. I was rebelling against myself for exposing things that are deeply shameful, and supposed to stay hidden. I do remember walking to my room after group and thinking, I want to go straight to the airport, go home, and never come back. It soon hit me though, never-mind what the dear hearts in my group may think of me, what was I going to do with the truth of what I’d just said? I do hate myself.
This session of the program was focused on sexuality. In the lecture time immediately prior to group, we watched a film of a guy telling his story of sexual trauma. Every place of my own shame in this area began to surface. The familiar accusations started to veil me in a heaviness that I felt to my soul. I made myself focus on the smile and sparkle of one of the facilitators as she spoke because in that moment I needed to see beauty, and goodness to keep from sinking into utter despair. I was hurting.
Like I said, the group time is somewhat of a blur, but I do recall asking this question to our facilitator, “How am I supposed to process the things that I’ve done, the harm I may have caused others, and the shame I’ve caused myself?” Her answer was “within the context of your own story.” That answer would bear fruit later, on the plane ride home.
The next morning, all of this was swirling around during my time with God, and a couple of things came to mind. Why were these accusations so powerful? If Christ’s work on my behalf forgave me, why then, am I still hanging onto them. It was said sometime earlier in the weekend that self-contempt is an addiction. It’s true, my arrogance in thinking that this is too big for God, gave me a feeling of control. I managed my own sin through self-hatred. I was actually partnering with the accuser, agreeing with my enemy that this was too big for God to forgive. So what did I do? I practiced self-hatred–I put myself in prison to keep from hurting anyone else, cutting myself off from the light of Gods grace. I was at home in self-contempt, having lived there for so long that it was comfortable. But when I saw the truth of “partnering with my enemy” in my own accusation and destruction, well, I was pissed.
I went into the final day of the session feeling apprehensive. I was met with love and mercy from my group members. My friend pointed out that I couldn’t look him in the eye for long, and it was true. I felt very young and ashamed. In our next group time our facilitator took one of the girls into a kind of guided imagery into her birth and through the younger years of life. As I was listening, I went back into my own younger days, and into those memories of shame — all of them that I could remember. Only this time, as I looked at myself, it wasn’t with anger, or condemnation. I simply said to those young places,” I love you, accept you, and welcome you home.” I saw my young self freed from what was shameful, and coming for an embrace. All of these young places that I had found unacceptable, exiled, excommunicated, and never let see the light of day — I welcomed them all back in love — and each time I did, it was like giving the enemy the finger.
The only other man in my group said, very powerfully, “You will be whole,” and I believed him. Every young place that I welcome back home is a step toward wholeness. I thought banishing these shameful places was the way to cleanliness, but I was wrong. Forgiving, understanding, loving, and blessing them is the way to wholeness. I mean, isn’t that what Christ is up to? Calling home the broken, shame-filled members of His body to make it whole? Blessing, loving, and forgiving them? Making them new? If you want to imitate Christ, then quit hating yourself.
On the plane ride I home I watched the movie ‘The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,’ and in it, Bruce Banner is put under a sort of spell by the Scarlet Witch. This spell makes him change into the hulk (a monster) and goes on a rampage through the city, smashing buildings, scaring the crap out of people, and causing all kinds of havoc. Bruce had learned to control his anger so that he could protect the world from himself, only changing into the hulk to fight evil. After the spell had worn off and he was back to being just Bruce you could tell he was broken and ashamed. You could hear defeat in his voice as he spoke these words, “well, now the world has seen the hulk.” By the end of the movie, he had separated himself from the Avengers, and the world — into exile.
I was really resonating with this, and wondered how Bruce could process and redeem all of the destruction he caused, and that’s when I remembered the sentence, “within the context of his own story.” He, like me, was only seeing the devastation by his hands, and found it unbearable, unforgivable. But wait, that wasn’t really Bruce, that was Bruce under the spell of a witch. Everybody, but Bruce could forgive Bruce. Sure, he did things that needed forgiveness, but his story didn’t start with the violence he committed, it started with the violence committed against him.
“The parts about ourselves that we least like have the most love reserved for them from the Father”. -Graham Cooke
The story of my sexual development began with pornography being introduced to me before I was even in kindergarten (a spell was cast). And from there, it was only further brutalized — so many heart-breaking stories. In my opinion, the enemy’s brutal assault on our sexuality is because it is core to our true identity as image bearers. Before this weekend, I couldn’t see myself as a victim of sexual abuse, but it is true. I learned everything I know about sexuality from twisted sources. I can now begin to see that my story is no different from that of a starving man being fed poison when there was nothing else to eat, and then hating himself for being sick.It is heart-wrenching to look at how much I have hated myself through the years, and the resulting self-destruction. The boy in this picture is slowly, reluctantly, coming home; I need him to come home. He deserves a far better life than the one I’ve given him. I’m still very new to all that is unfolding here, but I know that God is bringing healing, and redemption. I am becoming whole again, and He is calling me home.